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Why is Everyone Still Stuck in QWERTY?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the matters-of-inertia-and-reinforced-behavior dept.

Technology 255

theWrkncacnter asks: "I was recently giving some instructions over IRC to a long time QWERTY keyboard user who wanted to switch to the Dvorak layout, mostly because a good majority of the people in channel had made the switch and were all talking it up, myself included, about how our speeds had increased and how its much more comfortable. This made me think, why don't more people use the Dvorak layout? Searching around I found an older topic on the subject, but that didn't answer too many questions, as most people in the comment section seemed to think that Dvorak vs. QWERTY was a hardware issue, when it is really a matter simply changing the layout on your particular OS. I took the time to pry off and remap my powerbook keyboard's keys but I have no problem typing in Dvorak on a physically QWERTY mapped keyboard, and I know many others who don't have a problem doing so either. So given all of this, why don't more people switch? Is it that most people just can't be bothered to make the change, even when its more efficient and more comfortable?" Is it mostly due to the fact that most people learn to type first on QWERTY due to its popularity, and hence don't bother to learn anything else?

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255 comments

Two reasons (4, Insightful)

FreeLinux (555387) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886244)

First, everyone learns on QWERTY. Why? See reason two.

You are more likely to find a QWERTY attached to any particular PC or terminal than anything else. Switching back and forth is a pain.

Thirdly, unlike you, it seems, not everyone is a touch typist.

Re:Two reasons (3, Interesting)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886533)

I second that. If I'm going to learn something new, I'd rather learn to use a Twiddler [handykey.com] , that way I can take it with me and use it wherever I go. I'm just waiting until I can afford both it and a PDA with a USB Host port (why doesn't the Zaurus include this?).

Re:Two reasons (1)

nomel (244635) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886876)

I do it every day at work and school and, well, anywhere else away from my home. I have no problems at all switching between the two. After about 10 minutes of using a QWERTY keyboard, I'm back to my old touchtyping speed.

I believe the benefits outweigh the inconvenience of having to remember two keyboard layouts in your head. You never forget qwerty and from all people I talk to, they can use it just fine...but when you do use qwerty after switching, you will just hate using it :)

Re:Two reasons (2, Interesting)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887199)

True, many people learn on QWERTY, but not many *had* to!

I'll age myself here and point out that I first tried to learn to type on a manual typewriter.
Later, the computer keyboard was invented.
Now I 'touch type' but not in the historical sense. I can type very fast, but only because I can hit the backspace key quickly. Only my fingers know the location of the specific keys. I could not draw you a keyboard layout from memory, except for parts like 'QWERTY'.

Changing the keyboard layout would cause my fingers to rtow rgw qeibf arydd.

I tried to switch.... (5, Funny)

foooo (634898) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886259)

I tried to switch... but the letters written in Sharpie ink rubbed off to quickly =(

~foooo

Who needs Dvorak? (3, Interesting)

darkov (261309) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886262)

I hunt and peck faster than I need. I can hit the keys with my index finger without looking and I'm not going to learn to touch type ever, although I type for a living.

Changing keyboard layouts would reduce my typing speed with no benefit. The fact is that most people can't think faster than they can type, and only a fractiion of the population need to type very fast and would benefit from a change to Dvorak.

Re:Who needs Dvorak? (1)

nomel (244635) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886905)

Your thinking in a very short term sense.

For a very long time, because of the speed decrease while I was learning, I used Dvorak only at home, and Qwerty at work. My qwerty typing speeds, at work, didn't change. Once I was sufficiently fast in Dvorak, I switched my keyboard at work to Dvorak too (everyone looked at me funny when all my keys were laying on my desk).

So, effectively, the speed of my typing at work never changed, it only increased.

Simple: (3, Insightful)

GreenHell (209242) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886264)

1. See the post above me (Everyone learns QWERTY)
2. Users don't like having to learn new input methods (partly the reason why soft (ie software) keyboards on PDAs are in the QWERTY layout, despite the fact that the skills related to tapping the keyboard with a stylus are completely different to those found in touch typing.)

Re:Simple: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5886764)

It's because too many morons hunt and peck on keyboards and don't want to learn new things. PDA keyboards could be better arranged to be in alphabetical order in a letters, space and enter keys in a 6x6 square with the vowels somehow lined up separately. A 6x6 square provides Less travel than a a typical 3x12 typwriter layout layout for the letter rows. A 6x6 square could be easier for single handed use too. I wish the manufacturers would stop putting the qwerty layout on PDA's and computers. We don't have those machanical arms that jam anymore.

While some hunt & peckers can type quite fast, a good touch typist can usually type faster.

It took me less than a month to learn the Dvorak layout, just as it took me less than a month to initial learn to touch type the qwerty layout. It took me another month to switch between the two comfortably when I have to use someone elses machine.

Re:Simple: (2, Informative)

GreenHell (209242) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886976)

Actually, alphabetical order doesn't work much better for PDAs than QWERTY, a 6x5 square provides only an 8% speed increase [yorku.ca] over the traditional QWERTY layout, although I don't think this is quite the same layout as you were talking about.

The current most theoretically efficient method discovered is what's known as the "Metropolis II" layout after the algorithm used to design it (I'd offer you a link to it, but you need to be an ACM subscriber to get at the paper, and as far as I know tyhe keyboard layout itself has never been made publically available for use)

However, as mentioned, people's familiarity with the QWERTY layout is why it keeps getting put on there even if it's no longer the optimal layout, which means that when a user sits down at a new device they get faster immediate interaction rates if the keyboard is QWERTY due to familiarity with the letters as opposed to learning a new interaction method. (Although this deals only with PDA keyboards, here's a paper that comes to this conclusion. [yorku.ca] )

Yes, I'm getting off topic now, but I need to find a way to spout off all this extraneous knowledge I've picked up over time.

Beyond Dvorak (3, Informative)

aster_ken (516808) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886267)

Slashdot had an article a long time ago about going beyond the efficiency of Dvorak and determining what is better through genetic algorithms. You can read the Slashdot article here [slashdot.org] .

Re:Beyond Dvorak (1)

nomel (244635) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886926)

If you look, the keyboard looks earily like Dvorak.

I wouldn't want to use that layout, even though it may be a *little* better because it cannot be found anywhere. Dvorak can be easily switched on in any windows and linux machine in a matter of 10's of seconds. This is one case where I agree with the "but noone uses it" argument.

QWERTY works good enough... (1)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886269)

I took the time to pry off and remap my powerbook keyboard's keys but I have no problem typing in Dvorak on a physically QWERTY mapped keyboard, and I know many others who don't have a problem doing so either

Guess I know a different crowd. I don't know anyone who wants take the time to rearrange their keyboard.

Is it mostly due to the fact that most people learn to type first on QWERTY due to its popularity, and hence don't bother to learn anything else?

Yes.

QWERTY works good enough, and most people are familiar with it. Isn't that reason enough?

Re:QWERTY works good enough... (0)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886577)

You don't know anyone that has 5 mins free to rearrange the keys?
You must live a busy life..
Thanks for risking it to tell us on /.

Obvious answers? (5, Insightful)

FrenZon (65408) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886277)

I use QWERTY because it's the standard. I know it's not as efficient as DVORAK, but it's more than fast enough for my needs (and I spend all day writing code and emails), so why go through the hassle of relearning typing skills and using DVORAK? Especially in an office environment where I have to keep constantly swapping over to my co-workers keyboards - I really don't want to have to deal with swapping contexts all day long.

Then there's the fact that most apps come with keyboard layouts configured for QWERTY keyboards.

Dull answers to your question, but were you expecting anything else? People aren't going to inconvenience themselves unless the benefits FAR outweigh the problems. I'm sure it's the same reason why many people don't use Linux.

Re:Obvious answers? (2, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886689)

your right, although I have to note, the reason why many people don't use linux is that they don't KNOW the benefits FAR outweigh the problems.

Re:Obvious answers? (3, Informative)

Verne (249617) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887788)

I grew up using QWERTY. Although as I started typing at a very young age, I never learnt how to touch type.

I could type in QWERTY at adequate speeds, and I didn't feel I needed to be any faster.

The main drive for me to switch, was that I wanted to learn how to touch type. I'd tried to learn to touch type a few times, but it was always so easy to cheat and go back to typing with the incorrect fingures, as I was too used to typing in my own way.

I switched to DVORAK at work, and used QWERTY at home. For a number of years I could adequately use both. But it was not until I switched over at home as well that I really started becoming FAST at DVORAK.

At the moment, I use DVORAK everywhere, and have trouble with switching to QWERTY, although once I realise what's going on I can type by looking at the keys, reasonably well. I get the odd letter wrong, and if I try to think about it, I get REALLY confused.

One of the main drawbacks to using DVORAK is when programs (especially games) assume you have a QWERTY keyboard. Setting the regonal settings to DVORAK under windows is ok, but when games do their own keyboard mapping, they don't seem to expect you use anything other than QWERTY. One of the worst examples of this has got to be Counter Strike. The Half-life bit of it, when you are setting up all your keys, seems to be fine with your regonal settings set to DVORAK. As soon as you launch the game, it assumes you are in QWERTY. There is no way to set up your keys in QWERTY at all. It took me AGES to try and get the keys set up, cause I had to type in DVORAK where the QWERTY keys would be.
Also, as with any keyboard layout, getting it set up for the default in windows logon was a bitch, and I ended up hacking the registry until it magically worked.

The best solution may be to get something like at dvortyboard.com where you can switch between QWERTY and DVORAK in hardware as much as you like.

All in all though, I think the switch to DVORAK was well worth it. Speed isn't the main concern, although I am typing faster and more evenly with DVORAK. And I love typing now for some reason, as all of my fingers are used all the time.

I read alot of debates over how DVORAK being better is just a myth, and QWERTY is better yada yada yada. For me, I find DVORAK comfortable. The common letters are easy to reach without moving your left hand too much (I'm right handed, so moving my right hand is more comfortable and coordinated than moving my left hand) and I don't need to move my less coordinated (ring and pinky) fingers up and down much. QWERTY has jkl; in the home row of your main hand. Yet you surely don't use these keys much at all... Seems strange to me....

Verne.

price and availability (2, Insightful)

trouser (149900) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886281)

QWERTY keyboard from Taiwan is so cheap it's nearly free. I wouldn't know where to start looking if I wanted an alternative keyboard layout.

Also, how many readers are concerned with WPM ? The quality of my code tends to take a sharp nosedive when I type quickly. Lots of thinking, slow typing, a good editor with syntax highlighting that notices when I don't have enough close braces, etc. Why don't more people use smart editors ?

Re:price and availability (2, Insightful)

nomel (244635) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886959)

For me, it's more about comfort. When I use the Qwerty keyboard, and watch other people use it, I'm amazed how the fingers flail about to try and reach the keys. You just don't have to move as much and make awkward finger movements to hit the keys that you use most. I did a little calculation, and about 70% of all the letters you will type (based on most common) are on the home row in Dvorak...only about 35% for Qwerty.

Re:price and availability (1)

flatus (122380) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887082)

Why don't more people code in lisp . . . we know that it is better.

Re:price and availability (1)

trouser (149900) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887496)

All right, when I said use a good editor that was secret code for 'use emacs', but you can't make me code in lisp, it's godless and wrong and godlessly wrong and a whole bunch of other things. Look what it did to RMS.

Obviously what I meant was use emacs to hack Python code and take advantage of all those wonderful Lisp macros and whatnot that make your editing so much easier but don't ever look under the hood because Lisp will make your brain melt and leak out your ears and down to your chin where it will soften and nourish the flesh giving rise to a formidable beard such as would bring tears to the eyes of hardened hackers the world over and then accept that you'll never see a woman naked again.

walk into a cafe.. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886285)

and you'll have qwerty, go to your friends and you'll have qwerty, you get the drift..

it's not evil like ms and it's 'standard' ;), it's what people learn in school at typing class too.

seriously though would i be able to type with one hand at the same speed i type now with two hands? because that would be enough reason to switch but otherwise i type fast enough with qwerty for my brains to spill out useful information to type.

Re:walk into a cafe.. (1)

outlier (64928) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886779)

seriously though would i be able to type with one hand at the same speed i type now with two hands? because that would be enough reason to switch

You could try learning one of the One-handed Dvorak layouts [aboutonehandtyping.com] . Motivated users can reach very high speeds with sufficient practice.

Redux (5, Funny)

limekiller4 (451497) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886301)

Oh god. This is like a bad Twilight Zone episode.

<voice style="serling">

Limekiller. Reader of Slashdot and sometimes typist. He thinks he's seen every rant devised by man. He also believes that he has come to grips with the Slashdot editor's penchant for beating the proverbial dead horse. It is with this jaded approach that he will begin his evening routine with a bookmark. A bookmark that leads ...to the Twilight Zone.

</voice>

Dear sweet Christ would you let the qwerty debate die! Hath you no shame!?

From the IDGFF Department (4, Insightful)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886323)

"So given all of this, why don't more people switch? Is it that most people just can't be bothered to make the change, even when its more efficient and more comfortable?" Is it mostly due to the fact that most people learn to type first on QWERTY due to its popularity, and hence don't bother to learn anything else?"

It's because nobody cares. It creates more problems than it solves. Do you really want to retrain your fingers just so you can type a little faster? Is your keyboard really your bottleneck? (Linux masochists excluded from that question.) Do you really want to move your keyboard shortcuts around? Do you really want to use a non-standard keyboard? What do you tell friends that come over and use your computer?

There may be benefits to it, but we're not excatly talking about a live issue here. I mean if we're going to discuss this, why don't we discuss why people should use Procomm instead of Telemate for visiting BBS's.

Re:From the IDGFF Department (1)

McCarrum (446375) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886491)

You're so right. I mean, everyone knows Telemate is the best option.

Re:From the IDGFF Department (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886541)

"You're so right. I mean, everyone knows Telemate is the best option. "

Heh I have an OT question for ya. How old do ya think I am based on my Telemate comment? Just curious because I find myself assuming people are a certain age just because they remember using software from a particular era.

(Before ya mod me down, at least consider that I'm trying to be interesting!)

Re:From the IDGFF Department (1)

McCarrum (446375) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887056)

shrug ...!

Okay, lets throw some random figures in the air. I'm 34 ... and I was using Telix for ages until I finally moved across to Telemate. I was a little older than the usual suspects in my BBS crowd, so lets take a random stab at 30.

Re:From the IDGFF Department (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886607)

I totally second this!
Seriously, who gives a damn? (Or a FF for that matter? :)
If we had story moderation I'd mod this a Troll. :)

Re:From the IDGFF Department (1)

VisorGuy (548245) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886826)

What do you tell friends that come over and use your computer?

Ha! This is perfect!!
I'm making the switch just so that my friends can't use my computer when they come over!

I use too many devices to switch... (1)

zulux (112259) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886328)

Too many toys to change: Laptop, Sharp Zaurus, Psion Revo, Mandrake Box - and about 20 or more *BSD servers that still have a keyboard hooked up to them.

After growing up with a TRS-80, it took me years to forget thay Shift 2 doesen't give me a quote anymore.

And unless you're writing a novel - a good programer types suprisingly little to worry about.

Seriously, though (1)

PateraSilk (668445) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886367)

I basically use hunt-n-peck modified for speed, up to 50 wpm if I don't have to hit the backspace key every three strokes. I've written novels this way, and the speed problem was never an issue. Mostly you sit around thinking what to type rather than worrying about how fast to type. Maybe if I was taking dictation the Dvorak keyboard would make sense. As it is, Qwerty is fine for everyday use.

Basically, VHS vs. Beta, on keyboards.

because... (5, Insightful)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886372)

A) Actual research does not support the efficiency gains of the Dvorak layout. The most-commonly-cited study in favor of the Dvorak layout was published by ... guess who ... Mr. Dvorak himself, and the science behind that study is deeply questionable.

The data entry industry did their own studies, which do not support the claimed efficiency boost of the Dvorak keyboard. Since they make more money if their data entry personnel type faster, they had every reason to conduct a fair and honest study of the two formats. They stuck with QWERTY.

B) QWERTY is actually pretty damned good. The common urban legend about QWERTY being designed to slow typists down is just that, an urban legend. It is true that QWERTY was designed to reduce jamming on mechanical typewriters, but it did not do this by intentionally slowing typists down, as the legend claims.

Instead, it does this by ensuring that commonly-pressed pairs of keys are not next to one another (and in the days of mechanical hammers, this would also mean that the hammers were not next to one another). Conveniently, this means that successive keystrokes are likely to be pressed by alternate hands, which actually makes typing faster instead of slower.

C) Your own anecdotal stories are, I'm sorry to say, worthless.

This is for two reasons: first, you probably didn't do a formal study of your typing speed before and after the test, and you also didn't have a control group of people who remained with the QWERTY layout but put an equal amount of effort into attempting to improve their speed.

Second, even if it is true that you really do type faster with Dvorak, that's not conclusive. Some people can do math faster with an abacus than they can with a calculator, but that doesn't conclusively prove that the abacus is a better tool. It just proves that there are some people for whom the abacus is a better tool. Unless you do a large-scale test and find both the positive cases (you) as well as the negatives (people who tried the Dvorak layout and don't like it), you really have no clue which is better.

Again, these sorts of studies have been done. Every one I am familiar with concluded that the benefits of the Dvorak layout were minimal at best.

Re:because... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5886416)

Mod parent up!

Re:because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5886534)

I almost believed you, until I looked for myself for the studies you refer to. While your comments on the subjectivity of his experiences are correct, your statements regarding the results from several major studies is biased. Do a google search for Dvorak vs qwerty and you can read a good subset of those results again, for yourself. Not many support the argument that qwerty is at least as good as Dvorak. Even simpler, look at any typed sentence and the amount of hand movement required to type it. If you agree that moving your hands a smaller distance is more efficient, than it follows that the Dvorak layout is more efficient. Look here -> http://www.acm.vt.edu/%7Ejmaxwell/dvorak/keyboard. html . Your comment "Conveniently, this means that successive keystrokes are likely to be pressed by alternate hands, which actually makes typing faster instead of slower." is a bit misleading, also. With the two handed Dvorak layout (as there are three, a two handed, left handed, and right handed, all different) there are no words in the English language that can be typed with one hand. There are too many to mention with a qwerty layout.

Re:because... (2, Insightful)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886691)

I almost believed you, until I looked for myself for the studies you refer to. While your comments on the subjectivity of his experiences are correct, your statements regarding the results from several major studies is biased. Do a google search for Dvorak vs qwerty and you can read a good subset of those results again, for yourself.

My primary reference on this subject is The Fable of the Keys [utdallas.edu] , which seems to be a pretty comprehensive look at the entire debate. I have read other papers regarding the subject, and generally found the same facts.

f you agree that moving your hands a smaller distance is more efficient, than it follows that the Dvorak layout is more efficient.

The only statistic worth debating is typing speed. Not hand movement or anything else. You can debate numbers all you want, but unless you've done a study showing that Dvorak is faster, you're just engaging in mental masturbation.

This happens in damned near everything -- film vs. digital, MP3 vs. CD, CD vs. vinyl -- people make assertions about what is better without actually bothering to do a fair comparison. I'm tired of it. Point me to studies which show that Dvorak is better than QWERTY, or be quiet.

Re:because... (3, Insightful)

nathanh (1214) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887641)

The only statistic worth debating is typing speed.

Uhhh, error rates, finger fatigue, increased or decreased risk of RSI, retraining costs, application changes, documentation changes... these are ALL statistics worth debating.

Re:because... (2, Informative)

Cuthalion (65550) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886736)

Quay [reference.com] is typable with only the left hand on a Dvorak keyboard. So is pope, pupae, pike, and (probably) others. Note that the calculator on that page is not very good - it is unable to say 100% for "same hand". Try typing the word "i" for an example. I'm not saying whether QWERTY is better, just that your facts are wrong.

Re:because... (1)

deque_alpha (257777) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886539)

Do you have any links to the aforementioned studies which prove the minimal benefits of Dvorak? If so, please post them.
I ask because recently on a mailing list I subscribe to someone proposed that Dvorak keyboards be offered in typing classes in public schools. His argument was that it was such a superior input method that it would be worth the headaches associated with making such an offering. I would love to show the poster some studies showing that the benefits are "minimal".

Re:because... (2, Interesting)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886582)

The best reference I have found on the subject is The Fable of the Keys [utdallas.edu] .

This paper basically attempts to prove that QWERTY vs. Dvorak was not an example of market failure -- in other words, that the best keyboard really did win and it wasn't because QWERTY was an entrenched standard that nobody was brave enough to challenge (which is the typical argument that the losers in any such fight give).

Re:because... (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886760)

Ah so it comes out, in one post you admit this paper is your primary and I suspect only reference for this post. And you yourself admit it is a biased attempt to show qwerty is a good layout instead of an impartitial study on the matter that doesn't give a flying fsck who wins.

Re:because... (1)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886941)

Ah so it comes out, in one post you admit this paper is your primary and I suspect only reference for this post. And you yourself admit it is a biased attempt to show qwerty is a good layout instead of an impartitial study on the matter that doesn't give a flying fsck who wins.

First, the paper itself cites numerous studies and other papers, so it's not as if it exists in an isolated sea of nothingness. Second, I never said that it was the only such paper I have read -- just that it seemed to be the best.

If you have studies that show other results, cough 'em up.

Re:because... (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887581)

ok, I'm game, but rather than studies (since you've not yet presented one,
only an article). I'll come back with an article that slightly less biased than
yours (only slightly). One that is in fact, written as a point for point
counter to the article you cite. It can be found Here [mwbrooks.com] .

Your up.

Re:because... (1, Funny)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886773)

a ration response based on reasearch and logic, wtf is this????? I thought I was reading slashdot, stone this SOB and show him we won't take it 'round here!

Re:because... (5, Insightful)

outlier (64928) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887103)

Actually, that's not quite right. It looks like most of the arguments you're presenting were based on The Fable of the Keys [utdallas.edu] by Liebowitz and Margolis.

As I pointed out [slashdot.org] when the topic came up last year, Leibowitz and Margolis are economists, and while their discussion of market externalities was correct, they don't quite represent the cognitive research on the Dvorak vs. Sholes (QWERTY) issue very accurately, or fairly.

A) Actual research does not support the efficiency gains of the Dvorak layout. The most-commonly-cited study in favor of the Dvorak layout was published by ... guess who ... Mr. Dvorak himself, and the science behind that study is deeply questionable.

The data entry industry did their own studies, which do not support the claimed efficiency boost of the Dvorak keyboard. Since they make more money if their data entry personnel type faster, they had every reason to conduct a fair and honest study of the two formats. They stuck with QWERTY.


Actually, the half-dozen or so well constructed lab tests comparing Dvorak to Sholes consistently show a 5-10% advantage for Dvorak (even Leibowitz and Margolis admit that Dvorak is somewhat faster). For a good overview of the research conducted on text entry, check out Jim Lewis's chapter "Keys and Keyboards" in the Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction [amazon.com] .

The "data entry industry" study you're referring to is probably the Navy study mentioned in The Fable (and Lewis's chapter). Leibowitz and Margolis don't really describe the study correctly. This is in part due to the strange way it was conducted -- I'm away from my copy of it so I can't give a good description.

(On an unrelated note, it is pretty irritating to read Leibowitz and Margolis's character assassination of Dvorak. I once asked a well known economist about Stan Leibowitz and was told that his research seems to be too motivated by his political beliefs. I have no idea if that's true, and I would never use that as an argument to refute him in a peer reviewed article. Likewise, I think that the aspersions cast on Dvorak's reputation are a bit disingenuous and out of line for a scientific article.)

B) QWERTY is actually pretty damned good. The common urban legend about QWERTY being designed to slow typists down is just that, an urban legend. It is true that QWERTY was designed to reduce jamming on mechanical typewriters, but it did not do this by intentionally slowing typists down, as the legend claims.

Instead, it does this by ensuring that commonly-pressed pairs of keys are not next to one another (and in the days of mechanical hammers, this would also mean that the hammers were not next to one another). Conveniently, this means that successive keystrokes are likely to be pressed by alternate hands, which actually makes typing faster instead of slower.


Sort of right. Analyses of cross-hand keying do indicate that QWERTY is pretty good, but Dvorak is still better.

C) Your own anecdotal stories are, I'm sorry to say, worthless.

Actually, this is sort of true, sort of false, but these days probably irrelevant.

True: Only well designed scientific studies (or simulations) of human performance using various layouts can tell us which layouts are most efficient in which contexts.

False: Your anecdotal evidence is actually worth a lot -- to you. If you typed at 40 WPM using one layout and now type at 60 WPM using another layout, good for you. It doesn't mean anything for anyone else, but something about the switch (the new layout, the practice you had to engage in, your desire to prove that your layout is superior) helped you.

Irrelevant: Unless you are a transcriptionist (in which case, you probably should be using a specialized transcription device), a large majority of your 'typing' time is actually thinking time. That is, you are not just typing a bunch of characters as quickly as possible, you are composing and thinking. That's what takes the most time. Also, back in the old days one of the biggest time sinks was error correction. Now we can hit the backspace key, then it was a big hassle. There is evidence that the Dvorak layout leads to reduced error rates -- not something that matters too much now.

So the bottom line is that the Dvorak is a little bit better, the cost of switching over (in time and hassle) is not worth it for the average user. But, if you've got a few weeks it can be done, and you might find it an interesting experience.

Finally, as I mentioned in my earlier post, there's a good (if somewhat overzealous) layman's response to The Fable over here [mwbrooks.com]

Re:because... (1)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887442)

I said that the advantages of Dvorak were "minimal". I consider a 5% increase in typing speed to be pretty damned minimal, personally, given the costs of switching.

Perhaps you feel differently, in which case you are certainly welcome to switch. I don't think the data supports anything approaching an industry-wide switch, however.

Re:because... (2, Interesting)

damien_kane (519267) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887554)

5% is quit a marginal increase, not minimal.
Consider as such:
Person A types 8 hours a day.
In these 8 hours, (s)he averages about 70wpm (while typing). 70wpm * 4 chars (4 chars/wd + 1 space) = 350 keystrokes/min.
In those 8 hours, assuming 1 hr break (30 min lunch, 15 min * 2 breaks, legal minimum, YMMV) this means 7hrs*60min/hr*350cpm = 147000 chars (/5cpw) = 29,400 words typed in a day.
This is, of course, theoretical.
In any case, a 5% increas in speed now puts you at 30,870 wpd. This is over 1000 words difference.
I can think a lot faster than 70wpm. the faster I can type, the faster I can get my code into the box before its forgetten.
If I get my code in faster, i have one of two choices:
a) more time for testing before production roll-out (assuming enough time)
b) actually making the deadline (if it is a really restrictive deadline)

Of course, you think 5% is minimal, so why bother?

Re:because... (1)

jsse (254124) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887480)

Theres come to a debate why QWERTY was chosen for mass in the first place.

A person who involved in the typewriter manufacturing told me QWERTY was chosen because they want people typing slower with it so that the mechanical keys will not stuck together that easy.

(I know it becomes an urban legend but I'm sure many people has the 'stucking' experience with mechanical typewriters. :)

Computers era coms way too late for the habit to change.

Life's so unfair... (4, Funny)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886377)

I can't believe this submission beat my "Why did some people prefer Gobots to Transformers?" story.

Re:Life's so unfair... (2, Informative)

rbolkey (74093) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887730)

From my experience, some people's parents were cheap :(. You can't have an effective war with one transformer, but you could take the same money and get a dozen gobots and have a righteous galactic battle.

An Average Geek (3, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886392)

Why? Here I why I don't switch.
  • I already learned QWERTY
  • QWERTY works fine
  • I don't own DVORAK keyboards
  • I don't want to buy a DVORAK keyboar just to have to learn to use it. Yes I know you can remap keyboards but...
  • I use many computers off and on and I don't want to switch between the two on a daily (or even hourly) basis. Yes I know you can remap keyboards but...
  • Basically it would cost me time, money, and make my life harder. You only want to switch to things if it saves you time, money, or makes your life easier.

Game, set, match... QWERTY.

why don't you drive on the other side of the road? (0, Flamebait)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886396)

Why don't you drive on the other side of the road? There's less traffic going in your direction. You get there the same way. The cops running radar won't be facing in that direction. Duh, it's a standard, stoopid. There are few, if any, benefits of the Dvorak layout. Some anecdotal evidence here and there. But enough to replace every keyboard in every high school and trade school? Nope. Not by a long shot.

Maybe if everyone had the 733+ skillz you do, they could type Dvorak on a qwerty keyboard. But then they'd be so cool that they don't get laid, just like you.

What a moronic fucking question, and posed from the wrong direction. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. qwerty, if broken, is so insignificantly broken as to not justify its replacement. Next you'll ask why we don't all use AM stereo. IOW, why should the world switch to Dvorak? Including all international users.

Why am I wasting the time posting here, when I could be posting in what could possibly be the first JE to wind up in the HOF [slashdot.org] ?

Vi, public computers, bad typing habits.. (2, Interesting)

molo (94384) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886410)

I used Dvorak for a while.. but there were a couple things that made me switch back to Qwerty:

1. public computers: internet cafes, computer labs, libraries, or even helping my girlfriend out with her computer required me to un-wire and switch back to qwerty for a while.

2. Vi: Vi was made for the qwerty layout, with the home row movement keys (hjkl). Remapping the keyboard is possible, but not without breaking all of the memnomics (sp?) that I had previously had. i.e., that row becomes "dhtn", 3 of which have other (non-movement) meanings (d = delete, t = to, n = next). What now becomes my delete/to/next keys? And what are the memnomics?

3. I was never taught to type correctly. My hands are not on the home row, my fingers are extended, and my form is a mess.. I basicly use like 3 fingers on each hand to type, moving my hands a lot. I get decent speed doing this (~60 wpm, I would guess), but it isn't accurate and doesn't translate to dvorak. When I learned dvorak, I realized it was designed for touch typists with the standard home row configuration. To this day, whenever I use dvorak, I change to the home-row stance. I am not as comfortable or as confident in this position and it makes my typing slow.

So, I found myself constantly switching back and forth between qwerty and dvorak.. my bad typing habits were created for qwerty.. and after months on dvorak, I still found qwety to be faster. That is why i reverted to qwerty. I wish I was better at dvorak, i really do, but damnit, i want Vim to work the way it should. /rant

-molo

Re:Vi, public computers, bad typing habits.. (1)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886464)

Of course, one could always ask, why are you still stuck on vi... *ducks* =)

Re:Vi, public computers, bad typing habits.. (2, Funny)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886849)

Because I've never needed a text editor to make my morning coffee, wipe my arse, cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner, mow my lawn, play fetch with the dog, and transform into an evil AI entity that communicates with me via my toaster.

Last I checked people who DO need that sort of thing use emacs right? Those of us who just need our text editor to send plagues, turn cities to salt, and part the red sea stick with vi ;)

Re:Vi, public computers, bad typing habits.. (1)

SN74S181 (581549) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886893)

Mercy! What could be worse than a vi flamefest embedded in a dvorak flamefest?

I personally like vi because it comes standard on everything. Not as standard as ed but still almost always available.

Because it's barely worth the effort (2, Interesting)

Fluffy the Cat (29157) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886433)

I learned Dvorak a few years ago. At the time I learned it on a physically QWERTY keyboard, which helped enforce proper finger positioning. I ended up being about 15WPM faster in Dvorak (85WPM overall), which certainly wasn't bad - however, I was also typing "correctly", while my QWERTY was an ad-hoc mess that I'd learned as I went along. Spending less time just forcing myself to learn QWERTY properly would probably have resulted in much the same speed increase.

Nowadays my desktop machines have IBM keyboards with removable keycaps, so they're all physically Dvorak - on the other hand, my laptop is both physically and logically QWERTY because other people want to use it occasionally. Switching takes a few seconds, but isn't a major problem.

A question for those who have switched... (4, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886437)

How hard is it to jump between QWERTY and Dvorak layouts? I've thought many times about switching to Dvorak, and I'm pretty certain that I could be back up to speed in only a few months, but there's no way that I can be restricted to using *only* the Dvorak layout, so the ability to remain moderately productive on a QWERTY keyboard is a prerequisite.

So, how hard is it to jump back and forth? Is it like having two separate modes, each equally capable, or do the two sets of muscle memories stomp on each other? I've known people who spend enough time on telephone and adding machine keypads to develop excellent "touch-typing" skills on both, and they could bounce between them flawlessly, never missing a single stroke even at high speed, in spite of the different layouts. OTOH, there are fewer keys and more "environmental" clues to distinguish between them.

I notice that (spoken) languages often seem to create the same sort of "modality", whereby a person fluent in two languages can trivially jump between the two with little risk of accidentally mixing them. OTOH, I find that I have a strong tendency to mix keywords and syntax across multiple programming languages, particularly if I'm not using different development environments (my theory is that the different IDEs provide some context that helps).

So, how does it work?

Re:A question for those who have switched... (1)

The J Kid (266953) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886535)

It's Hell. Trust me, you do not want to go there.

(Though it's not as hard as learining it at first, but then again, not much is.)

Re:A question for those who have switched... (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886654)

It's Hell. Trust me, you do not want to go there.

Could you expand on what exactly is difficult, what problems arise, etc.?

(Though it's not as hard as learining it at first, but then again, not much is.)

Maybe your experience won't apply to me, because I found that I could get around reasonably well with a Dvorak keyboard after only a few hours, and that even without physically reorganizing the keys. I was slow, and typing required significantly more concentration, but it wasn't too bad.

Re:A question for those who have switched... (4, Informative)

sidesh0w (32371) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886686)

YMMV, but I've found your speculations about switching between layouts to be true. I've been using Dvorak for about 5 years at home and I use QWERTY basically everywhere else, and I have managed to remain proficient on both. But if I try to type in Dvorak in other contexts (eg - at school, I switch the layout in software, but leave the keys the same), it takes me a lot longer to adjust -- even though I am not looking at the keys.

And no, I'm not saying this because I'm some some raving Dvorak promoter -- as people have pointed out, it isn't that much faster, and there is always the inconvenience for other people who want to use my computer (It's very simple to remap the keys back & forth with an international layout tool, but some people still can't get over the fact that all the keycaps have been swapped around). Dvorak just has that same geek fun factor that Linux does -- I like using something different from "everyone else" -- because I can -- even if it's only marginally better.

Re:A question for those who have switched... (1)

Siniset (615925) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886715)

If you're willing for the first couple of months to never use a qwerty (tough to type in dvorak) keyboard then it'll go a lot quicker. I find using dvorak to be really nice, it also was the first time I learned how to touch type. it's also nice because letters are grouped together which makes it easier to remember where everything is.

Anyways, back on the topic at hand. It was very hard for the first couple of weeks trying to type anything. My recomendation is for you to use a qwerty keyboard while learning dvorak so that you will learn to touch type.

The most important thing to remember is that if you already touch type, it might be pretty silly to switch to dvorak. But if you are hunt and peck type of typer, and are interested in dramatically increasing your speed, i'd recommend switching to dvorak.

To the person disputing the claim that dvorak is quicker than qwerty, while dvorak might not cause a 30% increase, it is faster, and most importantly, it's easier, with the letters grouped in a way that increases speed and memorization.

Ok, just my two cents.

why switch? (1)

self assembled struc (62483) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886465)

i can type approximately 110 wpm on a qwerty keyboard, why do i want to retrain, remove the key caps on all seven of my keyboards and piss off people using my systems?

this seems like an argument from the camp of people who want everyone, including their elderly grandmother, to use linux because "it's right," with no regard for the user's preference.

Re:why switch? (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886891)

my elderly grandmother prefers linux actually... my wife prefers windows. I prefer linux. My grandmother finds windows machines annoying and difficult. Linux she finds much easier since that is what she learned with. My wife on the other hand refuses to try linux.

much difference? (1)

bryanthompson (627923) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886502)

I don't think switching from qwerty would do much good for me. I already type about 155wpm, i can't imagine wanting to type much faster. Although... i thought of giving it a try before becuase i read that it reduces some of the carpel-tunnel (sp?). Dunno how much of a difference it could be though.

Re:much difference? (1)

nomel (244635) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887067)

It sure did reduce it on me!

I used to get bad pains in my arms and hands...but I don't anymore because you aren't moving nearly as much. I find a normal Dvorak keyboard MUCH more comfortable than an ergonomic keyboard with Qwerty (which is what I used for years before Dvorak). I know that's hard to imagine, but for me, it's true.

Re:much difference? (1)

Verne (249617) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887571)

155 words per minute is an extreemly impressive typing speed.

Average reading speed is 250wpm, and we only get that fast because we learn to recognise word shapes without looking at individual characters. Reading all CAPITALS slows us down up to 20% giving around 200wpm. In that you need to type each character specifically, 200wpm becomes the theoretical maximum for typing.

155wmp is a DAMN good effort.

Check out this url for a list of past record holders:

http://www.greyowltutor.com/essays/typing.html

Re:much difference? (1)

bryanthompson (627923) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887666)

the 155 is if it's coming out of my head. essays, notes, that sort of thing.
when they test for the records, do they test with reading? I'm a little slower with that, but I bet it's still decent.

So.. (1)

NegativeK (547688) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886529)

How many people have actually tried switching to Dvorak? I did once. Researched the necessary stuff, learned why it was better, then remapped my keys and reconfigured my keyboard. To put it simply, the three days I tried it, it was PAINFUL. I'm a 100 wpm typist under QWERTY.. And going to around 10 WPM in about five minutes is a complete system shock. Though, it did open my eyes to one thing.. I know how my mom feels when she needs to write something.

I used Dvorak for a while... (2, Insightful)

OneBarG (640139) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886544)

...but I have to use public computers a lot at school (commute, can't afford a laptop). Switching back and forth was horrible. I went from being a decently fast QWERTY typist to a crappy QWERTY typist on public computers and an almost decent Dvorak typist at home. It wasn't worth the hastle of switching back and forth on a regular basis, I'd never be able to make myself more efficient without being able to focus on one or the other. Since QWERTY is more common, I decided to just use it at this point.

I will admit that I miss having the semicolon where the Z is on a QWERTY keyboard.

duh (1)

dh003i (203189) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886621)

People have been trained in QWERTY. It is going to be a pain in the ass to switch. Not to mention, you'll be all fucked up when you go to a normal keyboard.

It's like me in Descent 2. I learned to play Descent 2 with a keyboard. I was pretty damn good. People told me that if i got a joystick, I could be better. So I got one. I became very frustrated and never spent the time to learn how to use it in Descent 2.

Why so much anger? (1)

slacy (605407) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886648)

Why is everybody so angry about this? (as I sit here and type this on a Dvorak keyboard)

Why did I switch? Because I hit that point in my career where the wrist pain was so great that the only option was to stop typing alltogether or type much more slowly for several months. It was a great opportunity to switch to Dvorak, and I've never gone back.

After 7+ years, I can still touch type Qwerty, and have no problem using "guest" computers. It takes about 2 seconds to do the mental "context switch" back to the old ways. Grated, when you "switch" you have to commit for the time being, because you'll never absorb Dvorak if you don't type exclusive Dvorak for a half year or so.

I also don't understand why people ignore what they call "anecdotal" evidence. I've never met a Dvorak user who didn't think they could type faster, more accurately, "smoother", and most of all with less wrist pain.

Its also funny to see all the Qwerty-files talking about how terrible it would be to switch, when they haven't actually gone through the process themselves. They should listen to the people who actually type Dvorak for information about that kind of stuff, and don't jump to conclusions. Just because it took you 15 years to get to typing 100wpm doesn't mean it'll take you that long to get up to speed on Dvorak.

Re:Why so much anger? (1)

GreenHell (209242) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886714)

"I also don't understand why people ignore what they call "anecdotal" evidence. I've never met a Dvorak user who didn't think they could type faster, more accurately, "smoother", and most of all with less wrist pain."

See, that's the thing. This anecdotal evidence (Yes, it is anecdotal evidence. With nothing to back it up it's anecdotal) is from people who use it and think they type faster. Maybe they do, maybe they don't.

Just because you think you type faster doesn't mean you do. I've got a paper somewhere in the stacks that are piled on my desk where users were made to perform tests in multiple environments. The users thought they performed significantly better in one environment, but actually did not (approximately equal, worse, I can't remember).

If I can find it in all this mess I'll post the reference, until then you'll just have to take it anecdotal evidence.

(Note: I'm not saying you don't type faster, I don't know, I don't use Dvorak. I'm jsut saying anecdotal evidence doesn't prove anything)

(On an unrelated note: I just noticed there's no "Post Anonymously" box anymore... Hey Taco? What gives?)

Re:Why so much anger? (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887182)

Hello.

I think I know the paper you're talking about. It was about the use of command line environment verses gui environment. Users believed they got the work done faster when they did it from the command line but in fact they had take slightly longer.

As for Dvorak, I used to use it (for about two weeks). It was taking me a while to regain my speed and constantly moving from different computers and OSs made it inconvenient so I switched back. THAT's when it hit me. QWERTY is horrible, my hands are like dancing spiders. I'll go back to Dvorak someday and I won't come back.

(studies or no studies. Anecdotal evidence mightn't *prove* anything, but then again, is this a provable matter?)

Ciaran O'Riordan
this post, sadly written on a QWERTY layout ;_(

Re:Why so much anger? (1)

GreenHell (209242) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887220)

Yes! That's the paper! Thank you so very much.

But yes, the question as to whether or not this is a provable matter is up in the air.

And my hands do dance like spiders using the QWERTY layout too... Someday I may try Dvorak, but I use so many different machines right now, some of them with non-customisable keyboard layouts (at least, I don't have the access required to change keyboard layouts) that I just can't be bothered.

But no, I don't think this is a provable matter either. You can point out theoretical and ancedotal expected rates for expert users using any keyboard, but the problem is that no one performs exactly as in theory or exactly as someone else, so it all comes down to what works best for different people.

Re:Why so much anger? (1)

slacy (605407) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887436)

Why are you guys focusing so much on speed?

Noone really needs to type faster. Dvorak for me is all about wrist and hand pain. Qwerty hurts. Dvorak doesn't.

I don't care if thats considered "anecdotal" evidence, because its TRUE FOR ME.

I would like for other people to understand the easy way I've found to reduce RSI. Thats all.

Re:Why so much anger? (1)

GreenHell (209242) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887710)

If it works for you, then use it! No one's saying you can't.

I think the reason we concentrate on speed so much is that speed has become the main factor in measuring the superiority of various keyboards.

There's unfortunately no readily agreed upon method for measuring the amount of pain generated by a given keyboard layout short of a large scale user survey, and sadly no one has done that yet.

I used to use Dvorak (1)

Fished (574624) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886690)

When I developed carpal tunnel a few years ago, I learned to type in dvorak. Here's why I switched back to QWERTY:
  1. It's the standard. I moved to a position where I had to use many different computers that were used by other people. I found it difficult to switch back and forth.
  2. You can type dvorak on almost any computer. But the keycaps will be wrong, and newer contoured keyboards make it difficult to change.
  3. It's difficult to get correct keycaps on unusual computers, such as sun workstations or laptops.
Nothing major, but enough to keep me on qwerty.

Really was a hardware/software issue (2, Informative)

SandSpider (60727) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886720)

The last time I wanted to switch to Dvorak, many years ago in college when one does things like that, I went all out. Switched keyboard layouts, actually physically swapped the keys on the keyboard, etc.

The problem is that some programs used command-keys that were based on keyboard position, and some were based on actual letter (so command-o on the dvorak layout might be either command-o, because they were using the letter, or command-s, because that is the key in the same space on the qwerty layout). So I never knew from program to program which keyboard shortcut I'd be using.

It might not be as much of an issue now, with a more modern OS. On the other hand, now I really don't care.

=Brian
---

WPM!? (1)

mokomull (630232) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886741)

I get 50 WPM on a QWERTY keyboard. That's enough to type an essay every several weeks or so. That's all I need. I tried DVORAK for a few weeks, and I just couldn't grasp it. It's just too hard for a person that studied QWERTY for 5 years (in a horrendous computer class in elementary school).

laziness. (1)

the_greywolf (311406) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886999)

i've used a DVORAK mapping on my keyboard for a while. in fact, i became a touch-typist for that time. i got used to switching layouts on the fly for whatever reason, and eventually, i came to this end result:

i can't make DVORAK the default like i want to because all of my games are mapped to QWERTY by default. :(

i've always wanted to try left- and right-handed DVORAK layouts, but i'm just too damned lazy.

Same old story... (2, Interesting)

nomel (244635) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887037)

It's jsut like switching to the metric system...sure it's easier...but everyone is just too set in their ways and too lazy to switch.

One more time, based on my own research,
Dvorak - about 70% of all keys you will ever press are on the home row.
Qwerty - About 35% of all keys you will press are on the home row.

Conclusion,
You won't be moving as much. It is so much more comfortable for me to use Dvorak. The only way I can describe it, it feels like your fingers are flowing over the keys. It looks strange to watch someone with a Qwerty keyboard type because you see how much more movement and funny hand positions that they have to make.

It's not THAT much faster, but it is noticable.

Two disadvantage that I have to admit that I've found from my experience are:
1. On cold nights, your hands tend to stiffen more *because* of the lack of movement.
2. It's harder to type with one hand. Since the keys are placed so that the hands alternate for most keystrokes. Oh no!

my keyboard history (1)

ignatus (669972) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887063)

1) I started with a dutch AZERTY. It's quite handy when you have to type letters with accents, but it sux for coding
2) then i switched to QUERTY. It' very suitable for coding and spellingcheckers handle my accents now. I guess that the average computer-user has a pretty good (allmost standard) keyboard layout using QUERTY.
3) So i tried DVORAK. I didn't get a revolutionary advantage but it has some well aimed keys. It's also very nice to have all the vowels direct-accessed by your left hand. I recommend DVORAK to every one who wants easy alternative typing.

My Hands Dont Hurt Anymore (3, Informative)

Crutcher (24607) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887105)

This is for people whose hands hurt. People who are looking for something to try, something which may work for them. It worked for me.

Let me preface this with a disclaimer, though I have read pro-Qwerty and pro-Dvorak papers, I am not arguing on research. I am telling my story. If you want to go read the papers, and the modern ones, they are out there.

I've been using a keyboard for so long, I've lost my introduction to them somewhere between learning to walk and reading See Dick Run books. I was probably about 5, maybe 4. But touch typing never stuck, and though a proficient computer user, I was a Claw Typist (the next evolution in the series: Hunt-and-Peck, Two-Finger, Claw). I took typing at two different highschools, and one middle school, and stayed a Claw typist. I was just so much faster than I was with the time investment I'd put into Touch, that I never used Touch.

It finnally occured to me that I might want to try programming when I was already in my second year of college. I'm not sure why it didn't come up sooner, I'd had programming classes all the way back to LOGO in 4th grade, but I'd NEVER done anything outside of what I was assigned with them. It turns out I'm pretty damn good at it, and this irks me, as I was bored for that first 20 years.

Leaving college without a degree after 5 years (two wasted doing Biology before the switch) and just shy of my bachelors, I went to work as a programmer. I put in 60 - 80 hour weeks, and I hacked kernel code at home.

After a year of this, the regular time-to-stop-hacking signal that I'd use to decide to go home (my hands going numb) started to really bug me, and started to HURT. I decided to become a Touch Typist.

As an aside, I use Bash and Vim, and I USE them, meaning that I've really learned my movement, search, and manipualtion keys. Typing hurts, do as little of it as possible.

My first few weeks of trying to be GOOD (not look down at the keys) didn't work out, so I spray-painted my work and home keyboards black. That was a bad week, vim in command mode without being SURE what key you are hitting is not a forgiving instructor. But I've not looked down since. {You can buy keyboards with blank keys for teaching typing; it just seems that most schools don't bother.}

I was a Touch Typist! Yay!

My hands still hurt. Suck.

Since I already had a good chair, I began the fetish-like search for a more comefortable keyboard, one REALLY designed for hackers. Escape and Control need to be in the Right Place, to reduce stress on that pinki. If you don't use Bash, Vim, Vi, or Emacs, you probably don't know where the Right Place is. I went through an IBM PS/2 mini (a great, nigh idestructable keyboard) and finally bought a Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite off of a workmate with a greater keyboard fetish than me, that had moved on to a full Sun keyboard with a ps2 connector. {The HH is a great keyboard, I've been very happy with it. It's bubble switched, but it clicks enough to give you the tacktile feedback you need for real speed.}

After the keyboard search, my hands still hurt after a long day of typing. Not as bad, but I was at the penacle of what Qwerty could give me: Full Touch-Typing, A Good Chair, A Good Keyboard, and Knowledge of my Shortcuts (which in Vim and Bash are powerful indeed).

I decided that I would try Dvorak. I had put it off in the past, looking for a hardware solution, but when I decided to try it, I found how ubiquitous software remap was in different OSes. I switched the software map to Dvorak, and presto.

I could not type. (The keyboard was black, you see). After a week I was at 20% of Qwerty Touch. After a month I was at 80%. After 3 I was faster. And my hands don't hurt.

Let me repeat that: MY HANDS DONT HURT.

Vim and Bash may have been laid out for QWERTY, but they are just as usable in Dvorak. So what if JKHL aren't in a line, your mind learns and applies a pattern, and it just works.

It does take time to switch, the research suggests a month, with at least 2 hours typing a day. More typing doesn't really speed it up, but a blank keyboard does.

Oh, and for those 'The Data-Entry industry did a study, and decided not to switch' people, that industry needs efficient, low error entry at the lowest price possible. Switching a typist to a new method, even if the new method is faster/more efficient/less error prone itself, takes time, and that typist's speed/error rate will degrade untill full mastery of the new method is achived. Master at data-entry standards is pretty damn good, and you have to balance that with how long you expect to employe your average typist. The industry made a Cost/Benifit analysis, and decided not to do it. It does NOT mean that it is not worth it for a given individual, who will hold multiple jobs over time, and can amortize the switching cost over increased speed and decreased damage for the rest of their lives.

Because it would mess up my skills in FPSs (2, Funny)

Phleg (523632) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887165)

Seriously, dude. Do you know how much of a pain it would be to try and use the wasd keys for movement in the Dvorak layout? ;)

Prefers Dvorak (1)

KingKurly (262) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887219)

I've been using the Dvorak keyboard layout for nearly five years. I have had situations before where I had two keyboards on my desk -- one in QWERTY, one in Dvorak. Like I saw stated in another post, switching between the two takes about two seconds of thought.

Granted, I can't back this up with anything, but I do not believe that I have lost any QWERTY proficiency. At work, I use Dvorak. When I'm not in my office, I use QWERTY. At home, I primarily use Dvorak, but sometimes I work on my roommate's machine -- he uses QWERTY. I do just fine with either, though I much prefer Dvorak. As cliche as it might sound, you really can't understand how much better Dvorak is until you've tried it.

People have been clamoring for evidence. I have here a link to a 'Keyboard Compare Applet [vt.edu] '. The java applet lets you type in (or paste in) text, then you can calculate how far your fingers move in QWERTY vs. Dvorak. I've noticed that Dvorak almost always wins, and it's usually no small margin, either.

Reason I didn't switch (1)

dalutong (260603) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887228)

I was quite excited about making the switch until I found it difficult to take off the keys on my dell inspiron 8200. after a few minutes, with only two keys off, i figured it wasn't worth it.
;

Not worth it (1)

babbage (61057) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887341)

As egomaniac [slashdot.org] summarized, the argument for Dvorak just isn't that compelling. A lot of the supposed benefits are apocryphal. For a great summary of the facts, you could do a lot worse than to read the relevant chapter from Donald Norman's The Psychology of Everyday Things [www.book.nu] , which says, basically

But as a left handed person, my reasons for not switching to Dvorak are pretty specific: one of the supposed benefits of Dvorak is that it puts the most frequently used letters on the right, under the "dominant" hand. But that ain't my dominant hand :-)

So if the Dvorak proponents are correct, the layout would actually be an impediment to me, and if they're wrong, then what's the point? As it is, I can touch type pretty rapidly on any (American) keyboard I'm likely to come across -- any PC, Mac, or Unix workstation I find is going to have essentially the same standard layout. I have nothing to gain by switching to a new layout at this point, and much to lose by trying, whether or not I succeed.

Just to give one example, I'll be damned if I'm going to learn vi all over again, or a new arrangement for my emacs / bash / pine / readline keybindings. I don't know where the "jump to line start" keychord is, I just know that my left pinky holds down the control key and my ring finger twitches just above it, and magically the cursor jumps where I wanted it. Isn't that magical? Isn't it foolish to rewire that beauty after all the work went in to learn it once?

Aren't there more interesting things to be learning than a whole new keyboard arrangement?

tried, failed (4, Interesting)

c (8461) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887343)

Back in university, my roomates and I had a go at leaning dvorak. In our case, the most compelling reason was reduced risk of RSI, not typing speed. As an added bonus, it was also an opportunity for me to learn proper touch typing (which I never did with Qwerty... still haven't).

We never pulled it off.

We got all our X11 keyboards remapped. We changed the keycaps on my PS/2. We downloaded some tutor apps from the net. We even spent quite a bit of time actually practicing. Results were promising... But then reality kicked in.

At university labs, I was routinely using about 5 different keyboards a day, some X, some tty. Remapping all of them wasn't an option, so I was trying to learn Dvorak while still blasting out assignments in Qwerty. Then there's situations during the transition from Qwerty to Dvorak where there's no feedback... Trying to enter a password on a keyboard with Dvorak keycaps but a Qwerty layout is, uh, hard.

What killed the whole thing, however, is that I'm a vi user. vi at the best of times can be a disaster for bad typists. Just trying to navigate via ijkl in vi on Dvorak is futile, much less handling complex ingrained key patterns like df' or 'ay}. After years of vi use, I've got these patterns burned into my fingers. Learning a new keyboard without learning a new editor at the same time won't happen.

Yet another problem is that too much emphasis is placed on the letters. C/C++ programmers need a good symbol layout too and we make at least as much use of the symbols as the letters. Dvorak is, I found, a bit weaker in the symbol layout than Qwerty. {}[];()= are, I think, the most commonly used C symbols... This choice of symbols and the convenient placement on Qwerty is probably not accidental.

c.

Re:tried, failed (1)

c (8461) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887413)

"Just trying to navigate via ijkl in vi on Dvorak is futile"

Okay, hjkl. I said "burned into my fingers", not my brain.

c.

AZERTY (1)

paradesign (561561) | more than 10 years ago | (#5887366)

cause i use azerty now, i was forced to switch when i moved to europe, and i love it. im faster now than i ever was in querty.
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