Should you change layouts?

I’m not talking about the little customization things you can do, but just the big options: qwerty, colemak, Dvorak or whatever.

I was doing some research and found this very interesting article. It seems to be about economic theory, but it mostly uses the qwerty/dvorak choices as an example that dominates the whole thing, especially after the first part (it is long).

But it is also very interesting and insightful:

Essentially, it seems a lot of the claims for Dvorak are based on biased, flawed studies - often run by Dvorak himself, but with really bad procedures. There are things I can’t tell from it without more testing results. Most about how they may compare if you were a non-typist starting from scratch. But for typists, even mediocre ones, it seems the data does not show much, if any, advantage to changing to Dvorak.

Of course, it still comes down to individuals. I was a slightly above average typist on qwerty after a LOT of study and practice and also seemed to be in a rut. But I also found that if I stopped practicing, I quickly dropped to well below average. When I switched to dvorak, it took less time to get past my qwerty speed to be quite bit better than qwerty ever was and if I stopped practicing, I would still be as fast as I had been on qwerty at my peak. So, yeah, I made the right choice. But maybe it isn’t the best for many others.

They don’t discuss Colemak, but it still gives you something to think about. If you are thinking about changing, at least if you are already a touch typist, you might want to take the time to read it.

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Thank you. It was an interesting read. I have always been intrigued by Dvorak.
Everything I have read so far about Dvorak improvements seem based more on personal experience / preferences, than factual controlled experiments, so in the end I have always not found a solid reason to retrain myself, although still intrigued if there is solid evidence pointing to its benefits that I have not found.

Purely anecdotal, but when I switched to Colemak typing became a lot easier on my fingers and wrists. Less finger movement because common letters are all on home row.

Even with the TB I am finding that it it is easier to acclimate (acclimatize?) to the new device, given that my fingers don’t need to leave home row as often as they would with QWERTY.

I say those “big options” don’t go far enough.

I agree that using a Dvorak (or another alt layout) won’t offer much improvement for casual users, even apparently moderate to heavy users. I do think Dvorak offers a lot to extremely heavy users, as using it simply makes my hands more comfortable even if speeds are comparable (when I’ve been using each layout). But for most folks, the limitation is in how much effort they put into typing, not how responsive their keyboards are to that effort.

But, I don’t think that modifying a key map goes nearly far enough to tapping the potential of the keyboard as an input device. Our keyboards no longer need to literally shift paper carriages and/or baskets of brass levers. One thing I really like about the TextBlade is how it combines multitouch with mechanical actuation to move each finger’s “keys” closer together without sacrificing tactile feedback. Other innovative keyboard designs place many actions under each thumb, and/or increase the different behaviors of each key (as with chording, tapping, and sticky keys).

Realistically, I think on-screen keyboards are the way of the future for the mass market. Once you already have the touchscreen in place, even cheap keyboards are stunningly complex, failure prone, and expensive. But the rest of us will be served by companies like Waytools, allowing us to get a keyboard that is far better that today’s commodity offering, and far more tailored to our individual wants and needs. I like that vision of the future.

…as a postscript, I’ll add that the most interesting thing I’ve found in designing my own keyboard is that Qwerty is actually rather well optimized – if numbers represent a significant portion of the input, and if the T and Y keys are home keys for the left and right index fingers.

…oh, and a PPS: it has been far easier for me to retain my normal Qwerty speed while learning how to type on a Dvorak-based keyboard with a different physical layout, than it was when learning Dvorak on a standard keyboard. So, when making the jump to a new style of keyboard, such as when you get a TextBlade, would be a good time to learn a new layout if that’s the direction you want to take.

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Besides the fact that it definitely helped me, it does seem to me that it less stressful so even if it wasn’t faster, that would be enough. Colemak may be better - fewer changes anyway if you already use qwerty. But not worth it for me to try at this point since it may not turn out better anyway.

I hate typing on glass. I’ll only use it for a quick note. But I know one person who is extremely fast. His speed varies based on the device (tablet is faster than phone), but I think he said even on the slower one, he’s at least 80 wpm. I think he may get 120 on the larger devices. I need to see if I can find the note I have from him.


You should sit in an independent coffee shop in Portland sometime.

Do people set up there with vintage typewriters?

I found the article about typing speeds on glass, etc:

It doesn’t include the iPhone, but does cover the 9.7" iPad on glass (80 wpm), the same with the smart cover (85 wpm) - surprised at both the high speed on class and the minimal improvement with that smart keyboard.

Then it does the same with the 12.9" iPad. 96 wpm on glass! and 104 with that smart keyboard cover. Still surprised at the limited improvement with the cover.

116 with a Magic Keyboard.

That they do. I can’t imagine anything more attention-seeking.

Vintage typewriters jerry-rigged via Bluetooth to an iPad Pro? With obligatory steampunk attire? The possibilities are endless…