Dvorak Layout is the Computer Keyboard layout Designed by Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, Dr. William Dealey and patented in 1936. It has different key placements from the most widely used QWERTY keyboard layout and looks like this:
Dvorak Simplified Keyboard. Image From Wikipedia.
I first heard about Dvorak in some random IRC discussion around 2009-2010. After researching about it online I decided to learn it.
The main point of discussions I participated focused on its ability to give increased typing speed. But after researching online I found out that its main advantage is its ergonomics and going easy on the hand muscles, thus comparatively less stress on hand muscles.
This was my main reason to switch to Dvorak – Ergonomics for hand muscles by having less stress. I was not much fascinated by its another disputed advantage of increased speed, as I already had high typing speed even while on QWERTY.
Its important to note that I learned typing the old school way – on typewriter – yes the real one. After school I attended typing class and there I learned the QWERTY typing. My naturally longer fingers gave me advantage over others in speed. I quickly became skilled for fast typing “without looking down”!
So when the time came to learn Dvorak, I used one of those web based app where they taught Dvorak typing free of cost! I completed all the lessons in just 3 days (believe me , just three days!). It was not that hard to pick up new layout as I initially feared it would be. Maybe because I already did formal QWERTY lessons on typewriter.
I never happened to meet any programmers or writers who got Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (and other such muscle issues) due to long typing tasks while typing using QWERTY keyboard layout.
But I would like to note that I got more comfortable while typing using Dvorak.
Layout switching issue:
Some people fear that once they set keyboard layout to Dvorak it will be difficult to switch between layouts when someone else wants to use their Laptop. But let me tell you that switching the layout is just a one keyboard shortcut or one click away.
When you have more than one layout, it usually displays the current layout on your computers task bar. You can either click there to change or use shortcut key provided by your OS.
QWERTY was born to make typing on mechanical typewriter easy. Dvorak was born to lessen the stress on hand muscles due to long typing tasks.
I switched because I felt we need to adopt new technology with time. I did not switched for speed. I switched for ergonomic design and because it makes sense. You should too!