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QWERTY, Dvorak and More 193

We've mentioned stuff related to this in the past, but louridas sent us an interesting article called The Myth of the Keys which talks about how Dvorak isn't really any faster than QWERTY, but the most interesting part is how this relates to the MS AntiTrust case.
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QWERTY, Dvorak and More

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  • Looks like the proofreader is still asleep guys....
  • Well of course "Dvorak isn't really any faster than Dvorak". You mean QWERTY?
    Deja Moo: The feeling that
  • I don't think the proofreader is in the land of nod. I'm guessing the point is that any user typing on a Dvorak keyboard is faster that John Dvorak typing on a qwerty board.
  • which talks about how Dvorak isn't really any faster than Dvorak I'd hope not..
  • by shawnhargreaves ( 66193 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @05:20AM (#1645591) Homepage
    This article contains some good background material, and they draw some interesting conclusions, but I can't help being sceptical because of the way they are arguing other political/philosophical points using the keyboard design as an example. It's hard to place much trust in anyone who so obviously cares that the result come out a particular way.

    Unfortunately, everyone cares about keyboard design. We've all spent years learning how to type, so we have a large investment in a QWERTY layout, while those few people who've spent the even larger investment to relearn a DVORAK keyboard are extremely unlikely to turn around and admit (even if only to themselves) that this was a mistake!

    It would be interesting to do a truly neutral study, using a bunch of kids who haven't yet learned either method, but despite all the research quoted in this article, it seems that nobody has actually done that! Retraining existing typists is a useful test in practical terms, but doesn't tell us anything about which is the best design in an abstract sense.
  • by Wohali ( 57372 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @05:22AM (#1645592) Homepage
    Go check out The Fable of the Fable [], an excellent dissection of the weak logic in this article.

    The short of it - the economic discussions might be fair, but the DVORAK argument is not.

  • Mindcraft ran some bechmarks and concluded that NT is faster than NT, too...
  • by MoNickels ( 1700 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @05:23AM (#1645594) Homepage
    That Dvorak keyboards are no better is old news (and has been submitted to Slashdot at least twice before), but for related interesting info see:

    Typing Errors [] in Reason magazine.

    Network Effects, Path Dependence and Lock-In []

    DISMAL SCIENCE FICTIONS Network Effects, Microsoft, and Antitrust Speculation []

  • by Otto ( 17870 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @05:26AM (#1645596) Homepage Journal
    That no-one seems to have ever conducted an unbiased test. Of course, doing that is a little problematic in my opinion, as I would think you would need people who cannot type, and then train them on the various keyboards. Also, the one you learn first you might possibly be better at, and so forth.

    Learning is a bitch. Once you learn one way, it's extremely hard to go to another way. Take me for example. I learned QWERTY when I was around 8 years old, and I didn't learn the "five-finger" method or anything like that. My method of typing is basically hunt and peck, with the advantage that I know from memory where the keys are. I get around 50-60 words a minute with no mistakes. I simply know my keyboard. Almost all my typing is done with 4 fingers out of 10. It generally upsets people who see me type, especially if they learned "the right way".

    But that's just me and I'm odd anyway.

  • My desktop runs qwerty, and my laptop uses dvorak. I'm perfectly comfortable with either keyboard, and I find them to be quite very much equal. But dvorak is significantly more _comfortable_ to type in then qwerty, typos are harder to commit, and words flow through my fingers more easily.

    This article is better described as a book, though.

    I have a question to throw at everyone - maybe it could even be a /. poll some day:
    How do you pronounce "dvorak"?
    ( ) de-vo-rack
    ( ) de-vor-jak

  • Actually, this article is a prime example of the new Beowulf/Dvorak proofreader.

    Each machine in the cluster is given a word and has to say "Yes, this word is right" or "No, this word is incorrect." This kind of innovative massive paralellism allows the machines to check for validity without ever actually checking for validity.
  • by RoLlEr_CoAsTeR ( 39353 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @05:32AM (#1645600)
    Retraining existing typists is a useful test in practical terms, but doesn't tell us anything about which is the best design in an abstract sense.

    I agree, because in retraining someone to do something another way, you get one of 3 possibilities:
    1. They preferred doing it the way they were originally taught.
    2. They prefer doing it the new way they were taught.
    3. They prefer neither method.

    Such a situation incorporates the biases of the person, and ruins the empiricality of the experiment because the person as already been tainted by previous experience! As you suggested, they should take a group of people (children, most likely) who've never been presented with a keyboard before (never seen one, anything), and teach some how to type on a QWERTY keyboard, and some on a DVORAK keyboard, and see which group is faster, etc, etc.. And then they can begin to go back and do studies on
    1. People who've been taught simultaneously on both keyboard layouts
    2. People who've been taught first on one, (say, QWERTY) for a specific period of time, and who were then taught on DVORAK for a certain period of time, and then see which method produces faster typing output
    3. The reverse of #2, i.e., teach them first on DVORAK for the same amount of time, and then switch to teaching them on QWERTY, etc, etc.
    4. and then, just for the heck of it, make a keyboard that has the keys in all the same locations, but that reads alphabetically from left to right, top to bottom, and teach an arbitrary group using that as the original keyboard they're taught on, and run similar tests to those in 1-3 with this keyboard as the focal point.

    I think that once experiments like these were conducted, the greater part of the [computing] world would be eager to know the results... and we all know why...

    My $0.02 worth
  • by Vox ( 32161 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @05:32AM (#1645601) Homepage
    Well...I've been using computers for only about 15 years or so, and typing on QWERTY layout for a bit longer. I changed to Dvorak about 6 months ago or took me about a month to be back up to speed, due to the fact that I didn't want to loose my qwerty, so I was using both layouts.

    The only real difference I've found between em is that I make less typos with the Dvorak (the "teh" mistake disapeared almost completely) and my wrists don't hurt much anymore (they used to hurt with qwerty after 6 or 7hr of typing).

    I don't think Dvorak makes you faster, but it does make for a better typing experience, since you really use all fingers with it.

    Vox, a Dvorak convert

  • You know, for a damn 30 page document, it seems to me (IMO) that this could have been summarized in a short page essay of, say, 5 paragraphs or so.

    Somebody needs to send this guy a note on brevity.

  • by Kythe ( 4779 )
    Science is supposed to be impartial. Unfortunately, economics (particularly U. of Chicago lassaiz-faire type) is frequently tautological.

    It is in the interest of pro-lassaiz-faire folk to deny network effects exist, since such effects point up a prime failing of the free market. Customers must be completely free to choose the best product. Unfortunately for them, I've heard far too much anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

    Every time an article about applications for Linux comes up, for example, there are invariably a cascade of talkbacks and comments along the lines of, "Yeah, these are good applications, and I like them, but they don't have good enough compatibility with [Word|Excel|Access|Insert other here].

    Deny as they wish, I'm already convinced.

    (Remove "x"'s from

  • I get around 50-60 words a minute with no mistakes. ... Almost all my typing is done with 4 fingers out of 10.

    I used to type like that, and it wasn't until I bludgeoned myself into touch typing and suffered through an entire summer of 10 wpm that I started getting good at it.

    I consider it to be very much like using Windows: humans adapting to a poor design, then becoming so familiar with it that they never want it to change.


  • That would be why its been corrected to QWERTY then? ;)
  • Back when Woody Allen was doing stand-up (yes, I *am* that old) he claimed to type by "The Allen Method" momorizing the keyboard phonetically.

    He pronounced it:

  • Where, pray tell, could you buy a DVORAK keyboard if you wanted one?
  • Leibowitz has served as a resource for the defense in the Microsoft trial. Unfortunately, his stuff seems to have been unconvincing there, as well.

    (Remove "x"'s from
  • I switched to Dvorak almost two years ago. At first the switch was completely cold turkey. I carried my Kinesis Dvorak keyboard around with me everywhere.

    Just recently (past three months) I've gone dual keyboard. I can type on either system now.

    I've found that my speed is about the same on either layout. However I'm faster on my Kinesis because of the improved ergo features. IE the keys are arranged in columns rather than on the diagonals, and the keyboard is concave, because fingers are not all the same length.

    The part that I lke the most is that I don't have to move my fingers as much. Having a home row that consists of "aoeuidhtns" vs "asdfghjkls" is great.
  • Erm, me, I pronounce it something like '(d)'vor-zhak' with a relatively quiet 'd'...

    YMMV though :)

    One of these days, I'll actually get to play with a dvorak keyboard then..
  • by MoNickels ( 1700 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @05:39AM (#1645611) Homepage
    This rebuttal sets off alarms that make me suspicious of it. That's not to say the original article does not do the same, but this one is clearly problematic.

    -- Numerous "quoted" "words."
    -- Use of exclamation marks.
    -- Proving claims by lack of evidence rather than by the presence of it.
    -- Numerous unecessarily bold words.
    -- Judgmental words like "spew", "aspersion", "takes a swipe at"
    -- Hedge words like "probably" and "might"
    -- Use of speculative "what-if" scenarios
    -- Confuses number of sources with quality of conclusion
    -- Relies on speculation on the motives and intentions of persons now dead
    -- Uses his father as a source
    -- More, but why find them?
  • Well, a cursory test on a dvorak layout made it seem really "right-hand" centric. Typing:

    "This is a new layout and I dont like it."

    was roughly 75% right hand. If my KB was a twiddler, maybe...

  • See [] "The Fable of the Fable", for an extensive rebuttal and dissent.

    It starts out:

    The Fable of the Fable

    You might hear comments from time to time about studies showing Dvorak is "no better than QWERTY," or words to that effect. All such comments that I've heard seem to echo an article, "The Fable of the Keys," by S. J. Liebowitz and Stephen E. Margolis, published in the Journal of Law & Economics, vol. XXXIII (April 1990).

    Note the word "economics." Liebowitz and Margolis are economists opposed to an "excessive inertia" theory, for which OWERTY is often cited as an example. Rather than try to prove their point with a generally valid argument, they simply attack Dvorak as a dubious replacement for QWERTY. As the article's last footnote explains, there are a number of other possible reasons for Dvorak's failure to replace QWERTY, besides a perceived lack of value. The article ignores those reasons, however, and perpetrates that false perception in a nicely self-fulfilling way.

    The argument involves perception in more ways than one. If you read the article carefully, you will find that it seems to claim more than it actually does claim, especially after its implications get paraphrased a few times in conversation. Because their effect is just as powerful, I will address its implications as if they were clearly stated claims

    And then goes on to thoroughly examine and refute the cited points

    - Seth Finkelstein

  • Well, de-vor-ack obviously (well, that first e should be a schwa of course, but...) if you're spelling it as above. However, if it gets all the nifty punctuation (like Anton Dvorak), then it becomes de-vor-zhock.

  • If you follow the link at the top of the reference page, you'll see that these writings come from the Independent Institute, which had run full-page ads in the New York Times in support of Microsoft in its anti-trust trial. It was recently revealed [], after explicit denials of such by the Institute's chairman, that the ads had been paid for by Microsoft. Draw your own conclusions.
  • And by the way, the same sentence is 16/30 on the right hand in QWERTY. That seems a bit more balanced; I dont care where the keys are, but if one hand is forced to do 80% of the work, it is NOT going to be as fast as a 50/50 split.

  • After growing up on a Qwerty keyboard, I tried switching to Dvorak. It lasted about 6 months. My results? I never got as fast on Dvorak as I was with my Qwerty keyboard. One possible reason for this is that I was unable to use Dvorak exclusively. Every time I used someone else's computer or went to a computer lab, it would be a huge pain. After Dvorak was ingrained in my head (and hands) pretty well, I was embarassed at my hunting and pecking on Qwerty keyboards. But still, my speed on Dvorak was only about 80% of my original speed on Qwerty. However, my typing comfort and accuracy on Dvorak were much improved! After using Dvorak for a while, I was making fewer (and less serious) mistakes. I think the main reason my comfort was improved was that when I learned Dvorak, I actually learned proper typing form, which is something I never had with Qwerty (and still don't). So why did I switch back? Dvorak is only a viable option if one can use it exclusively. In my job and schoolwork, I had to often use other people's or general access computers. Switching back and forth was a real pain. It would get my hands confused. In the end, I decided it was not worth it. However, if I could put myself in an environment where I could use a Dvorak layout exclusively, I think I would switch back. My hands and wrists havn't felt as good since. I think I could get my Dvorak speed to where my Qwerty speed is now if I was able to use it exclusively. Just my $0.02
  • They switchable between QWERTY and Dvorak, real ergo, and extremely comfy to type on.

    Drawback? $250. Trust me, it's time and money well spent.
  • Believe it or not, they exist. ;)

    I don't have a link, but Google will set you up I bet.
  • History is interesting, but I think personal experience is more important. I don't really care about typing speed; I can touch type with both layouts. But a Querty keyboard will give me wrist pain in the matter of an hour, whereas the dvorak layout lets me type for several hours without pain. To me that's the true test. In addition, I've never met anyone who can touch type on both keyboards and prefers Querty.

    Of course, neither layout can overcome the limitations of a keyboard whose keys are lined up in horizontal rows, but my DataHand [] testimonials aren't suited to this thread.
  • I learned QWERTY when I was around 8 years old, and I didn't learn the "five-finger" method or anything like that. My method of typing is basically hunt and peck, with the advantage that I know from memory where the keys are. I get around 50-60 words a minute with no mistakes.

    I was exactly like this until about 6 months ago, when I decided to learn Dvorak for kicks. It actually worked out great because now I can type even faster and it's easier to read or talk while typing. The nice thing about Dvorak in this case is that I didn't have any "bad habits" to break. So for me relearning the keyboard allowed me to break my bad typing habits.
  • Doubtful, as CmdrTaco is the proof reader. I'm constantly amazed by people (Not saying Psiren is one) who imagine /. as a news room full of busy people and editors and interns. From what I can tell, /. is a bunch of people in their own homes going through links in \ (Backslash is Slashdot's backend) which were submitted by random joes not unlike yourself, then posting the interesting ones.

    And I wouldn't have it any other way.

  • Oh good. :)
    I am saying it right.
    (Whatever the majority thinks tends to be considers right. :) )

    dVORzhak! keyboards rule... :)
    oh wait...
    here's the pronunciation key ...
    (d&-)'vor-"zhäk - write that ten times quickly... :)
  • I am interested in getting a Dvorak keyboard just to see the differences. It would be interesting to see if I can relearn how to type. Where can I get one cheap?
  • That report was mostly blather about history and economics. Statistics are what matter in such a case. Why is it that the only test anyone ever cites about Dvorak vs. QWERTYUIOP is the Navy retraining? It's pretty easy to conduct another, more fair one.

    All my friends who switched to Dvorak have increased speed from their QWERTY days. Personally, I learned to touch-type in school in a semester and maxed out at 60/70 wpm after a few years. Later, I taught myself Dvorak. In about two weeks, I had completely forgotten QWERTY and was basic in Dvorak. After not too much longer, I tested at 90 wpm in Dvorak. A significant increase. Because I was taking comp sci classes in school throughout, I was forced to accidentally remember QWERTY (it's not forgotten, just pushed aside). Now I can type at my previous speeds in that as well, with no switching time and only a little annoyance over punctuation, which is typed less frequently. I feel that if I wasn't forced to hold myself back by using QWERTY all the time, I could become even faster in Dvorak.

    Anyway, I don't know about all the so-called "tests" that have taken place, but from personal and observed experience, Dvorak is faster and more elegant, and takes very little time to learn. QWERTY just feels jumbled to me. It seems fairly unlikely that a mostly random misplacement of the keys could be more optimal than a statistically developed one.

  • I feel about Dvorak the way a lot of people here feel about Linux. That is, that it is better, and I don't care what other people say or do or "prove", it is better.

    I like my layout. It's faster, feels better, works better. No amount of study, scientific or otherwise, is going to change my personal experience.
  • Out of concern of developing wrist problems, from years of much typing, I learned Dvorak last year. I got up to about 40 wpm on it, where I pretty much peaked. Considering that I type between 100-120wpm on a QWERTY, that's not much of an improvment.

    I don't mean to say that it's not possible to type as fast on a Dvorak as it is on a QWERTY. But I found there to be little advantage to the Dvorak and, to be honest, I found it awkward. This is likely related to the fact that I've been using the standard keyboard layout for 14 years. Still, with all the time that I spent on Dvorak, I'd like to think that I found have found some improvement.

    The idea that the most-accessed keys are on the homerow is a cool idea, but it slowed me down. I type with all of my fingers, but I don't always hit the keys with the textbook-correct fingers. As a result, Dvorak makes me use, say, my index finger for the QWERTY-equlivalent ASD and F. Theoretically, this would be faster if I could use all four fingers on my left hand with equal agility. But, because I can't type perfectly, I found that it was slower to use Dvorak.

    There are other examples, but they're pretty much the same deal. Essentially, I'm used to QWERTY, and I've let my typing become less-than-perfect to adapt to it. Would be better on Dvorak if I'd started on it? Probably. But for most of us, QWERTY should do nicely.

    (Sidenote: Dvorak is the best system security that you can get, especially if you switch your keycaps around. Ain't nobody can use your system. :)
  • Surprise? I've encountered plenty of people who feel the same.

    Click Here to read my study for ACT and ASCII calculating the costs that would accrue to software producers if Windows were broken into three 'competing' flavors. It is very conservatively estimated at $30 billion.

    Heard it before, don't believe it now either.

    I think these guys just like whatever is best right now. They feel QWERTY is better than DVORAK RIGHT NOW, probably cause somebody paid them too. They feel that MS is better than No-MS because MS pays a LOT of economists to think that way.

    The fundamental point of view of an economists is "Anything that causes money to flow from other people to me is good for the economy."

    I don't mean to be hypocritical, that's the way I feel, too, but I don't get cited as an expert on these things.

  • I can touch type with both. I type 20-30 wpm faster on Dvorak, and it's noticably more comfortable, as many people have said. You don't really know how awful Qwerty really is until you learn Dvorak and then switch back- it's so obvious it either 1) wasn't designed at all or 2) was designed to slow people down.

    Typing on Qwerty now feels like I'm trying to tie my fingers in knots. Dvorak just.... flows. :)
  • Gosh, they make this out to be so complicated. The keyboard analogy has often been used as an example of "market failure," much like the supposed VHS-Beta example.

    It's wrong, and you don't need to be a microeconomist to figure it out. It doesn't even matter which keyboard is "superior". People chose qwerty, end of story. True, there weren't many choices initially (one, I guess), but once that choice was made, nobody wanted much to change to another keyboard. The lesson? Standardization is more valuable than an "optimum" layout. People chose standardization, and the public settled for the first standard that came along. That's a valid market result.
  • My wrists hurt significantly less since I switched to the Dvorak keyboard about a year ago. But that's just me.

    One bit I did find interesting was the bit on the ergonomic studies, and the arguments that:

    A. The loads on the right and left hands are equalized.

    B. The load on the home (middle) row is maximized.

    C. The frequency of alternating hand sequences is maximized and the frequency of same-finger typing is minimized.

    It's Friday, so I think I'll hack together a keyboard monitor and see what keys I really hit. Then I'll do some unscientific analyses on the results. If anyone's already got a keyboard monitor, save me a bit of work,eh?

  • The article considers very interesting factors - forces that affect the market, a serendipitous solution to fast typing coming froma solution to a mechanical limitaiton, limiting factors maybe not the keyboard, but neurological, but does not explicitly consider the factor you mentioned - which one is less stressful on the wrists?

    It seems to me that the solution of spreading alternating keystrokes to alternating hands might have solved not only the jamming problem, but also the wrists one, but reducing the stretching of the fingers and allowing some rest time between strokes. Sufficient spacing between the keys to avoid cramping is also necessary.
  • How do you pronounce "dvorak"?
    ( ) de-vo-rack
    ( ) de-vor-jak

    Actually, neither of the above. Dvorak (or Dvoøák, if you happen to have a Central European charset available), is originally a Czech name. The "r hook" sound does not exist in English, and to most English speakers sounds like either a "sh" or a "zh".
  • I don't regret switching at all.

    Besides the fact I think the article is a load of crap :)
  • I think it's a worthwhile expense, too. In a truly "Doh!" moment, I swapped around the keycaps on a spare keyboard, and now the keycap sculpting angles are randomized to the the point that attempting Dvorak is an uncomfortable typing experience. YMMV, I hope.

  • We've mentioned stuff related to this in the past

    We've discussed this EXACT article in the past. See: The Myth of QWERTY [].

  • The aim of the keyboard piece is clearly to disprove the notion that an inferior solution can remain standard through monopoly inertia. Whether this is true in the keyboard case I don't know, but if you go up to the rest of their writing you see their purpose: to demonstrate that Microsoft's cominant position is not related to inertia and most likely arises through technical superiority.

    If you go up to their page about the MS anti-trust case, they put forward some evidence that prices of software products in markets where Microsoft compete have dropped much faster than prices in markets where Microsoft does not compete. At first glance this suggests that Microsoft is not a monopoly, since monopolies usually exert their influence to keep prices inflated.

    However, the reasoning is fallacious:

    1. The unit production cost of software is almost zero, so the economies of scale are huge. Software which sells lots of copies should sell at a tiny fraction of the price of specialist software.
    2. Microsoft exercises its monopoly position in one main market: the OS. Its income from this market is so huge that it can afford to loss-lead products in other markets. Thus MS may provide a downward pressure on products in some markets, but only by inflating prices in another market.
    3. The trend for MS monpoly product, its OS, is upward, not downward, despite the increase in the market.
    4. Becuase of the huge economies of scale, it may in the past have proven beneficial in terms of price to have a single provider rather than paying many copies to duplicate effort. But the cost of lack of competition is lack of innovation.
    5. The market is now so huge that software prices are essentially being driven to zero for the most used software. Microsoft's pricing, with the exception of internet explorer, does not reflect this trend.
    6. The only software markets in which Microsoft does not compete are either specialised, or fast turnover (games). In these markets the huge economies of scale are not realised, and so the pricing is not expected to fall in the same way.
  • So everyone's still arguing if it's faster. One thing's for certain, your fingers move a LOT less. Which in the end is all that really matters - more comfortable definitely.
  • This article doesn't "thoroughly examine and refute" anything. It accuses Liebowitz and Margolis of claiming a number of things that it would have been contradictory, circular or unsupportable for them to claim through the wonderful device of saying "If you read the article carefully, you will find that it seems to claim more than it actually does claim, ... , I will address its implications as if they were clearly stated claims", and goes on sto show these claims not to be supported, or to be circular.

    You do however, have a point. The author's have an agenda and the information they present is designed to support that agenda. The publication in which the article appeared is the primary forum for "Chicago School" laissez faire economics, and they are trying to imply that network effects do not exist, or can be overcome by market mechanisms alone. They have a further agenda in doing that - their political sponsors want to support the case the government intervention in the economy (or more radical change away from a market economy) is unnecessary. This article supports that claim only by throwing mud at a classical example of network effects in the hope of casting doubt on the whole idea. It doesn't prove anything, but Chicago school economics rarely does.

    The important point in the Liebowitz and Margolis paper is that there is little evidence for the idea that Dvorak's keyboard would have been a radically more sensible design to "lock in" that the QWERTY one. It is only marginally faster to train people in, and barely faster at all to use in experienced hands.
  • Why? This was an article in a journal on law and economics - both fields treasure verbosity.

  • I've heard far too much anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

    And ancedotal evidence has how much scientific value? That's right, none.
  • You don't. You leave the keyboard as it is and remap it using the OS. In Windows, change the language of your keyboard to US Dvorak. In Unix, use xmodmap (sorry, don't have the file on me).
  • Isn't this sort of a rerun...we already had an article that basically debunked the conventional wisdom that dvoraks were so much greater. I wouldn't mind it if we all used dvoraks though, because the qwerty unevenly distributes keys (not to say that it is slower...left hand is just used a lot).
  • I switched to Dvorak just about a year ago. I didn't get the supposed 50% increase in speed and accuracy, perhaps because I was already typing at 90 WPM on QWERTY. I did, however, end up with fewer typos and _much_ less stress to the fingers.

    My other problem is that there is a buffer underrun when my brain is providing the data to type. ;)

    Dvortyboards makes a regular keyborard that is switchable between dvorak and qwerty with the press of a button. The quality of the keyboard itself hasn't totally impressed me, though. You can buy one at
  • ah yeah, the "Contour Classic Dual Legend" It has been my preferred weapon of choice for about 18 months now, I love it, worth every penny. It's hard to justify, this keyboard can cost 10x more than other keyboards but it is worth it.

    Hard for me to say much about Dvorak in particular since my typing has been much more comfortable because of the keyboard alone, my speed, comfort and accuracy have all gone up though.

    Do you run with the peddle configuration?

  • Not that I agree with the article, but who would pay for an article to support the QWERTY keyboard? :o
  • So many people jump to the conclusion that because the Dvorak tests were biased, that means that Dvorak is no better than QWERTY. This is a very invalid argument. Just think about it: How many words can you make with the letters on the home row of QWERTY (asdfghjkl;)? Not very many. How many can you make with the home row of Dvorak (aoeuidhtns)? A whole lot more. My friend here says it's about 100 vs. 3000. Now, unless you assume that finger movement is "free", there's going to be SOME speed advantage there, not to mention being easier on your wrists.

    Whatever the motivations, the dvorak layout has the look of having been "planned", and the QWERTY layout has the look of either having been slapped together randomly or antagonistically.

    I have never met someone who properly started using dvorak (that is, cold turkey) who ever regretted it. Certainly testimonial evidence is not as good as scientifically rigorous testing (it could all be psychosematic), but it IS something. So we have

    1. A biased scientific test
    2. Hypothetical anagram test
    3. Testimonial

    Each alone would be severly suspect, but together they give a pretty clear picture that Dvorak has some advantages.

    Remember: this article does not say Dvorak is no better than QWERTY.
  • For some discussion of Microsoft's PR connection to these authors, see

    Microsoft's questionable research papers

    An excerpt:

    Now, here's the rub. The McKenzie/Shugart white paper and forthcoming Liebowitz/Margolis book are both being published by the Oakland, Calif., public-policy group, The Independent Institute.

    The Independent Institute, says its tag line is a "nonprofit, nonpoliticized, scholarly public policy research and education organization." But, wait: there's more. According to Liebowitz, professor of managerial economics for the University of Texas at Dallas, The Independent Institute's public relations agency is Edelman PR Worldwide. One of Edelman's biggest public affairs clients is Microsoft.

    Earlier this year, Edelman was discovered to be at the heart of a public-image makeover campaign designed to improve Microsoft's reputation in the face of growing federal, state and private legal battles. According to The Los Angeles Times, which originally broke the story on the Edelman plan, Edelman had proposed making available to reporters "unbiased" users and industry experts, without identifying their connections to Microsoft or the agency. Microsoft officials claimed that these kind of misrepresentations were not part of the plan.

    In spite of Liebowitz's claims that Edelman represents The Independent Institute, a spokesman for the group said he was "not sure" whether Edelman was representing the Institute.

    -- Seth Finkelstein

  • just relabel your old keyboard or learn from a screen to touchtype (search for dvorak7min on See for some more pointers.
  • Typing of pronunciation and the like, has anyone considered alternative names for the Dvorak keyboard, that might perhaps be less ambiguous as to pronunciation? QWERTY is fairly straightforward, everyone I know says "kwert-ee".

    Looking at the Dvorak layout, similar reasoning might name it the Quote-y layout. Or possibly even the waka-waka [].
  • by Kythe ( 4779 )
    And ancedotal evidence has how much scientific value? That's right, none

    This is simply untrue. Anecdotal evidence is all that is needed to negate a claim that is based upon absolutes, such as a denial of network effects.

    The controversy over the DVORAK keyboard is itself "anecdotal evidence".

    (Remove "x"'s from

  • by Kythe ( 4779 )
    If you'd prefer, we can refer to these as "examples" of network effects, since what I've heard are not really "anecdotes".

    It seems to me it would be fairly easy to conduct a study of what people see as most important in a potential switch to another office suite.

    (Remove "x"'s from

  • It's also fairly easy to switch keyboards on a software level if you don't want to pay $60 for a dvortyboard.
    Just do a web search for "Introducing the Dvorak Keyboard" and you should find a site with plenty of information. Or just go hunting around in your Windows Control Panel, or use 'loadkeys' or 'xmodmap' in Linux: there might already be a dvorak keymap in /usr/lib.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Going through these people's other articles linked from the page, I find some very obvious logical holes which leave me with little confidence in the QWERTY article.

    For instance, they claim that if Microsoft was a monopolist, they would raise their prices after getting a high market share, but that software prices in areas where Microsoft competes are actually decreasing faster than in other areas.

    If Microsoft is dumping to get a monopoly, you would expect that prices would go down, not up--decreasing prices is exactly what one would expect. Increasing prices only happen afterwards.
    To give an extreme example, Internet Explorer is free (of cost). That is certainly a price that went down, to zero.

    Furthermore, the authors note that prices of software are going down. The price of Windows hasn't. Even by their own reasoning, the price of Windows is much more than what it should be had it followed the trend--i.e. Microsoft _is_ charging monopoly prices for Windows.
  • I used to work in a penny-pinching shop where we had to clean our old keyboards instead of spending $10 to get a new one. Pop off the keys, throw everything in a sonic cleaner and presto, it was like having a brand new keyboard (kinda). Once someone left the keys in too long and the all lettering came off. We were laughing our asses off at the thing, joking about the prospect of forcing the whole office to learn how to touch type by replacing all their keyboards. The keyboard actually did a good job of keeping people off of one of our production servers (or at least the ones who shouldn't be touching it!). Reading this post made me think how much more evil that keyboard would have been if we had changed the system layout to DVORAK on top of blank keys... (grin)
  • You can find lots of counter examles for each key board both pro and con. For A bad Qwerty, "as fast as fast can be" is all left hand except for one letter. For a Good dvorak, "quantos anos tienes" is all on the home row except the first letter. Over the long run, the averages work out like they say.
  • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @06:55AM (#1645663)
    ``We've all spent years learning how to type, so we have a large investment in a QWERTY layout, while those few people who've spent the even larger investment to relearn a DVORAK keyboard are extremely unlikely to turn around and admit (even if only to themselves) that this was a mistake!''

    Sounds like human nature to me. Rare is the person who spends a lot of effort learning something like that and then turns around and says (either to themselves or out loud): ``Hey! What a waste of time that was!''.

    Consider people you know who have invested a considerable amount of time and/or money becoming proficient in a particular activity and think about how open they are to different ways of doing things. For example,

    • People who've climbed the learning curve for UNIX and how they feel about people who only know point-and-click WinXX users.
    • Drivers who took the time to drive a standard transmission and what they think about automatics.
    • People who go out and buy exotic speakers for big bucks and insist that they sound so much better than yours even though hideously expensive test equipment can barely measure the difference in sound.
    • Psychiatrists who spends years studying a particular method of analysis and dismiss anyone who studied any other method.
    • ...

    I don't think we have to work very hard to think of many more examples.

    Question: If Dvorak was supposed to be easier to use how come I had so damned much trouble back when I remapped my keyboard with Prokey and mvoed all my keycaps? And, since, I never really learned how to type (I consider my typing ability something like advanced ``hunting and pecking''.) it couldn't have been having to ``unlearn'' an old typing technique.

  • Your fingers don't move less if you are typing C code. I started learning to use a Dvorak key layout because I thought it would be cool. I began by typing text from books. I started thinking, hey this is great, it felt like I would be able to type faster and it seemed more comfortable. Then I tried writing code with it. It sucked hard. The '{' and '}' keys are too hard to get to.

    Joseph Kain

  • Question: If Dvorak was supposed to be easier to use how come I had so damned much trouble back when I remapped my keyboard with Prokey and mvoed all my keycaps? And, since, I never really learned how to type (I consider my typing ability something like advanced ``hunting and pecking''.) it couldn't have been having to ``unlearn'' an old typing technique.

    It sounds to me like you've never actually learned Dvorak. Sorry to state the obvious, but that is a prerequisite to using it. Also note that Dvorak is not "supposed to be easier to use". That is not the claim. I suggest you seek a Dvorak FAQ and compare the actual claims to that which you have stated.

  • Just because you "never learned to type" doesn't mean you didn't learn the basic layout of the keyboard. Most trans-hunt-and-peck folks basicly come up with a less efficent, but reasonable method over a longer time. If they want to switch to dvorak, they have to go through the learning curve again.

  • Well then, let me connect the dots for you.

    Dvorak is a challenger to an entrenched QWERTY standard. Some studies show that the continued dominance of QWERTY may be explained by the effects of path dependence. The Independent Institute tries to refute this with a weak-logic argument.

    Netscape and Linux are challengers to an entrenched Microsoft standard. Some studies show that the continued dominance of MSDOS/Windows may be explained by the effects of path dependence. The Independent Institute tries to refute this with a weak-logic argument.

  • by Kythe ( 4779 )
    Going back and reading what I initially wrote in response to your statement, it occurs to me I've made a very poor argument.

    Of course, anecdotal evidence is "unscientific". That's why more studies should be done as to what concerns people have regarding switching.

    My relating the concerns of others to you is anecdotal. That does not mean the concerns themselves are anecdotal -- and one has only to check archives to determine how many people voice them.

    The statements of concerns for compatibility, far from being anecdotal evidence, are real social evidence that can be studied -- and in my experience and opinion, they disprove the denial of network effects.

    (Remove "x"'s from

  • I'm wondering if there isn't a BETTER keyboard then QWERTY _AND_ Dvorak.
    Instead of arguing which keyboard is better, why can't we design a better one? (with respect to key layout)

    Come on you people in kinesiology, do some ergonomics studies, and design a better keyboard. :-)

    If we already have a better/new keyboard, does anyone have any links? (I'm intereseted in NON QWERTY and Dvorak keyboards.)

  • If "lock-in" were a powerful and pervasive phenomenon, so that it is commonly impossible to switch from an inferior standard to a superior
    standard, then it is not likely that Linux could
    ever unseat Microsoft Windows products, no matter
    how much better.

    But the lesson of the article (and much academic
    research in the same vein) is that path-dependence
    is much overblown and much overestimated as a force in the economy. If Linux is better (it is!)
    then we should see exactly what we are seeing now -- development, both technical and business-systems, on many simultaneous fronts to
    facilitate the conversion of the world.

    Far from being a pro-Microsoft article, the conclusion here is more that the Right Thing
    _can_ win out.
  • I got the dual legends but I've yet to find time for the week off to re-learn. Bummer!

    I would advise getting the Savant keypad rather than the footswitch. If you key a lot of numbers (IP's included), this will save you a lot of wear and tear on your keypad button.
  • Well that's really true. but.

    have you noticed lately that windows ppl post more than linux ppl?
  • just fyi, 'left-handed dvorak' is intended for people who only -have- a left hand. those with two, regardless of dominance, should use standard dvorak. especially those who currently use qwerty. :)

  • do what i did and find an old IBM super-clicky kbd...surplus sales and garage sales are good (though i'm told they have them at wal*mart too). the keycaps come off and are all the same shape for easy rearrangement.

  • try the twiddler (
    yeah its $200, but if you want a nice alternative keyboard w/out remaping keys by hand, you'll have to shell out around that much anyhow

    it fits in the palm of one hand, and leaves the other hand free, and guess what its a mouse too

    i just got one for my wearable puter that i'm working on (slowly). played with it a little bit, it is hard at first, but no harder than dvorak was at first, and as a major plus if you don't like the key layout you can easily change it, although the letters printed on there would be wrong then, the way i intend to hold it, i won't see those anyhow

    i guess i'll end up being trilingual keyboard wise (qwerty, dvorak, twiddler)
  • Are you an economics major? i suppose not. Nor am i. I've an economics minor. i took serveral econ classes and i can tell you that non of them profs likes MS. They just don't put too much emotion into this issue, and they analyze it as a "market failure and a very good example of monopoly" if you call that "like MS" then you are probably not a scientist.

    in fact, The Economist magazine is one of the voices again MS monopoly, i believe the last discussion is in jannuary.

    why do you think all people should have to same emotions towards this issue? why do you think everyone should pick sides? I am a CS student so i do have very strong emotions towards this issue, but i also understand, to economists, MS is simply a very well tuned economic example.

    one of the prof did comment on the Bill Gate, as a great marketer. i do not consider that a praise at all. it's a rather emotionless description.
  • They switchable between QWERTY and Dvorak

    Surely any keyboard is 'switchable' between different layouts - just tell xmodmap or xkeyboard or or the kernel or whatever to change the mapping.

  • you got them confused.

    your claim: nobody want to change to another keybaord.
    your mistake: you didn't look at other posts.

    your claim: standardization is good.
    you mistake:it should have been "standardization, WHILE NOT COSTING US MORE MONEY(ie, MONOPOLY) , is good." but then again you are probably using IE to type this post.

    Lastly, for your info, "Monopolistic Market" is regarded as "Market FAilure" in economy. Therefore, in economic terms, (using your very goofy definition of standardization) Standardization is Market failure. now does that make sense to you? no? it's because there's something wrong with your claim as states earlier.
  • I thought about calling this "Economists: Whores and Pimps" but thought that might draw too many 'Flamebait' moderations ... :^)

    I think these guys just like whatever is best right now. They feel QWERTY is better than DVORAK RIGHT NOW, probably cause somebody paid them too. They feel that MS is better than No-MS because MS pays a LOT of economists to think that way.

    The fundamental point of view of an economists is "Anything that causes money to flow from other people to me is good for the economy."

    Some observations on economists and their activity in a slightly different industry than computers. These are from Wendell Berry's Home Economics []:

    It is apparantly easy to say that there are too many farmers, if one is not a farmer. This is not a pronouncement often heard in farm communities, nor have farmers yet been informed of a dangerous surplus of population in the "agribusiness" professions or among the middlemen of the food system.
    No agricultural economist has yet perceived that there are too many agricultural economists. [emphasis mine]
    (page 129)

    Surely a kind of monstrosity is involved when tenured professors recommend or even tolerate Darwinian economic policies for farmers, or announce (as one university economist after another has done) that failure of the so-called inefficient farmers is good for agriculture and good for the country. They see no inconsistancy, apparantly, between their own protectivist economy and the "free market" economy that they recommend to their supposed constituents, to whom the "free market" has proven invariably fatal. Nor do they see any inconsistancy, apparently, betweeen the economy of a university, whose sources, like that of any tax-supported institution, are highly diversified, and the extremely specialized economies that they have recommended to their farmer-constituents. Those inconsistancies nevertheless exist, and they explain why, so far, there has been no epidemic of bankrupcies among professors of agricultural economics.
    (page 172)

    Disclaimer: I studies just enough economics in college to learn some of the vocabulary, but not enough to get brainwashed into taking economists pronouncements seriously...

  • I learned QWERTY touch typing in 1962, and changed
    over to Dvorak in 1980. I will never go back;
    QWERTY is too slow, too error-prone, and too
    fatiguing. My speed increased from 40wpm to 70wpm
    within a year of the change, but more importantly
    my error rate was about 2/3 lower and typing was
    much less fatiguing.

    I've used the Kinesis keyboard for a year now, and
    I don't ever want to go back to straight
    keyboards. My speed went up about 20% with the
    Kinesis, and my error rate is a bit lower too.

    The Kinesis Essential is available for about $210
    shipped. See the
    Kinesis homepage for vendors; I have had good
    prices and service from Softek Business Systems.

    I too would like to see some unbiased scientific
    studies of Dvorak vs. QWERTY. Until then I will
    listen to my hands and observe my error rate; both
    tell me clearly that QWERTY is perverse and

    For Linux users, there is a Dvorak remap file for
    xmodmap in the /usr/doc tree. The file name
  • The crucial distinction made in this article is between "excessive inertia" and "reasonable inertia". The question is, as an already-skilled qwerty typist, would you be selfishly happy if the rest of the world made the switch? Obviously, the generations of unborn children would be happy, because Dvorak is acknowledged to be better. But the inertia can still be "reasonable" if the average skilled typist's investment in relearning is not repaid by a significant margin. Inertia's only "excessive" if everyone wishes they could switch (as opposed to wishing that they'd made the right choice the first time) but is just waiting for the other guy to do it first.

    Obviously, this article argues largely from a lack of evidence, and so doesn't prove that the inertia's not excessive. But its thesis is at least plausible; I know a lot of people who would not be happy if the world switched to Dvorak. Can you imagine how your average user would scream if suddenly they had to learn how to type all over again? And it's not just that they don't know what's good for them. If you're never going to be an excellent typist, the hassle of relearning the layout probably won't ever repay itself.
  • Dvorak may tank when it comes to typing C code, and Perl too for that matter. But it rocks for Ada and Python. I guess maybe there is some justice in the world after all.

    "The Christmas we get, we deserve." -- Greg Lake

  • I wish I could be a Prima-donna and carry around a special keyboard in a little black case.

    Unfortunately, I move around and use a half dozen machines around the labs at work. Nobody would be amused with me taking down emulators and such to replace the keyboard each time I use a particular piece of equipment because my ego demanded it.

    I can telnet into the OS/2 machines from my main 'desktop' to the build runs on, but not the embedded OS/2 machines the product resides within.

    Oh well. Life is rough. Keyboards are all necessary evils.
  • Some studies show that no matter what kind of anything is in common usage, there will always be a minority of people who propose something different. There are people out there who feel the need to stand out by advocating something different. It could be a self-esteem problem.

    A decade ago there was Macintosh. Now there is Linux. Both have their relative merits as opposed to what "the majority" use. But there will always be zealots who get their kicks in rattling cages, playing "mine is better" games, etc.

    It doesn't matter much. But it's amusing to watch their antics.
  • by Kythe ( 4779 )
    I am very glad you don't fall into the lassaiz-faire trap that seems to be too common in economics. I'd guess you don't go to school in Chicago?

    There are many economists who treat historical evidence as important, in addition to theory. Unfortunately, there are many who don't. They tend to ignore or use convoluted routes to explain how free-market theory deals with externalities.

    Of course, it's only the really radical folk who believe the market never fails. These are the ones who tend to back Microsoft, frequently on the grounds that antitrust law is bad in the first place.

    (Remove "x"'s from

  • I agree completely. I tried Dvorak, liked it, will stay with it until something better comes along. Same with Linux.

    The referenced article only used Dvorak peripherally, however, to try to support a rather teunuos and IMHO incorrect supposition about economics. They could just have easily used Twinkies. They evidently started down the Beta-VHS track, but found too many dessicated corpses littering that trail and turned back.

    My advice to them, and to the other Packers (not the Green Bay variety) out there: Tha-a-a-at's right, there's nothing to see here, move along quietly now. Just keep on using QWERTY, and MS-Windows, and gas-burning autos and all that. Buy everything you see advertised on the telly. Those of us who are using Dvorak, and Linux, and Ada, and Esperanto, why, we're all cranks and eccentrics and dreamers. We're not gaining a-a-a-a-any advantage whatsoever by our non-mainstream behaviors, no sirree. Nuh-uh, nope. Trust me--have I ever lied to you?

  • Gee, let's use the bold tags for extended quotes!? Give me a break. This paper can't be taken seriously. I guess someone forgot about the BLOCKQUOTE tag, designed for the purpose I stated, and formats the quote properly.

    Why is it that the QWERTY b!tches never admit that their system stinks? It just makes logical sense to put the common characters on the home row (ASDGHJKL;:'" - what a bunch of crap designed to slow people down). The very idea of Dvorak is to minimize excessive motion, If you say it doesn't, you have not analyzed the situation. While it may not be much faster, it might slow down CTS.

    I think there is easily be a better system then both, but I have other things to worry about.

  • of those Usenet articles by people who can't lose an argument?
  • Look, you know there are really only a few ways this can work out:

    1) QWERTY is more efficient than DVORAK. If this is the case there is no market failure, since this is the way the world works today.

    2) DVORAK is more efficient than QWERTY. Really this has two sub cases:

    2a) DVORAK is more efficient than QWERTY, but the cost of retraining everyone, new equipment, etc.. outweighs the benefits of switching. There is no market failure in this case either.

    2b) DVORAK is more efficient than QWERTY, and the benefits of switching outweigh the cost. And really, if this were the case, we would have switched by now.
  • Dvorak is the best system security that you can get, especially if you switch your keycaps around.
    It's actually better if you don't switch your keycaps, which is what I assume you meant. At my Day Job, I had a machine upon which I switched keycaps back when I was learning Dvorak. The admins could use it, albeit extremely slowly and with much fuming and cursing.

    Then it got to be upgrade time. (I love the fact that everyone else uses NT, because it forces our machines to be upgraded every few months. My Linux box doesn't really need to be a P-III 450, but it doesn't hoit.) After I got past my pleasant visions of the Dell reclamation department gazing aghast at the rearranged keys on my old keyboard, I started to pry off the first keycap on my new keyboard. Then it hit me--I'd been using it all morning with the keys in their current positions, and hadn't cared a whit. I had learned Dvorak by touch. So I left them as they were. The next time an admin wanted to shell up to root, I asked him if he could touch-type Dvorak. Guess what his answer was. (You're close, but there were more swear words.)

    I shoulda let him think he'd forgotten his password.

  • The article talks about these two things as though they were hardware standards from competing vendors.

    When in fact you can remap your keyboard using software, and put stickers on the keycaps. (Shuffling the keycaps around won't work all that well because on most keyboards, the keycaps from different rows have different shapes). (Some of us wouldn't need the stickers; it would not impede me at all if the key labels were sanded right off).

    Moreover, choosing a keyboard layout is personal preference. If you choose a Dvorak layout, you won't suddenly be a technological outcast who is unable to use computer software. (Except that, you will be stuck to having to implement your customization in every environment, whereas if you type QWERTY, you don't need to customize anything).
  • We've all spent years learning how to type, so we have a large investment in a QWERTY layout, while those few people who've spent the even larger investment to relearn a DVORAK keyboard are extremely unlikely to turn around and admit (even if only to themselves) that this was a mistake!

    I find it pretty doubtful that every last person who ever learned Dvorak has a psychological barrier to admitting to the truth. That type of point is a dangerous point for anyone to accept in any context: Free software is a waste of time, but no one wants to admit it because of all the time they spent on it.

    I've been using only Dvorak for fourteen months, and I've managed to get my typing speed up to the 120wpm it was in QWERTY. I don't claim to type faster. It's probably a mental limit, as I stopped increasing my speed when I reached 120wpm in QWERTY as well.

    Rather, I type with less mistakes. Furthermore, Dvorak's localised vowels lends itself to chording, which is putting your fingers over every key of a word at once, and pressing them with about 70 milliseconds apart.


  • The Dvorak/Qwerty debate is getting rather old [0]. What's more interesting is how the authors of this article progress generalize from this single extremely particular QWERTY example onto more general economic grounds-- specifically, the Microsoft trial.

    Laissez-faire economists like to say that the cost of switching to another office suite, rather than staying with Microsoft, outweighs the benefits of switching to another suite; and therefore, there is no market failure. They ignore the huge and ruinous long-term costs of staying with Microsoft.

    If Microsoft did not have a monopoly position that enabled it to exploit "network effects", would everyone bother upgrading to the latest version of Office every single time? The most commonly used Office application, Microsoft Word, has not changed appreciably since version 6.0.

    However, since Microsoft is fond of making their file formats non-backwards-compatible (often with automatic conversions whenever someone opens a document), people using Microsoft products to exchange documents with each other are effectively coerced into switching whenever one employee, department, or client in the network upgrades to Microsoft products. No user wants to deal with this, but they must upgrade anyway; not when they feel the need for more features (which almost nobody does, for Office) but whenever Microsoft feels like releasing a new edition of its viral applications into the market.

    Of course, according to the laissez-faire people, the present cost of staying with Microsoft is still lower than switching, so there is no such thing as network effects. But that's the very definition of network effects: the result of using a greedy algorithm over a network where such an algorithm is non-optimal.

    This whole issue shows how dangerous it is to take advice about technical issues from people who have a vested interest in supporting a particular economic model.


    [0] Maybe the authors are right, and maybe they aren't; I type at 100+ wpm, and unless I am going to get a huge speedup (> 200 wpm) in typing speed I am not going to bother switching one way or the other.
  • "C. The frequency of alternating hand sequences is maximized and the frequency of same-finger typing is minimized."

    As somebody who's been playing the piano for about 15 years I find it quite hard to believe that alternating hand sequences is the optimal typing pattern - it's one of the hardest things to do quickly!

    Take for example typing the four keys on each hand in their natural resting position. You can probably type "asdf;lkj" about 4 times a second, but you'd be hard pressed to type "a;sldkfj" more than 1.5 times a second. This is why in all your early piano lessons you put those finger numbers over all the notes - you find the optimum pattern that flows easily (and usually sequentially) across fingers in the same hand.

    Most articles of this type also assume a standard "touch typing" style. Touch typing may be the optimal pattern if your hands are to stay in the same position, but who says you have to keep your hands stationary? I tend to type with my hands drifting about the keyboard slightly depending on the sequence to be typed.

    After trying Dvorak for a few months, I decided there was no way I could match the 150wpm that I currently manage with QWERTY. QWERTY suffers less from the alternating hands syndrome than Dvorak, and as such I'll be sticking with QWERTY. The one thing I can say for Dvorak is that it does put less strain on the hands overall.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.