Are Dvorak Keyboard Layouts Best for Ergonomics?

dvorak layout

Dvorak layouts are an excellent method to boost your typing speed and efficiency if you’re looking for a way to do so. Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, Dr. William Dealey, created the Dvorak layout in the 1930s. It is designed to help improve typing speed and accuracy. There are several different Dvorak keyboard layouts, so choose the one that works best for you. This blog post will discuss the different Dvorak keyboard layouts and how to switch to Dvorak on your computer.

What is the Dvorak keyboard?

dvorak layout
Photo by Johnnishia Jackson

It is an ergonomic alternative to the “Qwerty layouts” found on typewriters and computers. The Qwerty keyboard was created in the 1870s to meet the sluggish mechanical movement of early typewriters. Touch typing had not even been invented at the time it was made! It’s not a good design for today’s purposes.

The Dvorak (not to be confused with the Czech composer) keyboard, on the other hand, was created with typist comfort, high productivity, and simplicity of learning in mind — it’s considerably easier to understand.

History of Dvorak Keyboard

The keyboard was created by August Dvorak (1870-1956) and his brother-in-law, William Dealy (1872-1959), both professors at the University of Washington. They noticed problems with the conventional QWERTY keyboard, so they analyzed letter frequencies in English and the human hand’s physiology to determine the best arrangement of characters, as previously said.

In 1933, Dvorak held typing competitions for typists trained on the Dvorak keyboard. QWERTY typists were concerned by the rapid tapping of Dvorak typists and requested their own seating. In that same decade, a school district in Washington investigated whether to provide Dvorak typing lessons after conducting experiments with 2,700 high school pupils. It was discovered that students learned the Dvorak keyboard in one-third of the time it took to learn the QWERTY keyboard when Dvorak layout classes utilizing a Dvorak layout ceased.

The Dvorak keyboard gained in popularity throughout the 1950s. Many businesses and government agencies felt typists should be retrained on the keyboard. However, the General Services Administration carried out an experiment that failed to reveal any advantage of the Dvorak keyboard layout for typing or training speed. Interest in the keyboard waned as a result of this research became public.

The Dvorak keyboard has seen many changes in the first 50 years, including left-handed and right-handed versions for individuals with only one hand. Still, it now follows a standard layout established by the American National Standards Institute in 1982. This brought Dvorak to the forefront of professional typists’ and keyboard makers’ attention. In 1984, the Apple IIc was introduced with a keyboard that included a manual switch to alternate between Dvorak and QWERTY input methods.

Difference between Qwerty and Dvorak Keyboard

Dvorak Keyboard

On the other hand, Dvorak places most letters on the right side of the keyboard. Since QWERTY necessitates that most typing be done with one hand, Dvorak promotes excellent agility and efficiency by requiring that most characters be performed with the opposite hand. Whereas QWERTY was designed to prevent keyboards from jamming, Dvorak was created by removing elements from QWERTY and attempting to create a faster and more efficient layout.

Is Dvorak Faster than QWERTY?

Dvorak Keyboard

So, is Dvorak a superior keyboard layout? It is all in how you choose to perceive it. Although Dvorak isn’t faster than QWERTY by any means, many more people have trained on QWERTY their entire lives than Dvorak. Perhaps if more people utilized Dvorak, they would be able to type as fast as the fastest QWERTY typist. Even though QWERTY has a higher peak speed, most top typists believe that Dvorak can reach that speed and thus should not deter you from switching layouts.

Even if Dvorak is not found to be faster than QWERTY, it is unquestionably better for ergonomics. While typing, your fingers move only 62 percent as much with Dvorak as they do with QWERTY. Adopting Dvorak might reduce the strain on your hands and wrists if you have chronic pain or order frequently. The home row of Dvorak is considerably more centered in the heat maps shown above.

Dvorak Keyboard Variations

Apart from from the version that was established in 1982, there are a few additional variations:

One-handed layout

Dvorak created a left-handed and right-handed touch-typing layout with one hand. These layouts were created in response to Col. Robert Allen losing an arm in battle. Dvorak’s goal was to reduce hand movement from side to side and overall finger motion. Each layout (left and right) allows the hand to rest in the keyboard’s middle rather than on one side. Users who like having one hand free while typing can benefit from these layouts because they allow for more single-handed access.

The left-handed and right-handed layouts are almost identical, except for some punctuation keys, letters that aren’t frequently used, and wide keys like the enter and shift key.

Programmer layout

The Programmer Dvorak was created by Rolan Kaufmann in the early 2000s and is intended for writing code such as C, Java, Pascal, Lisp, HTML, and XML. It was produced by studying the most frequent constructs in these languages and rules established by Dvorak during his research. Thousands of source code lines were then scanned to confirm that a suitable match was found.

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The keyboard layout has been altered, with the letters in the same spots. But all symbols and numbers have been relocated. The top row of content brackets and other characters must be struck with the shift key to input digits. Numbers are positioned according to their odds under the left hand and their chances under the right hand. Linux includes a preinstalled Programmer Dvorak layout, while installers for macOS and Windows are available.

Switching to Dvorak

It’s worth a try if you never learned to touch-type, have typing-related finger discomfort, or find certain QWERTY letter combinations difficult. If you’ve decided to switch, we recommend doing the Base Dvorak course lessons here. Make careful and thorough for one to two weeks, stressing accuracy over speed.

It’s time to switch over after you’ve completed the lessons. The majority of current operating systems include out-of-the-box support for Dvorak. It should be straightforward to find with a simple Google search.

Pitfalls of Switching

Finding a Dvorak keyboard layout is scarce outside of your home or office. If you need to use a computer for work different from your own, it can be challenging to use the Dvorak layout. We haven’t forgotten how to type on a QWERTY keyboard. Using it to class on my phone probably helped a lot. But if you find yourself typing on a computer without Dvorak support, it might take a few minutes to get back to your old speed. However, I’ve found this to be less noticeable over time. We can now type quickly on QWERTY keyboards, but not as soon as we can on Dvorak keyboards.

If you must switch between keyboard layouts regularly, recalling typical key binds is challenging. Shortly after changing to Dvorak, we became unable to use Vim. That muscle memory had been well established, but we found the standard Vim key bindings tough to perform on a Dvorak layout. You can do a few things if you’re experiencing difficulties using the Vim keys. You might relearn Dvorak layouts or look for methods to remap them. But keep in mind that depending on these shortcuts may be hazardous. Additionally, many people have difficulty retaining the ability to swiftly cut, duplicate, and paste the text. This is because C and V are typed with the right hand, which is the mouse hand.

Benefits of using the Dvorak layout

  • Due to less finger movement, workers are more efficient.
  • Typists who are new to the profession, on the other hand, will find it easier and faster to learn.
  • Unique word patterns are considerably easier to type on a conventional QWERTY keyboard than on a standard QWERTY layout.

Qwerty VS. Dvorak VS. Colemak

After debuting as part of the Remington No. 2 typewriter in 1878, the QWERTY keyboard layout became widespread. Christopher Sholes devised this layout, but many stories surround its origin. Some claim that he created the QWERTY keyboard to differentiate frequent letter combinations and prevent typewriter keys from jamming. Researchers say there is no evidence of this allegation, especially because E and R are neighbors. They makeup one of the most common letter combinations in English.

Unlike a standard QWERTY keyboard, the Dvorak keyboard has the most-used letters of the Latin alphabet in the middle row. The efficacy and ergonomics of Dvorak vs. QWERTY, on the other hand, have been subject to considerable debate. Barbara Blackburn, the holder of the Guinness World Records title for quickest typist, is said to have reached her peak speed using a Dvorak keyboard; however, subsequent record-holders have surpassed her performance with a QWERTY keyboard.

In addition, some studies suggest that a typist’s finger movement on a Dvorak keyboard is around two-thirds of that on a QWERTY. Some researchers have also shown that the frequency of “hurdling” over other keys while typing was less frequent with the Dvorak, suggesting more petite wrist and finger strain than with the QWERTY. The majority of users, however, have reported only minor ergonomic advantages for the Dvorak in real-world situations. In the long run, the Dvorak layout is ideal for individuals who want to type faster but are willing to learn something new.

The Colemak keyboard

The Colemak keyboard, created in 2006 by Shai Coleman and the third most popular English layout, is another option. This configuration was built on top of the QWERTY layout, changing the position of 17 total keys while retaining QWERTY key positions and keyboard shortcuts. The goal of the Colemak scheme is to make it simpler to learn than the Dvorak scheme for people already familiar with QWERTY.


The Dvorak keyboard layout is worth considering if you want to type more quickly and more naturally. It might take some practice to learn, but once you do, you’ll be ordering faster and with less strain on your hands and shoulders.

There are numerous Dvorak keyboard layouts to select from, so it’s critical to discover one that feels natural for you. Try out a few different ones before making your decision. Don’t worry if Dvorak isn’t for you; there are many other keyboard layouts to choose from!

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