In September 2015, at our Grand Meetup, I started to teach myself how to type with an alternative keyboard layout called Dvorak.
Our CEO Matt is a huge advocate of the alternative layouts and here’s the main reason why, per Wikipedia:
Dvorak proponents claim the Dvorak layout uses less finger motion and reduces errors compared to the standard QWERTY keyboard. This reduction in finger distance traveled is claimed to permit faster rates of typing while reducing repetitive strain injuries, though this has been called into question and their criticism has in turn also been called into question.
Making the switch was no trivial task. Look how many keys are in new locations (all except for A and M):
I started with a few weeks of typing drills to help me understand where all the letters were located. During this time, I’d immediately switch back to QWERTY once my drills were done so I could function on the computer.
After about two weeks of this, I started to do my regular work (which involves a lot of typing) in Dvorak. It was really slow going at an average of 17 words per minute. I’d start the day using Dvorak and then after lunch switch back to the familiar layout so I could actually get some work done.
Eventually, I bit the bullet and started using Dvorak full time.
When I finally got up to 40 WPM (after at least a month), I felt like I was really flying.
I used this typing speed site, to practice and gauge if I was getting any faster.
Now, about 18 months later, I’m a bit faster than I was a QWERTY, averaging between 60-70 WPM and work on drills each week to become more efficient.
A few notes:
- I feel much more efficient when typing. My fingers really move less. And since I type nearly all day, my hands are never sore
- I cannot touch type on a normal keyboard. Luckily 98% of my computer work is done on my work computer, so I rarely use a keyboard with the standard layout. And thankfully, when I do use a different machine, there are letters on the keys I can use 🙂
- I still use the standard layout on my phone. I can still touch type with my thumbs rather quickly
- The hardest part that I found is the muscle memory for short words and keyboard shortcuts for copying/pasting/saving/etc.