Changing your keyboard layout

Billy Davis

I’m constantly looking for ways to make my hands feel better. I am right-handed, and when I first noticed some discomfort in my hand, I began using the mouse with my left hand. I have had carpal tunnel in my right hand for some time now, and even after surgery I feel like it is coming back.

My first choice would be to go with full bionic arm replacements, e.g. Luke or Anakin Skywalker. But since we’re still in the stone ages of technology, I’ll have to settle for something a less cool... like a new keyboard layout.

QWERTY, the keyboard layout almost everyone uses, was originally tailored for morse code translators (how many of us are translating morse nowadays?) It was previously thought QWERTY was originally modified to keep the internal components of the typewriter from self-imploding when a user was typing too fast. Read more about the history of QWERTY on SmithsonianMag.

DVORAK is an alternative keyboard layout. What’s the advantage of DVORAK? The short version is you move your fingers less. According to Wikipedia, Barbara Blackburn holds the record as being the fastest typist in the world. She uses DVORAK.

As of 2005, writer Barbara Blackburn was the fastest English language typist in the world, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. Using the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, she has maintained 150 wpm for 50 minutes, and 170 wpm for shorter periods. She has been clocked at a peak speed of 212 wpm.

You will find many people have conflicting views on different keyboard layouts. So, if you are trying to make a decision, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons for yourself. Read this article on DVORAK vs. QWERTY and/or this resource on DVORAK keyboard training.

I am not sure if I will completely switch yet. Currently I am typing around 6-10 wpm after using the above-mentioned resource for DVORAK training. Regardless of whether DVORAK or QWERTY is superior, it’s good to know that you have another option. So, if you seriously want to challenge yourself, try learning a new keyboard layout!