I first heard about the Dvorak layout several years ago when I first did a lot of typing in college,
but never did anything about it. About a year ago, I heard about it again, but this time I actually
investigated it. My first desire was to type really fast, because these were the days when communication
in games could only be accomplished via typed messages. So I needed to tell my teammates in Unreal Tournament
who had the flag, where he was going, and other pertinant information, and it had to be done fast.|
Sadly, I didn't do anything about it since I used several different computers, and I felt it too much of a hassle to set up Dvorak on every computer I used. Then I got my own laptop, and if I set it to the Dvorak layout, I could always have access to the Dvorak layout wherever I went. So I started to plan my changeover to Dvorak.
I made the big change at the end of Fall Semester 2005, after I had turned in my final typed report. It was very slow at first. The fingers had to unlearn the qwerty keyboard at the same time as learning the new keyboard. It took about a month before I was able to touch type without making too many mistakes. The 'y' key was particularly hard to unlearn, since it was in the same reach, same finger, different hand. Took months before that mistake stopped happening.
It's been ten months now, and my overall speed has moderately increased. It's very likely that I could be just as fast if I'd concentrated on speeding up my qwerty typing. There are a lot of people that can still type faster than me on the qwerty keyboard, but I'm glad I stuck with it. My arms and hands don't get cramped up any more from long typing sessions. It just feels so much more comfortable. My only regret is that I haven't been able to get anyone else to pick it up. I thought that with all the engineers that I've shown my keyboard to, that at least one of them would be willing to go with something that is obviously a better way of doing something.
Here's some raw facts to demonstrate the benefits. A java applet to show just how much effort qwerty requires. The sample text all from this very page.
All text you see between the pictures was used in the calculations. The text making up this analysis was not included in the sampling.
The big difference, has been highlighted. For that sample, a qwerty typist would have done 78% more finger movement. I've done a lot of samplings, with results varying from 50% to 80% more finger movement. All that extra finger movement is just begging for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Now lets analyze a little further.
The percentages, by themselves, can be a little misleading. For this sample they're only over/under by 6%. Let's assume that the distance traveled is proportional to the percent of finger usage. This gives us this table.
|Dvorak Layout||qwerty Layout|
|Left Total||12.9m||Right Total||14.7m||Left Total||27.3m||Right Total||22.1m|
So there is only one instance of more work attributable to Dvorak: the right hand pinky. The workload of every other finger is slightly to drastically reduced. Other than that, there's no reason for anyone to continue using qwerty.