Why Switch?
How to learn


Dvorak is a keyboard layout created by August Dvorak and William Dealey. Dvorak is not a separate keyboard you need for your computer, it’s just a layout that can be applied to any traditional keyboard. The dvorak layout is a superior layout to the traditional QWERTY layout of most keyboards. Several advantages include:

  • Faster possible typing speed (Easy 50wpm. If you can already type above 50wpm on QWERTY you can expect your rate to go to 90-120wpm easily)
  • Easier to learn than QWERTY
  • Kinder and gentler on your hands
  • Reduces the risk of repetitive stress injuries (such as carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Overall increase in productivity

An english language dvorak layout with fingering colored

Dvorak was designed as a replacement and improvement over the traditonal QWERTY layout. QWERTY was designed for old typewriters and actually made to reduce typing speed and alternate between hands so that typewriter bars would not get stuck together. If you’ve ever typed on a typewriter before you’ll know exactly what this refers to - just try to hit a bunch of keys in a row without actually typing real words; it’s likely you’ll get a few to stick together. The QWERTY layout also appears to be a marketing/sales dream too; you can type “typewriter” with only the top row - possibly made for demonstration purposes.

Why is it better?

It is easy to see why the dvorak layout is much more efficient and easier to use than QWERTY:

The most commonly typed letters are on the home row; next common characters are on the top row Most commonly typed letters are scattered throughout the layout
Uses inward wrist and finger rolling motion (also called ” inboard stroke flow”) that is natural to human movement for common key combinations (also called digraphs) such as “th”, “nt”, “ch”, “sh”, “ng” and “st” Fingers constantly jump around the keyboard, often at uncomfortable lengths, to find sister keys
Has vastly different layouts per language to accomodate for differences in common letters Has different layouts per language that change around a few letters, but mostly because of added characters such as those with umlats and characters like Å.
Fingers move significantly less distance thus lessening strain on hands Fingers move all over the keyboard and layout has no concern for comfort
Increases your productivity by helping you type faster and more safely; the more comfortable it is to type the more your fingers can work without having to take breaks or be injured for long periods of time Decreases productivity with both layout and an unhealthy typing system
Has layouts for single handed people; some have reported being able to type 50 words per minute on a one handed Dvorak layout - this beats out many people using both hands on QWERTY No solutions for one handed typists

If you still don’t believe how much more efficient it is check out this chart. It gives scores to 100 common words in the english language for QWERTY and Dvorak based on ease of typing.

There really is no denying that Dvorak is easier on your hands and better for your health. I’ve heard quite a few things but the most significant were these facts:

It has been estimated that a QWERTY typist’s fingers travel 16-20 miles a day, while a Dvorak typist’s fingers will only travel about 1 mile.

60-70% of the typing is done on the home row of Dvorak, compared with 30-35% on QWERTY’s home row. On Dvorak, you can type thousands of words on the home row

My personal experience

Because typing has so much to do with my entire life, switching to Dvorak was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health.

When I was typing on QWERTY I used to experience quite a bit of pain while typing. My hands would get cramped up all the time and I’d have to stop and stretch them out every now and then. Since I switched to Dvorak I haven’t experienced any pain while typing and I still stretch my hands just about every day (Mainly because my martial arts practices involve lots of wrists locks), but not nearly as much as I had to while typing with QWERTY. I probably type more than the average computer user since I’m on here so much.. writing, coding, etc, but that should only show you a quick example of the amplified effects of QWERTY.

My speed has improved too. Speed was actually the initial reason I switched to Dvorak. I didn’t really think it would help my hands out all that much - afterall.. typing is typing, right? Well I was definitely wrong. Anyhow. I improved my speed and now I can type much faster than I could on QWERTY.. I haven’t measured myself lately, but last I checked I was doing 90wpm at a comfortable pace and 100wpm+ on a really good day.

I don’t ever regret switching, I’ve never heard of anyone regretting switching and I encourage everyone I know to make the switch. Because of how easy and quick it is to learn there really is no reason not to make the switch.

I want to learn!

Of course you do. Lucky for you Dvorak is much easier to learn than QWERTY. Since the Dvorak layout is much more intuitive and natural you will learn it in significantly less time than it took you to learn QWERTY. For many QWERTY learners it takes several weeks or months to learn. Dvorak can easily be learned in just a couple of weeks. It’s likely that you will be able to reach a decent, bearable typing speed (35wpm) in just a few days.

Step One: Get the new layout

For most computer operating systems these days it is easy to switch. I am a Windows XP user so I will only explain how to do it with XP on here. If you are using a different OS use this website to find out how to change your layout.
On XP:

  • Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Regional and Language Options
  • Click the Languages tab
  • Click Details button
  • Click Add button
  • First box -> select English
  • Second box - > select United States Dvorak

Step two: Your keyboard

There are a few things you can do to your keyboard itself to help you learn Dvorak:

  1. Buy a new keyboard that is in the Dvorak layout
  2. Remove your key tops and put them in the new places
  3. Put new labels on top of your current keys
  4. Learn it by touch typing and printing out a layout for reference

These are in order from least to most preferred. Option one shouldn’t really even be on your mind. Option two is kind of difficult and doesn’t work with keyboards that have different heights for the different rows. Option three is good for if you want to be able to look down at your keyboard and see what you’re doing. Option four is what you truly should do and that’s all I’m going to talk about. Whatever you feel comfortable with is what you should do. I highly recommend you try touch typing first though.

Touch typing is the basis for typing fast. If you can’t touch type already you should learn how to do it. It’s not hard and it will help you out tremendously. It should be the only way to type and you’ll thank me later for learning to type this way.
It’s easy to learn how to touch type if you learn Dvorak on your QWERTY board because it’s useless to look at the board. I highly recommend you take this route. You can find plenty of images of the layout online. Print one of them off and sit tape it to your monitor, stand it up against something, pin it to the wall… something; it’s not hard. Use it for reference as long as you need it. Look at it.. look at the keyboard.. try to remember.

An english language dvorak layout with fingering colored

The picture here shows which fingers you should use and where they go on the keyboard. It’s pretty easy to understand.

Step three: How to learn

There are many ways to learn how to type. This is how I did it and how I recommend you try:

  1. Study the layout and get a general idea of how it works. Bathe in the brilliance of it’s design and swoon over it night and day
  2. Get a blank page and just play around hitting keys and seeing how different it is
  3. Type every key ten times (using the correct fingers of course). Start with the home row, then the top row, then the bottom row. If you’d like a more controlled exercise for doing this you can try this page
  4. Start typing with it. The best way to learn how to type with it is to actually get out and do it in a realistic setting.

That last step probably sounds hard. Well it isn’t really that bad actually. I recommend that you try it with a few random documents throughout your day if you’re just switching over from QWERTY. Type an email to a few friends (maybe even someone you haven’t written to in a long time.. it’ll give you a good reason to write to them), write a long entry in your blog for the next few days, write a letter to yourself, find other easy things to type with. Generally business related stuff makes us frustrated to work with and it’s not easy to do because you’re always looking for productivity in your work; you can still try typing up business stuff in your day, but I don’t recommend it until you get somewhat comfortable with the layout. If you’re still at a loss for what to type then just find a page of a book, newspaper or some random memo you have and retype it.

This really is all there is to it. You should see some major results within about a week if you do a couple letters/artciles/etc (just a few paragraphs) a day. Within about two to three weeks you should be able to comfortably type on Dvorak for all your tasks at about 20-35wpm (this is one word every two or three seconds. It should take you less than a second to do common words like “the” and “and” and then you’ll have more time to do harder words with strange, out of the way letters). At this point you should be able to get rid of your layout map and concentrate on memory and buliding your speed.

I made my switch kind of all at once. I got comfortable with the layout enough that I could type without looking at my sheet (at this point I was only doing about 20wpm) and then I started typing everything with dvorak. Work stuff was a little slower for awhile there, but after just a little while of doing it all the time everything sped up pretty fast.

Other tips and the end

  • Try typing words really fast. “you”, “the”, “and” are good, but try some other ones.. even long ones. You may not feel compelled to do this now, but it was definitely something I did when I learned QWERTY and I know a lot of kids do: line your fingers up and get ready to type a word. You see a lot of young typists doing this as they first learn. They put their fingers in the positions they need them to be in and then they type the word as fast as they can. This seems kind of silly when we see it, but really it’s an efficient learning technique. When you do this you help your body with muscle memory. Typing any words quickly will help your overall technique since the words of our language are often made up of the same letter combinations, just in different orders. I didn’t do this when I was first learning Dvorak and now I really regret it.
  • Don’t get frustrated. I know a ton of people who quit really early while learning because it’s “too hard” or they couldn’t get their typing speed up quickly enough. Work on it in little chunks on things that you’re not in a rush to do, it’ll save you time on your other work and save you a lot of frustration.
  • Touch type touch type touch type. This really is the only way to go. If you can’t touch type then you’re going to be at a serious loss later. Not being able to read your keyboard is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself while learning.
  • One other unlisted advantage to this layout is the security and coolness factor. Not many people know Dvorak, so at the moment it’s sort of an elitist thing. If you touch type with it it’s also a security mechanism. Screwing up the number one input device of a comptuer is one of the easiest ways to at least slow down those who want to fuck your shit up
  • Always put your fingers in the correct places. The image I have of the layout on here shows which fingers should be hitting which keys. To find out where your fingers initially just put your index ones on the two keys with the bumps (”F” and “G” on a QWERTY board) and your other fingers will land where they should on that same row.

So.. there’s dvorak. If you like this article please comment and let me know. If you’ve fully switched over let me know.. if you’re already a user let me know. Whatever your situation I’d like to hear about it.

The end.

Related Links

The Dvorak Keyboard and You - health benefits and more information about why Dvorak kicks QWERTY’s inefficient ass
Distance Traveled - Applet that compares distance travelled; the amount that the same hand and same finger are used; and how often the top row, bottom row and home row keys are used. Fantastic test to show you just how much better Dvorak can be for you.
Introducing the Dvorak Keyboard - Tons of more information about Dvorak with plenty more links
Wikipedia on Dvorak - A Wikipedia entry on Dvorak with plenty of information and more links

11 Responses to “dvorak”

  1. wisted Says:

    currently learning the new method and trudging along at a snails pace so far. (it took me almost four minutes to type this)

    thanks for killing my day. (2 more minutes)

    initial thoughts: i am loving the placement of the M and A keys.

  2. Leo BH Says:

    I started to learn the Dvorak layout a couple of months ago, though I already touch-typed QWERTY. Despite it being really hard to resist the impulse to type as if using QWERTY, I learned the layout in only a few sessions of practice. I reached 60 WPM in about a month, and am now typing at 75-80 WPM comfortably, and still improving; a speed I’d never have been able to reach using QWERTY. By the way, I used the Stamina typing tutor (typingsoft.com) which has an.. amusing collection of phrases for learning to actually type once you’ve learned the layout. Made learning Dvorak rather less boring than it can be with some typing tutors, which give you nothing more than nonsense sentences for practice.

    Anyway, I’d never look back having learnt the layout.

  3. sol2k Says:

    Great stuff on Dvorak. I would also recommend http://www.dvzine.org for beginners and background stuff.

    The only bummer about Dvorak on Windows is that it messes up the key combinations, like Undo , Copy , Cut, Paste, etc

    For that purpose there are programs that toggle the keyboard back to QWERTY mode when the CTRL key is pressed. Google is your friend.

  4. وبلاگ رسمی من » Blog Archive » Dvork Says:

    [...] typewriter تمام حروفش روی یه ردیفه. من این مطالب رو از اینجا خوندم و خلاصشو براتون نوشتم. ابته این روش یه سری ایرا [...]

  5. alexi Says:

    Thanks for the greate article.
    You amost convinse me to go with Dvork. :). The last consern is this. I can change layout on my own computers, but often I have to type on somebody else comuter which will have QWERTY. What is your experience, when you become proficient in Dvork, can you still maintain dicent speed on QWERTY

  6. Cubny Says:

    First of all I like ur writing style.
    you know I’ve translated some parts of ur article in persian and post it in my weblog, and many ppl liked it, but the problem I couldnt find it in any store in my city. actualy 99% of them never heard of it before. ;)

  7. Dennis Says:

    Several months ago, I looked into seeing how I could improve my typing and found that the Dvorak layout was praised to be more intuitive. I tried to switch (spent a day…maybe should’ve tried longer), but since I can type already at 120wpm using the QWERTY…I feel that my brain is already ingrained with this layout.

    I might try to switch again, after reading your post. Thanks for the encouragement!

  8. Dvorak Keyboard Layout « Albaiti3000’s Weblog Says:

    [...] is a very good blog post about it Jesse Crouch log: dvorak you will find every thing you need to know about it in there, including some very very useful links [...]

  9. Ghent Says:

    I’ve switched to Dvorak, but as a computer technician, I had to be able to type QWERTY to work on other peoples computer. I can now type both keyboards with out a problem. I can even open up two chat windows and set one to QWERTY and one to Dvorak! If you want a keyboard that you can use for yourself, and plug into other peoples computer when you travel or visit, I recommend http://www.typematrix.com/ keyboards The USB adapter allows you to plug them into any Mac or Windows computer. They take some initial getting use to, but they are small and comfortable to type on. I’ve bought several, and leave one at work. I plug in my keyboard in addition to the normal keyboard so my boss case use the QWERTY keyboard and I use the Dvorak. The newer keyboard by TypeMatrix even have Copy, Paste, and Cut buttons so you don’t have to worry about the Copy and Paste buttons getting all mixed up. Plus all the keyboards can be switched between Dvorak or QWERTY with a push of a button! Which is nice for people like me who have QWERTY typers that use my computer.

  10. Learn To Type With Easy To Learn Typing! | 7Wins.eu Says:

    [...] Learn | 2¢ Worth10 Fast Fingers Blog Archive Learn the touch typing system online and for free dvorak - jesse crouch’s log Tags typing tutor typing game touch type for kids online typing typing test typing speed typing [...]

  11. Daniel Rezendes Says:

    The whole rest of the world wants to do something harder (qwerty).
    I was working at my local town dump. I learned that if you find a way to do something easier…KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!!!
    If your boss gives you a bucket to move a big pile of crap…and you find a wheel barrow…he comes back an hour later and you are done…wouldnt that make you look good?
    I totally screwed myself out of a job doing shit like that, and then telling everyone how I did it faster.

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