In the past 4 months or so, I have switched to the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout. This post documents the specifics of the journey.
*Added at Will’s request.
- I never really learnt to touchtype properly. Thought this would be an interesting skill to have.
- I was a little bored, and feeling a little crazy.
- I wanted to be a l33t dvorakista. Work in progress.
- To learn, I don’t think you can get any better than Dan Wood’s ABCD. It has been a joy to use!
It is lowtech, so you will need to gauge your own accuracy; for me this worked out better. What you type out is also fairly entertaining!
- ABCD does not list finger positions visually, so google a guide accordingly.
- ABCD — it rocks. This is the only guide I used during the learning phase.
- For general Dvorak information, check out Marcus Brooks’ Dvorak Page, very useful.
- To practice short daily-use words, I use 10FastFingers.
- For much longer words, dvorak.nl fits the bill rather well.
Migration Strategy and Execution
- Practice at home for about 2-3 weeks for 30 mins to an hour. It will take you at least that much time to complete an ABCD lesson at first!
- After 3 weeks, use Dvorak exclusively at home, at the cost of feeling like a retard when chatting with friends. And crying each time I had to code.
- After a month or so, switch to Dvorak at work. I am a programmer, so this was risky, I had to be confident enough to use it. Code completion was indispensable. Having a dev/team/architect lead who also uses Dvorak is likely even more indispensable. (Is “indispensable” subject to gradation? Also google “indispensIble” vs. “indispensAble”, what a mess.)
- Around 2 to 2.5 months later, finally feel comfortable typing with Dvorak, though by no means fast. Around this time, reached 40-45wpm. Enough to stick to Dvorak!
- Due to disuse, Qwerty muscle-memory began to fade!
- 3.5 months or so later, likely covering my previous qwerty speeds. Able to chat without being considered a keyboard noob.
- Qwerty muscle-memory gone.
Tips and Personal Ideosynchrasies
- I found using sophisticated typing tutors, especially those with beeps very annoying. Visual cues are fine and useful, but beeps are frustrating and counterproductive IMO.
- It will be painful at first, have no doubt about it.
- It helped that I never learnt to formally touchtype, so this was a skill learnt from scratch.
- Actually memorising the layout was extremely intuitive to me, all my attempts to learn qwerty touchtyping had failed in the past — it just made no sense. Dvorak actually has, for the most part, a logical system to the keyboard.
- Shortcuts are one case where I have had to visually mind-map qwerty keys to Dvorak, so I do not have to move to the home keys just to execute a shortcut! It honestly is not that much effort though.
- Passwords are another pain-point, you need to really let go and have your muscles do their thing, instead of relying on visual feedback too much — which you obviously don’t have when entering passwords.
- Shell-foo: special characters and shell commands, some not being English words per se takes practice. I am still not as fast as I wish on the shell, unless I am in the zone.