Learning Dvorak

To work smarter and faster at my craft, I took the plunge and switched to the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard.

At our Automattic company meetup in September Matt handed out paper copies of The Dvorak Zine, a fun, well-written treatise on why Dvorak is better than the traditional QWERTY keyboard layout. I read it on the plane ride home, played with Dvorak settings on my laptop a bit, and vowed to make the switch during my next extended time off work.

Here is the timeline from my switch.

1. September 16th, 2010: Read The Dvorak Zine.
2. November 22nd, 2010: Started practicing with Master Key during a week off from work.
3. December 3rd, 2010: Removed QWERTY from my keyboard settings.
4. December 9th, 2010: Finished Master Key Dvorak drills (set to 40 WPM goal).

For fun, here are some stats as of December 9th, 2010 based on my Master Key drill results.

My tips and recommendations: Get Master Key, add Dvorak to your keyboard settings, and practice. Then remove QWERTY from your keyboard settings and use Dvorak for everything you type. Pace yourself and be patient. Keep practicing and don’t give up.

For more on Dvorak, see Matt’s 2003 classic: On the Dvorak Keyboard Layout.

Update December 14, 2010: My goal with learning Dvorak is to get faster and more efficient at typing than I was with QWERTY—with which I type 75 WPM with accuracy. The 40 WPM mentioned in the timeline was during drills used to learn Dvorak; that speed is not the end goal.

Update December 28, 2010: This week I passed the Master Key drills again with the speed goal set at 50 WPM. My average speed is approaching 60 WPM.

Update January 17, 2011: Now averaging 65 WPM, see notes in Still Learning Dvorak.

Update November 22, 2011: An update on my Dvorak learning experience, one year later: Dvorak Redux.

9 thoughts on “Learning Dvorak

  1. I’ve a knack for getting a weird-ass setup of dubious performance increase – so I am using Programmer Dvorak. Too bad it doesn’t work all that well with all my weird-ass keyboard-controlled applications, like XMonad. I can alter the key bindings though.

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  2. @Kate That is one of the main reasons people switch to Dvorak, for the long-term benefit of reduced hand and wrist pain. I am not far enough along to tell that yet, but it’s on my mind.

    As far as workflow, not sure what you mean. I do hope to exceed my QWERTY speed soon.

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  3. I’ve been using dvorak for about a year now, and I’m finding that my main problem with speeding up is that I still have to think in QWERTY too. If I have to do anything on my wife’s computer or even type on my phone it has to be done in QWERTY. I’ll catch myself randomly trying to type letters like they’re in their QWERTY positions.

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  4. What happens when you use other computers with traditional keyboard set up? Isn’t it confusing to go from QWERTY to Dvorak and back? I can imagine that if you trained yourself on one format you’d want to stick with it. Or, is it just simple to switch back and forth. I find myself going to Australia to the USA and having to drive on the different sides of the road. It takes a couple of days and a few head on collisions to get use to the change.

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  5. I am still pretty new to Dvorak, so I can’t speak to losing QWERTY skills, but from anecdotes I’ve heard you can know both at the same time. The magazine I linked to in the post explains it like learning a language: you maintain fluency in QWERTY even though Dvorak is now your “native tongue.”

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  6. Pingback: My Strategy for Learning Colemak | Ian Daniel Stewart

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