The true power of Dvorak


Published on March 15, 2016, last updated June 1, 2017

A month and a half has passed from the moment when I switched to the Dvorak keyboard layout. You can find out a lot of blog posts and descriptions of how the layout is better than the traditional QWERTY setup (this is my favorite). I’m telling you now: it’s really better in every way, it’s not just a thing for geeks to show-off as some people say, it’s a real performance and comfort booster.

The first several days is a nightmare. If you type every day, be prepared to get a significant performance drop. Even one sentence feels like a real torture, you need to control your hands “manually”—no unconscious magic from your brain to assist you during this time. I personally just got a glimpse how much of background work our brain normally does. When I started to learn Dvorak, I had to type at least a bit every day, and it often gave me headaches because of the enormous conscious effort that typing required.

After a week I got to the speed of 25–30 wpm (I switched cold turkey and never attempted using QWERTY once I started with Dvorak). I think getting to this speed would take longer for most people, but I type a lot and I tried to type as much as I can during that first week. After one week you can do some programming. (And yes, I had to re-learn Emacs shortcuts and re-arrange my custom modal system a bit because I decided not to use input-methods but to set Dvorak on OS level.) Basically, at this stage you’re just slow, but Dvorak already feels better.

After a month I got to my previous speed 60 wpm. This was my top speed with QWERTY—when I really tried to type fast, that’s what I got. I thought that I won’t be able to ever beat this personal record. Well, I have to say yes, not with QWERTY. Now, after another 15 days I type 70 wpm and I feel like I will be able to do 80 and maybe 100 someday1.

But the main thing about Dvorak is comfort, of course. It just feels so much better. You know, like proper mechanical keyboard feels better. Like modal editing feels better than non-modal. Hands move so natural and with surprising accuracy, text just flows… Now combination of modal editing and Dvorak has eliminated any discomfort for me even when I use laptop keyboard. I can type a lot and I cannot reach the point when my hands are tired. Old weird sensations in my hands have gone. Now I just see how proper touch typing is done.

  1. And yes, now in 2017, I do type 80 wpm and I feel I have not reached my maximal speed yet.