Bytes and Bikes

Plus other interesting stuff. But mostly computer software and mountain biking.

Looking Back on Dvorak

It’s interesting to look back at how life changes over the years. Before this year, my last post on this blog was March 24, 2014. On that day, I posted about how I was distracted by trying to learn the Dvorak keyboard layout. A month and a day after that post, I got married. Since then, I have moved six times (including two new states), switched jobs twice, had a wonderful baby girl, and traveled to a bunch of new countries including New Zealand, Morocco, and Switzerland. Oh yeah, and I learned Dvorak, too.

My Dvorak journey was a bit interesting. I tried to learn it several times before I finally committed to it. I had tried things like typing Dvorak in the morning and then switching to Qwerty in the afternoon, but that didn’t stick. What made it really stick is completely switching over and abandoning Qwerty for my day-to-day typing.

Once I finally did commit to it, it wasn’t long before I was typing faster in Dvorak than in Qwerty. But that wasn’t really a good thing. The reason I was faster in Dvorak was because I could no longer type quickly in Qwerty – Dvorak had completely messed up my Qwerty skills. Before I committed to switching to Dvorak, I averaged 92 WPM with Qwerty (according to Once I reached the 35 WPM mark in Dvorak, though, my Qwerty speeds had decreased to 15-20 WPM. My brain was so confused about how to type – it was an interesting sensation. Fortunately, over time my Dvorak speeds increased, but even a couple of years later, I’m still not to the speed I had been with Qwerty. I average 87 WPM now with Dvorak and I can usually type about 30 WPM in Qwerty.

I actually didn’t learn traditional Dvorak. The variant of the Dvorak that I learned is called Programmer Dvorak. There are two other peculiarities about that layout that make it even more challenging. First of all, the numbers are arranged in a different order – 7,5,3,1,9,0,2,4,6,8 – instead of 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0. I’m not sure why they did that, but it works fine once you learn it. And the other peculiarity is actually what makes Programmer Dvorak so great, in my opinion. All of the symbols that you would normally have to press shift for are unshifted – instead, the numbers are shifted. That means that in order to type a 4 I have to press shift plus another key. But to type =[{}] I don’t have to press shift at all. This is generally pretty great for programming. I type (), =, and [] all the time. And I rarely type numbers. But it does make dealing with spreadsheets and financial data worse in some ways. However, I can always press caps lock and get unshifted numbers back.

After I had been typing with Dvorak for some time, I purchased an Ergodox EZ. It is a pretty amazing keyboard – it’s completely customizable and uses a concept called “layers” that allow you to use the same key for a dozen different things depending on what layer you are using. It was very intimidating to set up and get used to, however. It probably took me a week to figure out a layout that I liked and another week to get used to it. But since then I’ve customized my layout to a point that I really enjoy: By Ergodox EZ standards, I think it’s pretty simple. One thing of note is that I put escape where caps lock would normally be (since I’m a huge vim keybindings fan). However, unlike most people who do this, I actually like using caps lock in certain situations, so I also have caps lock easily within reach. After getting used to this layout, I’ve been able to use the mouse less and stick with the keyboard more. And I really enjoy typing with my hands spaced further apart.

It has been fun looking back on some memories of things that have changed in the last few years and things that have stayed the same.