Monday, June 06, 2005

Dvorak Follow-Up - Why I Think It Is Great

Two weeks into trying out Dvorak hardly makes me into an expert on the keyboard layout, and chances are that my opinion about it will change as the time go by. So I was trying to focus more on how I managed to learn it rather than any conclusion that I have drawn.

However, I realized that since I already made the comment that "It is great", I'd better explain it in the whole aspect, even though it is just a snapshot of what I am thinking and it might very well change.

I think it is great because I am amazed at how easy it was to learn. With vows at the left hand home row, it somehow makes it very easy to remember. Most of the common key combinations stay on the home row, which makes very easy to type. Here is a good example (he calls it Dvorak poetry) that Alex sent me:
Shane Duan nodded to his sis as he situated his sedan in the shade

If you want to know what it feels like, here is the key this sentence mapped to on a QWERTY input:
:jald Hfal lshhdh ks jg; ;g; a; jd ;gkfakdh jg; ;dhal gl kjd ;jahd

I think it is great because in Dvorak, you can type the whole sentence without your hands leaving the home row. And I believe that is the case with Dvorak that you stay on the home row most of the time. I think that is the main reason why it is so easy to remember. You just need to learn the home row and you can pick up the rest as you go.

No I am not ready to commit my life to Dvorak. The website that I have referred to ( has very though references on both side of the story, especially here ( And this link ( referred form this link in the comment, is making a very compelling case. However, just like the author said: you don't have to believe either side of the argument. I am hoping through a first hand experience, I can make a convincing case either way.

Of course, the speed will always be the hot topic here. However, from what I have concluded so far, I am afraid there is no easy answer. As a fast typer, I felt that the speed comes from not only the ability to map a letter to a key without thinking, but also that to map the key combinations. What this means is that probably there is no much difference between the inputs as far as a fast typist concern because he or she will simply just remember the same key combos. If that is true, I might be the wrong person to try Dvorak, since I type 8 hours a day for living.

With that being said, I think that a casual typer probably would benefit more from Dvorak input. However, since all the keyboards you can see during everyday life are labeled with QWERTY, one tip to learn is not to look at the keyboard. Ironically, if you can do that, you are probably already a good typer.

I also have to be honest with you. I am a geek, and I love trying different stuff. Just the fact that I am able to say "I tried it for a year and I think..." rather than "I read it on this website one day that it seems..." is already something worth doing for me.

The last thing is really rather subjective. I never had any good feeling for QWERTY typing. I simply do it because it was the only choice. However, I somehow enjoyed Dvorak. It could be the combination of the fact of typing mostly on home row (With kjd as the keys for "the" just makes more sense) and the fun of trying something new.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Two Weeks Into Dvorak

It has been two weeks since I have switched to Dvorak and I really think it is something worth writing about.

The topic of Dvorak just came out of a lunch conversation. I was talking about the fact how sometimes we keep doing what used to useful without realizing that the circumstances have changed. A small example was how Java IDEs forget that maybe the traditional windows mapping doesnot apply anymore (who opens a file through file chooser, or print the code anymore). And IntelliJ's found of F keys making its useful features much less accessible, and that by some miracle Eclipse made the right choice of having all ctrl+alt+key reserved to refactoring related actions.

Then the topic switched to even the key board layout tha comes with every computer was not designed to make your typing fast and easy and how I heard of another kind of keyboard that is supposed to do just that. As it turned out, Adam knows exactly what it is because he has tried it before.

With Adam's reference, I was able to enable my laptop (window XP) with Dvorak keymap and find the related sites. After reading through it, I figure I'll give it a try.

I am a fast typer. I got my hands on a type writer and a typing training book when I was a kid. So I literally learned typing before I even knew all the words that I was typing. Then in graduate school for a year I got addicted to IRC and another year on text-based MUD game, both of which require intense typing in that the faster you type the more fun you can get out of it.

So you should believe when I tell you this: Dvorak is great!

I started with a online tutorial ( I do about three sessions per day, 15 - 30 minutes per session (when I am getting tired or bored and staring mixing keys). At work I still have to use the QWERTY because it would be too slow otherwise.

After a week, I felt that I can finish the lessons of the home row without problem, but my training on the other rows is not making good progress. I felt that it is because my old habbit and this half Dvorak is not working togethir. Since one major advantage of Dvorak is supposed to be the fact that your fingers stay on home row most of the time, I have decided to swithch to it full time, with my Fitnesse blog as the first target.

Well, that weekend was not too easy. It is as if I am learing to walk again. For a while I was even wondering if it is really worth the effort. Two-day is hardly a long enough period to give up, so I just lowered my target on how much I can write in a hour so that I won't be too frustrated. I also noticed that most of the time I am having trouble because I am too used to the old way that for key combination like "ing", "tion", or even "th" my figer will go without even my brain had a chance to process them in Dvorak context. So I concentrated on several key binding that is giving my trouble.

Now after two weeks, I would recommend anyone who wants to learn typing to try it out, AFTER you have read the pro's and con's on the websit and make your decision.