Introduction and tips on the Dvorak keyboard

Posted on Mar 1, 2021

This week I realized that for some time I stagnated at around 65 wpm and can’t go much faster without putting a lot more efforts, I still need to gain some muscle memory to rapidly type special characters and uppercase letters or I could use a keyboard disposition much more adapted to typing fast and more important, comfortably, yes I’m going to brag about why Dvorak is a superior keyboard layout.

The idea of using Dvorak would have never crossed my mind if I wasn’t actively searching for ways to improve my typing speed and comfort (and in the long term my wrist and fingers health). The brag start when we think about whether dvorak makes you faster or not, actually I don’t really care as much as comfort.

What made me make the first step is the apparent ease to switch from azerty (french qwerty) to Dvorak, it is said to take about 30 to 50 hours to make the full ‘muscle memory switch’. The installation on Windows 10 is trivial and fully integrated (no need for lousy crapwares with taskbars), you only have to download a setup program and add the keyboard in the Windows parameters.

Moreover, all my favorite websites to learn touch typing (see About) propose a Dvorak course !

I also found a very nicely made “diss track” (it’s a zine) about why the qwerty/azerty keyboard is inferior and why Dvorak is clearly superior.

Link to the Dvorak promoter zine

I’m using myself a variant of dvorak called the programmer dvorak that aims to improve the position of the special characters to (in a programmer perspective) :

dvorak programmer keyboard

Where I got all the infos to install the programmer dvorak keyboard layout :

Programmer dvorak infos website

A point that I also find interesting is that my keyboard layout shows azerty so even if I wanted to cheat and watch my keyboard to known where the keys are, I can’t, forcing me to learn the position of all the keys or dig deep in my memory to remember, reinforcing my memory at the same time !

Addendum :

Now three weeks in I’m using dvorak as my main keyboard. I’m still struggling but it’s getting better day after day. My average speed is now around 40 wpm.

I’m doing this addendum because I stumbled on a blocking point, the shortcuts, they’re still bound to the same keys, but with the dvorak keyboard they’re much less handy.

That’s where I found AHK, Auto Hot Key, it’s a super tool that I use to rebind the keys to their original azerty binding when I press ctrl, alt or a combination of both including the shift key.

You can download ahk here.

Next is the script I use to rebind the keys (dvorak.ahk) :

#If GetKeyState("LCtrl") || GetKeyState("RCtrl") || GetKeyState("LAlt") || GetKeyState("Ralt") || GetKeyState("LWin") || GetKeyState("RWin")

`;::a
,::z
.::e
p::r
y::t
f::y
g::u
c::i
r::o
l::p

a::q
o::s
e::d
u::f
i::g
d::h
h::j
t::k
n::l
s::m

'::w
q::x
j::c
k::v
x::b
b::n
m::,
w::`;
v:::
z::!

#If

I then use ahk to transform this script to a .exe file with the converter that’s bundled with ahk.

Addendum 2 :

I recently installed the dvorak keyboard on my second computer and realized that ahk provides a script that’s run at OS startup. An issue I stumbled upon with this solution is when using IntellijIdea for example, the script replacing your key combinations have to be launched with admin privilege to work.

The issue arise when you start the script with automatic startup, it can’t be done in admin without a little bifurcation.
I found the solution here:
StackOverflow link

The idea is to put a vba script in the startup folder that in turn launch the ahk script in admin mode.

The script:

Set WshShell = CreateObject("WScript.Shell" )    
WshShell.Run """C:\Users\romai\Downloads\Scripts\dvorak.ahk""", 0 'Must quote command if it has spaces; must escape quotes   
Set WshShell = Nothing

And I put it here: C:\Users\romai\Downloads\Scripts\dvorak.ahk

We’re now 7 weeks in, I reached a comfortable speed of 60 words per minute, I’m overall much more comfortable with special characters than I ever was with the azerty keyboard. The ‘true’ switch, when I finally happened to type without thinking about the keys I type happened around the fifth week of sustained practice.

Addendum 3 :

While practicing Dvorak I realized that a windows default shortcut was annoying me. With my left pinky finger I often press both shift and control keys and that switch the keyboard layout to something else, it happened very often.

I found a fix in disabling completely this shortcut ! To do so first press Windows + R and paste

rundll32 Shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL input.dll,,{C07337D3-DB2C-4D0B-9A93-B722A6C106E2}{HOTKEYS}

It opens a modal and in this modal you want to modify the lines which shows some obscure unused shortcut and obtain a result like follow (with none at the end of each lines):

optimal keyboard shortcuts

We’re now 10 weeks in, I’m still at a comfortable speed of 60 words per minute, I feel like I can clear more difficult patterns at my overall speed, but I reached a plateau, it’ll now take a lot of time to go much further beyond.