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Learning Dvorak keyboard layout

I have been using Dvorak keyboard layout since the last 4 months now. In this post I will be covering things like why I switched to it, what issues I faced while learning it and more.

Why I switched to Dvorak

I learned touch typing during dgplug summer training 2017. I was able to type all the characters and basic punctuation marks. I did not cover the number line at that time. My typing speed was stuck around 53 WPM (words per minute). When I used to type continuously for some time period like 10 to 15 minutes, I used to get little pain in my fingers. This was more noticeable when playing Typeracer.

I had read about Dvorak before, but never made the decision to switch or even try it out. During one Emacs APAC meetup, Shakthi (mbuf) said, “I don’t want you to be in a situation where you feel that you should have switched before”. I also knew that jasonbraganza uses Dvorak. With that I decided to start learning Dvorak.

I write more notes than code, so using Dvorak was a good option for me.

What is Dvorak

Here are few quotes from mbuf’s post.

“The arrangement (QWERTY) of the letters on a typewriter is an example of the success of the least deserving method.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“With early typewriters the mechanical arms would jam if two letters were hit in too rapid a sequence. So the classic QWERTY keyboard was designed to ‘slow down’ typing.” — Edward de Bono

Dr. August Dvorak and William Dealey came up with the Dvorak layout. It brings frequently used letters from English on the home row of the keyboard.

To know more about the history of Dvorak layout, do checkout The Dvorak Zine.

“Changing the world… one keyboard at a time!” — The Dvorak Zine

Learning Dvorak

Earlier I practiced QWERTY on GNU Typist. This time I tried Klavaro, and I really liked it. On Fedora it can be installed with sudo dnf install klavaro. It is a GUI application with different levels like basic, adaptability, speed and fluidity. It guides the user step by step with visual instructions. You can also see a graph of your progress.

The lessons cover all the punctuation marks, letters and numbers.

Klavaro - BasicCourse

I started with practicing daily for 5 to 20 minutes. Org habits helped me to stick to this daily practice.

Switching to Dvorak full time

After reaching to 30 WPM, I was subconsciously typing with QWERTY sometimes. I started to use Dvorak on weekends and decided to switch to it. That helped me to overcome the issue of typing QWERTY. This was after 2 months since I started practicing.

I faced one issue with GNOME when I added ‘English (Dvorak)’ as a second layout. While Ctrl key is pressed, the layout gets switched back to primary one [‘English (US)’ in my case]. This happens only with applications running natively on Wayland. Setting the Dvorak layout as primary input source (dragging it to the top of the list) mitigates the issue. Take a look at GNOME/gtk#1825, Mozilla Bug 1644502 for more details.

What about Emacs keybindings

I was unsure how hard it is going to be to change the muscle memory. Surprisingly, my brain picked up the new keybindings relatively quickly. Though it took some time for some of the keybindings, but it was still manageable even during office work.

How much time it took

I started the typing practice around May end. Switched to Dvorak full time after 2 months (~31h). Completed the fluidity exercise from Klavaro after another 2 months (~21h). Nowadays I practice online with Typeracer.

Here is a graph of velocity exercise,

Speed progressgraph

This graph in generated using Gnuplot, you can take a look at speed-graph.gnuplot for more details.

My current typing speed is around 60 WPM.


Comments are not enabled on this site. The old comments might still be displayed. You can reply on one of the platforms listed in ‘Posted on’ list, or email me.

Gaurav Gahlot on Wed Jan 6, 2021 19:00 IST

That's a pretty good typing speed.

Tom on Wed Jan 6, 2021 22:38 IST
Replying to comment by Gaurav Gahlot: "That's a pretty good typing speed. "

thank you so much

Suraj on Fri Feb 26, 2021 18:08 IST