Green Typing Using the Dvorak Keyboard

Typing is more and more prevalent in society.

So, what is a greener way to type?

One of the projects I managed at Apple was keyboards and mice, so being a keyboard geek my engineer introduced me to the Dvorak keyboard.  Also, I had an ergonomics background from my Industrial Engineering education so trying a better ergonomic keyboard seemed worth the effort.

What is a Dvorak keyboard?

The Dvorak Keyboard

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The Dvorak keyboard, named for its inventor, Dr. August Dvorak, was designed with the goal of maximizing typing efficiency. For over a century, typists have been using the qwerty keyboard arrangement, a hack that was implemented to work around the mechanical limitations of early typewriters.

Why type Dvorak? The following is a personal web site from an ex-MIT student, Jeff Bigler.

Having heard Dvorak's claims, but not the modern-day scientific analysis of his experiments, I decided to switch to the Dvorak layout in the late 1980s, when computer software (specifically version 10 of the X Window System) made it fairly simple to remap the keyboard layout without making any hardware changes. It took a few months for my Dvorak speed to catch up to my qwerty speed. I found the Dvorak layout to be more comfortable and less effort.

For a period of four or five years, I used the qwerty layout at work (on a shared DOS computer), and the Dvorak layout at home, spending about half of my typing time on each. During that time, my Dvorak speed increased to 90 wpm, and my qwerty speed reached 80 wpm. My accuracy improved slightly on both layouts. On the Dvorak layout, my most common typos are reversing two letters, whereas on the qwerty layout, it's more common for me to hit the wrong key altogether. (Note also that several people have made the claim that it's impossible to be able to switch back and forth between different keyboard layouts. That certainly hasn't been my experience, and I'm always happy to demonstrate for non-believers.)

The greatest benefit I've found from the Dvorak layout is that, in addition to feeling more comfortable, the typing-related discomfort I was beginning to experience in my wrists and forearms diminished, even though the amount of typing I was doing remained constant. Once my workplace switched from DOS to Windows and I was able to use the Dvorak layout everwhere, those problems vanished and have not returned. I believe that Dvorak's claims that his layout requires less "hurdling" over keys and less total finger travel are true, and that this is more or less directly responsible for the reduction in RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) symptoms that I have experienced.

Other advantages besides being more efficient.

Was making the switch worth it? Yes, because of the ergonomic benefits.

Would I recommend it to other people? Yes, particularly if you have RSI problems from typing. When you first make the switch, the unfamiliar layout will slow you down, helping your injured arms and wrists heal. Once your Dvorak speed catches up with your qwerty speed (which it eventually will), you will likely find typing more comfortable (or at least less uncomfortable), and it may be less likely that your RSI will recur.

After 20 + years typing Dvorak, I am glad I made the switch and I have a good ROI on the effort.

One of other benefit of Dvorak, is it is a great security feature. Can you imagine someone trying to logon to your machine entering a password where the keys are remapped? Whenever I have tech support logon to my machine by remote access, I need to change the keyboard type so they can type.

Typing on a Dvorak keyboard is more efficient, better ergonomically, and more secure - a better sustainable typing experence.  You just need to be willing to change your typing habits.