Recently I made the decision that I would try to switch keyboard styles. Almost everybody I know uses the standard QWERTY-style keyboards because they are so common, but because I use a keyboard so much, I want to protect my fingers.
A bit of background knowledge before I go any further: the most common style of computer keyboard is the QWERTY keyboard, named such because of the first six letters in the top row of the keyboard. It was initially designed during the typewriter days not to improve typing efficiency, but to prevent the keys from jamming up. DVORAK, on the other hand, was designed with computer keyboards in mind, focusing on efficiency and ergonomics. As a result, those who are comfortable with DVORAK typically type faster and cause themselves less repetitive stress injuries.
Now, I think that those are both two very good reasons to make the switch to this different style. There is, though, the obvious drawback of having to learn a new keyboard layout. Thankfully, I don’t need to buy anything to get started; any newer operating system has the ability to remap a keyboard to a new layout. The problem with this is that the writing on the keyboard doesn’t match what I want to type, so I can’t look at the keys to help me learn.
So the goal at this point is to work on my typing speed and hopefully get it to a speed that is reasonable. On a regular QWERTY keyboard, I can type at about 75 wpm (words per minute), but on a DVORAK keyboard I’m at a lowly 20 wpm. In order to help improve my speed, I’ve decided that I will type all of my blog posts on my DVORAK layout. After all, they say practice makes perfect, and if I plan to keep up with my blog posts on a regular basis, I should get better pretty quickly.
So, if anyone else out there is on their computer a lot, I challenge you to try out DVORAK some time and give it an honest shot at becoming comfortable at it. It’s certainly a challenge to pick up, but would be beneficial to preserving the life of your fingers, and when you’re in the Computer Science industry like myself, it’s game over if I can’t use my fingers. So to make things a little easier, instructions are below to enable the DVORAK layout on both Linux (Gnome) and Windows:
Linux (Gnome): System –> Preferences –> Keyboard, then go to the Layouts tab.
Windows XP: Add the Language toolbar by right-clicking on the bottom bar, then go into the Settings section under there to add a keyboard.