Over the past week or so I’ve been having another go at typing Dvorak again. I’ve been getting rather frustrated recently at my long standing indiscipline and uncoordinated habits on a QWERTY layout, particularly in my right hand, and I’ve been anxious to ditch it in favour of something a bit more sane and logical for quite a while now, the problem being, of course, the amount of time and effort it takes to make the switch, and the dire impact that it has on your productivity during the first couple of weeks.
This time I think it is within my grasp, however. This is my third attempt to get Dvoraking, and I can now easily manage over 30 words per minute on my laptop, where I have rearranged the key caps. I am still a bit slower on my Kinesis keyboard which does not have the keys relabelled, so I am having to learn to touch type properly on it, and that makes it a bit more of an effort. Nevertheless, it is now at the stage at which the impact on my productivity is minor enough for it to be tolerated at work, and once you reach that stage, it is plain sailing all the way.
I am well impressed with just how much more comfortable it is than qwerty, and also that it seems to encourage and even enforce much more disciplined keyboard habits. I find that the fingers on my right hand tend to gravitate naturally to the home keys for their resting position now, for instance, whereas on qwerty they tended to gravitate to anything but the home keys. I am also finding it much easier to type without having my palms resting on the wrist rests at the front of the keyboard all the time.
One thing I have found however is that if you frequently have to remote desktop into other computers and servers, a reprogrammable keyboard is absolutely essential. Terminal Services uses the keyboard layout programmed into the server rather than your local machine, so unless you are prepared to switch back and forth all the time between qwerty and Dvorak (and everything that I have read on the subject is unanimous that you shouldn’t while you’re learning), relying on the ability to change the keyboard settings in Windows simply won’t cut the mustard. The keyboard switcher in Windows can be pretty temperamental at the best of times, and nice as it would be to switch all the servers I access to Dvorak, there are other people around who also have to log in as an administrator as well as me, and if they end up typing gibberish or are unable to even log in thanks to the Dvorak layout, they are likely to get rather annoyed.
It seems that there are quite a few alpha geeks and bloggers who type Dvorak. Well known Dvorakists include Bittorrent inventor Bram Cohen and WordPress head honcho Matt Mullenweg. For a light-hearted and entertaining look at the benefits of the Dvorak keyboard layout, check out DVZine.org, a Dvorak advocacy site in web comic format. It’s a seriously cool intro to it that is well worth a read, even if you don’t plan to switch.