Why the Dvorak Keyboard Layout Sucks

I just read a (really long) article on how the studies/reports behind the Dvorak keyboard layout (or simply, the Dvorak layout) could just be all part of one hell of a marketing gimmick to help dear old Mr. Dvorak sell his keyboard layout.

For those who don’t know, the Dvorak layout’s an alternative to the Qwerty keyboard layout that is found on almost all computer keyboards and — for the few that still exist — typewriters). And it’s often used in business case-studies to show the failures of market forces weeding out the lousiest innovations, along with Betamax vs. VHS),

If you’d ever heard about the Dvorak layout or if you’ve ever been interested in learning it, you probably want to read the article before you start. Because by the end of it, you probably won’t.

The authors, with too much time on their hands, did some research to find out just how true it was that the Dvorak was a better keyboard layout (as opposed to Qwerty), and whether or not the success of Qwerty was truly a market failure, in the sense that the better product didn’t manage to become the standard while its supposedly weaker sibling did.

They found it wasn’t. And that the Dvorak layout might well have been a scam all along.

My own experience with the Dvorak layout

My story. I once dabbled with Dvorak layout some time back in my Polytechnic days (erm, that’s almost 10 years ago). I remember reaching speeds of about 40 or 50 words per minute after months of practice, but gave up after realising how impractical it was.

The main problem I found wasn’t that the layout itself wasn’t suited to typing. Because it did feel more natural.

The problem was that because most computers were shared, the time taken to switch keyboard layouts and get used to one or the other was taking up much more time than it supposedly saved.

And even if you did have your own computer, if someone wanted to use it, you’d have to switch it to Qwerty for them  to use (or you can choose to appear rude and reject their request).

The Dvorak layout can help with typing tests

The Dvorak layout might enable you to achieve higher a higher raw typing score, but unless you’re aiming to win typing test contests it’s unlikely to give you much benefit.

Stick with the Qwerty layout. Master Qwerty before you consider putting in time to learning the Dvorak layout. You’ll be much happier with the returns.

Let me know your Dvorak layout stories if you have one.

3 thoughts on “Why the Dvorak Keyboard Layout Sucks”

  1. I have tried Qwerty (learned in school), colemak and Dvorak. Qwerty was a real pain to use and I never got above a 40wpm despite lots of practice it was a real chore. I hated using it and practicing it.

    Tried colemak for a while but found it hurt my hands, particularly my right one and it just found its rhythmn awkward and annoying.

    Tried Dvorak and was able to get up to 60wpm in a very short period of time (month or so) and found I loved the feel of it. I can type all day with no pain in my hands. It seems to me that the computer models they use to map efficiency are likely flawed in some way.

  2. I first learned qwerty @ around 100 WPM. Switched to Dvorak and acquired almost 110 WPM after 2 years with over 1000 hours of practice. Then I switched to Colemak because it is a modern keyboard layout marginally better. However I quickly discovered qfmlwy from carpalx.com one of the most optimized layouts in existence today. And I have now been practicing on this layout for about seven months, and my speed is almost 100 WPM right now.

Let me know what you think