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Back and Forth Between Qwerty and Dvorak? 624

jamesh asks: "I'm interested in switching over to an alternate keyboard layout, probably Dvorak, before I begin to suffer any effects of RSI. I'm almost 30 and have been typing since I was about 8, and these days spend most of my workday in front of a computer, typing away at a keyboard. I've searched the Internet and most people's comments are that within a few months they were up to or faster than their previous speed, with better accuracy. I'm mostly a programmer, but I do spend time at client sites and do need to spend time at various users computers to have a look at whatever hole they've dug themselves into, and so I will need to switch between QWERTY and Dvorak mode fairly frequently. What others have found when switching back and forth, as required? Can you mentally just flip back between them, or do you 'lose' your QWERTY skills and become 'hunt & peck' when faced with the old keyboard layout?"
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Back and Forth Between Qwerty and Dvorak?

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  • by John Harrison ( 223649 ) <> on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:33PM (#13028676) Homepage Journal
    It can't be THAT hard to get the title right, can it?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:36PM (#13028704)
      Perhaps the submitter is already losing his typing ability.
      • I switch a few times a month. It takes me about five minutes to get back to full speed with the new layout.
        • I do the same between AZERTY and QWERTY; in Belgium, AZERTY is the default keyboard layout, but some friends swear by QWERTY for coding and sometimes I have to use their comps. And what's worse: lots of games even in this day and age have the keyboard layout hardcoded to QWERTY instead of just asking the OS what character corresponds to the pressed key, so this means I have to switch between the two fairly often. Although I'm not as fluent in QWERTY than in AZERTY I can type on a QWERTY board pretty well.

    • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:40PM (#13028740) Journal
      The sad thing is that this stuff actually matters. If in a few months I want to search for this story then looking for titles containing the word 'QWERTY' is going to fail. By all means, let's tolerate bad spelling because geeks seem incapable of better, but not in titles that may ultimately end up in a thousand catalogs around the world.
    • QWERY's the QWERTY's answer to Dvorak. By dropping one of the most common letters from the alphabet, they've claimed a speed increase of at least 15%!
    • How much would you hate to invent something used by hundreds of millions of people every day and have no one know that you invented it.... The qwerty keyboard layout was invented by a mister Sholes (i think we all know why- because it is the layout that leads to the fewest typewriter hammers sticking together during normal typing), so why not call it the Sholes layout to stave off any qwert v. qerty confusion....
      I am guessing that it is much like second language skills- Studies are always showing that the
      • Back when I studied Latin, I could converse in it. My vocabulary was never large, about 10k words, but that's pretty much the core of a language that you need to be able to talk to someone else in it.

        I maintained this ability for about the 3 years I actively studied it. Now, about 8 years later, I can no longer converse in Latin, and it takes me a few moments to be able to say anything in it, and my 'on demand' vocabulary has dropped to maybe three or four hundred words, tops. I can still translate from

  • Forget Dvorak (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tet ( 2721 ) <slashdot@astrad[ ] ['yne' in gap]> on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:34PM (#13028679) Homepage Journal
    I'm interested in switching over to an alternate keyboard layout, probably Dvorak, before I begin to suffer any effects of RSI.

    If you're serious, then rather than Dvorak, choose one of the layouts specifically designed to help RSI. The leading contender is probably the Maltron [] layout. The sculpted keyboard helps, too, but they're also available in more traditional flat models [] as well.

    • by The Amazing Fish Boy ( 863897 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:42PM (#13028764) Homepage Journal
      Take a break from typing for a while. Take the time off work if need be. (Could probably be sick days.)
      • by SeventyBang ( 858415 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:02PM (#13029577)

        And when you can't avoid typing, use better "typing posture". For those who didn't take a proper typing class (my mom forced me to take a course when I was a sophomore[1] in high school so I would be self-sufficient for college term papers. Little did I know I'd be taking Summer courses in LISP and FORTRAN the following year.

        Biggest tip: do not rest your elbows or wrists.

        I'm willing to wager 99%[2] of the people at a keyboard do not do this and most of the people who have RPI have acquired it because they do rest either joint of their arms.

        All that changing a keyboards (different contour, key layout, or both) is doing is changing the posture of your fingers | hands | wrists | elbows | arms. Save yourself the time and just discipline yourself a bit.

        The other thing which has been cited in RPI articles is when people spent time moving back & forth between keyboard & mouse repeatedly; i.e. you're better off to use keystrokes as much as possible or mouse as much as possible, but constant switching is not a good thing.

        [1] Yes, that's the correct spelling [] (for the spelling-challenged)

        [2] Those five people who respond with claims they are the exceptions aren't going to disprove it.

        • by vansloot ( 89515 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @09:54PM (#13030029)
          A few other things:

          1) Regardless of your posture (and yes it matters), make sure you are not sitting in a static position for any period of time. Holding you muscles in a single floating position causes them to -- for lack of a better word -- "seize up" and tighten. Those "ropes" you feel in your forearms are caused by this.

          2) Take a break every 10 minutes or so. Just take your hands off of the keyboard, shake out your arms and stretch a bit.

          3) Get a deep muscle massage regularly on your back and arms to break up those tense muscles.

          4) Find a new line of work ;-) (just kidding)

          As a recoverer from mild RSI, I made changes before they became serious (as they did for my mother who got surgery). Please do the same so we don't lose great developers to the new epidemic of our age.
      • I use a split key (not slanted) keyboard and can type for extended periods without a problem. But I wish I would have gotten one with a built in touchpad for the mouse (and still keep a traditional optical mouse too, touchpads suck for some things).

        Taking a break helps for mild symptoms. Getting a steroid shot usually works for awhile as well. However, a lot of these problems I think are more to do with your habits than anything else.

        Things are hurting. Your body is trying to tell you something, but yo
    • Re:Forget Dvorak (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Forthan Red ( 820542 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @06:23PM (#13029007)
      Exactly. Most of the "benefits" of the DSK (Dvorak) keyboard are pure hype. Read and learn. [] You should be concerned with the design of the keyboard as a whole, rather than the order of the keys.
      • Mod Parent(s) Up! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nobodyman ( 90587 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:09PM (#13029263) Homepage
        damnit, why do my modpoints expire just before threads like this spring up.

        Dvorak keyboards have only won in tests administered by Dvorak himself.. The truth is that he was looking to make money off of his patented configuration.

        Still, the Dvorak story is very interesting to me in a sociological sense. The Dvorak keyboard's superiority has existed as a sort of counter-culture convential wisdom but has all the underpinnings of an "urban legend" -- a false or heavily-embellished story that survives because the story evokes a strong emotional response, serves as a cautionary tale and/or plays into feelings or ideas felt by a community. In this case the Dvorak story survives not because of the flimsy, circumstantial "proof" but rather because it evokes people's sense of outrage of the "Little Guy with new ideas" being unable fight the tide of convention.

        That said, there *are* keyboards specifically designed to be easier on your fingers. I like the split keyboards because it's easier to keep my wrists straight.
        • Re:Mod Parent(s) Up! (Score:4, Informative)

          by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:14PM (#13029646)
          "Dvorak keyboards have only won in tests administered by Dvorak himself.. The truth is that he was looking to make money off of his patented configuration."

          While this may or may not be true, my personal experiences seem to indicate that dvorak keyboard *is* good for your wrists.

          I had a *lot* of 10,000+ word essays to write, my hands and wrists were getting so painful I could barely type, yet the deadlines couldn't be put off.

          I switched to dvorak and the pain vanished within about a week of using it.

          The vast majority of the keys you use to type the vast majority of words you type are all on the home row.

          (If you don't know what 'home row' means then you have NO business criticising the dvorak keyboard, but I digress).

          One thing that certainly helped was not just the fact that my fingers no longer had unnatural stretches to perform in typing, but the slowdown I had to endure in getting used to the dvorak layout.

          But the home-row layout made things a lot easier.

          • While this may or may not be true, my personal experiences seem to indicate that dvorak keyboard *is* good for your wrists.

            I have to agree. I switched about 3 years ago, after several years of wrist pain. I've hardly had pain like this since.

            And to answer the original poster, I'm afraid I've become hunt-and-peck on QWERTY, except for certain words such as my userID, which I have to enter in QWERTY mode on occasion before my layout preference has taken effect.

            • by KlaymenDK ( 713149 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @03:04AM (#13031147) Journal
              "my userID, which I have to enter in QWERTY mode on occasion before my layout preference has taken effect"

              I had the same problem, using Windows XP at work, and finding that the initial login (naturally) did not follow my personal prefs. My peeve was not so much the userID; rather, it was annoying to hunt-and-peck a *password* on qwerty.

              To change the initial Windows XP login window so it uses Dvorak US instead of the standard (qwerty) layout, change the registry key "HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Keyboard Layout\Preload\1" to "00010409". (Actually, in order to support æøå, I've had to replace the Dvorak DLL file with a custom Norwegian variant, so what my XP calls 'Dvorak US' is in effect 'Dvorak NO'.)
        • Re:Mod Parent(s) Up! (Score:3, Informative)

          by torokun ( 148213 )

          The fact that he wanted to make money, and sponsored competitions to prove the layout's worth, may be reasons to be skeptical, but certainly don't prove anything.

          I have been using dvorak since sometime in my junior year of college ('97), and can tell you the following:

          1. It feels a lot smoother and more comfortable, because of the reduced finger movement. This aspect of dvorak is proven for English.

          2. It's a bit less of an improvement over qwerty for coding in something like cpp, because of all the punc
        • Re:Mod Parent(s) Up! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Zeinfeld ( 263942 )
          Dvorak keyboards have only won in tests administered by Dvorak himself.. The truth is that he was looking to make money off of his patented configuration.

          Yes but you should reject Lieberwitz and Margolis's efforts for the same reason - their 'research' is not disinterested either. What they are intent on doing is 'disproving' the existence of network effects. The 'Independent institute' is a Washington crank-tank funded by corporations to grind the axes they have to be ground.

          For their work to be credi

        • Re:Mod Parent(s) Up! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by adrianmonk ( 890071 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @12:10AM (#13030555)
          Dvorak keyboards have only won in tests administered by Dvorak himself.. The truth is that he was looking to make money off of his patented configuration.

          Nonsense. I pasted the text of your article into a keyboard compare applet [], which is an objective test. When typing the text you typed, the Dvorak keyboard scores better in ALL the important metrics that it covers, including:

          • percentage of keystrokes in home row:
            qwerty, 34.06%; dvorak, 67.55%
          • percentage of keystrokes that required using the same hand as the previous keystroke:
            qwerty, 36.26%; dvorak, 23.40%
          • percentage of keystrokes that required using the same finger as the previous keystroke:
            qwerty, 5.909%; dvorak, 2.317%

          Given that moving from the home row slows you down, and given that alternating hands and (to a lesser extent) alternating fingers gives you a level of parallelism that increases speed (kind of like superscalar processors process parts of instructions in parallel with multiple execution units that each has its own ALU), the Dvorak layout seems to be scoring better.

          While we're on the subject of alternating hands, a friend of mine told me an amusing anecdote about some programmers he knew that were having an ongoing typing competition around the office. They had written some program to spit out random text (composed of words strung together from /usr/dict/words, I think), record how long it takes the user to type it, and compute and record the score. One of the programmers hit upon an idea: he could improve his score if he hacked the testing program to spit out only words that had a high degree of alternation between the hands. That is, one-handed words "aftertaste" and "lollipop" would be avoided, and highly-alternating words like "enchantment" and "proficiency" would be favored. As the story goes, this cheat gave them the ability to get higher scores than the competition, even when taking the test while others watched to verify that nothing fishy was going on. (All that's necessary is to make the program key off some environment variable set in your .profile or whatever.)

          Though that anecdote is only from memory, ask yourself whether "aftertaste" and "lollipop" are indeed to type on a QWERTY keyboard than than "enchantment" and "proficiency" are. I think you'll agree that maximizing alternation between hands is an important characteristic of a good keyboard layout. Furthermore, based on that applet, it seems clear that the Dvorak layout does a better job than the QWERTY layout does of maximizing alternation between hands when typing English prose.

      • Re:Forget Dvorak (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Krach42 ( 227798 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:35PM (#13029425) Homepage Journal
        Actually most of this stuff about keyboard typing *causing* RSI is pure bunk also.

        There's been research that shows that people who use typing a lot in their lives do not develop RSI in any greater percentage than in those who do not.

        Just if you *do* have RSI, the keyboards agrivate it a lot.

        If this guy has been typing since he was 8, and he's 30 now, he'll likely not develop RSI.
        • Re:Forget Dvorak (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jonbrewer ( 11894 ) *
          There's been research that shows that people who use typing a lot in their lives do not develop RSI in any greater percentage than in those who do not.

          That's funny. I'd like to see that research. Or any reference you could provide.

          I've been typing away at a PC for a few hours a day for the last fifteen years. It wasn't until I started binge coding (8-10 hours a day) in 2002 that I began to develop RSI. By the end of 2002 I was wearing ice packs on my arms halfway through the day, and mixing painkillers i
      • by ooloogi ( 313154 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:05PM (#13029597)
        Some benefits of Dvoark:

        1) Less finger movement for typical English sentences. This is easily verifiable, and not questioned AFAIK.
        2) The keycaps on typical keyboards don't match the letter assignment, so you aren't tempted to look a the keys.
        3) It is supported by modern operating systems and can be used with readily available keyboards.

        These are real benefits, and not hype. In contrast, much of the argument against Dvorak is based on hype arguing against hype. Though they argee QWERTY was never optimised for touch typing, Dvorak proponents these days don't necessarily say that the QWERTY was deliberately designed to slow typing down. It is hype to say they are saying that hype.

        But still, Dvorak was designed with touch typing in mind and without the constraints of key jamming, and althogh not the best possible design, it is more efficient. I would expect it to be the most efficient layout possible when walking up to a stock computer with XP on it and adjusting settings. So it isn't the most optimal data entry method possible, but it is still the best without going to custom hardware and/or software.

        The link you give seems to just be hype debunking things that people didn't believe in the first place. Even Dvorak proponents will believe that widely spaced common letters is good, and that is one of the things that the Dvorak keyboard does do even more than qwerty.

        So what you are doing is inventing extra "benefits" that can be disproved, and then based on than, extending it to say that all benefits are disproved.

        It's like saying "A security vulnerability was found in Linux, so it is isn't secure after all, and so most the benefits of Linux are hype. You should be concerned with the architecture of the computer as a whole rather than just the operating system."
        • Some benefits of Dvoark:

          1) Less finger movement for typical English sentences. This is easily verifiable, and not questioned AFAIK.
          2) The keycaps on typical keyboards don't match the letter assignment, so you aren't tempted to look a the keys.
          3) It is supported by modern operating systems and can be used with readily available keyboards.

          You forgot:
          4) That look on your coworkers' faces when they lean past you and try to do something on your computer without asking (which would give you the chance

      • Re:Forget Dvorak (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nadaou ( 535365 )
        I hate to tell you this, but straightdope ain't The One Truth. It's very often wrong. Sorry.

        In this case, the "rebuttal" piece by Liebowitz and Margolis is actually a slightly bizarre triumph of the free market propaganda essay. Needless to say, it's a load of garbage and the value Dvorak is not at all debunked by it. The definitive (objective) study is yet to be done.

        There is quite a lot written on the subject back and forth, VHS winning out over BetaMax proving that the free market doesn't always result
    • by EtherAlchemist ( 789180 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:06PM (#13029603)

      How is using a different layout going to prevent RSI? Isn't the use of ANY keyboard going to be repetitive?

      BTW, doesn't most of the pain come from using the mouse at improper angles?

      It's all moot if you slouch in your chair or are way above it, start with getting sitting right, then go from there.
  • ...yes... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fjornir ( 516960 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:34PM (#13028680)
    Yes, you can switch back and forth, quite readily. Yes, you might make sme goofs on whichever keyboard you're not using full time.

    Have you considered carrying a USB dvorak kbd with you to your client sites? ;)

    • Re:...yes... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Siniset ( 615925 )
      I agree, i'm a teacher, and the computer lab is all qwerty, and i'm able to type fairly quickly on them (but then again, i never learned to touch type with querty) while it only takes a couple of minutes to get back up to speed with dvorak after a while away from it.
    • Um... It's more about setting the keyboard layout in software than about hardware, unless you have to see the keytops to type. More useful would be setting the clients system to Dvorak and then ignoring what's written there, but it would be fairly disastrous if he forgot to change it back...
    • Re:...yes... (Score:3, Informative)

      by pHatidic ( 163975 )
      I use Dvorak exclusively, but I can still type on Qwerty with not too many problems. I make a lot of errors for the first 10 minutes, but after that my mind flips and I'm ready to go. Then if i switch back immediately it takes another 2-3 minutes for my mind to lock in. Now adays I really only use Qwerty when playing poker on my the PC, so I pretty much only use it to type taunts (yes, I'm "that guy"). I would highly recommend Dvorak though, it is much more comfortable for me at least and it really only tak
    • Re:...yes... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by EvanED ( 569694 )
      "Yes, you might make sme goofs on whichever keyboard you're not using full time."

      I'm not even sure it's that dire a circumstance. When I'm on qwerty, I don't think I make any more typos than I did before I started using Dvorak.

      For me, the only effects I've noticed is typing the first few words in the wrong layout immediately after switching and having to delete them.

      (Windows's treatment of layouts exacerbates this problem because it keeps the active layout on a per-application instead of a system-wide ba
  • Similar scenario (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tarcastil ( 832141 ) * on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:34PM (#13028685)
    I tried the switch out last year when I was starting to get RSI. Despite what people say, you can mentally flip between Qwerty and Dvorak without much of a problem. I noticed my Qwerty speed slowed down some because I'd hit a wrong key occasionally, but nothing major. Just make sure you have a good two weeks when you don't need to type much else. I used this site [] to learn dvorak.

    In the end, I really just stopped using Dvorak. I got over the beginning effects of RSI by not typing much and keeping my wrists straight when I did. Posture's important, too. But my typing speed in Dvorak never exceeded my Qwerty speed, so I just stopped using it. I can still type around 20 wpm with Dvorak, but I really don't have a use for it.

    For linux users: "setxkbmap dvorak" and "setxkbmap en_US"
    • by Idaho ( 12907 )
      I tried the switch out last year when I was starting to get RSI. Despite what people say, you can mentally flip between Qwerty and Dvorak without much of a problem

      I've been using Dvorak for over 2 years now. I seriously doubt it would be any help against RSI, but I find that it is more "relaxed" to type using the Dvorak-layout, as the most-used characters are in the center row of the keyboard. So in that sense, it might make a bit of a difference. Probably, the real causes of RSI are more related to stres
    • Re:Similar scenario (Score:5, Interesting)

      by meersan ( 26609 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @06:29PM (#13029039) Homepage
      I started to develop RSI in my early twenties. Carpal tunnel in my right arm and ulnar compression in my left (all those alt-ctrl keys). Ten hours a day at work typing, followed by 8 hours at home typing, will set you up for major problems.

      For me, mousing was a big part of the problem--I developed severe pain in my right arm all the way up to my shoulder. Dvorak layout is obviously irrelevant for mouse-related RSI. For a while I seriously doubted whether I'd be able to remain in IT or even work on coding projects for fun.

      Happily, I no longer experience any pain. What happened? Well, the solution for me was not a $200 keyboard or a $1200 office chair or a funky tedious-to-learn key layout. Instead, I bought some thinking putty [] for 8 bucks. Not only does the stuff help you chill out when stressed, it helps you develop more muscle strength in your hands. I think that must make a huge difference. Playing with thinking putty while waiting for stuff to compile possibly saved my career. Kinda silly, but I've had other people tell me it helped them too. It's definitely worth a shot (and no, I'm not a shill. Just sharing what worked for me).
      • Re:Similar scenario (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bwalling ( 195998 )
        I think that many geeks fail to take care of themselves by working out and stretching. Learning to stretch has been wonderful for me. The "bible" of strecthing is Bob Anderson's Stretching [] book. My wife thinks I'm nuts, but I stretch all the time, and I feel better for it.
        • Re:Similar scenario (Score:3, Interesting)

          by scrutty ( 24640 )
          Another vote for this approach - I've recently acquired one of Bob Anderson's books, and have found it to be a great help. I've been struggling with a lot of keyboarding based pain for the last couple of years, and the exercises presented in this book [] have really helped me eliminate a lot of pain and discomfort. The stretching program in that volume is presented to be easily performed by deskbound users within an office.

          I suspect it might be more useful against general posture or ergonomic RSI, which I

    • Re:Similar scenario (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @06:33PM (#13029058)
      For linux users: "setxkbmap dvorak" and "setxkbmap en_US"

      And a cute trick that someone pointed out to me:

      asdf() { setxkbmap dvorak; }
      aoeu() { setxkbmap en_US; }

      (This is the bash version, obviously.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:34PM (#13028686)
    What is Qwery? And why no mention of Dork?
  • Many of your answers (Score:5, Informative)

    by rerunn ( 181278 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:35PM (#13028699)
    Many of your answers can be found in a previous discussion: 14/126222&tid=227 []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:35PM (#13028700)
    ...I found I could no longer ride a bike without training wheels.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have absolutely no trouble flipping back and forth. It becomes second nature, and so long as you frequently use both, you have no problems.

    That said, Dvorak is a poor choice if you're doing any punctuation-heavy programming (perl, C, java, ...). The placement of the braces and continuance operators alone will drive you batty -- Dvorak was designed for a world where you were lucky to use either in a day, rather than several times per line.

  • Go for it! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by True Freak ( 57805 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:36PM (#13028712) Homepage
    I switched to dvorak about 5 years ago with a kenisis keyboard. I definately like it a lot better than querty...but I have no real problem switch between the long as you go back to querty once in a while you should not have a problem. I would say that my querty speed has only dropped by about 20% and my dvorak speed is about 50% faster than my original querty speed. Just make sure you get used to the means to switch the layouts if you plan on playing games...I have to use querty to play WoW.
  • by MacDork ( 560499 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:37PM (#13028714) Journal
    You can switch between QWERTY and DVORAK keyboard layouts in the international preferences pane.
    • I know, isn't it great? I do that to people all the time, and they rarely figure it out. Oh, did you mean for actual usage...?
    • by oberondarksoul ( 723118 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:44PM (#13028775) Homepage
      Even more useful is the ability to use QWERTY keyboard shortcuts with a DVORAK layout. When typing normally without holding a modifier, the keyboard is pure DVORAK. With this option enabled, holding Command or Option will make it revert back to QWERTY until you let go again. This means you can use the familiar Command+Z/X/C/V shortcuts (for example) from their convenient position near the modifiers without having to stretch all over the place.
      • I just found out the other day that you can hit apple+space to quickly switch back and forth between the last two used keyboard layouts. It comes in pretty handy sometimes.

        I agree about having the Dvorak layout with QWERTY keyboard shortcuts being extremely useful. Learning a new layout for typing wasn't too difficult, but for some reason I find it very hard to change my CMD+x,c&v keys. This leads me to a question: I've switched primarily to Dvorak at work as well on my Windows box, and I have yet to
  • by Monoman ( 8745 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:37PM (#13028715) Homepage
    Frg mgoy x. hrtcbiv Dr, dape jab cy x.Z S[) :-)
    • > You must be joking. How hard can it be? :-)

      It was actually pretty hard for me but I'm glad I switched.
    • I thought it was quite funny, and it actually makes sense. Gonna see a lot of that if you type without paying attention.

      from the /. FAQ:

      Troll -- A Troll is similar to Flamebait, but slightly more refined. This is a prank comment intended to provoke indignant (or just confused) responses. A Troll might mix up vital facts or otherwise distort reality, to make other readers react with helpful "corrections." Trolling is the online equivalent of intentionally dialing wrong numbers just to waste other people

  • I switched about 3 years ago and it was a lot of work for me. I'm very glad I did and I wouldn't switch back. I struggle on QWERTY now though so if I'm going to do serious typing (long term, not just fixing a computer) I need to switch it over to Dvorak. Many of my friends I have gotten to switch were able to do so in 2 weeks and be up a full speed. They can also switch back to QWERTY without any effort and prefer the Dvorak layout. I'm very glad I switched and I definitely notice less strain but every
  • Dvorak (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) <> on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:40PM (#13028736) Homepage
    Learning another typing layout doesn't make you lose your ability to type on a Qwerty keyboard anymore than learning German might make you forget how to speak English.

    That said, you might not be quite as good a Qwerty typer as you were originally, just like how learning a new language occasionally introduces a little bit of confusion in your mind. For the most part you're just as proficient though and potentially better off because of what knowing something new (language or keyboard layout).
    • I'm sorry, your argument doesn't hold for everyone. I switched to Dvorak 3 years ago and now I'm pretty darn bad at QWERTY.

      I think saying "you'll forget QWERTY" is a pretty ridiculous argument against Dvorak though. You're *never* FORCED to type in QWERTY. In 3 years I've never had to type more than a few sentences on QWERTY. I can switch every operating system Dvorak in about two seconds.

      I'm very glad I switched and I have absolutely no use for QWERTY any longer so not being able to type it doesn
    • Learning another typing layout doesn't make you lose your ability to type on a Qwerty keyboard anymore than learning German might make you forget how to speak English.

      However, wearing lenses that reverse image up/down for an extended period DOES make your brain reverse imagery as an adaptation, corrected only by removing the lenses for an extended period. Not trying to be argumentative, but I wonder which (inverted glasses vs new language) is necessarily a better model for guessing/explaining how easily

    • Re:Dvorak (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dubl-u ( 51156 ) *
      Learning another typing layout doesn't make you lose your ability to type on a Qwerty keyboard anymore than learning German might make you forget how to speak English.

      You sound like a guy who's never lived overseas.

      A few months speaking only Spanish leaves me feeling toungue-tied in English. Even now, after years back in the US, I sometimes come to a complete halt when the only thing that occurs to me is a Spanish idiom without a good English match. From what I hear from exchange students and the like, t
  • I really learned Dvorak at the same time I got my first Kinesis Ergonomic (the fingerbowl) keyboard 5 years ago. I had played around with Dvorak on and off since the Apple IIc (which had a Dvorak switch!) days.

    Now, I type effectively on Dvorak on the Kinesis. I still type pretty good QWERTY on a normal keyboard (and a common 'split' keyboard is normal after the Kinesis). I can get my fingers to do Dvorak on a flat keyboard with some effort (sometimes I put the laptop in Dvorak, sometimes not). But, I c
  • by toddestan ( 632714 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:43PM (#13028765)
    I have no problems flipping back and forth between the two layouts. It's a lot like 2 languages - I can say one sentence in English and the next sentence in Spanish without any problem, so why not keyboard layouts?

    With that said, if you totally switch over to Dvorak, your Qwerty skills will get rusty - just like if I don't speak a foriegn language for a while I'll start to forget parts of it. My solution is to have my main machines Dvorak, and let the lesser used machines, and machines that would be hard to switch (like laptops) stay Qwerty. That way, I get practice in both layouts on a daily basis, while still enjoying the benefits of Dvorak most of the time.
    • I use basically 3 different layouts. Most of my time I spend using standard US English keyboard. It is, when I'm working, I'm either coding, or I'm writing something in English, so it requires me to use US-EN keyboard. (For some odd reason, even if I'm coding something where comments and identifier names are in Serbian, I still use US-EN keyboard.) When I write in Serbian, I use standard Serbian keyboard. Problem with it is swapped y-z keys, and a lot of interpunction marks misplaced. Plus, Serbian has lett
  • My car has a manual gearbox, my parents' car is automatic, and quite often I have a to drive a fork lift (which is a WHOLE new ball game). And I haven't run over anybody just yet. Just get on with it, simple as a that.
  • by sanermind ( 512885 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:43PM (#13028767)
    There is a fascinating article in reason magazine [] debunking the myth of DVORAK's superiority, and it's common use as a poster child for so-called 'market failure'.
    • Poor methodology on that study, and it ignores key measurements -- they talk about speed, but they don't cover physical injury, which is where I found Dvorak mattered most.
  • by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) <> on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:43PM (#13028768) Homepage
    Here's an article and discussion on the topic: An Arguement for Dvorak []

    I wonder if slashdot fans are as tender about linking to Kuro5hin as Kuro5hin fans are about linking to Slashdot. Let's find out.
    • I've never had problems linking to K5 from Slashdot, but K5'ers who feel someone is "one of them Slashdotters" are quite likely to go on the rampage.

      The most interesting part of the discussion (the original article says very little) is that the keyboards themselves are identical - people just rip the keys off and move them around. Problems due to the design, rather than layout, therefore are not dealt with.

      The rest of the article is the usual trolling.

      The problems with QWERTY and DVORAK really boil

  • Do you even read Slashdot? Ever? This is an absurdly recurring discussion.

    It's like deja vu all over again all over again.
  • I used to have to switch between French and British layouts on a regular basis. Now I have no problems with British and Dvorak. I have more difficulties with the physical positioning of keys between my laptop and Microsoft Natural keyboards...
  • I'm fairly convinced that the layout doesn't matter as much as your wrist position. I'm 40, having been typing since I was 12 or so, and have never had RSI injuries. And I've noticed the one thing I differently from a lot of typists is that I hold my wrists straight, at about a 30 degree angle to the keyboard. A lot of typists bend their wrists so that their hands come in straight to the keys (the "home" position). My "home" position is is "q-s-d-v" on the left, and "n-k-o-p" on the right (or pretty close to that, my fingers actually sort of float above it).

    The "natural" keyboards that split in the middle try and do that as well, but it's completely unnecessary to split the keyboard. It's just a matter of getting used to your hands at an angle to the keys.

    I think tendon stress and inflammation comes from forcing the tendons to bend while using your fingers. Seriously -- the layout doesn't matter as much as your wrist position (think about it -- it's the pressing of the keys, not the moving of the fingers

    • And I've noticed the one thing I differently from a lot of typists is that I hold my wrists straight, at about a 30 degree angle to the keyboard.

      I do the same thing, and I actually find those natural keyboards to be harder to use. Since I "cross-over" a lot, to the other side, the split screws up my positioning. I also find the natural keyboards, because they put my fingers in the 'home' position, actually make it more difficult for me to type since I'm not used to it.
  • The main thing stopping me from trying dvorak is that I use VI all the time and have gron used to the 'hjkl' keys vs arrows. Is there any different adjustments for dvorak on VI?
    • While I don't use a Dvorak board, it would be pretty trivial to map whatever the corresponding keys for hjkl in your .vimrc. A quick google brings up this [], and I'm sure doing it by yourself wouldn't be bad at all.
  • AZERTY (Score:2, Interesting)

    I find that I can switch back and forth between QWERTY (for English) and AZERTY (for French) pretty easily.
  • SafeType (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:51PM (#13028815)
    You may want to consider the SafeType keyboard [].

    It gives you ergonomic benefits that no "ergonomic" bump-in-the-middle keyboard comes close to.

    Besides, does Dvorak make that much of a difference? Sure, the layout might be marginally better but you're still twisting your wrists 90 degrees to make your hands parallel with it (pronation []), you're then angling your elbows in 45 degrees and your hands back out 45 degrees to line up with it (deviation []), and you're still, likely, tilting it (extension [])putting even more stress on.

    A better arrangement of keys is only going to do so much for you. At the end of the day, you've still got extension, deviation and pronation going on - even if you're marginally reducing stress within those three.

    The SafeType sorts all three out. Lower your arms by your sides. Now lift your forearms up so your elbows are at 90 degrees. Nothing else. That's it. You're done. Your arms are in a massively more neutral position, your carpal tunnel is now straight, letting the tendons run through without rubbing against it, all is good in your world. Wouldn't you prefer a keyboard like that to one that's just as bad as every other keyboard with a marginally better layout?

    The other advantage of the SafeType is that, if you can already touch type, once you stop overthinking it, you can already use it. All the keys are still in the QWERTY position - they're just broken in to two vertical blocks. Most people I've watched are up and using it within ten minutes, typing naturally within an hour or so.

    That advantage translates in to backwards compatability - you're still using QWERTY so you can transfer to a client site without ever having to make a mental switch.

    I've tried a lot of ergonomic options and this one's by far the best. It's not cheap - at about $300. Then again, if you're worth anything as a developer, you likely earn that in a single day or less. Isn't one day's pay worth ensuring your career last another 20 years? One day's pay is a lot less than no more days' pay.

    (Note: I reviewed the keyboard for one of the IEEE magazines. At the time I was impressed but had enough minor issues that I regarded it as only useful for those who had problems they needed to immediately address. After the review, I kept using it - and I'm completely willing to admit I was wrong. It's a great keyboard and, honestly, well worth the price for anyone who works with computers all day every day.)
  • I learned dvorak in college under peer pressure from two roommates who wouldn't tell me how to switch their keyboard layouts to qwerty on their linux boxes. I haven't used qwerty as my primarily layout since about 1996.

    I had one summer internship which didn't give me privs to switch keyboard layouts and I had to jump back and forth between my home and work computer. It's annoying for the first few minutes of going back to qwerty but it's a breeze from there, meaning that I was up to full speed but I mis

  • by YoungHack ( 36385 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:52PM (#13028829)
    I've used Dvorak for about 9 years. My experience is that I touch-type Dvorak and hunt-and-peck in Qwerty (which I used to touch-type). I admit that I never tried to keep up my Qwerty.

    It took a good month of practice to get my speed up, and probably a year before it really felt comfortable. I don't remember how long before my wrists felt better. They don't bother me now.

    For a while, I think I felt physically a bit worse, because I carried slightly more tension when I was learning. I've had no reason to want to switch back.
  • Instead of Layout (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jonfelder ( 669529 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @05:54PM (#13028841)
    Have you done other things to prevent RSI?

    Things like making sure your desk and chair are the right height? Also it might make sense for you to not just change the layout, but change the keyboard. Either use a Microsoft Natural Keyboard or something like this: Maltron Keyboard []
  • I use Dvorak, but occassionally use qwerty on my wife's computer. My qwerty skills really vary depending on how much I practice. If I use qwerty at least occasionally then I pick it up reasonably well after a bit of use.
  • A personal account (Score:2, Interesting)

    by VE3MTM ( 635378 )
    I've used Dvorak as my primary keyboard layout for about a year and a half now (I'm typing in it now, in fact). Switching took a while -- about 2 weeks for my Dvorak speed to pass my QWERTY speed, but I'm never going back now.

    However, I can't use it all the time. At work, I type in QWERTY about part the time. Switching back and forth for me is no problem. After a few keystrokes of thinking where each key is, I'm back up to my old QWERTY speed (which is slower than my Dvorak speed). Dvorak is more "natural
  • A few years ago, I began training on the Dvorak keyboard layout, (I'm using it right now to type this post) and under 3 months of about 30 minutes of practice a day, I got my WPM on DV up to about 80-100. I'm sure that you'll be able to retrain on DV without any problem if you have the time and patience. At work, my workstation is set to DV, but no other machine is. I find that I can switch between the two without any problem at all, though my QWERTY typing skills have been adversely affected slighty becaus
  • Watch out. There's plenty of evidence that Dvorak provides no/little benefits ergonomically and with typing speed. Some of it has been cited above.

    Anyway, yeah, it's certainly possible for the brain to switch. If you switch between US and UK keyboards, or between Mac and PC keyboards, you need to be aware of a number of switched keys and key combos. I need to be aware of this even between programs! I sometimes use pico, where internal cut and paste are ctrl+k and ctrl+u.. yet most programs use cmd+x and cm
  • I switch natively between Dvorak and Qwerty, and between "standard", Kinesis, and DataHand.

    FWIW, the rule I adopted was to use Dvorak on the Kinesis, and Qwerty on regular keyboards.

    Learning a new keyboard, you want to use ONLY that keyboard for at least a month. Past that, it's not too bad, and I can switch back and forth instantly.
  • I switched a number of years ago to the Kenisis Ergo Dvorak keyboard.

    It took a few years, but now I can swtich back and forth between it and a normal QWERTY with no problems.

    It just takes time and practice.
  • Switching can be done, but it isn't easy. Just like you need to practice to change, you also need to practice switching to be able to switch easily--it does not just come naturally, like speaking two languages. I find it can take a few seconds to shift from one mode to another, but then I'm fine, and I often can't even tell what mode I'm in without looking at the keyboard. There are times, of course, when I get confused, but with practice you can eliminate much of the interference.

    What is really interes
  • I switched to Dvorak in 1995, and ever since I've modified my personal or office computers to use the layout exclusively. I prefer it without question, because it's immediately apparent (once one becomes proficient in it) that Dvorak feels smoother and requires less finger and hand movement for most commonly typed words. When I use QWERTY, I feel as if my fingers are all over the place trying to type even simple letter combos.

    But I've never been able to get away from QWERTY completely, because I've always

  • []

    From the conclusion:

    As an empirical example of market failure, the typewriter keyboard has much appeal. The objective of the keyboard is fairly straightforward: to get words onto the recording medium. There are no conflicting objectives to complicate the interpretation of performance. But the evidence in the standard history of Qwerty versus Dvorak is flawed and incomplete. First, the claims for the superiority of the Dvorak keyboard are suspect. The most

  • I was proficient on QWERTY when I started using Dvorak. It took me about two weeks to adjust to using it on my computer. I've been using it for over a year and I still find it quite comfortable. After I switched I only used QWERTY keyboards occasionally, and at first I completely lost my typing skills to the point that it was as hard to type on QWERTY as it had been when I had never typed before. However within a few months I regained my QWERTY ability as well, so now I am pretty much equally good at QWERTY

  • Dvorak doesn't stop you getting RSI. Bad posture and bad habits is what gives
    you RSI. They are all still applicable to a Dvorak keyboard.
  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:03PM (#13029222)
    For the most part, layout is really a small factor in the scheme of things. Putting the more common letters in the home position tends to reduce finger travel distance, but that just means any problems would happen later. On the other hand, something like having good posture could reduce or eliminate the chances of the problem entirely.

    What I find interesting is that pianists tend to not have RSI or carpal tunnel, even though their repertoire might primarily be Chopin. They do get arthritis, though that's usually from age and a matter of nutrition. But for a pianist, posture is extremely important in producing the right sounds. Wrist and forearm strength is necessary for dynamics. As well, having excellent control of their strength is very important. Of all these things, I think both the posture, and the way power generation is spread throughout the arm accounts for why pianists aren't as prone to RSI.

    Power isn't really something we are in control of, as no one really wants their keyboard to be the length of an upright, or even close. I doubt anyone would like their keyboards to type like a piano either. The largest discouragement would be the necessari investment in developing agility and strength in their hands just to type up a 2-page essay.

    As I mentioned before, posture is something we are fully in control of. And for those of us who are physically lazy (read: those of us who sit on our asses all day :) ), the importance of constant posture reminderss should not be understated. But for the forgetful, there are always special keyboards that force the wrist and fingers into their respective natural positions. As a bonus, they also sometimes place control keys (alt, shift, space, etc.) in more natural positions, though by no means would such a small change require learning a whole new keyboard layout.

    Of course, if the special keyboards are too expensive, just type using only one or two fingers. That moves most of the stress to the forearms though perhaps at the cost of speed.
  • by xombo ( 628858 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:19PM (#13029334)
    Switch, you'll be fine.
    I use QWERTY at work and when I'm doing work on other people's PCs. I do fine on QWERTY for letters for the most part but have a little more difficult time finding punctuation marks without looking for them.
    Dvorak is ideal for programmers and anyone who uses brackets etc... since they seem to fall in more ergonomic places.
    I was having to do some PHP coding on someone else's computer with a QWERTY layout and my only issue was when I had to put in quotation marks and curly brackets. Other than that, I type about 70wpm (QWERTY), a far cry less than the 140 I used to go at, but when I'm at home it's a different story.
  • try this (Score:3, Informative)

    by the-build-chicken ( 644253 ) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:38PM (#13029445)
    I'm a programmer with rsi...I found this [] helps better than standard dvorak...I also edited the maps and switched backspace with tab, capslock and enter

    It's great for rsi but my qwerty is shot...but my hands still work :)

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