Although most people have not heard its name they will likely know the QWERTY keyboard layout, as it is the standard layout for typewriters and was inherited by computers. While there are alternatives such as Colemak and Maltron, Dvorak is the only alternative that is officially supported on most operating systems. That is why when making an attempt to learn one that was the one I chose.
Dvorak was designed by August Dvorak and William Dealey to be a more ergonomic and faster layout requiring less finger movement and with a greater focus on the middle and top rows, now there are several variations on the original design. So far studies into whether the layout is faster have had a bias either for or against making them unreliable so I will not mention any here. That being said people that have switched to the Dvorak layout have said that they now type a little faster and have less issues with RSI, that is after the initial one to two months to get back up to their normal speed, this is the likely reason why more people have not adopted it.
Switching is rather easy and does not require a new keyboard, all that is required is to change the keyboard layout in the operating systems settings to US (Dvorak). I also recommend printing out a copy of the layout and placing it above the keyboard as reference. If you really want a challenge you may want to attempt a using a Keyboard without the letters printed on the keys.
Below is an Image of the Dvorak layout that may be useful.
Memorising the layout was surprisingly easy and within 20 minutes I was touch typing (although very slowly). For the first few days I found typing incredibly frustrating as my typing speed was now far slower than my thinking speed and adding to the issues was the muscle memory from years of using the QWERTY layout. This could be a barrier for some and may result in many giving up early on if they don’t have the will power to make it through the first week.
By the end of the first week using Dvorak for most of my typing my typing speed had gone from frustratingly slow to just slow with a words per minute of 17. Also my issue with muscle memory was still there but was less of an issue. I am also beginning to see the benefits to where the keys are placed which makes typing easier although I would have preferred that F and L were in a different location as they are not that easy to hit any I seem to use them a lot.
One thing that had worried me was if I would be able to easily switch back to QWERTY such as if I used someone else’s computer, I was happy to find that it only took a minute or two to switch back to my normal speed on the QWERTY layout but this may become more difficult as I progress with Dvorak.
At this point I will likely stick with Dvorak as long as I can get my typing speed up