Normal Matters

Our "normal life" matters

An Extreme Solution to Better Typing

Is there a better way to type? August Dvorak thought so, and in 1936 created his own keyboard layout featuring less finger motion, higher accuracy and faster typing than experienced with the QWERTY layout created almost 70 years earlier. The QWERTY layout takes its name from the first six letters on the upper left top keyboard row.

Dvorak argued the QWERTY layout had these problems:
• Awkward finger motions
• Fingers jumping above and below the middle row.
• Many words typed with only one hand.
• Left hand busier than the right.

Dvorak’s layout featured:
• Letters in words typed alternating between hands.
• Most common letters in the middle row, known as the “home row.”
• The right hand was used more than the left.

Dvorak’s layout of the “home row,” where a typist’s fingers normally rest, had all the vowels on the left and the most used consonants on the right. (Note: A diagram of the layout can be found at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KB_United_States_Dvorak.svg).

The layout made a positive difference. In typing contests in the 1930’s, Dvorak’s typists won first place ten times and at one point were even barred for being “unfair competition.” The noise produced by the faster Dvorak typists was disconcerting to the QWERTY typists and they did not want to be placed near them. School district and navy experiments revealed the Dvorak layout to be easier to learn, faster, and more accurate.

Global rejection of the Dvorak layout was due to a controlled government study headed up by Earle Strong, a man with a personal grudge against Dvorak. His conclusion was the layout produced no increased accuracy, speed, or reduced training. While his conclusion was skewed — Strong made public statements opposing the alternate layout before the studies even began — later studies also indicated training has the largest influence for the complicated activity known as typing.

From personal experience the Dvorak layout is very comfortable and is my layout of choice. The reduced finger movement is the most noticeable, with greater speed and accuracy being side benefits. I only switch to QWERTY when using a mobile device, where I normally use voice to text and simply make any necessary corrections using the keyboard.

You are the boss. Switching layouts is simple on today’s computers. Try it. It is loved by most who learn it. Yet many reluctantly forego its use due to often being forced to use the QWERTY layout. Switching back and forth repeatedly, while simple to a few, is frustrating for most.

About Wade Flaming

Wade is a both a writer and simulation software engineer. He grew up on a farm in the central United States and works as a contractor for a company writing aircraft simulation software. He enjoys writing software as well as observations of day-to-day normal life matters.

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