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25 March 2002 @ 09:25 am
Ritualistic self torture...  
...or ergonomic improvement?

Ladies and gentlemen, I am teaching myself the Dvorak keyboard layout. There are two primary reasons for this; first, my wrists, and second, my typing speed.

My wrists got terrible during college (due to a lot of typing at a very high desk), and have never fully recovered. They're mostly better now, but still protest strongly when I do my push-ups. I'm hoping that the combination of a better layout and forcing myself to learn good typing techniques will be enough to push them back to healthy.

As for typing speed, I don't really need to improve it. My qwerty speed is somewhere in the ballpark of 80-90 wpm. However, since that hasn't changed in several years, I think it's pretty much maxed out. I'm curious to see if I can improve that.

Initial observations:
The most taxing part so far has been switching from typing in the flow of whole words to typing in single letters. My brain keeps trying to outpace my fingers.

I've already noticed a massive decrease in the type of letter combinations that, on qwerty, would cause me to partially leave the 'home row' and bend my wrists. This bodes well.

My habit used to be that if I made a mistake a few words back, it was quickest and easiest to just erase back to it, make the correction, and continue on. This is no longer the case. Old habits die hard.

When I first learned the Cyrillic alphabet, I found that Cyrillic letters would sneak into my English writing, and vice versa. Hasn't happened much yet here; will it start to happen as my speed increases? Or is sticking to Dvorak-only for a few weeks gonna help prevent that? (My goal is to become keyboard-bilingual, so I can sit at a friend's/coworker's computer and type normally after a brief adjustment. I will *not* ask anyone else to install the Dvorak mapping)

Current speed: Around 10-20 wpm

Something good: Libraries with a good selection

Something bad: Weird zonings

Something disturbing: A delivery man came in today with a delivery for 'Wally. No last name.' I'm living in a Dilbert strip!
 
 
Current Mood: determineddetermined
 
 
 
mattlazycat on March 25th, 2002 09:32 am (UTC)
Just on a whim, I thought I'd give this a shot too. I'm surprised how hard it really is! I'm used to changing keyboard styles when I switch between the macs at uni (wacky US layout) and my own PC at home (UK layout), which generally leads to punctation going loopy, but Dvorak is so wildly different that I'm completely lost now.

Still, there're at least two possible outcomes I can think of to this:
1. Extra rest gained while hunting keys alleviates hand pain.
2. Extra hand movement in revealing keys causes more hand pain.

Already I've started to figure some of the key positions out and it does indeed feel a bit more comfortable, or at least better distributed. I reckon I'll be ending sentences with V for a long time yet though... :)

Let us know how you get on!
Brendan: Kesroho on March 25th, 2002 10:18 am (UTC)
I was worried about the second possibility at first, too. The lack of proper labels on my keys actually seems to help with this! Once I was able to get rid of the template printout (did that on day 2), there was no longer any reason to look away from the screen. Since then, all the 'hunt and peck' has taken place in my head. This definitely cuts down on roamin' hands syndrome!

One other drawback I've noticed, though, is that it's much harder to write in natural, flowing sentences this way. I now have a little more sympathy for the AOL-types that post and email in completely broken English (a little, not much...if I can make the effort, so can they ;P)

So, you gonna try sticking with it for a while? It might be a decent addition to the list of 'Things to take the mind off of nicotine' ;)
Chebutykinchebutykin on March 25th, 2002 10:41 am (UTC)
Stick with it! You'll like Dvorak. I found that it didn't take too long to learn.
mattlazycat on March 25th, 2002 10:48 am (UTC)
Re:
God, I'd kill for a smoke right now... :P

I'll practice some more, I guess, but this is one of those things that has very limited advantage to me, I think, which makes it really hard to keep doing in the face of adversity ;-)

That drawback is worrying, and rather noticable. Taking so long to put a sentence through my fingers onto the screen has a terrible effect - I lose the train of thought, or have other thoughts, and the sentence starts rambling, stuttering, and losing cohesion. Amazing how much effect rapid-fire typing has on our ability to express ourselves.
Chrisfrostyw on March 25th, 2002 09:10 pm (UTC)

I've been off and on Dvorak, more off than on of late, for a little while now. I actually still have the paper template for it taped to my monitor at work, and I've set up the keyboard settings in Windows xp to switch between the layouts at the touch of a button or two.

What's more frustrating is that I'm used to either learning all on my own or have some formal instruction. There are no commercial products for learning the Dvorak keyboard; there used to be some, but they've long since disappeared from the market and probably wouldn't even run properly on Windows 32-bit, anyway.

I'm usually good at teaching myself, since that's how I learned just about everything I know about PCs from 1981 onward, but I just don't have the time to randomly hunt and peck and learn with any speed. When I'm at work, I don't have the time to hunt for keys, and so I get frustrated and turn Qwerty back on. When I'm at home, I'm on IRC, and when I find a conversation of interest, I can never keep up when I'm trying to learn Dvorak, so I get frusted and turn Qwerty back on. There really isn't any convenient time for me to learn unless it's structured at this point.

I would love to have it be second nature to me. In some cases it was, but when I really need to pound something out rapidly, I found that my moderate-paced Dvorak skills couldn't keep up with my rapid-paced Qwerty skills and so I turned Qwerty back on to get something done. If I don't do that, I go mad trying to whatever it is I'm doing.

I'm convinced I could be a wizard at this if I had some sort of program to help me exercise the home row top and bottom row keys in a more structured fashion and if I could allocate enough time to it when I'm not doing anything of importance. Mindlessly typing repetitions is nearly critical to my learning it.

Any hints?
Brendan: Micahroho on March 26th, 2002 05:07 am (UTC)
Apparently, yes, the esteemed Mavis Beacon discontinued Dvorak support after version 5.0. I've come across a few alternatives in my Dvorak-info browsing, though :)

DvortyBoards (they make Dvorak-native keyboards) offers a tutor for DL. Also, the latest version of Typing Tutor apparently has Dvorak, if you can find a copy.

The best bet, though (and one I plan to try at work today) might be this online course. Nothing too fancy from what I see, but looks useful!
Chrisfrostyw on March 26th, 2002 09:41 am (UTC)
Re:
Thanks. I'll check out those links!

I forget why I didn't go after DvortyBoards; I'd heard of them the last time I was exploring the Dvorak keyboard.

Actually, this morning I was on our help desk filling in for someone, and I was remotely using my PC to get my work done from this remote workstation. The computer defaulted to Dvorak mode, and I was hopelessly lost; I couldn't even switch it back to Qwerty properly, so I removed Dvorak support, at least for the next couple days. It's frustrating when you're trying to take a call and suddenly the system mysteriously slips into a new keyboard layout. :-/
22_gryphon on March 25th, 2002 12:14 pm (UTC)
Believe it or not, I've been considering trying Dvorak out lately myself. Let me know how you like it.
genetenveri on March 27th, 2002 08:30 am (UTC)
He's at the point now where it doesn't take a year or three to get his sentences out. ;)

And it's been what.. 3 days? 4?

Seriously tempting me to try and wrap my brain around it.
Brendan: Micahroho on March 27th, 2002 11:49 am (UTC)
Started on Sunday evening, so this'd be the middle of the third day. And I'm definitely past the point where getting each letter out feels like prolonged labor (okay, so I don't really know what that's like), but it's still real frustrating trying to write out a long thought.

If you're gonna try it, I'd definitely recommend taking a few hours to run through that web course and get your fingers trained...don't just dive in like I did ;)