As my 10fastfingers profile can attest, my average typing speed in English is 90 wpm (words per minute). To give you some context, the world record is 216 wpm, an average typing speed is around 30-40 wpm, and jobs like secretary often require a typing speed around 50-80 wpm. (Source: Wikipedia)
How did I manage to reach this speed? The answer is simple: I switched to the Dvorak keyboard layout.
For historical reasons, most people use the QWERTY layout. This layout was designed in the 1870s to put commonly used letter-pairs far from each other so as to prevent jams in old typewriters. If it made sense back then, it is now completely suboptimal with our modern keyboards. And yet, most people still use it, just because it’s there… There are two things wrong with this layout that purposely makes your fingers travel more over the keyboard. First, it makes you type slower. Second, it makes you more likely to get repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
In April 2011, a colleague introduced me to the Dvorak layout. He actually got CTS after years of programming, and this layout helped him solve this problem. The Dvorak layout, developed in the 1930s, is designed so that the most commonly used letters are on the middle row, where your fingers usually rest. Letters are arranged so as to alternate between each hand. It results in a very balanced and fluid way of typing, that requires much less fingers movements than the QWERTY layout. Typing in Dvorak is not only efficient, it’s enjoyable. That was enough to convince me to give it a try.
Here is how this layout looks like:
And here’s a video of someone typing in Dvorak. Look how little his fingers move:
Making the switch was no easy task. The first week was a pain in the ass, but I was determined. In order to memorize the layout, I used the Mac keyboard viewer during the first two days. It then took me about three weeks to get back to my initial productivity. Ten months later, I’m still typing in Dvorak, and I love it! There’s no way I go back.
I’m glad I invested some time and efforts in learning this skill that not only allows me to type faster, but also makes me actually enjoy typing. As a side note, here’s a funny outcome I noticed: since I type in Dvorak but my physical keyboard is in QWERTY, the labels on the keys I press have nothing to do with what I actually type. That means nobody can spy over my shoulder to steal my passwords. Ah ah, who said I’m paranoid?