What is the Dvorak Keyboard Layout?

by Michael Paul Johnson

The Dvorak keyboard layout is a keyboard layout designed by Mr. Dvorak for efficiency. This is much different than the standard “QWERTY” layout (named after the first 6 keys on the upper row of letters), which was designed to intentionally slow people down Since the original reason for wanting to slow people down died with the old manual typewriters with strike-bars that jammed when you type too fast, why use an inefficient keyboard? The answer, of course, is because (1) everyone makes keyboards with QWERTY layouts, because that is how people are trained to type, and (2) people learning to type want to learn the QWERTY layout, because that is how almost all keyboards are made.

Fortunately, there is a really easy way out of this vicious cycle. All good computer operating systems have the capability to remap your keyboard from QWERTY to Dvorak built in (or at least easily added on). Microsoft ships this ability with all of its Windows operating systems. (Start, Settings, Control Panel, Keyboard, Input Locales tab, Add...) Linux has the ability to remap its keyboard to the Dvorak layout, and some distributions (like Red Hat) make this fairly easy with system management software. For DOS aficionados (or for people running DOS windows under Windows 95/98/Me), there is a simple 384-byte TSR program that does the trick. Good typing training programs allow you to select which keyboard you want to learn.

I use the Dvorak layout, and I type faster and more comfortably (less wrist strain) than I did when I used QWERTY exclusively. I am a little slower when using someone else’s QWERTY keyboard (i. e. a terminal at a library), but I do that so little that the net gain is well worth it for me.

The Dvorak keyboard is arranged like this:

~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) { } |
` 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 [ ] \
" < > P Y F G C R L ? +
' , . p y f g c r l / =
A O E U I D H T N S _
a o e u i d h t n s -
: Q J K X B M W V Z
; q j k x b m w v z

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