I learned touch typing in October 2006, first on a regular keyboard layout and then on Dvorak. I’m posting the results for those who wonder about switching.
My situation was a common one for people who had computers as children. I typed at a decent speed (~50 WPM) but in a wholly chaotic way. While I didn’t fish for letters, I had to glance at the keyboard sometimes to "get my bearings". Some words were burned in finger memory: "printf", "protected virtual", "SELECT * FROM", "site:". You know, words that people commonly use. But I wanted to improve my typing for efficiency and ergonomic reasons (I wanted my monitors at the right eye level without the need for looking down at the keyboard).
Here are the results. Speed is in net words per minute (total words minus mistakes). The starting point was ~50 WPM, which was without touch typing and on a regular layout. Before touch typing my accuracy was much lower, so the net speed was well below the total speed. Touch typing is more accurate. That’s not shown in the numbers, but it does make you happier (in a control-your-environment sort of way). Also, my original ~50 WPM would drop lower depending on the typing task – being able to type without looking is a boon sometimes.
|Regular Touch Typing||Dvorak Touch Typing|
|Hand comfort||Much worse than starting point||Almost as good as starting point|
|Speed after 2 days||20-25 WPM||15-20 WPM|
|Speed after 2 weeks||~30 WPM||~30 WPM|
|Speed after 2 months||Stopped. Decided to try Dvorak.||~50 WPM|
|Current speed||-||75-80 WPM|
I did some research about Dvorak at first but decided against it because the speed difference compared to the regular layout didn’t seem worth the hassle. So I bought Typing Master and learned regular touch typing. Using the software you can learn touch typing very fast, in a matter of hours. By "learn" I mean you’ll be able to type without looking, but you’ll be slower than the Filthy Critic’s cousin. It feels like you’re handicapped: you want to type but the fingers just won’t move. Avoid heated online discussions for the first two weeks. After 2 weeks I was back up to about 30 WPM, but touch typing on the regular layout felt uncomfortable. I have decent finger mobility from playing the guitar, but the movements still felt ungodly. I decided to switch to Dvorak instead.
Support for Dvorak is excellent in Windows and Linux. I changed system settings to Dvorak and kept the same keyboard. I actually like the fact that the keys on the keyboard have the wrong labels: it makes you stop looking in no time. Typing Master is geared towards the regular layout, but it does Dvorak well enough. I would look for specific Dvorak typing software though. The move was pretty painless; the major issue was typing passwords. Sometimes I had to use a conversion diagram (link below) to type a password, since I couldn’t see what I was typing nor look at the keyboard to know which key to press. Also, people have a hard time using my computers now . That can be a bug or a feature. I don’t think you should expect a speed boost from Dvorak, but it feels a lot easier on the hands than regular touch typing. I was surprised to find out that, at least for my hands, "chaotic" typing is the most comfortable method. I was also surprised that typing on Dvorak did not help me impress women.
Based on my experience, I suggest this:
- If you don’t touch type and want a speed boost, move to Dvorak
- If you touch type on regular and have hand problems, move to Dvorak
Otherwise, don’t bother. Links:
- This diagram (prints better than it looks) and this one helped a lot. They are crucial for the first few days, and for passwords in the first couple of weeks.
- I really liked Typing Master (no affiliation), but there are free alternatives out there