Bruce Kroeze (invoke) wrote,
Bruce Kroeze

The pain of switching

[Continued from "Searching for the Ergonomic Grail"]

I knew it was going to be difficult to change my keyboarding habits. Moving from the QWERTY key layout to Dvorak is hard. You see, other than the numbers, only two letters stay on the same key. It is worth it, since moving all the keys around to more optimum positions pays off in speed and in comfort. With a QWERTY layout, one can only type about 10% of the words in the English language without leaving the home row. With Dvorak, the number moves to something like 70-80%. For example, the home row for the left hand has all the vowels, with only "Y" requiring any finger stretching, and that is with your strongest finger, the index. The right hand has "DHTNS", which makes many word startings-and-endings immediately accesible.

Here are the steps I took to switch:

- Bought Dvorak key labels for all three of the keyboards I use at the house. Remapped the key layouts on my Linux and Windows machines (which is very easy) Found an online Dvorak typing exercize, and practiced it for an hour at a time, 3-4 days. Went cold turkey.

It took about two weeks of mental pain before it "clicked" and I regained any real ability to touch type. Until then, I would find myself with my fingers poised, frozen, while I tried in vain to remember which finger to move. I toughed it out by using the mental stick and carrot. The stick was that I really hate wrist pain and I honestly believed the ergonomics would help (even if only marginally) decrease my pain. It is my career, after all, and I want to be able to continue it without a slow ramp of pain. The carrot was that, quite unexpectedly, I really love the layout. I love efficiency and elegance. It is that and more. Almost addictive.

The tertiary benefit is that NO ONE ever sits at my computer and starts typing. "What the F?" is the usual reaction. I like that.

It has been about six months now, and I am happy to report that almost all my wrist pain has abated. I can't honestly say how much the Dvorak has played a part in this wonderful change, since I changed a few other aspects of my approach to computer interaction at the same time. I can say without reservation that it has been worth it, however. Changing layouts allowed me to relearn some other aspects of data input, which would have been difficult to address in isolation.

I am now a somewhat faster typist than I was before, and I have not lost my QWERTY skills. I am a bit slower than I used to be when using that crappy old style, but I can switch between layouts very quickly. I really did not expect to be able to do that.

One amusing difference is that my mistypes look different than those you find from QWERTY users. For example, I often used to accidentally type "Lust" instead of "List", now I find instances of "ass", when I intended "all".
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