Q: If I switch to Dvorak, will I still be able to type on Qwerty? This is an issue for me since I often need to use other keyboards.
A: Very probably, yes — if you keep using both regularly. I’ve heard reports that people who use both will be typing along and suddenly realize they’re typing on Qwerty, when they meant to be on Dvorak. Using both is very much like being able to “touch type” on both the telephone and 10-key (computer) keypads — they’re very different layouts.
If you don’t keep up practice on both, you’ll probably lose your ability to touch-type on Qwerty. That’s what happened to me: after reaching over 100 wpm on Dvorak, and abandoning Qwerty completely, I can no longer type on a Qwerty keyboard (such as at a friend’s house) without looking.
Q: Is it hard to learn Dvorak? I remember how horrible high school typing class was!
A: No, Dvorak is much easier to learn to type on. The reason your high school class was so hard is because Qwerty is anti-ergonomic. Remember how long you drilled “exercises” such as typing “f f f … j j j … j k l ;”? What was the point of that? This is not something you need to practice — you don’t type stuff like that now, right? The reason you had to type garbage like that is because there are so few real words on Qwerty’s home row (where your fingers normally rest). On Dvorak, fully 70 percent of your typing is done on the home row.
Also, you’ve already learned how to move your fingers around the keyboard to get to the keys you want, so you don’t have to learn that part again.
Q: I’ve heard there are studies that show Dvorak isn’t really that much better. Are they true?
A: Hardly. Mostly the various “studies” are the same single, poorly-designed “analysis” being told again and again — and that “analysis” is based on faulty and biased information. See this page for my formal response to these anti-Dvorak campaigners.
Q: Why does Randy Cassingham’s book have the subtitle “Now an American Standard”? Isn’t that rather pretentious?
A: Some article authors roll their eyes over the subtitle, as if Randy was saying that everyone uses Dvorak now. Obviously they don’t! So what does it mean? Shortly before Randy started researching his book, ANSI — the American National Standards Institute — issued a formal standard for the Dvorak layout, just as they had previously done for the Qwerty keyboard. This was meant to issue a guideline for manufacturers to follow when making keyboards. For instance, it was to be considered “standard” for the number row to go from 1 through zero, just like on other keyboards, rather than the different order that Dr. Dvorak’s research specified. There’s nothing “pretentious” about stating this fact, and writers who think so simply don’t know what they’re talking about.
Author Randy Cassingham is best known as the creator of This is True, the oldest entertainment feature on the Internet: it has been running weekly by email subscription since early 1994. It is social commentary using weird news as its vehicle so it’s fun to read. Click here for a subscribe form — basic subscriptions are free.