Sat, Sep 16, 2006, 12:34am Happy 13th — My Life on Dvorak
Computers » Ergonomics
(Last updated: Fri, Dec 15, 2006, 9:01pm)
I
just realized that I've now been typing on the Dvorak keyboard for as long as I had used the QWERTY keyboard before that, 13 years. I'm glad that part of my typing history is now just an old memory. If you've never given it a try, I strongly encourage you to test it out. Not for the speed (I type at roughly the same speed I did before), but for the lower hand and arm strain and the mental enjoyment of using a keyboard layout that just makes more sense.

For reasons that are completely beyond me, people get very riled up about this discussion, so I'll not labor the point. If you don't trust what I say then forget I brought it up. Everyone I've met who complains about it has barely used it, if at all. It does, however, perhaps give some insight into battles like the operating system wars and similar things. Even the arguments used are often isomorphic. Hearing people arguing against Dvorak is completely puzzling to me. Is it that people don't like thinking that they've been doing something not right for so long, or that something widely adopted must be the best (e.g., top-ten radio music or MS-DOS)?

My response is the same as the one I have for the Mac vs Windows debate: try using Dvorak for 2-3 months (all computers support it for free). If you don't like, fine. Nothing lost. It's good exercise for the brain just to try at any rate, like a puzzle. Staves off Alzheimer's. But if you're like me and those I know who type with it, it will significantly make your life sitting down at a computer better. Rarely can such an enhancement be so close yet so far away mentally. I don't personally know of anyone that has tried it and then gone back. These days, sitting down at a QWERTY keyboard, a keyboard I'm still perfectly fluent on, makes me sad that people still use such a backward system. But I guess it's like watching people text-messaging on cell phones. Just bad ergonomics.


Links:

Dvorak Keyboard on Wikipedia

Keyboard Compare Applet

Deutsch Dvorak Typ II für MacOS X for Jordan

Making Your Own Dvorak Keyboard for a PowerBook G4

Dvorak Keyboard Layout on OS X


  • Kilian (Wed, September 20th, 2006, 8:20am UTC)
    I wonder whether there isn't a "Dvorak" layout optimised for other languages. As with the old layout, the French have AZERTY, the Germans have QWERTZUIOPÜ, so wouldn't it make sense to have "Dvorak" layouts adjusted to frequent used letters in other languages?

    E.g. in German we almost never ever use the letter "y", whereas the "z" is used more ore less often, in English it's the other way round (that's why there's QWERTY and QWERTZ).

    For one thing I think it would even make sense to place the Shift key somwhere else for German, because we use so much capitalisation within the sentence. It would be funny and interesting to see what spaced out keyboards we'd end up with, if we would optimise the layout for each language just as far as possible.

  • Jeff (Wed, September 20th, 2006, 12:58pm UTC)
    Your instincts are quite right. There are Dvorak layouts optimized for many languages. The Wikipedia link above has links to several variations, and as it happens I had specifically included the 3rd link above to the German version for a friend of mine.

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