DVORAK KEYBOARD

And how to create your own
Introduction | Build Your Own | Dvorak International Driver
Recommended reading http://www.theworldofstuff.com/dvorak/ - The Dvorak Keyboard and You
http://www.mwbrooks.com/dvorak/ - Introducing the Dvorak Keyboard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dvorak_keyboard - Dvorak Simplified Keyboard (nl)
http://wwwpub.utdallas.edu/~liebowit/keys1.html - The Fable Of The Keys


Why a Dvorak keyboard, as almost everyone that uses a latin-based alphabet uses Qwerty-based layout? I'm glad you ask.

Qwerty keyboards and their derivants (azerty etc) are one of the MAIN causes of RSI. Everyone who types a lot on a qwerty keyboard may notice how your wrists and fingers get painfull over time.
A Dvorak keyboard is specially lay-outed to minimize movements from your finger tips. It is not fantasy, it is a scientific fact. Your fingertips will only travel about 25% of the distance as when you are using qwerty, pressing the same amount of keys. Dvorak keyboards are not significally different than 'plain' keyboards, they just have a more ergonomic layout.

Why everybody still uses Qwerty?

I wondered that myself. I would say: do yourself and your kids a favor, and learn how to use a Dvorak keyboard. Once you got used to it, you will never want to switch back. I promise you, and so does any other dvorak user. It is not evangelistic, it is science. And comfort.
Qwerty has its roots in the good old times of mechanic typewriters. When typists typed that fast that the hammers of the mechanic typewriters got stuck. To avoid this, they placed commonly used key combinations as far apart as possible, on purpose. With one goal: making you type slower.
More than 100 years later, we are still stuck with this custom. Although modern technology obsoleted the need for qwerty entirely, it is still almost the one and only available keyboard layout. I live in europe, i have searched and searched, it is impossible for me to purchase a Dvorak keyboard over here. I could order one in the US, but including shipping that'll easily cost me a $100...

Build your own

Fortunately, it is very very easy to create your own dvorak keyboard. Al you need is a qwerty keyboard, but with one prerequisite: all keys should be equally shaped. Unfortunately, 'ergonomic designed' keyboards cannot be used for the key-swapping  method. Neither are (most) notebook keyboards, be warned! trying to keyswap your notebook probably just damages it! You could however consider just writing dvorak keys with a permanent marker, or use little stickers placed on each key and write with the marker on them, or just learn typing blind. The latter i found too hard, and don't listen to people that tell you learning dvorak blind is the only proper method. We humans use our eyes to coordinate, having visual aid will help you learning dvorak faster. And in the end, you will type it blind, just like you probably did with qwerty.
See the build-your-own page for photo material.

Buy one

If you live in the US, you have good chances of finding one. Also, i'd be happy te ship you one, but please read instructions on building your own first, it is really not that hard!

Hard-wired vs soft-wired.

Hard wired means: the keys are already swapped in the keyboards' internal processor. Your BIOS and OS will not be aware the keyboard isn't a qwerty model, they simply won't notice. However, those keyboards are extremely rare.
Soft-wired means: the keyboard conforms to normal scan-codes, and the software re-maps the keys. Fortunately, almost any modern OS supports this, wether you are using windows, linuk, BSD, solaris, you name it, Dvorak support will be there. This eliminates the need for expensive hard-wired keyboards.

Be Wise!

Learn your children Dvorak!

Dvorak international support

This is an issue with windows. Although they have developed a nice US-international layout, allowing us dutch and other europeans using US-layouted keyboards  (i live in holland and we use US layout, in contrary to our neighbours the german, french, belgium etc)  to type all this funny characters. For example, i have a french name, to write it correctly it needs an accent-aigu: 'René'. But since i used the windows dvorak driver, i saved myself the trouble by just writing 'Rene'. However, on any mail, forum, etc my dutch will be imperfect due to the lack of the proper accents, especially the often used 'ë', ' é' in the dutch language.
So, effectively, this lack of good native windows driver forces germans and french to use the qwerty or azerty keyboards, simply because their language is full of those accents.
BUT THIS IS EASILY SOLVED!
By installing a custom dvorak driver. I already developed a 'keyhook' application that converted some keys, unfortunately this was not perfect. Until i discovered microsoft has released a 'Keyboard Layout Creator', allowing you to define your own keyboard layout (duh). And so i did.
Since i have been looking for such keyboard driver for quite a while now, i am sure others did as well. See the driver page for download. Source available as well, in case you want to adjust.

Real nerds use Dvorak

But you don't have to be a nerd to use Dvorak!

Learning curve.

Best is to throw yourself in the deep, and switch to dvorak 100% on all your workstations. However, it is a good idea to plan it wisely, as in the beginning you will be some less productive and maybe even frustrated because for some weeks that you can't do the things you do as fast as you were used to. However, after a few weeks, you will already type as fast as you ever did with qwerty, and this speed will only increase in the months after. So, the best period to switch may be, for example, when you have holiday.
1st day - looking for the right keys all over the place all the time.
3rd day - most keys you'll automatically find, regularly you will have to look
1 week - you are reasonable able to type letters etc as you were used to, incidentally looking for a key to remind yourself.
1 month - you will type Dvorak easily, as fast as you did with qwerty. You will start to forget how qwerty looked like. You will be questioning yourself why people ever used qwerty at all.
3 months - you type faster and more accurate then ever before. You have forgotten about qwerty entirely.

Practical issues:

BIOS setup (yes/no etc), DOS boot floppies, entering passwords etc. Windows lacks a 'default' system keyboard. This means, when you log on it will assume you use qwerty. You may have to rewrite your password on paper with the keys swapped. Linux does not suffer this issue, as you can define the default keyboard and it will already be mapped on logon time.

Games issues

Most games allow you to remap keys. But, as a practical side-note, i didn't find the need to do so when playing, for example, WoW or filght simulator. I found it not an issue at all.

Funny issues:

I find it always fun if people (family etc) calls you because of some computer issue, and you're the 'guru' who is expected to fix it. You arrive at their place, look at the system, and sooner or later you will have to type something. You (the computer guru) will be sitting in front of their keyboard murmeling 'where is that 'w' key gone...', typing at 10 chars/minute ;))
Note on this: after the first few months i really forgotten about qwerty, entirely. However, as time goes by, i noticed qwerty was still somewhere in my head, as long as i didn't think to much about it. It is a bit like speaking two languages. However, since my use of qwerty is very very incidental, i don't bother. If they think you are not the guru they expected because you are looking for keys on their ancient-layouted antique qwerty keyboard, it is their problem. After all, they want you to fix their computer, so let them think. And mention dvorak, of course ;)