Switching From QWERTY to Dvorak: My Experience After 3 Months

Has it really been 3 months since I made the switch from QWERTY to Dvorak? Time flies when your typing. Where do I begin? First off, I would like to say that I am very happy making the switch. I was never a fast QWERTY typist. I was a hunt-and-peck typist on QWERTY and I never cloaked over 30 WPM(Words Per Minute) on any tests. Typing was a chore. I never fully learned how to touch type. On QWERTY, I would place myВ forefingersВ on F and J while my other fingers hovered like I aВ cripple. When I did try to touch type, I would cheat by taking quick glances at the keys. After 3 months on Dvorak, I am averaging 50-60 WPM and its getting better every day. I am not a fast typist nor do I claim to be but the results speak for themselves. At first, my goal was to reach my original QWERTY typing speed but after I did that, I wanted to see how far I could go. Typing on Dvorak has been an interesting experience so far. Ive learned a whole new way of typing. My original goal was to reduce typing pain but there have been other benefits like increased speed and improved accuracy. Lets go over these things in detail.



The First Week

Looking back at my journey, I can safely say that the first week was the hardest. It was painfully hard. It took about 2 days to fully memorize the keys but that week was especially difficult as I had to fight with my current muscle memory. It was a strange sensation learning a new set of keys after using QWERTY for years. It was deeply ingrainedВ in my memory. I did the right thing. I switched cold turkey. I read a few instances where people would switch to Dvorak and the revert back to QWERTY. No. I made a promise to myself that I wasnt going to do that. To keep myself from switching, I removed my laptop keys and rearranged them to the Dvorak layout. In theory, you shouldnt be looking at the keys anyway but having the layout in my face, it was too tempting to revert. I had to do it. I also changed the keys on my netbook to match.



First Impressions

Like you would expect, I was typing extremely slow. I would crawl at 5 WPM and burst at 10 WPM. Typing this slow was tough on my nerves. I mean, why should I torment myself when I could type faster on QWERTY? It almost felt like I was gimping myself just for the hell of it. Learning a new layout wasnt the only painful thing. My hands started to hurt! Yes, thats right. I had massive hand cramps when I started. This was heartbreaking. I thought switching to Dvorak would be more comfortable, not painful? My hands would cramp up so bad, I seriously considered all the ergonomic claims to be false. Why are my hands hurting? Why is this so hard?



After A Few Weeks

I was typing at a comfortable pace. I was still under 30 WPM but it was close. I remember working on typing tests and just pounding the keys. All I did was practice as much as I could. I never liked typing but after switching to Dvorak, typing became fun. I would listen to Pandora radio while taking long typing tests and I try my best to match the beats. This really helped! I could feel my speed increasing every day. I noticed some words were really fun. For example, I really enjoyed typing TH words. Words like, the, with, they, wealth, them, that, etc. These two letters are right next to each other on the keyboard. These words are common and typing them soon became muscle memory. A few words were annoying to type. I used to find people and will hard to type. I am still finding it a bit difficult typing C, R, and V. C and R used to confuse me to death. I used to wonder why until I started looking at how other people typed. I then realized I rarely used my pinky and ring finger when I was on QWERTY. While on Dvorak, I had a tendency to use my stronger, middle finger over my weaker ring finger. This bad habit made it difficult to type letters with my right ring finger and pinkie. After a long typing session, they still hurt. Learning Dvorak forced me to type correctly, with all fingers. This was something that I never did on QWERTY. If I had learned to type properly, maybe I wouldnt feel these hand pains now. At this point, I can touch type almost all the keys except the number row and symbols.



After A Few Months

After I broke the 30 WPM mark, it was all profits from there on. In my mind, each WPM increase was a bonus and I get to enjoy all 20-30 of them. All I did to increase my speed was repetition. After I remembered the keys, I still couldnt type as fast. It wasnt until I remember key combinations when began to beat my old speed. For example, remembering where the W is on the keyboard was easy. That doesnt really help your typing speed. Remembering the key combination W and H is much more beneficial. W and H together is a very common key combination used in popular words such as what, when, where, why etc. After you start learning how to type key combinations and common words, your speed will greatly increase. Instead of typing each letter individually, I focused on typing blocks or groups of letters. By learning and practicing this, I was able to consistently reach 50-60 WPM.



Personal Quirks

After all my typing, I have noticed a few things that bothered me about Dvorak. For one, I still have a problem typing V. I think I know why. The reason? I am left-handed. I can feel В my right pinky and ring finger getting hurt after a while. Although Dvorak promotes alternating hands, the right hand tends to move more than the left hand. Reaching far letters like L and V are a bit of a pain and my right hand isnt use to it. I dont mind typing the letters on the home row. Its just these letters sometimes give me problems. I understand that there is a left-handed Dvorak layout but I was already pushing the dare to be different envelope when I switched to Dvorak. This is more of a quirk than a solid complaint. I see right-handersВ feeling at home after they get use to the layout. For now, I should just keep working at it and improve my dexterity. The other quirk I have is notВ necessarilyВ a fault of Dvorak, but the traditional keyboard layout. The backspace is very far and it makes my weak right pinky reach even farther. This is not a big deal since Ive remapped the Caps Lock key as an extra Backspace. I almost exclusively use this as my new backspace and let me tell you, this was a great move. I hardly use the Caps Lock key anyways so having a Backspace on my left pinky finger was no trouble at all. I can quickly delete any errors I make. I find doing this helps me alternate hands even better.



Final Thoughts

During my second month, an unfortunate accident left my old Microsoft Natural Keyboard dead. I replaced it with the Leopold Tenkeyless mechanical keyboard and that has helped me further improve my speed and accuracy. The position ofВ the period(.) and comma(,) keys are perfect. I have no problem typing them on Dvorak. The period on QWERTY is in the same place as the V so maybe thats why I like the change. My problems with the right pinky and ring finger is mainly due to my being left-handed. If you are right-handed, you will probably favor these quirks. I dont feel as much pain as I used to. I think it has to do with practice. Ive had some instances where I needed to use QWERTY(friends computers) and it does not make any sense to me now. Typing simple words had my fingers all over the keyboard. Its almost enlightening to see how unnatural the QWERTY keyboard really is. I am definitely glad I made the switch. Overall, I feel more comfortable typing. I make fewer errors and I am typing faster than I ever did on QWERTY. If you are a fast typist(over 60 WPM), I wouldnt suggest you switch unless you are really curious and/or if you have hand pains. I would suggest you make the switch if you can barely type 30WPMВ on QWERTY and/or if you are a hunt-and-peck typist. If you dont know how to touch type and are typing that slow, might as well learn a better layout(IMO). If you cant touch type on QWERTY no matter how hard you try, you will learn with Dvorak.


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