Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dvorak, three weeks in

So, I've been at the Dvorak keyboard for over three weeks now. It's been three weeks of frustratingly slow typing, not much writing or blogging, and some low-grade work-related stress (I had never realized how much typing is required for my job). But I'm finally starting to get more of a grip on my typing now. I'm only making a large number of errors, much diminished from the enormous number of errors I was making earlier. I only rarely have to think much about what my hands are doing; it's definitely turning back into a reflex. And my typing speed is up to almost 20 words per minute, which is double what it was ten days ago. It's hard to tell if Dvorak is making any difference with the wrist pain. It's definitely no worse, but it hasn't improved. Then again, the same amount of typing is now taking me a lot more time; until I type faster, I'm replacing an hour's qwerty typing with two hours of typing on Dvorak. And I'm still pretty awkward, which isn't good for one's wrists either.

I can quickly (and temporarily) convert any keyboard I need to type on to Dvorak; all of the computers at work now switch layouts with a speedy alt-shift. But I'm having a few problems I didn't anticipate. One is that a lot of my non-computer hardware toys also need a keyboard, and none of them have Dvorak drivers. My light board at work, the video titler, and all three of my portable Palm Pilot / Dell Axim keyboards are qwerty-only. Not only have I somewhat lost the ability to touch-type error free on a qwerty keyboard, reverting to qwerty sets my Dvorak learning curve back a few days....

I've also noticed that my typing errors have changed. Originally, my errors were all a matter of typing qwerty keys on accident. I almost never do that anymore. Instead, I've discovered a whole host of Dvorak-specific errors. My most common errors involve mistyping F, K, and L. I seem to have some sort of mental block about the letters K and F. I've occasionally found myself hitting four or five keys before I actually find the right one. I keep hitting the S instead of the L. I need to look at my chart to find a lot of the less-common punctuation marks. And, I have a lot of problems with hitting the correct shift key. It's apparently a separate reflex from typing; I still tend to use the qwerty-appropriate shift keys for most letters, and it's a hard habit to correct. But I've noticed that none of my common errors on qwerty have yet shifted to Dvorak. I used to mistype the as teh all the time; I haven't done this once since I switched, so I'm assuming that this common typo is an artifact of qwerty. I wonder what other amazingly common typos are also qwerty artifacts.

I have to say, I'm glad I made the shift. I can already see the extreme efficiency of the Dvorak layout. I suspect it'll take me another month to be typing as fast, or maybe even faster, on Dvorak than I did on Qwerty. And it's really true that you have to move your hands a lot less to type on Dvorak. I suspect that when I get faster and smoother my wrist pain will me much diminished, or maybe even disappear entirely....

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