I have been using the dvorak keyboard layout pretty much exclusively for 14 months. I made the commitment to the layout may 2015. I have been judged for my choice to use the layout. Yesterday I was hanging out with some cool folks who appreciate the reasons and the work it takes to commit to changing to any new layout. Today I questioned my choice to switch. If you are wondering why people make the switch, then just check out the dvorak zine. One of my big reasons is that my brain/hands have always struggled with typing. To me dvorak was a good way to start a fresh with good habits and with a layout that made logical sense.
Switching to a new layout sucks. My speed, even looking at the keyboard dropped from around 30wpm in a typing test to 4wpm. To put that into an context, let’s say I needed to write 500 words (approx. 1 page). At 30wpm that would take about 17 minutes, at 4wpm it would take 2 hours.
Once you are dvorak you can’t just take a break to do a test or reply to an email. As soon as you switch back to qwerty you lose motivation and quit, it also slows down your learning. I was stuck in that phase for about two weeks before I my non-touch typing dvorak and qwerty tests were pretty much the same in terms of speed. The next step was improving accuracy, being able to touch type and getting used to the change in more intangible ways.
In the past year my commitment has fluctuated, I have typed close to 2000 samples with keybr and recently I put all of my laptop keys back in qwerty order and have started touch typing exclusively. My dvorak non-touch typing speed in May 2016 was 38 words per minute. I am proud of that, it’s hard to go from nothing, to better than qwerty in one year. I took this as personal proof that dvorak was better for me, I was close to 10wpm faster, those 500 words would take just over 13 minutes.
With having qwerty back on my laptop I had the opportunity to do a qwerty non-touch type test. I did three, my best result was 36wpm. I had improved at qwerty with no direct practice. Why did I spend these hours dedicated to dvorak? What was the point? even more terrifyingly, although it was harder for my hands. My brain felt clearer back on qwerty at least compared to touch typing. By the way, myth busted that typing dvorak atrophies your qwerty skills.
Do I regret being on dvorak, no. I can touch type now, after years of trying, maybe not as intensely as the past year. I can now actually touch type. I type in a way that I know I can build upon. I know that with practice I will improve. Now that I touch type all the time every time I type it’s touch typing practice. The advantages of dvorak supported me in making this leap. Also it’s much more motivating to do well when you know that you are both proving the haters wrong and you have a great party trick.