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The Dvorak keyboard is an ergonomic alternative to the layout commonly found on typewriters and computers known as "Qwerty". The Qwerty keyboard was designed in the 1870s to accommodate the slow mechanical movement of early typewriters. When it was designed, touch typing literally hadn't even been thought of yet! It's hardly an efficient design for today's use.

By contrast, the Dvorak (pronounced "duh-VOR-ack", not like the Czech composer!) keyboard was designed with emphasis on typist comfort, high productivity and ease of learning -- it's much easier to learn!

There were several variations in the Dvorak's design in its first few decades, but these were settled when the American National Standards Institute approved a standard for the layout of the Dvorak in 1982.

There's a lot more information -- this page grew enough that it was moved to its own site. So, for more details about the Dvorak layout (it's not a "system" any more than Qwerty is a "system"), see Randy Cassingham's Dvorak Keyboard microsite.

And yes, Randy uses the Dvorak layout on his computer.

12 Comments on This Entry

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Posted by Scott Yakima, WA USA on February 6, 2009:

Although I heard of the Dvorak keyboard back in the 1980's, I never saw the layout until I got online in the early 2000's. I rearranged the key caps on one of my keyboards, after discovering that some keyboards can NOT be rearranged, because the home key caps are mounted differently, and began to use it. I have never taken typing, and I have never done typing exercises, so I don't consider myself a 'typist'. Maybe that is why I found converting to the Dvorak so easy.

At my peak, I could probably do 30 words per minute on a QWERTY keyboard, but within a month, I was typing faster than I had ever typed before! I was astonished at how easy it was to learn the Dvorak layout. A friend of mine who used my computer regularly asked me at one point if I had "switched the keyboard back," because she was typing so easily.

Now that switching to the Dvorak layout is only a matter of a few mouse clicks, I think that all school children should have a chance to learn the alternative to the QWERTY mess. I have gone to the lengths of switching keyboards over just to give them away, so that people will be more inclined to try the Dvorak keyboard.

Posted by Robert Hanlon, St. Louis, MO on June 11, 2009:

I am trying to find a hardwired (not soft-switchable) Dvorak keyboard that doesn't have some strange quasi-ergonomic style. Can anybody help me?

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There used to be a number of options, but they've mostly died out since most people just use software remapping, since that's built in to Windows now. The only one I know of that's still available is from http://www.kinesis-ergo.com -- but I'd like to hear about it if you find others. -rc

Posted by Don, Cupertino, CA on January 30, 2010:

A decade ago, KeyTime, Inc., of Seattle made a hardware-switched keyboard for Mac OS 9. It looked much like Apple's old "Saratoga" keyboard, which resembled an aircraft carrier. It had hidden DIP switches that let a user choose the right-hand-, left-hand-, or two-hand-Dvorak layouts; or QWERTY. Since you could also use the Keyboard menu, you could get seriously confused.

It used ADB wiring, so it quickly become obsolete when Apple switched to USB -- one of Apple's rare prescient guesses about which "standard" would win.

Posted by Don, Huntington Beach, CA on May 19, 2010:

I, too, heard about the Dvorak layout in the 1980s, and even played with it on my TRS-80 Model I, but as an IT pro there seemed to be too many obstacles to get serious about it at the time. I was delighted when it was included in Windows, but I allowed myself to be daunted by the prospect of all the keyboards I'd be typing on in my role as a support tech.

In the summer of 2009 I decided that enough was enough; somehow I'd deal with it. I purchased a USB model switchable (Dvorak/Qwerty) keyboard from TypeMatrix.com, and have never looked back. I carry the TypeMatrix with me and can plug it into any of my clients' machines. This keyboard is very nice, very solidly built, compact, and I recommend it.

A few months after I converted I found another device which I consider to be the answer to my Dvorak dreams: a New Zeland firm (keyghost.com/QIDO) makes a USB dongle that converts any USB keyboard to Dvorak, and you can switch between all three Dvorak layouts, or back to Qwerty if you want.

Keytime is still advertising, as of this posting. Another possibility is hooleon.com, who has some keyboard offerings and also makes keycap stickers.

I wanted to inform anyone interested of these wonderful alternatives. Here's hoping Dvorak will gradually begin to get more exposure.

Posted by Don, in San Antonio, Texas on June 7, 2010:

I prefer not to use the Dvorak layout built into Windows. The key reason (pun intended) is that some of the customary edit key combinations, particularly undo, cut, copy, paste (ctrl-z,x,c,v) get scattered around the keyboard.

Instead, I prefer to use a very simple keyboard layout program. (Sits in system tray. Easy to exit, if needed.) I use it on my XP and Vista machines. Essentially, all ctrl key combos retain their qwerty mapping. Everything else is re-mapped to Dvorak, or whatever you like. (You can fuss with the mapping, if you want.)

This utility, which I simply put in my Startup folder to run on every log in, can be bypassed (toggled) with the "scroll lock" key. This makes it handy if you have a last century qwerty using troglodyte use your PC. Just tap the scroll lock, and they're using their old, inefficient typing layout. When they're done, simply toggle it back on.

This utility only affects Windows and will not affect any command prompt or other DOS session. There are solutions for that, too, however.

P.S. There are times, even for me, when qwerty is more handy. Mostly that occurs when using particular programs that hard map their shortcut keys based on qwerty key proximities. At those times a quick toggle key, as offered in the above layout program, is very useful.

Hmmm. Based on other posts, maybe Dvorak preference is a "Don" thing. :-) I assure you, we're not all the same guy.

Posted by Kevin in Trenton on May 1, 2011:

I converted to dvorak after a friend convinced me to learn touch typing (qwerty) back in late 2000. I tried the exercises he told me and got ok at it. Tried it about 3 weeks constant each day typing emails and 'teaching' my fingers to move the qwerty way. Then I decided to try dvorak because I had heard of it from a friend. read the pros and cons and started to try it. Got a good system to make me remember the layout and it worked. put a pic of the dvorak layout up on the screen with a text editor screen on the bottom half of the screen and for 2 weeks did all my typing that way. I tried going back to the qwerty way after 2 weeks of dvorak and that was my decision to stay dvorak. Going back to qwerty was like tying my fingers in knots. To this day I will change any computer I have to type any amount of text on via the control panels. I currently use Mac OS X but have used Mac os 8, 9 and various KDE, Gnome on linux and of course Windows at work where I change them all to dvorak if it's an account I own. So far I have no regrets about a decade of dvorak typing. People who have to type on my computer I have to change it back to the qwerty hen picker layout for those illiterate ones but I don't mind. I worry more about my own comfort. I will never go back to learn qwerty after the experience of comparing them. the comfort level is so much better on dvorak. So do yourself a favor, take a month to do all your typing in dvorak and when you are as good as you are in qwerty you'll have no regrets. I even convinced a friend after about 4 or 5 years and now he's been on dvorak for the past half decade or so and he also doesn't regret his choice to learn it. It's so much faster to learn than qwerty.

Posted by Alex M on November 19, 2011:

where can I buy a true Dvorak Keyboard online? or in a store?

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I haven't been keeping track of who sells them lately, but Kinesis-ergo.com stocks Qwerty/Dvorak switchable keyboards (but you may not like the actual ergonomic design; I like it, and am typing on one now). Another is Dvortyboard. I'm sure there are more. Keyboards are such a cheap commodity these days, it's hard to afford to produce a niche item, and it's hard to keep track of who is currently in the market. -rc

Posted by Scott, Yakima, Washington on November 20, 2011:

For some time now, I have thought that a keyboard with illuminated, graphical keys would be neat. The keycaps would display the layout desired, and would be visible in the dark. Such a thing was impossible not too long ago, but the advances in LCD technology have made it realistic, I believe. Such a keyboard would be ideal for those who are forced to work with QWERTY in some applications, or for schools which want to offer children an alternative to the old fashioned mess.

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Feasible, sure. Realistic? I'm not so sure: you're essentially talking about 50ish miniature lighted displays, and the logic needed to drive the images on them. It can be done, but not many would be willing to pay what that would cost! -rc

Posted by Don, in San Antonio on November 22, 2011:

If you must have a hard wired Dvorak keyboard Matias makes one.

Personally, I like typing Dvorak on a QWERTY labeled keyboard. It helps if I need to switch back to hunt and peck QWERTY for those rare cases where I just have to. I don't look at the keys while typing Dvorak. I don't care about the labels.

The best software solution I've found is AutoHotKey (for Windows), which allows remapping the keyboard. Someone wrote a Dvorak-QWERTY remap script, which I use.

The script remaps the keys to Dvorak layout, except when the Ctrl or Alt key is pressed. That means I can still have standard cut/copy/paste/undo Ctrl combos in the conventional places. Best part, with AutoHotKey you can edit the scripts and tweak the remapping to your liking.

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Thanks! -rc

Posted by Don, Huntington Beach, CA on November 23, 2011:

You can find hard-wired Dvorak keyboards at hooleon.com (several models and prices.) keyghost.com/QIDO is still offering a Qwerty to Dvorak USB Adapter which works quite well.

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The latter is really neat! (If a bit pricey.) I'm getting enough leads that I should start a resources page on my http://www.Dvorak-Keyboard.com site. Keep 'em coming. -rc

Posted by Chuck - Carthage, NC on August 8, 2012:

Fentek makes one.

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Thanks! Prices look reasonable, too. I actually just use the built-in Windows Dvorak drivers, rather than be limited to the models that have Dvorak built in. Still, many prefer hard-wired keyboards that show the keys correctly. -rc

Posted by Will, Canada on October 4, 2012:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimus_Maximus_keyboard

It would seem someone had the idea for LCD display keys a long time ago, and they're still available by the looks of things.

Found one on eBay for $510.00.

That's a pretty penny for a keyboard.

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The Maximus was one way to get Dvorak, and show the right labels on the keys. But yeah, mini LCD displays on every key is an awfully expensive way to go -- especially considering that in touch typing, you're not supposed to look at the keys in the first place! -rc

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