Dvorak keyboard layout

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The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard is a keyboard layout designed by Drs. August Dvorak and William Dealey in the 1920s and 1930s as an alternative to the still-popular QWERTY layout. It has also been called the Simplified Keyboard or American Simplified Keyboard, but is commonly known as the Dvorak keyboard.

Dvorak and Dealey studied letter frequency and the physiology of the hand and created the layout to adhere to these principles:

  • It is easier to type letters alternating between hands.
  • For maximum speed and efficiency, the most common letters and digraphs should be the easiest to type. This means that they should be on the home row, which is where the fingers rest.
  • Likewise, the least common letters should be on the bottom row, which is the hardest row to reach.
  • The right hand should do more of the typing, because most people are right-handed.
  • It is more difficult to type digraphs with adjacent fingers than non-adjacent fingers.
  • Stroking should generally move from the edges of the board to the center (as an example, rap your fingers on a table and see which is easier: going from pinkie finger to index or index to pinkie). This motion on a keyboard is called inboard stroke flow.

The layout was completed in 1932 and was granted U.S. Patent No. 2,040,248 in 1936. It was designated an alternate standard keyboard layout by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1982. In 1984 the Dvorak keyboard had an estimated 100,000 users.

File:Dvorak keyboard2.png The Dvorak layout

Even though many feel that the principles on which the Dvorak keyboard is based make it superior to the older QWERTY, attempts to universally convert to the Dvorak have been met with resistance. Typists who are already proficient with the QWERTY layout do not want to have to relearn on a new keyboard. In fact, a discussion of the Dvorak Keyboard is sometimes used as an exercise by management consultants to illustrate the difficulties of change.

In addition to the time required for a QWERTY typist to learn the Dvorak layout and become efficient when using it, keyboard shortcuts and applications requiring key position layout will be different in the Dvorak layout and may require further training. For example, the vi editor assumes that the keys H, J, K, and L are on the home row – although J and K stay together and the space-bar can be used instead of L. Some computer games may be more difficult to play, especially those that assume relative positions of the keys used for motion – for example A for left, W for up, S for down and D for right.

Dvorak then may be better suited for situations where block-typing is done. However, the design has made some headway, with Dvorak layouts now available on most major computer operating systems. It is also possible to learn how to use Dvorak only for touch typing while retaining the ability to use QWERTY when looking at the keyboard.

Dvorak conducted several studies in the late 1940s which showed that QWERTY typists could be retrained to the Dvorak keyboard, reached their original speed within 2-3 months and gained up to an additional 30% as they gained further proficiency (as measured in words per minute). Subsequent researchers have been unable to repeat his results, usually showing that there was little difference in efficiency between QWERTY and Dvorak layouts.

Dvorak also proposed an alternative ordering of the digits on the numbers row, 7-5-3-1-9-0-2-4-6-8, believing this arrangement to be more efficient. However, few who use the keyboard employ this rearrangement, and indeed the ANSI standard calls for the usual numerical order.

File:Left-hand-dvorak-keyboard.png   File:Right-hand-dvorak-keyboard.png
Left and right handed Dvorak arrangement, respectively

There are also Dvorak arrangements designed for one-handed typing that are useful for the disabled. One arrangement is designed for right-hand typing, and one for left hand. The single-handed typing appeared in two James Bond movies: Tomorrow Never Dies by an information age tycoon, and GoldenEye by a Russian computer cracker.

There is considerable variation between implementations in the placement of punctuation.

See also

External links