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Key Advantage Typing

Dvorak Typing | The What, Why and How of the Dvorak Keyboard

Looking for a Mac or PC typing program to learn Dvorak? Key Advantage Typing works with Dvorak style as well!


Alert Read more about how you can learn to type faster using the Dvorak layout.

August Dvorak (1894 - 1975) of the University of Washington in Seattle invented what he called a "simplified keyboard". The invention of the Dvorak keyboard layout addressed the deficiencies of the QWERTY keyboard.

Before we cover the intricacies of the Dvorak keyboard, it's important to understand some background of QWERTY. QWERTY is the keyboard most people (especially in the U.S.) use on a daily basis. The name QWERTY comes from the first 6 keys of the top row of letters on the keyboard. When analyzing the QWERTY keyboard layout, it turns out that in terms of comfort, efficiency and speed, the QWERTY layout is no better than random. The basis of the QWERTY layout has nothing to do with thoughtful design. It is actually the result of the arranging of keys on old-fashioned typewriters to prevent the fewest mechanical lock-ups as possible. In the old days, typewriters would strike the paper with arms that extended from the machine. If 2 arms tried to strike the paper too close to each other, they could cross and jam. The keyboard layout found on most of our modern computers, which has become a de-facto standard, is the result of a layout designed to accomodate a typewriter!

The Dvorak keyboard is specifically designed with humans in mind instead of typewriters. Dvorak understood the importance of typing ergonomics long before the term was commonplace. The Dvorak keyboard is designed with many beneficial characteristics. Typing speed and typing efficiency are addressed with the Dvorak layout be placing the most commonly typed letters directly on the home row. The fewer times your fingers have to leave the home row, the faster you will type with the least amount of finger strain. When your fingers must leave the home row in Dvorak, they more-often-than-not will only have to travel either one row up or one row down. The number of times a finger must travel over a row is minimized by the Dvorak keyboard. Dvorak recognized that there were certain letter sequences that are typed frequently over and over again (di-graphs, tri-graphs, short words). By optimizing for these letter sequences, the Dvorak keyboard makes typing these sequences as easy as possible.

Dvorak also recognized the need for more typing comfort. He realized that it's more comfortable for fingers to type with an "in-board" motion rather than an "out-board" one. To demonstrate this, tap each finger on a surface starting with the pinky finger and working toward the thumb in order. This would be an "in-board" motion. Now perform the taps in the opposite order. Start with your thumb and work in order toward your pinky. This is an "out-board" motion. You will most likely find that the in-board motion is more comfortable. When you type with a Dvorak keyboard, your hands will move in-board more often than with QWERTY. This reduces typing fatigue and increases overall typing comfort.

Dvorak was very thorough in testing his designs. He performed experiments which involved video taping the hands of workers and measuring the finger distance traveled over a full work shift. Dvorak was able to demonstrate the ease of recovering Dvorak typing re-training costs by showing huge productivity increases with professional typists in a relatively short period of time. In a experiment in 1944, Dvorak was able to balance the cost of training with increased typing productivity in a little over 10 days. The Dvorak group was typing at a rate of 70 WPM while the QWERTY group was at just 40 WPM.

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