The DVORAK Keyboard Layout

Still pretending your computer is a mechanical typewriter?!?

The standard American keyboard is designed to slow you down. Why? The original mechanical keyboards kept jamming for two reasons: people typed too fast, and keys which were often used close together were located near each other (and so the print heads would collide). Both causes were treated by the design of the QWERTY keyboard: it spreads out commonly-used key combinations, and it slows you down.

QWERTY vs. Dvorak

You're probably using a QWERTY keyboard now. Look at where the most commonly used letters in the English language -- E, T, A, O, I, and N -- are positioned. With the exception of A, none are in the "home row" where you rest your fingers; you have to reach for them. Now check out the Dvorak keyboard layout:

This keyboard was designed after computers (and modern electric typewriters) rendered obsolete QWERTY's reason for existence. It's designed for typing speed and efficiency. For example, you can type the sentence "This is a test" entirely without moving your fingers from the home row.

It's too late for me...

Many people, especially those who are already good QWERTY typists, think that it will be too difficult to learn a new keyboard layout. Not so! I typed on a QWERTY layout for years at about 50 words per minute before I decided to learn Dvorak, and it was only a matter of weeks before my Dvorak rate matched or exceeded my QWERTY rate. It's much easier than learning to type the first time, because most of your typing skill transfers to the new layout. Now (about a year later), I can use either keyboard -- but I strongly prefer Dvorak.

To learn Dvorak, I recommend you use a typing tutor. I've heard that most commercial typing tutors fail to support Dvorak properly. However, there are some good freeware/shareware typing tutors. Mac users should check out Learn To Type, a shareware typing tutor that does a great job of teaching both Qwerty and Dvorak. There's also Mac Typing Tutor, and Al Bunny's Typing Class; both claim to support Dvorak, though it seems pretty weak to me. My own little Zippy-Type will definitely do the job, however. A shareware DOS typing tutor by Zijian Huang is also available.

But my computer is QWERTY!

All computers that I know of are set up for QWERTY when they come out of the box, but that doesn't mean they have to stay that way! You can rearrange the keyboard, both physically and system-wise, on Macs, PCs, or Xwindows machines. More info and handy files will soon be here.

Links to other Dvorak resources

Join the future -- switch to Dvorak today!
Last Updated: 3/28/98 . . . . . .