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Should I switch to a Dvorak keyboard?

Where did the QWERTY keyboard come from?

Christopher Latham Sholes loved making things in his free time. One of the best things he and his friends came up with was a little metal machine that could type letters.

Pleased with themselves for coming up with this little contraption, the team was about to break open the champagne, but… there was a glitch.

If people became too proficient with the machine, and typed on it too quickly, the levers inside would get jammed.

Since no one wanted to buy a machine that broke down like that all the time, they had to come up with a solution.

It was a strange conundrum… they actually had to make it HARDER to use their machine in order to make more people buy it. But how?

That’s when they got an idea.

What if they put the letters randomly around the keyboard and separated letters that are frequently typed together?

With this, they created what we know now as the QWERTY keyboard. Finally, it was time for them to pop that champagne.

qwerty keyboard
The QWERTY keyboard, named for the first 6 letters across the top

So if you’ve ever wondered why keyboards are laid out the way they are, now you know. It was literally designed to make your life harder.

But that’s the thing. Even though the need for this keyboard layout has long passed, QWERTY remains.

People got used to it.

Muscle memory, which enables us to learn touch typing in the first place, also makes it harder to adjust to another layout.

Once you’ve trained your fingers to know where all the keys are, it can be a real hassle to start all over.

Some, however, are ready for change.

Dvorak: The quest for an easier, more efficient keyboard

One man, Dr. Dvorak, pledged to come up with a more efficient layout for the keyboard.

After over a decade of studying the English language and the physiologies of our hands, he designed a whole new keyboard.

One, he believed, which would enable people to type MUCH more quickly.

As one example, by putting more commonly used letters on the home row, you can type almost 5,000 words literally without lifting a finger.

dvorak keyboard
Dvorak keyboard layout

For some, the Dvorak keyboard is clearly superior.

In 1985, Barbara Blackburn, broke the Guinness Book of World Records for typing with a speed of 170 words per minute using a Dvorak keyboard.

However, in the time since there have been a number of much faster typers since who have come out from the cracks on various online competitions.

Using a QWERTY keyboard, Sean Wrona blew Barbara’s record out of the water with an astounding 256 wpm on one online test.

He even scored 199 wpm on our own NitroType racing game.

Which keyboard layout should I learn?

Despite its drawbacks, we focus on teaching the QWERTY keyboard layout in our lessons simply because it is the most common system.

Unless you want to carry around your own keyboard when you go places, you pretty much have to learn it.

That said, we’re all for progress.

So if you are interested in learning the Dvorak system, we have created three lessons completely dedicated to learning the basics. You will find these in our Practice section.

Experts in the field suggest that it should take you about one month to retrain your fingers to Dvorak, which doesn’t seem too bad.

First, go into your Account Settings and select the Dvorak keyboard. You will then be able to use that for practice in all of our typing lessons.

There you’ll find that Dvorak isn’t even your only alternative. On our platform you are able to select from pretty much every keyboard system out there. From the French AZERTY keyboard to the Colemak, just take your pick, and train in a way that suits you.


31 thoughts on “Should I switch to a Dvorak keyboard?

  1. The article states:
    Unless you want to carry around your own keyboard when
    you go places, you pretty much have to learn it.

    Two points.
    If you are carrying your own device when you go places, this is not true. Every computing device I have used except the Web OS based HP TouchPad has a convenient way to switch the keyboard to the Dvorak layout. (I have used Linux, Mac OS, Windows, Android, and iOS devices.)

    The difficulty in public places like libraries or computer stores is real. But it is only because they don’t make the keyboard language control panel available, not because the option does not exist.

    I learned QWERTY in high school and taught myself Dvorak later. If I can do it, probably anyone can. My QWERTY speed is pretty low now since I use Dvorak so much. But it is a great conversation starter when someone wants to borrow your laptop and “hey – your computer is typing gibberish!”

    1. Hah, definitely a great conversation starter! Thank you for sharing your experience with the Dvorak keyboard, and you’re right, I’m sure things have changed significantly since Barbara Blackburn’s day, when she had to carry her own Dvorak typewriter with her everywhere.

    2. I practice typing on my laptop (which has a Qwerty keyboard) so Dvorak isn’t really an option unless I get a bluetooth keyboard.
      So in my opinion Qwerty is easier/more convenient.

      1. The physical keys don’t change. I’m typing right now on the stock keyboard that has QWERTY labeling, but I changed a setting in my computer so that it interprets Dvorak. So if I press the key labeled B, I get an X instead. Since learning typing will lead to touch typing (i.e. not looking), there’s no point in factoring what the keys are labeled when deciding what pattern to learn.

      2. One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned here is that the Dvorak keyboard is much easier to memorize for touch typing. I made a Dvorak keyboard at first by taking a “Qwerty” USB keyboard and switching the letters around, but I found that after a month or so, I could just type on my Qwerty laptop with the keyboard set to Dvorak, as long as I didn’t look at the keys. That is how I am typing this message.

  2. This was such a good email that I showed it on the white board and read it to my high school special education class that uses Typing.com. They are trying out Dvorak, and at least one student already thinks it allows her to type more quickly!

    Many thanks!!!

  3. I just Wrona how Sean do it on the QWERTY keyboard? Based on the information on the internet about him he did not do it the conventional way of learning of touch typing.

    I will stick to the QWERTY keyboard because of the availability of it in the work, education/training environments.

    The only switch I made regarding the keyboard was to switch it to an ergonomic QWERTY keyboard (Microsoft Sculpt) and I must say there was some improvement regarding my typing speed.

  4. I’m just worried how it will effect the WASD in PC gaming. Obviously WASD is not there so would most games require you to still use WASD keys while they are in different positions around the keyboard or would you have it act as if the keys in the normal WASD position are the WASD keys? Or would you have to reconfigure the settings? Either one could paint a potential problem for PC gaming. Or maybe the real surprise is that DVORAK also helps you increase your key hitting reflexes as well as typing…

    1. I use Dvorak on a standard keyboard labelled as Qwerty. For games I usually either switch the layout to Qwerty while playing (if not a game where typing/chat is needed), or reconfigure the keys in options.

      Dont think it has helped with reflexes 😀

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  6. I am curious to know if there are people out there who have mastered all the keyboard layouts and can recall them on demand. How many are there, anyway?

    1. I’ve managed to learn QWERTY and Dvorak. I switched when I was about 15 but ran into trouble with computer games of the day. The commands for a throttle, for example, would be Q Off, W decrease, E neutral and R increase. Very convenient in QWERTY but horrid in Dvorak. So I reached fairly good skill with both–100% touch and ~75wpm Dvorak and ~50wpm QWERTY.

      The formats just in US English number at least five, worldwide many more. I can’t imagine anyone learning them all.

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