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Hacking your fingers


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#1 Ohm

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Posted 07 November 2006 - 05:35 PM

No, not John C. Dvorak, the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard. Dvorak has the potential for much higher typing speeds, and it actually makes a lot of sense as opposed to QWERTY. Vowels, uncommon consonants and some symbols are on the left and common consonants are on the right. There is a nice rhythm of left and right hand that develops when typing on a dvorak keyboard. Also, dvorak seeks to minimize same-finger combinations. It does take some time to switch, but in the end, I think you'll be happy.

So how do you go about switching? First, set up your OS. On Linux, during the install, I chose the dvorak layout it the keyboard options (Ubuntu install). This means dvorak will be my sole keyboard system-wide. There is another option, setting up X to turn a qwerty into a dvorak. I haven't done this, but I think there's an option in the Gnome and KDE settings for this. This will only work with X, but in will allow you to switch to other layouts. On Windows, the option is in the control panel under language options. It will give you a little "language bar" on your taskbar that allows you to switch to and from dvorak.

How about an actual dvorak keyboard? Well, this is actually cheating. Typing dvorak on a qwerty keyboard gives you nothing to look down at, so you can't cheat. I made a dvorak keyboard, and breaking the looking down habit was a little difficult, but it can be done. To do this, you need a special tool known in many parts of the world as a "butter knife." Just pry those keys up and either ignore how disgusting it is under your keys or clean up the mess. Put the keys back in the dvorak layout, and you're done. Shouldn't take more that 10 minutes. Though some of the keys end up at slightly different heights, I don't notice when typing at all. This was on a desktop keyboard, I have no idea if this would word on a laptop keyboard.

The next step is hacking your brain. This was the hardest part, and it took me about a week to do. You have to throw out 20 years of qwerty typing and start from scratch. Breaking something that has by now become instinct takes some effort, and I found that using both dvorak and qwerty during this period only hurts you in the long run. Here are some tips that I found are helping me.
  • Don't look down, EVER. You know where the keys are, just hit them!
  • Use negative feedback. If you make a mistake, backspace the entire word and start again. This helps your accuracy a LOT.
  • Use dvorak exclusively. Straddling the line only hurts you.
  • Use a typing tutor program. I use dvorak7min on Linux. There are also typing games like Tux Typing that can help you. Here is a flash game that I like for this.
  • Be persistent, you won't get it in the first day, or maybe not even the first week! You will be half-crippled during this process, so if you need to type a lot for work, maybe do this on vacation or something.
That's it for now. This was my first genuinely long post using the dvorak layout, and it feels good to have some of my typing speed back! I'm not quite to where I was on qwerty, but I'm getting there. Every day, I notice my typing is just a little better, and soon I will be back up to speed.

#2 Venom

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Posted 07 November 2006 - 06:06 PM

Nice, I've used the DVORAK keyset before, and actually I had to switch back to QWERTY a few years back because of a boarding school situation.

I should probably get back into DVORAK. Thanks for the reminder!! :)

#3 KyleL

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Posted 07 November 2006 - 06:18 PM

I've had some experience with dvorak in the past. Its an interesting concept... though I never used it enough to be fluent in it. Normal typing seemed to go over well with it. Though, as soon as I started coding the entire layout seemd to goto trash for me. The positioning of all the symbols seemed to screw me over. Do any of you have any experience using dvorak programming? What were your thoughts on it?



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#4 Ohm

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Posted 07 November 2006 - 06:26 PM

Not yet, but I do expect some difficulties. I'll keep you posted, but I do know one thing: I know all the keys in Vim's command-mode by position, not letter. I'll have to relearn them all.

#5 Benny

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 06:27 PM

I tried DVORAK once, back when I was doing IT work for the City of Edmonton (where I live).

I enjoyed the challenge of trying to learn it, but after 2 weeks of struggling with slower typing speeds I gave up. I like the idea behind it, but after two weeks of struggling to keep a conversation in IRC going, I decided that I could no longer deal with it.

The other issue too is that even if you switch to Dvorak for you machines, you are still going to come accross computers setup with QWERTY later on. I found this to be just too much of a pain.

Maybe one day I'll try again, but I doubt that I will be successful... I'm just too lazy!

#6 carwash

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 06:48 PM

"You have to throw out 20 years of qwerty typing and start from scratch."


I just feel too set in my ways to give up the QWERTY, the BEER and the WEED.

Sounds like something that I will do in the next life after getting out of Hell.


Haha party on!

#7 Dirk Chestnut

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 06:57 PM

Vowels, uncommon consonants and some symbols are on the left and common consonants are on the right.


So, that's basically a big FU to lefties.

First I had problems with scissors, writing in pen without smearing everything, borrowing golf clubs, and now THIS?

QWERTY 4 Life!

(Yes, I realize there's Left Handed Dvorak. I think it's actually a cool idea.)

#8 Linux

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 08:13 PM

I heard that while DVORAK has a substantial speed advantage in everyday language typign, it has no advantage to slight disadvantage when typing code.

#9 Ohm

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 08:49 PM

A small disadvantage. Some of the symbols are a bit harder to get to, but I don't think that will be that much of a problem. The majority of most code is mostly letters anyway, I think it'll balance out in the end.

#10 TrippinX

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Posted 28 November 2006 - 10:49 AM

Once the Optimus Keyboard comes out... http://www.artlebede...ything/optimus/ :P SHAZAAAAAAAAAM!""!

- anyway could you guys imagine this on a laptop ^_^

#11 Ohm

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Posted 28 November 2006 - 03:18 PM

Well, I'd be more inclined to get Das Keyboard. Like I said, one of the biggest habbits I had to break was looking down at the keys. If there's nothing to look down at, you won't look down. I can't imagine buying an optimus just so I can leave in blank!

This should be a standard feature for all keyboards as long as it's cheap enough. Realtime hints would be really good. Hold control in you word processor and all the keys change to icons represening their actions. For example, the I key would be the italic I, B the bold B, P a little printer icon. You also get the advantage of having obscure layouts (like dvorak, or your native language) without buying another keyboard... or using a butterknife.

#12 bitMonkey

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Posted 28 November 2006 - 04:02 PM

I keep wanting to switch, then I remember that I use emacs. I can't even fathom all the mapping I'd have to do to keep it useful. UGGGGHGGGHG. Maybe I'll take a year off of school and do it.

#13 Ohm

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Posted 28 November 2006 - 06:03 PM

I don't think it's as hard as you're thinking. I use vim, and I knew all the commands by position, so I had to re-learn them all which really only took a few editing sessions to get used to. There is the small issue of the hjkl keys no longer being in the right place, so I'm using the arrow keys for cursor movements now. You won't have that problem on emacs though.

#14 B0rg

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 11:40 AM

For what I've understood, it is planed for english typing right? Do you have any idea or information source about it's applicability to other languages?

#15 LUCKY_FUCKIN_CHARMS

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 11:49 AM

um that optimus keyboard looks fucking sick. i want one.

#16 Ohm

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 04:52 PM

For what I've understood, it is planed for english typing right? Do you have any idea or information source about it's applicability to other languages?


That's right, it's intended for typing English text. I don't type any other (spoken) languages, so I don't really have any first hand information on that. I have seen some other layouts for other languages though, so there are people at least thinking about it. English dvorak might not be very good for your language for these reasons:
  • Dvorak minimizes same-finger combinations. Though "ui" is not a terribly common combination in the English language, it might be very common in you language.
  • Dvorak tries to establish a right-hand/left-hand rhythm to give your fingers time to coordinate themselves. Same issue as the last point, another language can really mess that up, but probably not so much. Vowels are still all on the left.
  • Dvorak doesn't provide accented or other special characters. If you need these, you're going to have to find a specialized layout anyway.
On second thought, those might not be major issues. Give it a try, if it fits, use it. Otherwise, find something else that's better that qwerty, and that probably won't be that difficult. The largest advantage dvorak has is that it actually makes sense.

#17 B0rg

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 05:10 PM

Well, I hadn't found anything so that's why I asked. Anyway, my primary language is portuguese which is not even a germanic language as english and that probably means that the most used combinations of letters and sounds are very different. Never really though about it really, probably should! Also, it does use accented characters.

Even if many times I find myself writing in english (poor as my english is), portugues typing still is the most common probably. Dunno for sure.

But I guess I'll stay with qwerty for now, maybe until I find some portuguese user of dvorak or some equivalent layout for pt!

But thanks, you confirmed my thoughts.

#18 Ohm

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 05:34 PM

A little googling was fruitful. I found some things like this, but I can't really read what it says on the site. It looks (more or less) like what you're looking for though.

Any other non-english typers out there want to post some links to layouts you your language? Preferably ones that you've tried.

Edited by Ohm, 29 November 2006 - 05:35 PM.


#19 B0rg

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 06:49 PM

Er... ups, I didn't really looked for a portuguese dvorak keyboard, just looked on several pages for it without noticing any info on conversions for other languages.

Sorry for that! :blush:

And thanks, I'll check on it and probably try it.

And yes, that's exactly it, only portuguese from Brasil. Differs from portuguese from Portugal somewhat as American english differs from UK english.

Edit: Actually it also has the pt-dvorak and not only the br-dvorak! cool! :)

I have some time off work near the end of the year. Maybe I'll try it then, when I will not have to use a qwerty @work at the same time.

Edited by B0rg, 29 November 2006 - 06:57 PM.


#20 WhatChout

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 10:21 AM

I would probably switch if it was possible to type polish characters like "ą", "ę", "ć" etc.




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