ANSI Dvorak layout:

| ! | @ | # | $ | % | ^ | & | * | ( | ) | [ | + |
| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 0 | ] | = |
 | " | < | > | P | Y | F | G | C | R | L | ? |
 | ' | , | . | p | y | f | g | c | r | l | / |
  | A | O | E | U | I | D | H | T | N | S | _ |
  | a | o | e | u | i | d | h | t | n | s | - |
   | : | Q | J | K | X | B | M | W | V | Z |
   | ; | q | j | k | x | b | m | w | v | z |

Dvorak with QWERTY keys (i.e., with curly braces, and the square brackets not on the same key):

| ~ | ! | @ | # | $ | % | ^ | & | * | ( | ) | { | } | | |
| ` | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 0 | [ | ] | \ |
     | " | < | > | P | Y | F | G | C | R | L | ? | + |
     | ' | , | . | p | y | f | g | c | r | l | / | = |
      | A | O | E | U | I | D | H | T | N | S | _ |
      | a | o | e | u | i | d | h | t | n | s | - |
       | : | Q | J | K | X | B | M | W | V | Z |
       | ; | q | j | k | x | b | m | w | v | z |

Left-handed Dvorak layout

| ~ | { | } | ? | P | F | M | L | J | $ | # | @ | ! | | |
| ` | [ | ] | / | p | f | m | l | j | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | \ |
     | : | Q | B | Y | U | R | S | O | > | ^ | % | + |
     | ; | q | b | f | u | r | s | o | . | 6 | 5 | = |
      | _ | K | C | D | T | H | E | A | Z | * | & |
      | - | k | c | d | t | h | e | a | z | 8 | 7 |
       | " | X | G | V | W | N | I | < | ) | ( |
       | ' | x | g | v | w | n | i | , | 0 | 9 |

Right-handed Dvorak layout

| ~ | ! | @ | # | $ | J | L | M | F | P | ? | { | } | | |
| ` | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | j | l | m | f | p | / | [ | ] | \ |
     | % | ^ | Q | > | O | R | S | U | Y | B | : | + |
     | 5 | 6 | q | . | o | r | s | u | y | b | ; | = |
      | & | * | Z | A | E | H | T | D | C | K | _ |
      | 7 | 8 | z | a | e | h | t | d | c | k | - |
       | ( | ) | X | < | I | N | W | V | G | " |
       | 9 | 0 | x | , | i | n | w | v | g | ' |

(The key with | and \ on it tends to live in different places on different keyboards. Wherever it is, in my experience it doesn't move for the Dvorak layout.)

The second layout is more common on modern computers, and other variants appear to exist.

August Dvorak and his brother-in-law William Dealey invented this "simplified" keyboard layout in the early 1930s. (The sources I looked up had 1932 and 1936 as dates, so I don't know which for sure.) Although August Dvorak is related to Antonín Dvořák, August's name is Americanized and is not pronounced with the Czech accented R. (It's a Dvorak keyboard, not a "dvorzhak"!)

The Dvorak keyboard was designed for efficiency and reduction of finger strain. The QWERTY keyboard was designed to prevent typewriter hammers from jamming.

Take note! Dvorak layout is not going to make you into some kind of typing whiz. It wasn't made for "speed" but for comfort. Speed may be an effect, and there are fast typists who use Dvorak, but I'm not sure if there are fair studies checking a correlation.

Windows has the Dvorak layout built in. Go to Start | Settings | Control Panel | Keyboard | Language | Properties | Keyboard Layout | United States-Dvorak.

Redhat Linux gave me the option to choose the Dvorak layout among other 'languages' at install. I would not know how to change this afterwards. The default Dvorak .Xmodmap for X used the ANSI layout instead of the usual one, which was confusing. (But now I know a bit more about .Xmodmap files...)

Multiple-mapped keyboards are available that can switch between Dvorak and QWERTY at the press of a button. The Apple IIc computer had this function built-in. (Ah, modern science!)

Major drawback of using Dvorak on computers: many programs, especially games, use key maps by location, rather than by meaning. For example, they might use I J K L for arrow keys. This makes things very difficult for non-QWERTY layouts. In addition, control-Z, control-X, control-C, and control-V (usually undo, cut, copy, and paste, respectively) no longer are next to each other (but I'll bet you never noticed they were in the first place).

The single-handed Dvorak layouts were invented in 1945 in response to the request of a Colonel Robert Allen, who lost an arm in World War II.

Dvorak was designed with the English language in mind. I don't know how 'efficient' it would be for other languages.

Some stats:

22% of keystrokes are on the Dvorak upper row.
56% are on the QWERTY upper row.

70% of keystrokes are on the Dvorak home row.
31% are on the QWERTY home row.

8% of keystrokes are on the Dvorak bottom row.
16% are on the QWERTY bottom row.

(Of course, the home row is the "ideal position" for your keystrokes to be.)

The 'logic' of the keyboard: It's good to not have to type long strings of letters with one hand: better to type a bit with one hand while you get your other hand in position for the next letters. Dvorak accomplishes this by putting all the vowels on the left hand. It also moves the more common letters to the home row, saving your fingers the excess mileage of running around everywhere.

I use the Dvorak layout on my computer, and it's really fun to see people freak out when they try to type things out on my computer and see all the keys are in the wrong places. (To add to the mayhem I also have my mouse buttons reversed.)

Anyway, Dvorak layout is nice, but I'm not going to evangelize to you about it. You can try it if you like, but be prepared to type a lot slower until your fingers get the hang of it. You get a lot of new finger motions in that you don't get in QWERTY--I remember my fingers felt pretty muscular the first few weeks. In any event it'd be a fun skill to show off anytime you come by to use my computer.

Standard QWERTY keyboard:

   ` 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 - = (del)
(tab) Q W E R T Y U I O P [ ] \
(clok) A S D F G H J K L ; ' (ret)
(shift) Z X C V B N M , . / (shift)

Left-handed Dvorak keyboard:

   ` [ ] / P F M L J 4 3 2 1 (del)
(tab) ; Q B Y U S R O . 6 5 = \
(clok) - K C D T H E A Z 8 7 (ret)
(shift) ' X G V W N I , 0 9 (shift)

Right-handed Dvorak keyboard:

   ` 1 2 3 4 J L M F P / [ ] (del)
(tab) 5 6 Q . O R S U Y B ; = \
(clok) 7 8 Z A E H T D C K - (ret)
(shift) 9 0 X , I N W V G ' (shift)
It's apparently not widely advertised that learning these layouts can be a terrific advantage in computer applications where you want to type full words and keep your hand on the mouse at the same time.

Spreadsheets, for example. Deathmatch games when you want to be able to send sophisticated insults to your opponents. Code editing, when you want to move your cursor around the page often. Graphic design with lots of text involved. Web page design with lots of formatting. Any word processing where you need to access the toolbar frequently. And so on and so forth.

You can even, at least in Windows 2000, use a different layout for every program window you have open: QWERTY for most of your programs, and Dvorak left- or right-handed for only those you use the mouse with heavily. It won't confuse you. You'll find yourself automatically switching from one layout when you use one hand to the other one when you use two.

There are actually no serious studies that show any clear superiority of the Dvorak layout. Those usually cited were basically conducted and crooked by Dvorak himself; he used all kinds of tricks to make the Dvorak typists have better results.

Studies done by independent parties (one in 1953, done by the Australian Post Office, another done in 1973 by Western Electric) found only insignificant (less than 5%) differences in the typing speed of people intensively trained (about 100 hours) to use the Dvorak layout, compared with their previous performance on QWERTY, and the differences went both ways.

Dvorak is an extremely unusual card game, but it is disturbingly fascinating and fun to play all at once.

Dvorak is original in the way that, being a Nomic-type game, you make up the rules using an established ruleset. In other words, you make up the cards. You can’t do that in Magic!

Basically, the game is played as follows:

Each player is given about fifty small pieces of card or paper, as well as a medium-thickness pen (for the titles) and a thin-thickness pen (for the rule text as well as the picture or flavor text if desired). Each person proceeds to create cards, but must make a “non-cheap” “I Win” card (they do not need to be named thus). Some non-objectionable I Win cards include: “Skip three turns. If this card is not destroyed at the end of your opponent’s turn, you win” or “If you own card x, y, and z, you win the game.” Cards can also be created midgame. However, midgame cards must be shown to all players, who all must accept the card, and then the card is placed at the bottom of your deck.

There are two kinds of cards: Thing cards, and Event cards. Thing cards stay in play until another card puts them out of play. Event cards are immediately discarded, but their event may wear on. Event cards may have an extra rule tacked on allowing them to be used outside of the turn sequence.

The sequence of play begins by the players choosing which order they wish to go. Then, the first player draws five cards, then can play one Thing and one Event. He then draws a card and ends his turn. The second player follows suit. This goes on until the game is won.

The game can even be played with one deck, making the strategies different. Dvorak is extremely exciting with simultaneous moves or more than three players, or with a lot of cards that interact with the outside world.

For more information, see the Dvorak website at The game can even be played on some MUD’s.

The most important thing to remember about the game: use your imagination.

Ever looked at the bizarre arrangement of the keys on a standard keyboard and wondered why it has to take both hands and two stretches to type several of the most common words in the English language? Get tired of typing 'teh'? Fumbling for the stupid period and comma? Ever think "Man, there has got to be a better way..." ?

Well, a long time ago, a certain Dvorak invented a more logical ("better") way. He analyzed the frequencies of the various letters in English and studied the motion of the fingers in typing, eventually devising a layout that is more systematic. He also invented several one-handed layouts to assist the disabled or ambitious.

It seems logical, at first, that such an improved layout would improve your typing speed if you switched to it, rather than the fingers-flying, ring-finger-wasting QWERTY layout. However, this probably isn't the case. Studies conducted on speed differences between Dvorak typists and QWERTY typists haven't shown much of a speed increase, if any. This varies slightly among individuals. Some hopeless QWERTY typists have been saved from a life of pecking by learning Dvorak. But the major advantage of learning Dvorak that typing becomes more comfortable. The word "the" can be typed entirely on the home row, in a rolling finger movement from the right hand to the left. The right pinky sits on the 's' key rather than on the ';' key. The right index rests on the 'h' key, which is much more common than 'j' in English. Nice.

If this new typing system is so much better, then why isn't it widely used? Some people will answer that by the time Dvorak came along, the QWERTY layout was already so prolific that no one wanted to re-train all their typists to a new layout. In effect, the old layout was "locked in" because it had become a "standard". This analysis, though it seems to make sense, is wrong, just like all other attempts to explain the continued use of an apparently inferior product due to it being "standard". It is wrong because, generally speaking, people will not put up with inefficiency for long, especially where profit is concerned. Since typing plays a major role in modern business, and many hours of labor could be saved by a faster method of typing, we can conclude that the cost of retraining typists to use the Dvorak layout (which is significant) is higher than the savings a firm would gain.

Studies on the relative speeds of typists trained in either or both methods have been inconclusive, or have concluded that the gains in speed are very small.

My own experience learning the Dvorak layout has been typical. After about three weeks of typing in Dvorak for several hours per day, I can type about 60% as fast as I can with the usual layout. Further practice may lead to increases in performance. I find that typing in Dvorak "feels" better, though, and many typographical errors that plague me in the QWERTY layout vanish when I switch to Dvorak. I have not yet tried to apply the gains in accuracy to the speed ("adjusted WPM").

If you are interested in learning to type in the Dvorak layout, you should have two keyboards (or two computers). One keyboard should always be set to QWERTY and theotheralways set to Dvorak.I recommend against rearranging the keycaps, because the idea is to learn touch-typing anyways. The reason for having two keyboards is to help reinforce a Dvorak mindset when your fingers touch the keys. I learned by typing Dvorak on the iMac computers at school and QWERTY in all other places -- the totally different feel of the iMac keyboard helped to remind me to type Dvorak.

Switching keyboard layouts was not a problem for me, as it probably won't be for you, because I have learned the QWERTY method so well that it comes through without any real mental effort. Oddly, I do not usually find myself attempting to use QWERTY keystrokes while in Dvorak.

So, to sum up, typing in Dvorak is not necessarily faster, and the rest of the English-speaking countries already know this, regardless of what the "studies" have shown or have failed to show. And beware of attributing the people's choice of a product to ignorance or a "locked-in standard", because that's usually not the case. Remind yourself that if people can make more money choosing X over Y, they will usually do so.

I used a Dvorak keyboard for just over a year, under Debian GNU/Linux. I made the switch to dvorak mostly out of curiosity. I wanted to try something unusual. Also, I had read about the advantages of the dvorak keyboard (about which there is still some debate), and was interested in becoming better at typing.

Why dvorak?

Is dvorak really a better keyboard? There are studies supporting both sides of the debate, but from my experience and my reading, dvorak is a better keyboard for the english language. What makes it better? Dvorak advocates have covered this in detail, but most of the advantages are related to the fact that the dvorak keyboard puts commonly-used keys in convenient places. For example, all the vowels are on the home row, and common keys are under the stronger index and middle fingers rather than the weaker ring and pinky. One boasting point for dvorak tutorials is that you can type thousands of words without leaving the home row.

Typing was designed, originally, for typewriters. The qwerty layout (designed by Christopher Shoales around the 1870's) came into favor because it was less likely to cause the keys to jam - for example, it spaced common pairs of letters far apart. Less jamming meant more productive typing. Some 60 years later, August Dvorak* redesigned the layout so that it was optimized for fast and comfortable typing. It then follows that, in the age of computer keyboards that don't jam like typewriters used to, the dvorak layout is superior. This is probably true.

In this qwertified world, is it worth it to make the switch? Remember that you'll be developing a new set of "muscle memories", so it's very hard to unlearn qwerty and get used to dvorak. Also, do you ever use a keyboard other than your own? If you want to be able to use your friend's, coworker's, or library's computer, you'll have to still be able to type qwerty to do that, and it takes a lot of practice before you'll be able to switch at will. I used dvorak (and the occasional qwerty board) for over a year, and every time I had to change keyboards I typed with unbearable slowness, with generous use of the backspace key. Also, remember that dvorak is designed for typing words and sentences, not code - so if you're a programmer or a frequent user of odd abbreviations like "ls", you'll find that dvorak is laid out badly for you. (I would find the placement of "l" and "s" to be sadistic, if I didn't know that August Dvorak lived in the age before unix. How could he have foreseen a hundred-times-a-day habit of hitting a three-key sequence - "l", "s", enter - where all three keys have to be hit with the right pinky?)

Well, last night I made the switch: I'm a Dvorak girl now. I've got about a month of difficult unlearning ahead of me, but I can already type a bunch of words without looking at the keyboard (very slowly, though, and the QWERTY instinct often kicks in). This is the longest meaningful bit of text I've typed yet. Keyboard shortcuts are going to kill me.

-- from my blog, Oct 3 2001

Starting out

The first step in converting to dvorak is to get yourself a dvorak keyboard. Google yourself a picture of the layout. Now, you have three options:

  1. Buy a dvorak keyboard
  2. Switch your keycaps around
  3. Masking tape, baby!

The first option is not for the cheap - dvorak keyboards cost far more than regular qwerty keyboards. As for the second, this is possible with some keyboards. With others, you'll quickly find out that the different rows of keys are actually slightly different heights, and if you mix the keycaps around you'll get a very wonky keyboard. Also, on many keyboards the 'f' and 'j' keys fit into their own special sockets and usually can't be swapped with others. These are the keys with little bumps so that you can find them by touch, and if you somehow manage to move them, you won't have those bumps anymore. Unless you have a keyboard that allows easy rearrangement of the keycaps (most don't), I don't recommend it. That leaves the masking tape option. Actually, it's possible to mail-order stickers for your keycaps, but most of us will end up making our own with masking tape. Write the letter on a little square of masking tape, stick it to the key, and then cover it with scotch tape to protect the letter from rubbing off the masking tape, and to protect the masking tape from being pushed off the key.

In linux, you can use loadkeys to make dvorak work on the console, and setxkbmap for X. I recommend setting up aliases on the command line and/or making gnome panel launchers to switch quickly from qwerty to dvorak, for those times when your boyfriend wants to check his email on your computer. Doing the equivalent on Windows or Mac is left as a (fairly easy) exercise for the reader.

How hard is it to switch?

Very. For best results, once you make up your keyboard and setx your kbmap (or the equivalent), don't switch back for at least a month. Avoid using other people's computers unless you can get a dvorak layout on them. Your first attempts will be laughably slow - you will sit there laughing, or perhaps crying, as you attempt to IM or blog the words "I am using dvorak now". Hang in there, and look at your hands if you need to. If you have the patience to do typing drills, definitely do so. It will shorten the painful transition time.

After a bit - on the order of a month or two or three - you'll be typing slowly but functionally, and you'll be encountering all sorts of obstacles. Keybindings that are designed for qwerty, games that consider j, k, l, and i to represent the arrow keys, the difficulty of typing 'ls' and punctuation-heavy code. You'll be lost again whenever you have to use somebody's qwerty board. If you think it's bad enough to be on a DOS prompt without tab completion, try being on a DOS prompt without tab completion and a now-unfamiliar keyboard. I remember being in this situation, ftp-ing into a computer where I had to find a file that was about six painfully long-named directories deep. It took me forever, hitting the backspace key more often than anything else, and I wondered whether everybody was thinking I had just never learned to type in the first place.

In the next stage, you've become comfortable with dvorak and are back to your original typing speed, more or less. You've gotten used to awkward key combinations, like using your other hand for C-x s in emacs (some people remap their keybindings; I didn't). The payoff, if there is one, comes at the end of this stage, when you surpass your previous typing speed. If you were a super master typist back in your qwerty days, just look at you now! I was never a super master typist. I kept on typing in dvorak, expecting one day to wake up and be able to type 90wpm. And it would all be downhill from there! What I didn't realize for a long time was this: if I were really that dedicated to improving my typing, why didn't I just spend all that time and effort on qwerty typing drills?

Why I switched back

After about a year, my aging keyboard began to develop a sticky shift key. I ordered a $5 keyboard, and then said to myself: no masking tape for me. I'm going to make this a really spiffy looking keyboard! After playing around with stickers, rearranging the keys, scraping the letters off and redoing them in Sharpie, a thought occurred to me: why am I bothering? I've spent a year using dvorak, but to what end? I couldn't type any faster than I previously did; I didn't find it any more comfortable to type, mostly because I rarely typed long paragraphs of english sentences. Keybindings were difficult, and despite getting a little bit better at switching to a qwerty when needed, my typing on both keyboards was error-prone - I would type a word in dvorak in the middle of a qwerty sentence, or vice versa. A year of using dvorak had made my typing worse, and there was no reason to believe that another year of dvorak would make it any better.

I'm a qwerty girl, in a qwerty world ... ditched the dvorak keyboard minutes ago. I'm not sure how long I was using it - maybe a year. It was nice, though. I switched back after realizing, one day, that I had no good reason to be using it. Did it improve my typing speed? No. Could it have? Sure, if I'd been willing to do a lot of typing drills. But I never was. Dvorak isn't made so much for typing commands and code - what moron would type a keyboard where "ls" is actually hard and time-consuming to type? Somebody designing for typewriters, that's who. Someone named Dvorak.

I still believe that the world would be a better place if we all learned a keyboard like Dvorak from birth. However, in a world where I often have to type on public computers, it's easier to just go with the flow. That said, I'm trained, for when the revolution comes...

-- from my blog, Nov 15 2002

* - The Czech composer Antonin Dvorak is pronounced "d-VOR-zhok" but the man who invented the dvorak layout, August Dvorak, is pronounced "d-VOR-ak", and so is the layout itself.

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