Why did I learn Dvorak?

One of my objectives in 2018 was to learn how to touch type. Not only does it look cool but it’ll help me type faster and improve my productivity.

So I just print out a Qwerty diagram and start typing using the correct fingers. Easy right? Not exactly.

Since I’ve been typing in my own style for 20 years, changing this habit was extremely difficult. As soon as I started to struggle, I would find myself resorting back to my old typing style.

This is why I decided to learn Dvorak.

Now when I try to type with the correct fingers and I find myself struggling, I can’t go back since nearly all alphabets are different on Dvorak compared to the Qwerty layout.

Dvorak vs Qwerty

Many would argue that the Dvorak layout is far superior than the Qwerty layout.

  • The commonly used letters are placed on or near the home row.
  • All the vowels are on the left home row.
  • Dvorak is designed to make you type faster compared to Qwerty.
  • It reduces strain on both your hand and wrist.

Even though the benefits seem rewarding, acquiring this new skill was counter intuitive to say the least.

I’m going to share my experience learning Dvorak so you can get an idea of whether learning Dvorak makes sense to you.

This learning process worked for me personally but may not work for you. Please take it with a grain of salt.

Are you already a Dvorak user or planning to learn it? If so, let us know in the comments section your thoughts or experience on this topic.

Where do I start ?

After some research I found out it isn’t necessary to install the Dvorak layout on your pc just yet.

There are a couple websites to practice the Dvorak layout without changing from your Qwerty layout.

The website I started off with is called dvorak.nl and I highly recommend it.

You’ll be able to learn Dvorak without making any changes to your PC.

Practice each step on this website and move on to the next according to their suggestion.

Learning Dvorak takes time so I suggest setting aside 10 to 20 minutes daily on practice and continue on with your day using Qwerty.

When learning to touch type, You should follow these rules:

  1. You do not look at the keyboard. Notice the bumps on the letters “F” and “J” ? This is where your index fingers rest. Use these bumps to return your fingers to the home row. You do not look at the keyboard.

  2. Always type with the correct finger. Ok, so there are people out there that type ridiculously fast in their own style. However, I encourage you to at least start out by typing with the recommended fingers.

  3. Sit in a good posture. Not only will this help prevent problems with your back and wrist, it should also help you hit the keys more accurately.

  4. Initially, don’t focus on speed but instead focus on typing accurately. It’s important that you train your muscle memory to hit the correct keys.

Once you’ve completed all the objectives on dvorak.nl, you can try out the other websites.

How to type faster on Dvorak

The next website I want to share is called keybr.com.

In this website, all you do is just type endlessly. This site tracks what you type and which letters your struggling with. Letters you’ve struggled with will appear more often so you’ll get more practice with them.

The words that pops up in this website is also helpful. Instead of displaying random letters, it make you type out patterns that are frequently using in English. Not only can you practice memorizing the keys, you’ll also train your muscle memory to type commonly used patterns.

You’ll also be able to view your typing statistics on this site. I recommended you to sign up on this site to use it to its full potential.

Practicing Numbers and Symbols

So far we covered the letters but if your a perfectionist and want to type numbers and symbols at lightning speed then these are the sites I recommended:

programmer-dvorak.appspot.com

typing-lessons.org/lesson_26.html

how-to-type.com/touch-typing-lessons/how-to-type-numbers

how-to-type.com/touch-typing-lessons/how-to-type-symbols

powertyping.com/dvorak/dvorakL.html

Practicing numbers can be pretty boring, but I found these exercises to be quite rewarding as I often mistype numbers. Just like the previous exercises, do not look at the keyboard.

Typing even faster on Dvorak

We already covered quite a number of websites but there’s a few more I want to share.

The first site is calledratatype.com and I use it to test my typing speed. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been testing my typing speed here every week. One of the reason why I like testing on this site is because they include numbers, Capital letters and parenthesis’ which makes it challenging.

typeracer.com is a site where you can race against other people in real time. The text displayed is usually not that long but I suggest practicing here only after your fully confident with your accuracy otherwise it can be quite discouraging eating dust in every race.

I thought keybr.com was the best for improving typing speed. But my opinion changed when I realized how flexible 10fastfingers.com was. This site contains practice text that are submitted from people everywhere. One of my favorite test is the “most common English words” series. What better way to improve your typing than to practice words that are actually commonly used.

You can also create your own list of words which is incredible because you’ll be able to practice specific areas you want to work on such as symbols, numbers, patterns and hard to reach characters.

Recently I found out about the top1000 challenge. You get speed tested on a set of words and can only move forward by typing 50 wpm or more. For someone starting out Dvorak, this mode is awesome as its both challenging yet and enjoyable.

Wrapping it up

So these are the websites I used to practice the Dvorak layout both before and after I made the switch.

So when should you make the switch?

That depends on whether you want to go cold turkey or not, whether you can afford the initial slow typing at your current work or studies.

Initially, you’ll be typing painfully slow so that’s also something to consider.

I decided to go cold turkey because I knew that if I switch back and forth, I would not make it through the transition.

It’s been three months for me after the switch and I’m comfortably writing this script in Dvorak. With a current speed of around 55 wpm, I haven’t reached my Qwerty speed yet but at least now I can touch type with great accuracy.

There were a few times I wanted to quit but I somehow managed to get the tasks at hand done by learning new keyboard shortcuts and relying on auto completions.

Now to answer the Ultimate question, Does Dvorak make you type faster?

I think the answer is no. At least not instantly.

Since I’m comparing my 20 years of Qwerty to 3 months of Dvorak it’s still hard to say. I am determined to practice until I reach 100 wpm but I think you can type fast in either layouts, however since there is less hand movement in Dvorak, I feel there’s less strain on my hands using Dvorak.

Should you learn Dvorak?

If your already a fast touch typist and have no issues with Qwerty then probably not. If your like me and want to fix a bad habit then I highly recommend it. Though there’s a huge investment in both time and effort, the return will be well worth it. It sounds strange saying this but after I started touch typing, I started to appreciate the ergonomics of each keyboard, something I will cover later on.

Should I switch the key caps to Dvorak?

One of the first question you might have is, should I switch the keycaps?

I actually replaced all the key caps except the “F” and “J” keys since those two have the little bumps. Even though I never looked at the keyboard, this remapping literally kept me going as there were times I just wanted to quit but wasn’t able to just switch back because all the keys weren’t in Qwerty anymore. Had I kept the keys in Qwerty, I might have switched back due to the frustration.

Now that I’ve completely switched, I actually recommend leaving the keys in Qwerty or it’ll be difficult for other people to use your pc. If you do decide to remap, you’ll probably need to buy a new set of key caps as the bumps on the home row are not the same between the two layouts. Personally I’m looking into getting blank key caps for the DIY Preonic keyboard which I’ll be ordering soon.

Also if your a gamer, you’ll probably switch back to Qwerty for gaming unless you want to remap all those buttons.

Some people claim to type from 20 wpm to 100 wpm in 5 hours

If you’ve switched to Dvorak and frustrated with your slow typing, do not be discouraged. Learning to type in this new layout will take time to get used to. Don’t believe people that claim they can teach you to type fast over night, it’s probably scam or a click bait. Also don’t feel discouraged if other people improve at a faster pace, we all learn differently.

What else should I be aware of?

You will miss the cut, copy, paste combo of the Qwerty. In Dvorak, the C, X and V are scattered across the keyboard. You’ll just have to get used to it or set up macros if your keyboard supports it. You can also Copy by pressing Ctrl+Insert and Paste with Shift+Insert.

What is the best keyboard?

So I briefly mentioned keyboard ergonomics, so what is the best keyboard out there? That will totally depend on your preference and budget. I am personally a huge fan of compact setups so I enjoy using smaller keyboards.

I recently got the Anne Pro Mechanical keyboard and the typing experience on this thing is pretty amazing. If you never tried mechanical switches before, you should definitely look into them, they do sound clicky but they feel amazing to type on.

Recently I heard of ortholinear keyboards where the keys are aligned in a grid pattern. since I miss-type the numbers keys from time to time due to the staggered layout, I’m planning to get one called the Preonic and see how that goes.

Lastly if you got young kids, encourage them to type using the correct techniques. If they type correctly from a young age, it’s a head start for them in this era. For young kids I recommend a site like typingclub.com. Not only does this site teach the proper techniques, its themed towards children so they won’t get bored too quickly.

And no, I don’t recommend teaching Dvorak to kids, unless schools start adopting it.

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I will see you all in the next video.