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QWERTY vs Dvorak: The two great keyboards the time were born

QWERTY vs Dvorak

It is more than likely that the keyboard you use to access is a QWERTY keyboard : this type of keyboard layout has become the fact standard of the industry and accompanies us in all our devices, but there is a whole world of alternatives.

Among them the most outstanding is the Dvorak keyboards, which were designed not for traditional typewriters, but to facilitate faster writing comfortable and with fewer errors. Does Dvorak fulfill his promise?

QWERTY vs Dvorak
Image Source: Google Image

Thus was born QWERTY

The first typewriters began to appear in the market in 1860. In those early models the layout was similar to that of pianos, but those designs evolved to make typing faster than handwriting.

The problem with typewriters with mechanical systems was that each of the keys caused the letter to print to occupy the same space with another one pressed at the same time. That made writing difficult even faster and caused “jams” that had to be repaired manually.

This was how Christopher Latham Sholes ended up creating the QWERTY keyboard, in which the important thing was precisely the layout of the keys. In order to avoid such jams, Sholes created a “keyboard map” in which he separated as much as possible the keys that appeared most frequently in a text.

This effectively reduced these keyboard jams, which in turn allowed the machine-writing speeds to increase. QWERTY keyboards soon gained popularity , prompting all manufacturers to start using them on their machines. Included among these typewriters was the Remington Standard 2 of 1878, the first typewriter with a shift key (Shift) to quickly switch to this type of letter when necessary.

The success of that keyboard layout was absolute, and soon the QWERTY keyboards became a fact standard in the industry, something that became even more evident with the arrival of the first personal computers. That arrangement ended up on the keyboards of our PCs, laptops, and of course, on the virtual keyboards of our smartphones and tablets.

QWERTY vs Dvorak
Image Source: Google Image

Looking for alternatives: Dvorak enters the scene

The problem is that QWERTY keyboards were designed for traditional typewriters with their mechanical systems, not for current computer keyboards where that provision does not have to be the most appropriate. That is precisely what they have tried to demonstrate a series of different keyboard layouts that have been appearing over the last few decades, but the most relevant of them all is the Dvorak keyboard.

The Dvorak keyboard was invented in 1936 by August Dvorak. The goal was very different from what was intended with QWERTY keyboards: in Dvorak keyboards is precisely to improve the writing speed with these keyboards, in addition to minimizing errors and minimize the movement of the fingers, which can end up causing Injury to the hands.

In Dvorak the most used keys are in the middle row of the keyboard, with the vowels to the left and the consonants to the right. In this keyboard layout, 70% of the keys pressed are in that row, while 22% is in the top row and 8% in the bottom row. In the case of QWERTY the central row occupies 32% of the pulsations by 52% of the upper and 16% of the lower.

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QWERTY vs Dvorak
Image Source: Google Image

If you want to try Dvorak, you can do it now

The easiest way to test Dvorak is to use a mechanical keypad where it is possible to change the location keys to fit the layout that most please us, because most operating systems also allow us to use this keyboard layout without problems.

The problem of switching to these types of keyboards is the fact that you have to get used to the new layout, something that can take weeks or even months. The normal thing is that a user takes precisely months to achieve the same speeds as in QWERTY with Dvorak, but there is also the reality of an industry that has accepted QWERTY keyboards for example for the world of video games.

The keyboard shortcuts suddenly change position, so the other option is to simply use a physical QWERTY keyboard but use it as a Dvorak by software : the keyboard will continue to display the key labels as if it were a QWERTY, but the actual layout will be Dvorak, and we can return to the conventional keyboard if we need it easily.

QWERTY vs Dvorak
Image Source: Google Image

Dvorak vs. QWERTY, debate is served

Although Dvorak keyboards seem to be more consistent in trying to write faster with these keyboards, there has always been a debate about whether that goal really was achieved and the difference was so important. In studies like the one carried out by two researchers of the IBM Research Laboratory, “none of the alternatives has shown a really significant advantage over QWERTY for general purpose scenarios”.

There does not even seem to be any clear improvement in ergonomics or writing speed, and Stella Pajunas-Garnand managed to reach 216 words per minute in 1946 with an IBM Electric QWERTY layout. The Guinness record has Barbara Blackburn, who with a Dvorak keyboard managed to maintain a speed of 150 words per minute for 50 minutes, and reached peaks of 212 words per minute.

They have observed speeds in online testing 241.82 wpm in QWERTY keyboards, but it is evidence of one minute, and in any case does not appear that the keyboard layout seems particularly favor speed, although advocates One and the other disposition argue in favor of each of them often.

In fact the experiences of those switching to Dvorak keyboard indicate that indeed there are improvements in speed. Some users talk about speeds up to 40%, but what they really boast is the comfort they appreciate when writing with these keyboards. Others are more practical and after undergoing the learning curve of change came to a practical conclusion : if you are already happy with your keyboard layout, do not change it.


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