The end of a DVORAK experiment

Today I popped all of the keys off of my laptop keyboard and rearranged them in the QWERTY format. In the name of efficiency, I switched my keyboard to the Dvorak system during my sophomore year of high school. It only took about a week and a half to learn how to use it at full speed, and I’ve been using it ever since. I haven’t measured whether I type faster using QWERTY or Dvorak, and from what I’ve heard, studies don’t really show any improvement in typing speed. I would guess that I type faster in Dvorak, although it’s been several years since I’ve typed any long document in QWERTY still use Dvorak. The keyboard shortcuts with Dvorak are also in generally better positions, especially the close window and quit application commands (Apple-W and Apple-Q, respectively). The small gain from typing with Dvorak, though, is outweighed by the tedium of explaining to everyone who peeks over my shoulder why my keyboard is funky. Telling people that my laptop was assembled at a facility that provides jobs to the mentally retarded got old quickly. It’s also frustrating for people who want to borrow my laptop and are not used to looking away from the keys. If everyone used a Dvorak keyboard, we all would be slightly better off, but the cost of switching (alternate keyboard layouts, retraining, reprogramming old machines, etc) probably outweighs the productivity gain. I’m able to type without looking at the keys in both Dvorak and QWERTY layouts. The feeling of switching between the two layouts is very interesting, and I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s unlike language, where you would never make the mistake of responding to a Frenchman in English on purpose; many times on public keyboards I start typing in Dvorak, then erase the keys and flip a switch in my head so the words show up correctly.

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