Using Dvorak

Thu 23 October 2014

This is the first article I’ve typed completely using Dvorak, a keyboard layout that is designed for more ergonomic typing. It completes a far greater amount of words on the home row than QWERTY, as shown with this quick example using grep:

# QWERTY home row
$ grep -E "^[asdfghjkl]{2,}$" /usr/share/dict/words | wc -l
366
# Dvorak home row
$ grep -E "^[aoeuidhtns]{2,}$" /usr/share/dict/words | wc -l
5579

The earlier you start using Dvorak, the less painful it’s going to be to learn, but laziness in the face of pain breeds great keyboard shortcuts. When each keystroke hurts, you make them count. I did a quick cutup of my shell history, and made several single letter aliases that I’ll still have when my keyboard speed returns to normal.

Conservatively, I’ve been using QWERTY for over 10,000 hours. I’ve used Dvorak under 50 hours, but I’m acclimating rather well so far. I’ve got a lot of myelin invested in QWERTY. Mind, Dvorak isn’t so wildly different that those hours put in aren’t going to waste.

Touch-typing is the best way to learn, but there’s still some advantage to using a keyboard with the keys switched, chief being that if you work in a high-stress, high-interrupt job, you don’t want to be searching for the ‘K’ key in front of agitated co-workers. Also, you can show off the layout to people who might be interested in Dvorak, but would like to see it in action.

Perhaps you’re concerned that you’ll lose the ability to type fast in QWERTY. You may want to see how much QWERTY you actually use outside of your own machines. I’m on my personal or work computers over >99% of the time, so why worry about that fraction of 1% I’m not? I’ve also heard from other Dvorak users that their QWERTY speed didn’t sink enough to worry about it.

Anyhow, my goal is to get my typing speed up to 120 WPM, which I was having trouble getting to on QWERTY (as part of my effort to increase my personal IO bandwidth). I’ve started making some Typespeed wordlists that I’ve thrown in a git repo.

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