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Make your own Dvorak keyboard

Posted on 2nd Sep 2009 at 08:10 by Ben Hardwidge with 16 comments

Patented by August Dvorak in 1936, the Dvorak keyboard layout proposed a new way of typing based on the way that humans typically work, as opposed to the needs of mechanical typewriters (the reason QWERTY was originally designed).

Dvorak places the most commonly used letters on the second row, referred to as the ‘home row’ because it was where a person’s fingers typically sat. All the vowels are on the second row, while the sparsely-used Q and Z keys are placed on either side of the third row.

The layout was also designed on the principle that people should type from the edge of the keyboard inwards, as it’s apparently easier to switch from your little finger to your index finger than vice-versa.

If you’ve ever wondered whether the Dvorak keyboard really is the superior layout that it was claimed to be, then there’s an easy way to try it out for yourself. After all, your keyboard is just a mechanical rack of buttons that’s controlled by Windows. If you have a spare keyboard up on the shelf then it’s usually easy enough to transform it into a Dvorak keyboard.

Make your own Dvorak keyboard
The Dvorak keyboard layout

All you have to do is lever out the keys from your guinea pig keyboard - you can easily do this by wedging a thin, flathead screwdriver in between the keys and then levering them up, or you may have better luck by unscrewing the back of the keyboard and removing the keys that way.

Once you’ve disassembled your keyboard into a stack of 3D Scrabble letters, your next job is to re-lay the keys in the Dvorak layout according to the diagram below.

Make your own Dvorak keyboard
Ben's keyboard, post Dvorak modding

A large amount of keyboards feature the same mounting connectors for each key, so this should be an easy job. However, some keyboards do feature different plugs on some of the keys, so you may need to alter a couple of them with some model paint and Letraset to get the layout completely correct.

With your modded keyboard waiting in the wings, you now just need to set it up in Windows. In Windows Vista, you can do this by going to Regional and Language Options, selecting the Keyboards and Languages tab and hitting the Change Keyboards button. Alternatively, in Windows XP you need to go to Regional and Language Options in the Control Panel, select Languages and then hit the Details button.

Make your own Dvorak keyboard
Change a few settings in Windows and you're good to go

You now need to hit the Add button, scroll down the list to English (United Kingdom), tick the Show More box and select United States-Dvorak. There’s no UK Dvorak layout option, so just bear in mind that your @ key will now be a shift function of the 2 key and so on. You can now shut down your machine, plug in your new Dvorak keyboard and boot up Windows. To enable your new keyboard, go back to the Change Keyboard settings box and select United States-Dvorak from the pull-down menu at the top. You now just need to hit Apply and you can give Dvorak a test drive.

16 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
yakyb 2nd September 2009, 08:29 Quote
I have always been tempted to try this

when my 955 arrives i may give it a spin
Bauul 2nd September 2009, 09:05 Quote
Apparently the Dvorak keyboard does increase typing speed, but we're talking about professional typists who do hundreds of words a minute. For Joe Blogs who uses no more than four fingers and a typing speed of 50 words a minute, it makes little difference, and you'll waste more time retraining yourself to use the new layout than you'd ever gain in typing speeds.

That said, it is a more logical layout, and especially if you suffer from RSI and the such like it's apparently a god-send, as typing on it is far more natural than the QWERTY keyboard. As the article points out, the keyboard is built around the natural movement of drumming your fingers on the table (little finger through to index finger), which is apparently one of the least strenous things you can do with your hands.
haddow64 2nd September 2009, 12:33 Quote
Really good article, I am now going off to find an old keyboard and try ths out!
Ninja_182 2nd September 2009, 12:59 Quote
I tried to get using this at work with a spare keyboard. I didnt stick at it to get my typing up to full speed but got fairly reasonable. I definatly noticed I didnt move my hands around half as much which was a benefit in my quest to be more and more lazy :)

Ultimatly I failed based on a tradeoff bewteen having a Dvorak keyboard on my desk in front of my laptop or having the additional desk space.

You will need to stick at it for a fairly long time and force yourself not to use a QWERTY for things that need typing up fast.
The_Pope 2nd September 2009, 14:59 Quote
I've been tempted for years, but the idea of being pwned on 99.999% of any other keyboard in the world kinda puts me off. Plus the fear of having to untrain my brain from the last 25 years of typing - that's a lot of muscle memory!

I wonder if there's any benefit to DVORAK on stuff like iPhone :)
DiegoAAC 2nd September 2009, 15:50 Quote
So WASD will become <AOE, I'll never remember that
s1n1s 2nd September 2009, 15:56 Quote
just use arrow keys
timbro 2nd September 2009, 16:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
Apparently the Dvorak keyboard does increase typing speed, but we're talking about professional typists who do hundreds of words a minute. For Joe Blogs who uses no more than four fingers and a typing speed of 50 words a minute, it makes little difference, and you'll waste more time retraining yourself to use the new layout than you'd ever gain in typing speeds.

That said, it is a more logical layout, and especially if you suffer from RSI and the such like it's apparently a god-send, as typing on it is far more natural than the QWERTY keyboard. As the article points out, the keyboard is built around the natural movement of drumming your fingers on the table (little finger through to index finger), which is apparently one of the least strenous things you can do with your hands.

this is all hearsay
Measter 2nd September 2009, 22:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Pope
I've been tempted for years, but the idea of being pwned on 99.999% of any other keyboard in the world kinda puts me off. Plus the fear of having to untrain my brain from the last 25 years of typing - that's a lot of muscle memory!

I switched to Dvorak several years ago, and a couple years later, switched to right handed Dvorak, I can still type on Qwerty well enough, though it does take me a couple minutes to get up to speed again after not using it for a long time.
yakyb 4th September 2009, 00:30 Quote
apparently colemak is better for my tyoping style after doing a little research into the topic
Spaceraver 11th September 2009, 19:09 Quote
If only I wasn't using a Danish keyboard. :P
Yoy0YO 13th September 2009, 05:01 Quote
can somebody link me to a DOVARK learning site? I just modded out my el-cheapo keyboard and its really hard to re-learn touch typing.
B3CK 13th September 2009, 11:31 Quote
(Being too lazy, and a couple glasses of wine into 5:30am here to look it up), Is there a way to have one usb keyboard as QWERTY, and one as DOVARK at the same time?
Rkiver 13th September 2009, 11:38 Quote
I've been using qwerty keyboards for nearly 2 decades now. I've a typing speed in and around the hundred words a minute. Sure in theory DVORAK may be quicker, but 20 years of muscle memory is hard to break.
BLC 13th September 2009, 12:28 Quote
I never really learned to touch type in the traditional sense, it was more a case of "learning" the QWERTY layout over time. I've managed to achieve a fairly decent typing speed, but it's still not "proper" typing.

Switching to DVORAK now would involve re-learning 23 years worth of experience on QWERTY - sounds daunting, frankly! :)
kešjlodna 16th March 2010, 23:05 Quote
Is there any way one could add some letters to Dvorak? I need letters Č芚Žž
I can't writte in slovene with out them. I can't even sign myself.
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