Slowly learning Dvorak

At the recent Automattic meetup in Quebec Matt gave a passionate talk about how great the Dvorak keyboard layout was and handed out paper copies of The Dvorak Zine.

The meetup was hectic and the first chance I had to try it out was on the plane home. Just over 5 hours from Montreal to Heathrow, London. Here’s what I typed in about 2 hours:

Mad! Typing this on the flight back to London using the dvorak keyboard layout. It’s slow going but I have plenty of time to practice, it’s a long flight! My finger memory says QWERTY but they’re very slowly mapping to the new layout. Vowels come first followed by s, m, l, n and d.

It’s definitely a better layout but right now I am so slow! I’m glad that I have power on this flight. No need for the extra battery! I love how th are next to each other.

Gotta get me a layout I can stick to the keys of the macbook.
Watched the Hurt Locker while typing this.

I always type i instead of d.

Gonna watch Night at the museum 2 again, just so I can watch the ending, finally.

I’ve got three seats to myself. Maybe I should sleep? Seems that would be the most sensible thing to do, now wouldn’t it? Looks like we’re about half way across the Atlantic! The film is fast forwarding nice and fast!

Time for a break from Dvorak!

Wow! Layer Cake is a great film! A bit violent but good ending! Only 156 miles to go! Then at least an hour in Heathrow! Can’t believe I didn’t Sleep!

Yes, I didn’t sleep. That was a long day, and Layer Cake was on my laptop (freshly ripped from the DVD I bought before leaving). I can heartily recommend Air Canada. Best experience I’ve had in economy on a trans-Atlantic flight.

Anyway, changing the Mac OS X keyboard to the Dvorak layout is easy, as it is in Linux too. Trying to login using the Dvorak layout is a right pain though.

I didn’t try to rip out the keys of my Macbook but I did rearrange the keys on a wireless keyboard. It actually didn’t help, mainly because the keyboard itself isn’t that comfortable.


The next step was to run through a few Dvorak keyboard training tutorials. They went well and I repeated the first tutorial several times, improving the times and accuracy each time. I’m not doing quite as well as Nick is doing though. I’m impressed.

I’ll persevere. My hands are retraining themselves. The Dvorak Zine is a great help, but if I tried using Dvorak for work I’d be 90% less productive right now. Matt, that ok then? 😉

20 thoughts on “Slowly learning Dvorak

  1. The work speed/productivity is probably the biggest barrier for me (right now). Maybe I’ll add a spare keyboard to my Christmas list so I can rearrange the keys and still have this one to get work done.

    1. You probably know QWERTY well enough to where you can rearrange the keys to Dvorak mode and still be able to type in QWERTY (without looking at the keyboard). That’s what I’ll be doing. 🙂

  2. I’ve tried twice and failed. I don’t think I’m going to try again. I’m actually not a very fast QWERTY typist, and my profession isn’t dependent on fast typing. Most of what I do is thinking about problems. I just can’t take the downtime that a Dvorak conversion would take.

  3. What app are you using for training? I’m using Master Key and the lessons are great so far. My biggest problem is typing QWERTY when I try to go too fast. Haven’t done anything with the actual keys on a keyboard and am not using Dvorak except during training.

    1. No special app, just the web one I linked to above. I find my typing improves when I concentrate. Way too easy to fall back to the old ways! “d” and “f” are especially troublesome!

  4. I think I went half and half for a bit but eventually had to go cold turkey off QWERTY to really become comfortable.

    “The Dvorak Zine is a great help, but if I tried using Dvorak for work I’d be 90% less productive right now. Matt, that ok then? ;)”

    Absolutely, it is a hit right now but will be re-paid many times in productivity and comfort over the many we will work together.

  5. I get the impression none of you have changed keyboards before…right?

    I’ve done it a few times moving from different language environments. It has not usually taken me more than 2 or 3 days to get the hang of the differences. The fewer the differences, the harder it is to relearn.

  6. Do you run OS X on your macbook? If so you can go into your system preferences –> Accounts –> Login Options –> Show input menu. Then you can pick whatever layout you want during login. Btw, I’ve been on dvorak for over two years and must admit that it’s reduced the strain on my fingers significantly. 🙂

  7. I think it would be doubly hard to switch to Dvorak for someone like me who’s a devotee of vim. Its editing keystrokes have become second-nature, so I’d have to relearn all of them, too.

    1. I tried using Vim and it was really painful. I need to get better with the new layout before I try editing code again. It’s just too easy to make a devastating mistake!

  8. Having just read Nick’s post above I tried and subsequently paid for Master Key for the Mac. Have gone through a few of the tutorials and it’s a great teacher. The audio feedback, graphs and logging done really helps.

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