The Dvorak keyboard is an alternative to the traditional Qwerty layout. Proponents (like me) claim that it is faster and easier to use. Dvorak himself claimed in a 1943 National Business Education Quarterly paper "There is a better typewriter keyboard" that experts could type 35% faster in the Dvorak layout than in the Qwerty layout. (value cited in this paper, I could not locate original)
I started using Dvorak during my freshman year of college because some guy told me it was cool. I converted my computer's keyboard format to Dvorak and re-arranged all the keys of my 1st generation iMac.
|I feel old.|
I was not much of a 'typer' before attempting Dvorak. I was a step above 'hunt and peck' (I used multiple fingers), but I couldn't type without looking at the keyboard. It wasn't long before I became much faster typing in Dvorak than in Qwerty, and could touch-type for the first time in my life.
I now change all computers I use to Dvorak, but do not change the physical keys on the keyboard. This has resulted in some lovely events such as my work-study boss in college thinking her computer was 'haunted' because I forgot to change the format back before leaving the office. It has also resulted in some embarrassing moments for me when I am forced to return to a Qwerty layout. During a presentation on some new neuro-software, I volunteered to test it out. This was a bad idea, because of course the presenter's computer was set to Qwerty. I not only typed super-slowly, but I couldn't put in a familiar password at one point. I knew the password by touch, and without the letters showing up as feedback, I literally could not type it correctly.
Despite the occasional problem, I love typing in Dvorak. I find it much easier and more natural than typing in Qwerty. However, since I have been typing in Dvorak since iMacs were cool, my favoritism is probably due to familiarty more than some inherent 'betterness'. I can hardly be objective here.
For some real objective analysis we need some peer-reviewed studies. Luckily the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society cares about this sort of thing.
In a 2009 paper Anderson et al. investigated just how steep the learning curve was for a variety of alternative keyboards.
|Anderson et al., 2009 |
Figure 1: chord, contoured split Qwerty, Dvorak, and angle split Qwerty
|Anderson et al., 2009 Figure 3|
This study says nothing about how 'experts' type on any of these keyboards, so I decided to test myself.
Online, you can test your typing speed by typing in random words or passages for 1 minute.
I tried these tests 3 times each in Dvorak and Qwerty (alternating). Not surprisingly, I was much better in Dvorak.
|open symbols= random words test, filled symbols=passages test|
The random words test is much easier than the passages test which includes punctuation, but in both tests I was faster in Dvorak.
But of course I don't type in Qwerty regularly, so this isn't exactly the right comparison. To rectify this, I got help from a Qwerty user who was so kind as to try the passages test 3 times for me. My Dvorak passages test were slightly better than the Qwerty-user's passages tests (filled red circles compared to blue squares). One person per group is hardly proof and couldn't even count for preliminary data, so don't quote this figure as proof that Dvorak is faster or anything. It could just as easily be proof that people with brown eyes (me) are better typers that people with blue eyes (Qwerty-user). This was just some good old fashioned dorky fun-with-data.
If you want to add data points to my table, go ahead and take the typing tests yourself:
Both sites are annoyingly stuffed with ads, but you can take the test without clicking on any of them.
Then let me know if you are Dvorak or Qwerty user, what test you took, and how many words per minute you typed.
Anderson AM, Mirka GA, Joines SM, & Kaber DB (2009). Analysis of alternative keyboards using learning curves. Human factors, 51 (1), 35-45 PMID: 19634307