On Alternative Keyboard Layouts
I switched to Dvorak keyboard layout back in August 2015. When I switched, I was typing with QWERTY the same way I learned when I was five years old, never placing my fingers on the home row, never even trying to type properly. I just did what worked best. Despite that, I ended up getting up to 100 words per minute, give or take. However, every time I took a typing speed test, I would be fatigued from my rapid movements, since I primarily typed with two fingers on each hand. So, in order to break out of my nasty habbits from learning to type when I was very young, I decided to learn Dvorak.
Consider having your entire life ahead of you and knowing that some change now, while you have the time, may save you from hand injuries from typing and improve your efficiency. This is why I took the time to switch to Dvorak. I used the website https://learn.dvorak.nl/ in order to achieve this goal, spending many hours in my room getting more frustrated than ever. It feels like you’re moving through syrup when typing at first. However, I persisted, even deciding to switch my phone keyboard to Dvorak in order to learn as quickly as possible. By about two months in I was typing at a solid 50 words per minute, about half as good as I was on QWERTY.
Fastforward to today, I now type about 90 words per minute. That isn’t what’s interesting though; what I find best is the comfort when typing. I no longer find myself in pain after running through a typing speed test. Long papers are easy to write. In fact, I find it quite enjoyable to have my hands exchange their letters with each keystroke, watching the efficiency at play. I have absolutely no regrets. It is sometimes difficult to use default keybindings, for example with Vim or i3wm. For Vim I currently use the standard keybindings, just with the Dvorak layout, which has drawbacks, but it’s definitely more than usable. The only reason i3wm is hard is that the shortcuts lack any resemblance to the action (why would pressing mod + shift + ‘ exit a window?). But, overall it was a good choice.
So, why didn’t I make my life easier and switch to Colemak or some other layout? Well, first of all I have an obsession with efficiency. I saw the obvious efficiency upsides of Dvorak just by looking at it, but for most other layouts I failed to see the improvement. Simply put, they didn’t seem worth the time. Second of all, I wanted to learn a new layout in order to relearn how to type, so using one that I already somewhat knew wouldn’t help, and Dvorak seemed to be the best of the other options. Third, by some tests I found online, Dvorak is at least in theory better than most other layouts, so I figured I’d use it. While I admit much of my evidence was anecdotal, I’m still seeing the benefits myself, and I truly don’t have regrets. It’s a small change during a part of my life that I had more time than I knew what to do with, so I consider it time well spent.