Dvorak Keyboard Layout

Nicholas Leippe nick at leippe.com
Thu Sep 27 10:42:51 MDT 2007

Hi. I have used the Dvorak layout going on 14 years now. I learned on my Atari 
1040ST where I wrote a TSR to remap the keys for me.

In windows, I just used the software remapping that is built in.
In linux, with a standard keyboard, I used xmodmap, and just deal with the VI 
key changes.

For the past 8 years, I have used a Kinesis keyboard. It does the keymapping 
for me, so I get the Dvorak layout even when in the bios. It has some other 
advantages--especially where I am an emacs user. The CTRL and ALT keys are on 
the thumb, making C-X and M-X extremely comfortable. As for VI, I usually 
just use the arrow keys now. Additionally, if you need it, the Kinesis is 
programmable--you can remap keys any way you like, or even program macros. (I 
never use these features, but for certain jobs I can see where it could be 
useful--such as for data entry.) But that would let you remap specific keys, 
such as caps-lock different from their built-in Dvorak layout.

If you can pick up a Kinesis cheap on ebay or somewhere, go for it. New will 
set you back over $200, though you may be able to get your employer to foot 
the bill if it is health related, or perhaps write it off somehow.

I will never go back to a normal keyboard, or qwerty--it makes that much of a 
difference for me.

As for learning, I have these suggestions:
- Print out a picture of the layout so that rather than looking at your
  fingers you can look at the reference. Don't worry about what the keys say
  either--touch typing is the goal.
- Use the free online trainer http://www.gigliwood.com/abcd/
- Use Mavis Beacon or the free Ktouch (kde edu package) (I think there's
  at least one other OSS unix one IIRCC as well)
- Go all out--switch to Dvorak for two-three months until you've learned it
  If you switch back and forth between dvorak and qwerty before you've
  learned it, you will end up even more confused and won't be able to type
  qwerty either. It will slow down your transition.

Don't worry, you won't forget qwerty. It's like learning another language. You 
don't forget your native tongue--and can switch back without even thinking 
about it when need be. However, with lack of use you may find yourself a 
little slower at qwerty after a while, but you won't forget it.

Good luck!


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