How I learned Dvorak

2007-02-03 07:33:08 -08:00

  1. Print out all the letters and some punctuation onto sticker paper. For a US keyboard, you’ll need the alphabet except a and m, and all of “-=[];’/,.” I’ve forgotten the font I used (it was years ago that I did this), but I can offer you this: On my keyboard (a Macally iKey), the letters are 4 mm tall. [UPDATE 2008-11-29: On my Apple Extended Keyboard II, the letters are in Univers, approximately 10 point.]
  2. Cut out the characters and affix each one to the matching key in the Dvorak position. For example, the ‘p’ goes on the QWERTY ‘r’ key (top row, fourth in from tab). Using labels rather than rearranging your keys allows you to easily switch back to QWERTY if you should need to for something.
  3. Hunt-and-peck with this arrangement. Do as much typing as you can arrange for yourself. Pay attention to the letter arrangement, which is not accidental—the vowels are all together on the left and many common digraphs (e.g. tr, nt, ?s, th) are on the right.
  4. When not at your computer, air-type in the Dvorak positions. This gets you used to the finger movements. Muscle memory is your friend. Anytime you daydream, or speak, or hear speech, narrate it in text on a keyboard of air. You don’t need your arms in position for this; at your sides/in your pockets will work just fine. It’s your hands that you’re training.
  5. At the end of about two weeks, the stickers will fall off of the keys, and you will not complain because you have ceased to need them.

It wasn’t much longer before I had matched my old QWERTY speed, and I’ve since surpassed it—I type around 100 WPM. (Curious as to your own WPM? Try this free typing test.) I’m rusty with QWERTY now, but I can still type it if I need to.

One Response to “How I learned Dvorak”

  1. Simone Manganelli Says:

    I just used a good ol’ piece of typing software. Master Key was my choice, but I’m sure there are plenty of other good choices for typing software out there. It took me about 3 weeks to get up to my QWERTY speed on Dvorak, and then another 3 weeks to get my QWERTY back up to its old speed so that I could use either keyboard when needed.

    Incidentally, I took that typing test that you linked, and I managed to get a net speed of 126 WPM with 2 errors (“Strategic Alliances with Competitors” paragraph). I was actually quite surprised — I thought my normal typing speed was around 80 WPM or so. I guess when you’re just transcribing and not actually writing, you can go much, much faster.

    One of the things that strikes me when talking about the Dvorak layout is that everyone touts that you can type much faster than you can with QWERTY. While I don’t doubt that, I think it’s equally as important to point out that you tend to make fewer errors, and you’re more comfortable while typing.

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