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Dvorak Layout Claimed Not Superior To QWERTY

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the contra-network-effects dept.

Input Devices 663

Michael Pyne sends in an article published at Reason Online 13 years ago, dismantling the entrenched myth that the Dvorak keyboard layout is a superior technology to QWERTY. The odd thing is that this 13-year-old article recaps research (refereed and published in a respected economics journal) 19 years ago. While we have discussed Dvorak many times over the years, I don't believe we have dug into this convincing-sounding refutation of the Dvorak mythology. The article is in the context of arguing against the conventional wisdom of "first mover advantage" — that the first product to market gains a large entrenchment benefit, such as VHS vs. Beta, MS-DOS vs. anything, etc. It's very much a pro-markets piece.

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learning curves (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26509635)

oh my god, there's another keyboard layout, I don't want to learn how to type all over again: it's clearly inferior.

Re:learning curves (5, Funny)

x78 (1099371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509655)

clearly never played EVE-online

Re:learning curves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510217)

Tech 3?? I don't want to have to learn new skills all over again, I quit!

Dvorak (5, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509637)

Is that old blowhard at it again? Why do you keep posting stuff about this bozo?

Re:Dvorak (4, Funny)

jonasj (538692) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509649)

Blaarrh.... old joke.

Though I wouldn't want to type on him.

Re:Dvorak (0, Offtopic)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509653)

Kdawson.

Re:Dvorak (5, Funny)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509779)

Hey, I like Dvorak! His New World Symphony is awesome.

Re:Stan Liebowitz (1)

rradu (169867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510085)

Why indeed...

Stan Liebowitz is a TOTAL bozo...

Not good enough (2, Funny)

astrosmash (3561) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509643)

The world is full of people who tried Dvorak and didn't think it was all that special.

Re:Not good enough (4, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509707)

Taking a peek at the Dvorak layout and then imagining typing in it, I prefer qwerty because I'm not a "proper" keyboardist.

I can type fast because of experience and muscle memory but I don't allocate one finger to a few keys, then allocate another finger to another set of keys as learned in a rigorous keyboarding class.

Part of exercising a set of fingers is ensuring that they get the full range of motion and not just the cramped(but reportedly more efficient) "most commonly used in a single row" idea behind dvorak. But Your mileage and experience may vary.

Re:Not good enough (4, Interesting)

Scott Wood (1415) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510179)

I'm not a "proper" keyboardist either, and I greatly prefer Dvorak. It wasn't very long after switching that the experience and muscle memory effect kicked in with the new layout -- and I no longer feel like my fingers are being tied into knots.

Depends on the Language (0)

samexner (1316083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509665)

It really depends on what language the typist is using.

Re:Depends on the Language (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509977)

It does?

I haven't seen a QWERTY layout radical enough from another one to seemingly make a difference. Remember we're still talking QWERTY layouts, by the way. Often, only about three or four characters varies between the various localized QWERTY layouts.

Re:Depends on the Language (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509999)

Ahh, I probably misunderstood you... :-p I thought this was about QWERTY layouts adapted by language, not about the frequency distribution of letters in a language. Yes, that varies between e.g. English and some other languages, but still wonder by how much, in that case.

i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwerty (1)

itzdandy (183397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509675)

I learned to type on a dvorak layout keyboard years ago and do find that there is a lot less hand fatigue and improved typing speed for me.

Just like many things, I am sure that dvorak is better for some than qwerty and equal or worse for others. I have average guy hands and dvorak is nice for me.

That said, I type exclusively on qwerty now because I dont want to veer off the standard layout.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (4, Interesting)

repvik (96666) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509813)

Dvorak ain't language agnostic, so for non-english languages it's worse.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (1)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509993)

Well, it works well for languages that use lots of vowels. I think it works well for English, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Swedish...
Maybe it works best with English, but it sure is a valid layout for lots of other languages as well.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (2, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510095)

Not really, the keys are placed on a Dvorak keyboard based upon the frequency of use. Trying to balance it so that as much as possible you're not using the same finger for consecutive letters and often times not on the same hand. It's basically meant to be fast and efficient. Whether or not that's the case is a matter for consideration elsewhere.

And yes, that does depend a great deal upon the language, as just because you're talking about 21 different non-vowels, they're not necessarily optimally placed in the same places in French as in German as in English. And you've also got the added need to consider the special characters, accents, umlauts, etc.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510211)

Just in what other language(s) than english is Y a consonate? I keep wondering... I may be wrong, but I took for granted that in latin languages, it was a vowel, with no idea about where it came about..

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (1)

Scott Wood (1415) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510223)

Just because it's not specifically optimized for other languages doesn't mean that it isn't better than QWERTY for many of them, or that you couldn't apply the same principles to come up with an optimized layout for other languages.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510001)

For non-english languages you will also need charactors not on a english keyboard.... so what the hell was your point? Its not like qwerty can magically change its letters to suit whatever language you want to type in.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (1)

repvik (96666) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510101)

Yes, I know that. On my QWERTY keyboard there are three extra vowels. But A-Z is still in the same place, so if I have to use an english keyboard I can still type with the same speed (except if I need one of the three vowels). With a language-optimized Dvorak layout, A-Z would change places from language to language.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510107)

Actually, you can. Just change the keyboard map. Of course that leaves you with a keyboard that's basically Das Keyboard, with random printing, but you can do it. Anybody that can touch type in German ought to be able to remap a standard QWERTY to do that trick as well as a "proper" German keyboard.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (0)

itzdandy (183397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510023)

true enough. but I do about 99% of my typing in english. Qwerty is a romance language specific layout geared towards english. It is adapted to other languages pretty well but a dvorak for danish could also be made where qwerty for danish is a bit lacking.

Remember that qwerty was also designed to make it easy to type english words. Other romance languages have different letter combinations that are not ideal for qwerty.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510069)

Dvorak ain't language agnostic, so for non-english languages it's worse.

There are language-specific variants of QWERTY too; QWERTZ for German, AZERTY for French, etc.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (2, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510119)

There are language-specific variants of QWERTY too; QWERTZ for German, AZERTY for French, etc.

Is that like saying "bat" is a variant of the word "cat"? I'd say those layouts aren't QWERTY; they're QWERTZ and AZERTY, respectively.

Re:i like dvorak but stick with the standard qwert (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510259)

Speaking of which, why the hell do they do this? What's the point of swapping two keys around, such as Z and Y in case of the German (and Czech, and possibly quite a few other) layout? This has been my greatest keyboard-related mystery for quite a while now.

ekrpat co jn.apnf ogl.pcrpvvv (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26509693)

... but I never got to learn how to type

It's interesting. (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509697)

I tried it. Thought it was neat even but gave up on it. Programming in it was just to far removed and I found my self making really odd errors.

Dvorak is better, but how much better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26509719)

I'm fluent on both Dvorak and QWERTY. I'm about 30% faster on Dvorak, and it's five times as comfortable (no fatigue, effortless typing). Even looking at the keyboard layouts, common sense tells you Dvorak must be better. I mean, what the fuck is a semicolon doing as a home key?

However, it's not THAT much better that people are willing to put in 100 hours of training time, or buy specialized keyboards (esp. since you can easily remap your keyboard with software).

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26509759)

I'm fluent on both Dvorak and QWERTY. I'm about 30% faster on Dvorak, and it's five times as comfortable (no fatigue, effortless typing). Even looking at the keyboard layouts, common sense tells you Dvorak must be better. I mean, what the fuck is a semicolon doing as a home key?

Why all the semicolon hate? Some of us like it on the home row. ;)

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26509785)

Probably some office bitch and not a programmer, that's for sure.

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510173)

hy all the semicolon hate? Some of us like it on the home row. ;)

Probably some office bitch and not a programmer, that's for sure.

WTF? I think you just outed yourself as a Visual Basic hack! I bet you wonder what those weird curly bracket characters are for as well :)

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

repvik (96666) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509781)

Common sense tells me that Dvorak would be a horrible choice. The layout is based on what letters are most common in english. Yay. For other languages, this doesn't make sense. Do you propose changing the layout completely between languages, or just enforcing the english ones in languages where it doesn't make sense?

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

forgoil (104808) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509853)

Ever typed on a French keyboard? Or mayhap a Swedish one? Keyboard layouts aren't that darn perfect for all languages as it is right now, I'd love to see a completely new layout (incl number of keys) that are more compatible with the major languages that uses roughly the same characters. Take a generic sample of each of the target languages, run a nice little sexy algorithm over it, and then see how close they get, and then run a new algorithm over that to smooth out edges. Voila, it is not that complicated.

Dvork in all it's glory, but what material was it based on? I have an idea but am not 100%. but I am quite sure it's not that 2008 :)

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

repvik (96666) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509941)

Right now, I'm typing on a Norwegian keyboard (with æøå). So I know pretty darn well that keyboard layouts aren't perfect. But A-Z is on the same place on all (save the damn french) keyboards.
If you optimize by language, you're gonna have a bunch of awesome layouts that only work for that language (or similar languages), or one "semistandard" layout which pretty much sucks in all languages.
Whoever designed the Norwegian keyboard layout deserves a hard kick in the nuts though. It's got the worst possible layout for programming, EVAR!

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

techprophet (1281752) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510171)

The standard QWERTY for English isn't the greatest either. Dvorak is better imho.

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

fsiefken (912606) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509925)

there are custom dvorak layouts for different languages. that said, in my language dutch, letter frequency is similar, different layout wouldn't add much speed so i just use standard dvorak with u and i switched.
you can optimize layout for your specific keyboard use, something which might happen in the future when we'll type with brain patterns.

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (2, Insightful)

repvik (96666) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510057)

Optimizing layout for specific use would be cool. But having to re-learn the layout every time I encounter a new keyboard isn't.

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510237)

Optimizing layout for specific use would be cool. But having to re-learn the layout every time I encounter a new keyboard isn't.

I use Dvorak. The first thing I do when I get a user account at a company is change my keyboard layout. It only affects me, and it takes less than a minute, and only needs to be done once.

I'd do the same if I used Qwerty and went to e.g. France (Azerty, IIRC). It's no big deal.

(I use Dvorak because I find it loads more comfortable than Qwerty. I type at least 99.9% in English, such that even if I were to type in German I'd find it easier to use the odd key sequences to access à etc than remap the keyboard.)

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510155)

Are you Dutch or Flemish?

Is there a different dvorak layout for Flanders too?

The Dutch use a darned qwerty variant, but a Belgian keyboard has an azerty layout. Both are used to type in Dutch.

I guess the "Flemish Dutch" has more french words in it, since Flanders is part of Belgium and 40% of the Belgians speak French. (the other 60% speak Dutch and some cities we got from Germany after WW I still use German)

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509957)

your common sense appears lacking...

since QWERTY isn't optimized for non-English languages either, it would not be any better for non-English typists. at least Dvorak is better optimized for English, which is the international language of business/science/aviation/radio/diplomacy/programming.

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

repvik (96666) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510021)

So you suppose we use different keyboards when writing other languages than English, and switch when writing for international papers?
QWERTY isn't optimized. Period. All (save the weird french) QWERTY keyboards have A-Z in the same place. Thus, one can expect to grab any latin-language keyboard and be able to type at your regular speed. No re-learning required.

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510135)

Common sense tells me that Dvorak would be a horrible choice. The layout is based on what letters are most common in english. Yay. For other languages, this doesn't make sense. Do you propose changing the layout completely between languages, or just enforcing the english ones in languages where it doesn't make sense?

There are alternate versions of QWERTY used in other countries, such as the AZERTY layout [wikipedia.org] used in France and Belgium that has Q/A and W/Z swapped, M moved to the right of L, and all punctuation scattered randomly. People seem to be generally OK with this, so why should international versions of Dvorak [wikipedia.org] work any differently?

Certainly Dvorak wouldn't be a good choice for all languages, but it should work pretty well for a lot of them. Keep in mind that most Americans are unilingual, and the most commonly used language other than English in this country is Spanish. The Dvorak layout should work pretty well for Spanish; a Spanish Dvorak layout [mwbrooks.com] swaps H/R and moves W to the left of P, with a few punctuation changes. Typing in Spanish on a US Dvorak keyboard would certainly be no more awkward than typing in Spanish on a US QWERTY keyboard (the Mac's Option key makes accents and punctuation much easier than on a PC).

Ever visit a foreign country and have to type a password for something? It's usually a very unpleasant experience. If you're lucky, the characters you used in your password all exist on the keyboard, it'll just take you a few minutes to find them. I don't think I ever did figure out how to type a ~ character on a Spanish keyboard; I believe pressing the ~ key followed by a space yields U+02DC rather than the desired U+007E. That makes typing certain URLs rather problematic as well.

Re:Dvorak is better, but how much better? (1)

Daimaou (97573) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510215)

I know both QWERTY and Dvorak as well and I have to agree with you on your point of less fatigue. Your fingers don't move nearly as much as they do on a QWERTY keyboard.

However, I haven't noticed any increase in speed with Dvorak. Perhaps I might if I was a secretary and typing pre-authored material into a word processor, but I don't do that kind of work and I find I type as fast as I speak to myself in my head on both layouts.

I have heard some good things about Colemak, so maybe I'll learn that next and see if it beats Dvorak in the comfort area.

gotta say (3, Funny)

EpsCylonB (307640) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509725)

tl;dr

Re:gotta say (4, Funny)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509749)

Still learning the new layout?

Re:gotta say (4, Interesting)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510063)

Here's the tl;dr version as a public service for everyone but me that didn't RTFA..

There is no evidence that Dvorak is faster. The only evidence is from Dvorak's own book.

Many places cite an old navy study as confirming that Dvorak is better/faster however upon trying to obtain a copy they couldn't find one, leading the author to believe that the people making the claims didn't even read the study but quoted from each other.

When he did find a copy in some persons house it warned that the study wasn't a fair one. The author then describes how the two tests performed were unscientific and found evidence of data tampering to make Dvorak look better in the results.

aoeu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26509747)

aoeuhtns

Palantype, Velotype, Stenotype (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26509765)

If you're serious about typing at high speeds, you know better than to use a sequential keyboard, you go for chorded. A sequential keyboard is one where you type all letters in sequence, such as the common qwerty or dvorak. A chorded keyboard is parallel in the sense that you type whole syllables at the same time; it's kind of like playing the piano. Instead of typing s-y-l-l-a-b-l-e, you'd type syl-la-ble. Do that at speed and you're golden; you can get around three times the speed of ten-fingered qwerty once you're into the system and have it in muscle memory.

The sad truth is of course that that qwerty is here to stay since it has no barrier to entrance: you start with hunt and peck and take off from there. Chorded keyboards take conscious effort to master, but once you're trained on them, they're bliss.

Check out the Veyboard, by a Dutch company, it's one of the nicer chorded systems. (Doesn't lean heavy on abbrevs and cryptospeak like Stenotype.) http://www.veyboard.nl

Re:Palantype, Velotype, Stenotype (4, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509991)

Depends on what you have to type.
 
chorded keyboards, just like most technologies that try to make life 'easier' on users are built around usage assumptions, making those uses easier but making other uses more difficult.
 
One of qwerty's strenghts over these special-purpose systems is, well, it is general purpose. You can do more with them but nothing all that well.

Re:Palantype, Velotype, Stenotype (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510083)

How are chorded systems like that for coding, when it's not just English you're typing?

Re:Palantype, Velotype, Stenotype (1)

hkz (1266066) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510151)

In short: they suck. They are aimed toward natural text. You can type special symbols on them, but usually it's torturous.

Speed of composition is another issue. Your speed of coding is not limited by the IO of the keyboard or the speed with which you type, but by the speed at which you think. Which is also something to keep in mind with chorded keyboards: you may type fast, but can your thinking keep up? Anyway, for coding you're probably better off with a qwerty keyboard and some fancy substitution macros for your text editor.

Re:Palantype, Velotype, Stenotype (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510117)

While we're at it why don't we all learn Japanese, communist.

I use dvorak not for the speed (4, Informative)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509767)

but because it saved my writs from the carpal tunnel syndrome. I really started to feel pain in my wrists, after switching to dvorak it vanished. Now, tell me what you want, it may be a placebo effect or whatever, but my fingers move less on the keyboard, I write about 10wpm faster than I did before with qwerty (150 vs 140), and best of all I don't feel any pain any more.

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509797)

Yes, because moving less is the solution.

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (1)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509961)

hm? I am not a native English speaker. Sorry if I got something wrong.

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510175)

He's saying that it's the motion that's the most likely reason. The Dvorak is causing your fingers to move less on the keyboard and that as a result you're having less trouble with your wrists.

Or at least that, that is a reasonable explanation for the change.

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (4, Insightful)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509829)

140 wpm? O_o

WPM is standardized at 5 keystrokes, so that's 700 keystrokes/minute or almost 12/second. I can barely do that if I'm just mashing the keyboard at random.

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (1)

Ian Alexander (997430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509899)

In the real world we measure Words Per Minute by the number of words... we type in a minute. There's a lot of auxiliary words we use shorter than 5 characters.

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (1)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509907)

Try it. Here [stenospeed.com] are some texts you can listen at. It's not that difficult if you train it for a while.

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509939)

i knew a guy in high school who could do 120 wpm on qwerty.....using only 2 fingers. Instead of learning to type like the rest of us he just used his index fingers. I don't know what he's doing now, but I bet he has carpal tunnel syndrome..

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26509979)

No you didn't.

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509987)

Some people can do it. Really (wiki says up to 250 wpm) - It's incredible. Frankly, even though I consider myself fairly intelligent, some people type faster than I can read. Some machines are built for I/O, others for processing. Some are just all around good.

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (3, Insightful)

adisakp (705706) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510015)

150 WPM is certainly possible. The world record typist [syr.edu] could maintain an average 150 WPM rate for 50 min. She had bursts as high as 212 WPM.

But claiming you can type as fast as the world record typist is like saying you can keep up lap swimming with Michael Phelps.

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510077)

Eh, I believe we were required to break 80 or something to pass high school keyboarding class. I broke 140 quite frequently. Of course, it also depends on what you're measuring that on - many tests use rather short phrases that are quite easy to type - we had to do those pretty much daily in my high school class, and I believe I broke 180 one a fairly regular basis. I mean, if you only have to hammer out 30 or 40 keystrokes, and you know exactly what you'll be typing before you begin, and you repeat it several times, it's quite easy to get a kind of temporary muscle memory to hammer it out in a couple seconds.

On a mostly unrelated note - I've been using Dvorak for a while now, and I love it. Mostly because my wrists haven't hurt from typing since I started using it, where before that was a daily occurrence. That said, I feel like I type a bit slower now (probably because I never took typing classes in Dvorak...), but I still generally type faster than I can think, so it's not much of a problem :)

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (1)

WeirdJohn (1170585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510093)

I use Dvorak because I have CRPS from damage to the brachial plexus. Not only can I type with a lot less movement (except for the letter f), which means a lot less pain, but I'm much faster than I ever was with qwerty.

As for the article, if his research was as good as he claims, then he would have mentioned that qwerty is the way it is so that salesmen could put a typewriter on a desk, insert a piece of paper and type "typewriter" just using the top row. This was to impress the Boss quickly, and then go into the spiel about why he needed a $300 machine. Sales are lost in the first 20 seconds of a presentation.

Use Emacs or vi, not Dvorak (5, Insightful)

joh (27088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510241)

I have never understood how merely rearranging the keys on the same fscking keyboard could make a real difference. Yeah, you might get a 6% improvement in typing speed. Who cares?

What would make a difference would be to make sure that you can press Control, Shift, Alt and at the same time press another key without dislocating your fingers. And to have an ergonomic layout of the surrounding keys (cursor movement, backspace, etc.). Our keyboards are in the stone age and the challenge is *not* the arrangement of the character keys, it's the arrangement of everything else. Where in a given layout your p's and q's actually are is a minor thing. Being able to move around your cursor and delete and edit things without leaving your home position can easily *double* your editing speed. That's the reason why people still love vi and Emacs. And this is not a joke.

That, or finally introduce foot pedals. It's a shame that even the most recent keyboards are still bound to torture your hands and your mind just to type capitals, to hit a key combo or to move two words back. Get a decent keyboard that allows to press the control key with the edge of your hand instead of with your pinky and use Emacs and you'll be in editing heaven. Pathetic...

Re:I use dvorak not for the speed (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510269)

You have no control group. The pain could have vanished for any number of reasons not related to Dvorak, including the passage of time. I had bouts with carpal some 19 years ago. It went away, never came back.

As a runner, I had injuries that came and went, never recurring. I didn't do anything other than maybe reduce training intensity for a little while, then return to normal. There is no explanation other than just passage of time and natural healing, keeping in mind that any specific conclusions based on studying one subject are unscientific bunk.

Dvorak and MS-DOS (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509769)

I'm perfectly open to the idea that Dvorak is overrated. I'm afraid I don't have the patience to work through this particular old ideological rant to dredge up whatever even older arguments it's touting.

I am curious as to whether or not the mention of MS-DOS as a parallel example is in TFA or an invention of the submitter. I don't have the patience to read TFA to find out. In any case, it's a childish suggestion. The inferiority of MS-DOS isn't some ex post facto invention. It's a grim fact that was painfully obvious to anybody who used multiple x86 OSs at the time MS-DOS was introduced.

Re:Dvorak and MS-DOS (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510059)

It's no surprise. If you need to show that the market is the Supreme Ultimate form of economic organization, and first mover effect stands in your way, well guess what... you try to that the first mover effect is false, whether that be Dvorak or MS-DOS. The actual examples are just means to an end.

Re:Dvorak and MS-DOS (2, Insightful)

hpa (7948) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510105)

The first mover effect is just another case of hysteresis induced by positive feedback. This is a very common phenomenon present in many physical and other systems; it is hardly a surprise that it would exist in economic systems as well. In the context of the economy, it is simply a reflection that sometimes any standard is better than no standard, even if that standard is absurd.

Re:Dvorak and MS-DOS (1)

mpyne (1222984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510121)

If it helps it was in TFA but I'm not convinced that CP/M 86 was really that much superior....

Re:Dvorak and MS-DOS (1)

alba7 (100502) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510207)

In 1981 the industry standard was CP/M.
PC-DOS was no worse and promised two improvements.

The IBM-PC had a 16-bit CPU and could address up to 1024 kiB of memory, as opposed to the 64 kiB of the typical CP/M machine.

And then CP/M did not standardize the hardware.
There was a maze of incompatible floppy formats and screen drivers.

it will never die... (1, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509789)

I predict that people will still support the Dvorak layout for years to come, regardless of evidence for or against it's usefulness based purly off being differnt or a desire to believe that stupidity stops people from seeing Dvorak's improvements and thus anyone who does use the layout is a better human being.

!speed (2, Interesting)

Cillian (1003268) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509805)

From what I've heard, QWERTY wasn't designed to slow typists down, but rather to try to stop commonly adjacent letters being adjacent on the keyboard. Keys jammed then adjacent keys were pressed at the same time, so you want this to happen infrequently.

Define superior (1)

PatMcGee (710105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509921)

1) Giving very practiced users a faster top speed. (i.e. peak performance)
2) Allowing beginners to type somewhat faster while learning. (i.e. faster learning curve)

From the evidence I've seen, Dvorak is superior using definition 2, but not using definition 1.
Since most typists are not "very practiced", then the conclusion should be obvious.

grep (1)

alanw (1822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509949)


LANG=C grep -v "[^qwertyuiop]" /usr/share/dict/words | grep "^.........."

Coincidence? I think not.

And why does it take forever if you don't have a vanilla $LANG?

Re:grep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510193)

grep is ninjaslow if you are using a utf8 locale, because it has to use less awesome algorithms.

There's more to Dvorak than the two-handed layout (5, Informative)

dexotaku (1136235) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509983)

As someone who types with only one hand [nerve damage to left hand/arm] I'd like to point out that Dvorak exists in three standard layouts: two-handed, left-handed, and right-handed. I've been typing on QWERTY since I was about 10, and typing on Dvorak-RH since I was 18. The difference in speed isn't actually great, but the difference in required range of motion and therefore repetitive strain injury is significant. It's worth it for that alone; QWERTY spreads keys so far apart that typing with one hand is painful after only a few minutes.
That said, it's really only good for English, which isn't an issue to me but would of course be for people who type more often in other languages.
..Just wanted to point out that there are other reasons for other keyboard layouts, accessibility for the disabled among them.

Editing (5, Interesting)

mpyne (1222984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510025)

I know that the Slashdot editing has a very low reputation around here but I was pretty interested to see how much work was done on this article writeup. You can see mine at the Firehose [slashdot.org] entry. The Slashdot editor even went to the trouble of looking up prior Dvorak-related articles (and taking the trouble to notice the article I submitted was 13 years old -- whoops)

Stan Liebowitz ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510039)

Referencing Stan Liebowitz as a relevant/credible source on ./ ?

QWERTYDVORAK for non-blind typing (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510041)

I dont think that DVORAK is any better than QWERTY.

I don't type blind. What I do is that I keep my eyes on the keyboard. I have two hands and for every keystroke my brain is constantly looping the process of "Which finger is closest to the next key to press? Would this be effiencent for the next keys to press? If so then allocate an apropriate finger. Now repeat the process untill all the cashed caracters in my brains have been typed and look at the screen.".

Because I dont spread my 2*5 fingers over 2*1 halfs of the keyboard you can imagine why DVORAK is living hell. You'd understand why after even half a year of DVORAK my typing was still slower then on QWERTY. Because I don't make much errors this way I am almost always faster than a person who types blindly (========== "ah fsck" ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H).

I tried Dvorak once (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510043)

I tried using Dvorak for about three days and was already as fast as I was on QWERTY. It's just I don't really have a keyboard laid out for it and I didn't want to take all the keys off of mine.
I've heard QWERTY was intentionally laid out to slow the typist down so the keys wouldn't jam on early typewriters. Notice that 'u' is the only vowel that is hit with a strong finger. 'A' a very common vowel is hit with the pinky. And E the most common vowel gets the middle finger.

Re:I tried Dvorak once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510209)

Congratulations. You just announced to the world that you in fact did not RTFA. As that is one of the myths it goes around debunking.

As easy as transposing music (2, Interesting)

mungurk (982766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510051)

I find switching between QWERTY and DVORAK as easy as transposing key signatures in music. Ask any studied musician about transposing from C major to G major, it is just a tiny mental shift, that's all. I must admit, though, that going from a regular DVORAK to a Microsoft "split" keyboard , natural keyboard, or ergonomic keyboard is very frustrating.

Just try it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510071)

I can type with both layouts, and dvorak _is_ faster . You have to type two keys with the same finger consecutively much less often (which is something that is very annoying when using qwerty). You don't really need big studies and tl;dr articles when you can just try it yourself.

One minor problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510073)

"that the first product to market gains a large entrenchment benefit, such as VHS vs. Beta, MS-DOS vs. anything, etc. It's very much a pro-markets piece."

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that Unix and CP/M might have some qualms about MSDOS being "First to Market" - those OS's came a bit before MSDOS ever started being worked on...

On Markets (4, Insightful)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510129)

This article is the sort of crap that results in people talking about "market fundamentalists" and dismissing the very real benifits of decentralized decision making produced by healthy markets. The authors of this article missed three key points:

  1. Not all markets are healthy. Oligopoly and misregulation commonly screw things up.
  2. Getting the best results from a market require that all participants have perfect information (which implies they've spent the time to do a full analysis of all their options). This never happens.
  3. Network effects really can result in entrenching technically inferior solutions. The barrier to entry can be so high that the market can't overcome it in a reasonable amount of time.

Healthy markets really are a good way to solve resource allocation problems and to make locally effective choices. They're probably even the best way. But saying that all markets always have optimal outcomes is absurd and results in people making the opposing absurd claim ("all markets are broken and need either heavy regulation or to be replaced with central planning") sound more reasonable.

QWERTY failed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510157)

So, if QWERTY was designed to be worse for typing speed and isn't, they failed in creating an inferior design? They had to have some really bad designers, not even being able to design a bad product.

Dvorak is better for comfort (2, Interesting)

Saberwind (50430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510165)

I used to get pains in my finger joints from typing too much. Switching to a Microsoft Natural keyboard helped, but did not alleviate the pains I was getting. Then I did some research and reasoned that switching from Qwerty to Dvorak layout might help me. Ten days later, I was completely switched. My finger pains completely stopped. I haven't looked back.

I don't care about the subjective speed or typo difference between Qwerty and Dvorak. Dvorak's logical arrangement of keys cuts down finger travel, and that is easily quantifiable.

Are those the only factors? (1)

twoallbeefpatties (615632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510167)

Much of the article seems to be less concerned with the notion of proving that Dvorak isn't the better typing system as it is with proving that the market is very good at choosing winner systems. Or that the market isn't as dumb as we think about choosing losers. Or something.

Clearly, typists other than McGurrin could touch type, and machines other than Remington were competitive. These events have largely been ignored. But if we are interested in whether the QWERTY keyboard's existence can be attributed to more than happenstance or an inventor's whim, these events are crucial. The other keyboards did compete. They just couldn't surpass QWERTY. So we cannot attribute the success of the QWERTY keyboard either to a lack of alternatives or to the chance association of this keyboard arrangement with the only touch typist or the only mechanically adequate typewriter.

Unfortunately, the author's analysis of the QWERTY advantage seems to end here. He seems to assume that because QWERTY beat its competition, it must have won on the basis of being a better typing system. Not on the marketing power or fiscal strength of the business backing it. The author cites that the machines were being brought into office for people that had never typed before and cited competitions where non-QWERTY systems were used to great speed. His study doesn't really detail what factors allowed QWERTY to beat out the other contenders.

In the first phase of the experiment, 10 government typists were retrained on the Dvorak keyboard. It took well over 25 days of four-hour-a-day training for these typists to catch up to their old QWERTY speeds. (Compare this to the Navy study's results.) When the typists had finally caught up to their old speeds, the second phase of the experiment began. The newly trained Dvorak typists continued training and a group of 10 QWERTY typists (matched in skill to the Dvorak typists) began a parallel program to improve their skills. In this second phase the Dvorak typists progressed less quickly with further Dvorak training than did QWERTY typists training on QWERTY keyboards. Thus Strong concluded that Dvorak training would never be able to amortize its costs. He recommended instead that the government provide further training in the QWERTY keyboard for QWERTY typists.

Moreover, while the author has done something of a service in showing some of the deficiencies of the AMAZING SUPERIORITY! of Dvorak over QWERTY, he seems to fall into much the same trap himself by correlating a lack of worth in retraining people onto a new system (I'm sure it would take me quite a while to get up to speed on a system of typing that I hadn't been using since I was in elementary school) to a lack of worth for using the new system as a whole. While it may be true that it's not terribly worth spending effort and money to retrain yourself on a new system, he doesn't examine much which system would actually be better to train a new typist on.

Ergonomic studies also confirm that the advantages of Dvorak are either small or nonexistent. For example, A. Miller and J Thomas, two researchers at the IBM Research Laboratory, writing in the International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, conclude that "no alternative has shown a realistically significant advantage over the QWERTY for general purpose typing." Other studies based on analysis of hand-and-finger motions find differences of only a few percentage points between Dvorak and QWERTY. The consistent finding in ergonomic studies is that the results imply no clear advantage for Dvorak, and certainly no advantage of the magnitude that is so often claimed.

As ergonomics often seems to be a greater concern than high-end performance for people who do very large amounts of typing work, the mention of ergonomics only as an afterthought doesn't help his case much. If that "difference of a few percentage points" falls in Dvorak's favor, then that would hurt his argument somewhat for people who would really prefer to have the 5% more comfortable system after a full day of typing. As he mentions ergonomics nowhere in his historical analysis of typing systems, it might be inferred that comfort was not yet a serious concern in those days.

I dunno. If his argument was to prove that switching to Dvorak isn't necessarily going to provide a 10% boost in speed, then his arguments make sense. But if he's trying to disprove the idea that markets sometimes make bad decisions as a whole, there are a lot of holes in this theory. In recent times, for example, we could just as easily point to Sony's initial presence and the support by the PS3 (and lack of support for HD-DVD by its Microsoft rival) as the strongest selling point in having Blu-Ray win the new format war, but you could just as equally factor that studios may have preferred Blu-Ray's increased capacity or additional copyright schemes over HD-DVD's lower consumer price point. Whether that choice will turn out to be a good one as consumers weigh that higher price of the media over broadband downloads, $1 Redbox DVD rentals, and, oh, paying their rent in a slower economy remains to be seen. Much less that Betamax may not have failed because it was or wasn't a "better format," but rather because VHS simply provided for longer recording times.

The only thing that the author really seems to highlight is that it would be nice to grab a bunch of elementary school kids and track their yearly progress in speed and overall comfort using both systems. Much like gets said on every Dvorak thread around here.

Bias much? (4, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510185)

It's very much a pro-markets piece.

It's very much a pro-markets publication. While the arguments put forward rest on their own merits, it's safe to say that Reason Online -- whose masthead includes the slogan, "Free Minds and Free Markets" -- is certainly not going to publish articles that challenge the idea that the market is an efficient and rational actor, at least most of the time. Whether that inherent bias extends to cherry-picking the data used to reach conclusions, or whether the data is even unambiguous, are things one needs to consider in cases like this.

Probably everyone here can think of some examples of inferior products that have remained dominant despite the appearance of superior alternatives, and also examples of the reverse. For any of that to mean anything, one would have to survey a substantial sampling of such cases, determine which represented the majority and by what measure (total monetary value, units sold, etc.) and then look at all kinds of other factors (market segment, cost of switching products, and so on) before one could begin to draw useful and quite probably heavily qualified conclusions.

Then there's the inherent ambiguity involved in "superiority". Take Mac versus Windows versus Linux, for example. If, like most computer users, you have a preference, you can probably explain what drives that preference. But so can people who have different preferences. One might prefer Windows for reasons that are entirely irrelevant to a Mac aficionado, and vice versa. So which is superior? Obviously, there is no single, universal answer to this question -- and many others like it -- so we continue to see a market for Windows and a smaller, but quite healthy, market for Macs. Likewise, Harley-Davidson motorcycles continue to sell alongside everything from Vespa scooters to Honda racing bikes, and there are a dozen or more brands of sandwich bread at the average supermarket despite, what, more than six thousand years of not very exciting developments in bread technology.

The short version is that in any complex area of study riddled with exceptions and special cases, sweeping general conclusions are likely to be true, if at all, only within some arbitrary subset of cases that may be of very little predictive value, but that will seldom deter anyone with an article deadline and a point to "prove".

I just have one question. (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510191)

I skimmed the article so maybe I missed it, but did the authors of this article try to learn DVORAK themselves? Seems to me they are trying to use economic theory to discount the effectiveness of Dvorak. I have not known anyone who learned it ever say it wasn't faster. It's always as fast or faster.

summary (1)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510213)

Qwerty is better than dvorak despite conventional wisdom. We know this is true because a) some early studies that showed dvorak to be superior were flawed and b) more recent government studies have clearly shown that typists who have typed on qwerty their whole lives and then trained on dvorak for a month are slower than if they had just stuck with qwerty.

Also, anyone who thinks that network effects have an influence on market acceptance of products must be a commie. Product quality is clearly important, and it's too hard for me to imagine that there could possibly be more than one factor influencing product acceptance.

(I didn't read the whole article, so I may have overlooked a few more gems of insight.)

I use dvorak myself, and while I think I'm probably a faster dvorak typist now than I ever was with qwerty, that is only after using it for about 10 years. If you use both layouts on a daily basis, you'll probably always be slower than if you just pick one. (I can still type qwerty just fine without thinking about the transition, I just don't use it regularly.) However, speed isn't the only reason to use dvorak; I find that it's a lot more comfortable (and that isn't an easy thing to quantify). Comparing the two layouts objectively is probably close to impossible unless you use test subjects who have never used a computer or typewriter, so I think people ought to try it for themselves and if they like it that's great, and if they don't, that's fine too.

Plugging the Dvorak myths (1)

HappyUserPerson (954699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510219)

This is an interesting article which looks behind some of the stories and myths behind the development of QWERTY and Dvorak. Also, nowhere in the article is there a critique of the Dvorak layout (claims that it reduces strain or seems to be a better layout are left standing.) Some interesting points:
  • Apparently typing contests were common at the end of the 1800's and there were several different competing typewriter keyboard layouts. QWERTY won out and manufactures with competing with different designs quickly moved to QWERTY.
  • The original source for the famous US Navy study (which is frequently paraded which "proves" that typists can learn Dvorak with little training and type much faster) apparently doesn't exist at "the Navy Library, the Martin Luther King Library, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Technical Communication Service." However, the author was able to track down a copy of the study from "an organization called Dvorak International, headquartered in the attic of a farmhouse in Vermont." From the article "The report does not list the authors. The report's foreword states that two prior experiments had been conducted but that 'the first two groups were not truly fair tests.'" According to the study "adjustments were made in the test procedure to 'remove psychological impediments to superior performance.'" Further, according to the study, the so-called typists were poor at typing (below 30 WPM, below Navy standards). Also, the study was conducted by no other than Lieut. Com. August Dvorak (the inventor of Dvorak!).
  • There were several controlled, well conducted studies around the world which showed that retraining QWERTY typists in Dvorak resulted in little change in typing speed.

Read it! [reason.com]

The problem solved by QWERTY makes faster typing. (4, Interesting)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510229)

I believe that the typewriter jamming issue solved by QWERTY makes typists faster. It's not true that QWERTY is designed to slow typists down. QWERTY is designed to eliminate ``hazards'' in the machine's ``pipeline''.

We can in fact liken this to the execution of instructions on a processor.

The opponents of QWERTY say that its purpose is to bring about ``underclocking'', i.e. slowing down of the overall keystroke issue rate. But the technical issue is not speed, but collision between the hammers in the typewriter. The margin, or window of interference for adjacent hammers (corresponding to keys that are in adjacent columns of the keyboard) is worse than for keys that are horizontally distant.

There can be consider parallelism in the action of these hammers. Two keystrokes can be in progress at the same time, with one hammer slightly ahead of the other. One strikes the tape and paper, then recoils, and the other one lands in the same spot afterward. The farther apart the hammers are located, the closer together they can be temporally; i.e. the faster the typist can issue these keystrokes without causing a jam! I.e. the typist is encouraged to be faster, not to be slower.

But this spaced arrangement also makes it easier for the typist to go fast. Alternation between the hands leads to much more rapid typing. The typist can double the rate compared to using one hand. It's difficult to type a fast sequence with the fingers of one hand. This is particularly true of the weaker fingers: ring finger and pinky. Pianists struggle to get these into shape. Try playing a fast trill using your ring finger and pinky on a weighted piano keyboard, then try it with your thumb and index finger, then with two strong fingers from the opposite hand.

Also it takes energy to make the keys and hammers move, in a typewriter or piano. The typist can use gravity: the weight of his forearm from the elbow can act through a single finger to send power to the keystroke. If two or more keys have to be hit in rapid succession using the same hand, the energy of a single fall of the forearm has to be distributed across all three. C. C. Chang describes the concept of parallel sets and gravity attack principle in his Fundamentals of Piano Practice http://www.pianofundamentals.com/book [pianofundamentals.com] .

When piano music contains a monophonic passage (one melody line), pianists take advantage of two-handed fingering to achieve greater virtuosity. Playing a melody with one hand is a difficult compromise for the sake of polyphony (e.g. Bach two-part invention with two independent melody lines often at the same tempo).

Also look at the African folk instrument known as the thumb piano. It's a resonant box with protruding, tuned metal reeds that are plucked with the thumbs. The scale is arranged such that you can play fast runs by hitting notes with alternate thumbs on opposite sides of the ``reedboard''. Virtuoso thumb piano players can shred blazingly fast over scale and arpeggio runs due to this left right alternation. You can see these guys in action in Bela Fleck's documentary film Throw Down Your Heart http://www.throwdownyourheart.com/ [throwdownyourheart.com] . It's hard to believe they are just using their thumbs.

Well, that concludes my typing rant. At least it's not about static versus dynamic typing, for once! :)

What gives? (1)

Vadatajs (1367737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510263)

C ydp.e ekrpatw xgy mf y.qy co ann iapxn.e ,day ick.oZ

Also thwarted by changes in symbol frequencies (4, Informative)

Confuse Ed (59383) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510279)

Its very difficult to compare as in typing speed measurements one will either be limited to different people as well as different keyboard layouts, or at least different amounts of exposure to each layout. And what about some control cases of randomly generated layouts or alphabetical layouts?

An interesting hypothesis to test would be that any keyboard layout might have similar typing speeds (say give a factor of 2 or so) once a user has enough experience with it - for things that can be typed with single key presses.

I _do_ have some personal experience with the (standard 2-hand) dvorak keyboard layout which anyone can try by selecting that layout in their OS's keyboard settings (irrespective of their physical keyboard), a side effect of this is that you will be forced to learn to touch-type as obviously the letters written on your standard keyboard will have no relation to what comes out on the screen any more!

Speaking entirely qualitatively - it was suprising how easy it was to learn, and a few times since I abandoned it I've gone back and found that it can be picked up again within an hour or two once learnt (just like riding a bike?). And as a few other posters have already mentioned (for typing normal English) it feels more comfortable as less finger movement is required on average.

However (and this is the reason I've abandoned using it) - the dvorak layout is inappropriate for most uses apart from simply typing English - such as computer programming, working with spreadsheets, linux command line usage etc.

This is because by arranging the characters by their frequency in standard english, many non-alphanumeric characters which are rarely used in standard english but now very frequently used for other tasks on a computer are placed in very awkard positions requiring you to type with the little finger (or even worse, shift + little-finger). Here are some examples
':' - used a lot in C++, is where shift-'z' is on qwerty.
'{' and '}' - are shift-'-' and shift-'=' on qwerty.
'\'' and '"' - are q and shift-'q' on qwerty.

Dvorak Keyboard has been very useful for years... (0, Troll)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510283)

Useful for distinguishing between the insufferable nerds that don't know they are insufferable and the ones that are worth spending time with.

First mention of keyboard layouts tells you spend your time elsewhere or this unwashed creep will cause all your OTHER friends to stay away.

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