General Question

bob's avatar

Is dvorak actually better than qwerty?

Asked by bob (3223points) November 10th, 2007

I know that it makes more sense, but is it worth re-learning, and does it actually carry health benefits? I do have some RSI pain in my fingers/hands.

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17 Answers

mirza's avatar

According to studies done by Harvard and MIT (i’ll post the article link later), dvorak enables you to type faster and also causes the leat amount of pain in your fingers. The QWERTY keyboard originally designed to slow typist down. Even thought DVORAK is better, it is physically impossible re-teach everyone a new keyboard style.

According to this article, DVORAK can cause a 200–300% increase in their speed. But i have personally never used one, so I can’t tell . My advice would be try typing in a DVORAK keyboard for a day or two and see if it helps.

segdeha's avatar

My friend Daniel uses the Dvorak layout and he types faster than anyone I know. My advice would not to be to use it for a day or 2 because you’ll get all the frustration without any of the benefit and will think “Why in the world does anyone use Dvorak?!” If you’re going to do it, commit to it for a few weeks at least. Daniel said it took him a while before he got the hang of it. Also, he said not to change the labels on your keyboard because then you won’t learn to touch type with the new layout.

FusionGyro's avatar

I’m Andrew’s friend Daniel. I’ve been using Dvorak for about 3 years. It took me about a month to switch and achieve mediocrity, and a couple more months to achieve what I was typing before I switched. But, the weird thing is I kept getting faster and now I type about 115–120 WPM (I typed 75–85 WPM before I switched).

The best thing you can do for your RSI is switch to Dvorak and buy a Kinesis Ergo Contoured keyboard. I was having intermittent numbness/tingling in my fingers before I switched and it’s all history now. It is a lot of work but the benefits are really astonishing. Plus everyone will think you’re really cool with that keyboard. I would have a hard time saying which of these two things will have a greater benefit, but I do know getting used to a Kinesis keyboard takes about two days so it’s a faster switch.

Andrew’s right; a day or two with a new keyboard layout is a very foolish idea. To learn a new keyboard layout you will have to force yourself to use it, it takes time, and it is very frustrating. In a few days you will be capable of working but it will be infuriatingly slow. You just need to remind yourself that it will pay off.

There is another replacement keyboard called the Colemak which I have heard some good things about. There isn’t any research proving it is as good as Dvorak but their users seem to think that it is, but it is much easier to learn because it maintains more character positions. You could also try that.

bob's avatar

Ahh… Colemak. Excellent. That might make more sense than Dvorak. I like the z, x, c, v keys right where they are for undo/cut/copy/paste. I’ve looked into the Kinesis, but I use my laptop in various places; I’m only at my desk 30% of the time. Thanks for the suggestions.

hossman's avatar

I second the Kinesis keyboard, which saved me from severe arm and hand pain. The triple footswitch was also very good for replacing my most common keystrokes, which were caps shift, activating the embedded numeric keypad, and enter. It takes a few days to get up to speed on the Kinesis, but after that, use of a regular keyboard will make you realize how crappy most keyboard’s ergonomics are.

I never had the nerve to switch to Dvorak, as I do work on laptops and standard keyboards a lot, and felt it would throw me off.

Evert's avatar

Just my 2 cents, but…
I think the keyboard doesn’t matter to much, more how you type: laptops seem quite horribly in that way, as you hardly move your fingers, thereby not loosening them. If you imagine hammering away on an old-fashioned type writer, that may seem to require more power from your fingers, but it does loosen them (and your wrist) considerably more than when you’re ‘feeling’ over your laptop keyboard. Especially if you let your palms rest, which means the tendons (if I got my English right there) need to curve up before controlling your fingers. That’s stretching, and imho causing RSI. Also, beware how you sit; especially laptops get placed everywhere, causing badly positioned typing.
As for dvorak versus qwerty versus colemak or whatever for speed typing: I’d say that also depends on the language; qwerty should actually be optimised for English.
If you think of that key-placement: further the undo/cut/copy/paste keyboard shortcuts (commonly used shortcuts) are just horribly chosen; especially with probably most people performing ctrl/command -z/x/c/v just only their left hand (cramping anyone?): always use the modifier with the other hand, if possible. And ctrl/command f/g//h would be so much nicer for cut/copy/paste, albeit it less mnemonic.
That’s for my rant; good luck with your hands!

andrew's avatar

Wristbreaks wristbreaks wristbreaks!

I had severe tendonitis in college from coding; you may see a bit more efficiency from switching layouts, but unless you improve your ergonomics and take regular breaks, you’ll still develop problems.

I’m in the anti-dvorak camp… Yes, you can type faster, but to me it’s not worth the effort to retrain myself. I already type at the speed of thought in QWERTY.

I think there’s also an element of geek cache with DVORAK that I don’t respond to. As a certain co-founder can attest, you annoy the people around you who borrow your laptop and type in garbledygook.

Another friend in college used to practice dvorak by typing public domain books. The time investment doesn’t make sense to me; in my opinion, you’d be better off learning emacs or vim really really well.

Vincentt's avatar

This question makes me want to give Dvorak finally a try. Hope I can set it so that my sister’s account won’t also use Dvorak ;-)

richardhenry's avatar

I know it is possible to use a third party keyboard with a Mac and simply change the layout to DVORAK, but do Apple do their own DVORAK keyboard layout? I really love the Apple keyboard.

Or am I going to have to remove all of the keys and rearrange them manually? (Then choose the DVORAK layout in OS X?)

If Apple make their own it would be a lot easier.

bob's avatar

@richardhenry: If you really want to be a Dvorak badass, you don’t change the keys at all. Just remember where they are.

But, to answer your question: Apple doesn’t make a Dvorak keyboard. It’s probably impossible and/or not worth it to somehow take out the keys and rearrange them yourself.

richardhenry's avatar

Thanks for the response Bob! I found a bunch of good tutorials for doing it yourself, it’s super-easy, just time consuming. I might eBay for a second keyboard and give it a go just for the activity. The new Apple keyboards are too nice to pass up in my opinion…


hossman's avatar

I believe you can purchase the Kinesis keyboard with both Dvorak and QWERTY lettering. The keyboard is fully programmable, so you can rapidly switch from Dvorak to QWERTY operation without having to move key caps or change lettering.

ben's avatar

I’m another Dvorak/Kinesis user (I actually have the Switchable Dvorak Kinesis model) and I’m quite satisfied with both.

On Dvorak: It is a better layout, but that month of learning can be pretty rough. I’ve found it has sped me up a little (though I’m not an ultra-fast typist), and I do think that the lessened finger-movement could make a difference for RSI—I learned Dvorak preventively for this reason. It’s very easy to use in any operating system (without any hardware), and I’ve found I can also use Qwerty now without much of a problem. Colemak sounds intriguing, but I can say that cut and paste and everything like that works fine on Dvorak (VIM was the one exception… that took some config).

On the Kinesis: It is a great keyboard. But I wouldn’t worry about getting the Dvorak version that I have. As Bob said, when you learn to type Dvorak it will be in your head (and you shouldn’t look at the keys anyway), I find little benefit in having Dvorak on the keys. (When you’re learning, you can just use cut-up post-it notes on the keys, but going mental is best). But I do think the Kinesis is an excellent product. I still use my laptop often without it, and I have no problem switching between my Macbook Pro’s dvorak layout and the Kinesis Dvorak (some of the symbols are in different places).

People are often borrowing my computer, and they are always confused when they begin to type. Be prepared for that.

Given that you have some RSI, I would recommend trying the Kinesis. Dvorak is more of a lifestyle choice, but it may help you, and I’d recommend it if you have the right attitude and sufficient time. Good luck!

Also—I think taking breaks is key, and never typing when you feel pain.

andrew's avatar

I want to second Ben’s opinion on the Kenisis (even though he wasted a month of his life learning dvorak): that keyboard and wristbreaks saved my wrists in college.

Also, in terms of RSI, one thing to keep in mind is that mousing does a lot more damage than typing.

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bea2345's avatar

All of you who replied: how many hours a day are you keyboarding? doing what?

rawrzorzes's avatar

I can already type pretty fast on a qwerty keyboard with very few errors (80–100 wpm at ~97% accuracy), I am just about to switch to dvorak now since no matter what anybody else says, in the long run the dvorak really is better for both your wrists and typing speed. It may be dificult to relearn it, but you can type faster on it once you get the hang of it.

And if it annoys other people who use your computer, just don’t change the keys and flip the layout instead whenever somebody else needs to use it. Once you learn to touch-type on it you won’t need to look at the keyboard anyway.

Sure hope someday dvorak becomes the standard…

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