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.