Learning Dvorak

Last month I decided I wanted to learn Dvorak. It’s a keyboard layout which, unlike traditional Qwerty/Qwertz/Azerty layouts, is optimised to reduce the distance your fingers travel when typing in English. The Qwerty layout, instead, was invented for the mechanical typewriter and is optimised so that two adjacent hammers would only very rarely be typed one directly after the other. That effectively translates to a lot more movement for your fingers than is necessary with software today.

It took me a month and a half to be productive, practising about 20 minutes a day on learn.dvorak.nl. It’s a lot shorter than I expected! I haven’t reached my Qwerty speed yet, but I’m comfortably using my computer for work in Dvorak all day long, with emails, vim, and i3, meaning a lot of blind shortcuts have become automatic. Not bad, I feel..

After finishing the training, and deciding to try the layout for real stuff, the first few programming sessions quickly led to intense frustration and wanting to smash the computer to pieces. Aaaaaargh!!! Okay. Change layout back to Qwerty. Goodness I can type again.

Intriguing experience, how unconscious the typing process can become, and how painful it is when it’s taken away. Even more surprising, after only 4-5 days of trying this and stopping whenever I got frustrated, it became actually comfortable to use Dvorak. I’m amazed at how fast this goes.

Next step: learning Bépo, the Dvorak-inspired layout for French.