Learning to Type: Dvorak Edition

Ever since I started at Automattic, the Dvorak keyboard layout has been lurking in the background. Matt Mullenweg wrote a great post about Dvorak so I won’t go into the history. You can also read this zine for a quick explanation. Basically, it’s a keyboard layout that puts the keys into different positions so it’s easier to type. Allegedly.

I’ll give you a brief history of typing Karen-style. I never learned how to type. I don’t recall typing being offered at my Junior High School and it was definitely not offered at my High School. I learned to type by hunting and pecking. Over time I developed my own system for typing and managed well enough. By the time I came to work at Automattic, my typing speed was reasonable.

I have always had a high error rate though because my system fails me frequently, but I get along fine and after 5 and a half years at Automattic, my typing speed is more than reasonable. But still, whenever Dvorak comes up I’m interested. I’ve often wondered if relearning how to type could make me better at typing? Could I increase my efficiency by using a different system?

But the logistics held me back. I type all day and if I were to switch, I would go through a really slow period. So I’ve put it off. At one point I talked about it at home so much I convinced my oldest son to switch in 2013. He now comfortably types 100 wpm.

In early November, I decided to stop delaying. I was tired of listening to my own excuses and looking at the Dvorak keyboard overlay that was sitting on my desk. I knew that I was simply going to have to rip the band-aid or it would never happen.

November 1 was day one. On the advice of my son, I removed the Qwerty layout from my laptop. I cheated a little by switching to the Spanish layout since it’s basically Qwerty but my son insisted I commit.

Screen Shot 2017-12-03 at 8.22.35 PM

On the advice of my colleague Zandy, I activated the Dvorak – Qwerty keyboard layout because I don’t want to relearn keyboard shortcuts.

Screen Shot

By day 6 I was exhausted. One thing I did not expect was the brain drain. By 8:30 at night, I was ready for bed, bone tired. So painful. I wanted to quit and I had the urge to avoid typing. It’s really a bit like learning a new language. Since I communicate mostly via text at Automattic I had essentially made it hard, almost impossible, to communicate. On the hope that eventually I could type better.

Some common pitfalls for me:

  • I use my left pinky to do the left shift key, I almost never use the right shift key and so capital letters often end up being this: ;i or somehow I hit the caps key.
  • I type w for m and  l for s, so will ends up being miss
  • To type my name, I mix up the l and s so I often end up with karenasma

These are things I assume (hope) will get better the longer I work at it.

Some things I did to help me along:

  • Voice to text (dictation) for those times that I needed words to come faster (although it’s not perfect)
  • Consistent nightly typing lessons on TypingClub
  • Encouragement from colleagues

It’s been over a month and it’s still a work in progress. I’m far from 100% but I can do most of the tasks necessary for my work. My fingers get muddled up still and I will keep taking typing lessons until I feel as comfortable typing Dvorak as I did Qwerty.

8 replies to “Learning to Type: Dvorak Edition

  1. Ballio, I think the trick is to commit. As painful as it is. Do it! 😀 Just warn your team. I put a note in my Slack status for the first few weeks too.

  2. The 100 words per minute sounds amazing! I usually average 70 wpm, so 100 words – wow! Very tempting to switch to Dvorak.

  3. Hey Karen, I’m currently switching to dvorak as well. Does the keyboard overlay that you have work well? If so who makes it? Thanks!

    1. Hi Dustin! The overlay is from KB Covers. It works great to help you get the hang of it but over time it stretches out in a weird way. I do recommend it. I did finally give up on the overlay and I wrote the letters on my keys with a permanent marker. They rub off, but it forced me to have better key recognition.

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