Dvorak Transition

Jan 8, 2016
Joe Buhlig
~7 mins

I’ve had an interest in the Dvorak keyboard layout for a couple years now. The concept makes sense to me and I’m finally doing something about it.

For those not familiar with Dvorak, it’s a simplified keyboard layout that is designed to reduce finger motion and errors. And by association, many proponents claim faster typing speed as a result.

I’m very interested in the typing speed claims, but I’m also intrigued by the idea of preemptively combating RSI. I don’t have any major issues right now, but as someone who makes a living by typing I can’t afford long-term degradation.

When it’s all over, I would like to know if the switch was worth it. But measuring finger movements would be pretty difficult. It would require setting up cameras and running the video through a sensing algorithm to determine the distance my fingers travel while typing a lot of text. And since Dvorak is already built to reduce motion, I don’t see the point. I would be trying to prove it was correctly designed. So instead, I’ll be measuring my typing speed to get a comparison.

I’m a data junky and want to make sure I have good numbers. But this case is complicated. I use two different keyboards in two different locations for most of my typing. I use the built-in keyboard in my MacBook Pro (MBP) when I’m writing from the couch and an Apple Wireless Keyboard (AWK) when I’m at my desk. Those scenarios rarely deviate, so I’ll be testing each instance.

I needed a baseline, so I started with the QWERTY keyboard I’m used to and picked four texts from typingtest.com. I ran two rounds of two minutes from each keyboard/location. I started on the couch with the MBP and did two rounds of two minutes and then moved to my desk for another two rounds.

However, I have one issue with this: timing. I’ve always felt that my speed tends to fluctuate from the morning to the afternoon. I did the initial testing in the morning so I did another round in the afternoon. And because I like be extra sure of things, I repeated the whole process two days in a row. All of this was done from the QWERTY keyboard before switching anything to Dvorak. No need tainting the waters.

QWERTY Day Time Location WPM
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 1 Morning MBP 74
Rules of Baseball 1 Morning MBP 69
The Enchanted Typewriter 1 Morning AWK 74
Tigers in the Wild 1 Morning AWK 67
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 1 Afternoon AWK 72
Rules of Baseball 1 Afternoon AWK 70
The Enchanted Typewriter 1 Afternoon MBP 71
Tigers in the Wild 1 Afternoon MBP 68
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 2 Morning AWK 75
Rules of Baseball 2 Morning AWK 73
The Enchanted Typewriter 2 Morning MBP 78
Tigers in the Wild 2 Morning MBP 76
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 2 Afternoon MBP 73
Rules of Baseball 2 Afternoon MBP 71
The Enchanted Typewriter 2 Afternoon AWK 74
Tigers in the Wild 2 Afternoon AWK 72

I was surprised to see very little difference between the MBP and the AWK. Overall, my average QWERTY typing speed was 72 wpm. Not bad.

Once I had all of my numbers on QWERTY, I added a keyboard cover to my MBP and switched everything over to Dvorak. I made the switch cold turkey and won’t be trying to maintain QWERTY at the same time. And in the interest of good data, I repeated the entire process above on Dvorak.

Dvorak Day Time Location WPM
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 1 Morning MBP 10
Rules of Baseball 1 Morning MBP 12
The Enchanted Typewriter 1 Morning AWK 9
Tigers in the Wild 1 Morning AWK 11
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 1 Afternoon AWK 13
Rules of Baseball 1 Afternoon AWK 14
The Enchanted Typewriter 1 Afternoon MBP 12
Tigers in the Wild 1 Afternoon MBP 15
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 2 Morning AWK 16
Rules of Baseball 2 Morning AWK 13
The Enchanted Typewriter 2 Morning MBP 11
Tigers in the Wild 2 Morning MBP 14
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 2 Afternoon MBP 15
Rules of Baseball 2 Afternoon MBP 17
The Enchanted Typewriter 2 Afternoon AWK 14
Tigers in the Wild 2 Afternoon AWK 12

I have a long way to go before I reach my initial QWERTY speed. My hope is that going all-in with Dvorak will help me get there quicker. It’s all for the sake of faster and more efficient typing.

Updates:

Day 5:

Dvorak Location WPM
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz MBP 22
Rules of Baseball MBP 24
The Enchanted Typewriter AWK 20
Tigers in the Wild AWK 23
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz AWK 21
Rules of Baseball AWK 26
The Enchanted Typewriter MBP 22
Tigers in the Wild MBP 24

Day 10:

Dvorak Location WPM
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz MBP 31
Rules of Baseball MBP 34
The Enchanted Typewriter AWK 29
Tigers in the Wild AWK 35
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz AWK 33
Rules of Baseball AWK 34
The Enchanted Typewriter MBP 36
Tigers in the Wild MBP 31

Day 15:

Dvorak Location WPM
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz MBP 33
Rules of Baseball MBP 32
The Enchanted Typewriter AWK 30
Tigers in the Wild AWK 34
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz AWK 35
Rules of Baseball AWK 31
The Enchanted Typewriter MBP 33
Tigers in the Wild MBP 36