So about two months ago I switched over to the Dvoark keyboard layout. Full immersion. It was a really interesting exercise (for comparison, I got up to about 45WPM, and I’m 72ish in QWERTY) This week I switched back to QWERTY. Here are my notes on the process.
1. Switching layouts is a lot easier than you think it might be.
I moved all my keys around and was bamboozled for about an hour. I used a children’s typing tutor called Animal Typing for an hour or two and found that I could at least hunt the letters relatively well. I was working at 15-18WPM by the end of the afternoon, and actually that’s quite doable. As many people are quick to point out, for most of what we do, thinking speed is the important thing rather than typing speed.
I was at 32 WPM by the end of that week (we went immediately on holiday for two weeks ) and I was happily on 40 shortly after.
2. Switching keyboard layouts is the only way to learn to type ‘properly’.
I made a concerned effort to learn Dvoark properly. Keys that were meant to be pressed with the little finger, got pressed with the little finger. Keys that where meant to be on the left hand where pressed with my left hand and I stared using the ‘other’ shift and control keys when I should do. I worked really hard on my form when Dvoark was going in because I knew that once the muceul memory solidified, there would be NO going back.
3. Typing Properly is a myth.
Typing properly turns out to be a really poor decision. Once I reached a certain speed I started getting pains in my left wrist. It was an open question if it was caused by the keyboard or climbing too much. I stopped climbing and the pain stayed. I used my bluetooth keyboard and the pain stayed. I bought a fancy cool split keyboard and the pain went away.
Maybe it was a growing pains things. Maybe a few weeks on the split keyboard would let my fingers get used to doing things properly.
Then I had one day working remotely on my laptop (in a park it was nice) and the pain returned with a vengeance. I put my keyboard back to QWERTY a couple of days later and have been pain free (and faster) since.
My conclusion is this, Dvorak is a much much better keyboard layout for people who are typing properly, and actually it’s a bit of a no-brainer in that situation. But our idea of typing properly is from the same era as ‘mad men’. It doesn’t take into account laptop designs, touchpads, mice, and a massive array of things. When I learned to type QWERTY naturally (I use most of my fingers btw and have about a 65WPM speed) I hit keys that were just that, natural.
I suspect that, if i had just learned to type Dvoak naturally, then I would have much less pain and discomfort using it. But given that it is a keyboard layout that it explicitly designed for people to use ‘properly’ I feel like I wouldn’t be getting the benefits. There is, presumably, a keyboard layout that is much more efficient for people who type the way I do. But providing individual users with their own keyboard layout is probably quite the futuristic thing.
I did consider buying a stenography machine at the car boot sale…