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 (http://www.mwbrooks.com/Dvorak/) has very though references on both side of the story, especially here (http://www.mwbrooks.com/Dvorak/dissent.html). And this link (http://www.utdallas.edu/~liebowit/keys1.html) 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.
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