I switched to the dvorak keyboard layout about a year ago. I now use dvorak full-time at work and at home.

Recently, I went on vacation to Peru and found myself in quite a conundrum. Internet cafes were qwerty-only (and Spanish qwerty, at that). I was stuck with a hunt-and-peck routine that grew old fairly quickly.

That said, is it possible to be "fluent" in both qwerty and dvorak at the same time? If not, are there any good solutions to the situation I found myself in?


I've never used a public computer, but carry a keyboard and(/or, if you are good enough) just change the settings on the machine.

Thomas Owens
+1  A: 

I would say no. I have used both, and they are different for very good reason (warning, history lesson)

The Dvorak keyboard is optimal, the qwerty layout was designed so that the pegs on a typewrier would not collide (so letters that often come next to each other are split up)

Because these are so different, its really not possible to be really good on both. You will find that even if you look at the keyboard while typing you eventually develop muscle memory that allows you to know where the keys are. This will get ALL messed up if you start moving where the keys are.

Adam Lerman

@Thomas Owens - the person in that cafe after you is going to be proper befuddled :-D

I guess to be good on both you'd have to alternate all the time. I have enough trouble switching between my laptop and desktop keyboards :-)


@Keith: You would have to change it back when you were done...

Thomas Owens
+10  A: 

I've never used a public computer, but carry a keyboard and(/or, if you are good enough) just change the settings on the machine.

There's a special place in hell for people that change keyboard mappings on public computers.

Greg Hurlman
Only if they don't change them back when they're done. In Windows XP, at least, it's easy enough.
+1  A: 

FWIW, I did finally find solution to the situation. I had my travel buddy (who is still stuck in the qwerty stone age) type while I dictated. That was a 10x speed improvement over my hunting-and-pecking. And much easier, too.

+7  A: 


For your situation of being at a public computer that you cannot switch the keyboard layout on, you can go to this website:

Use this to translate your typing and then use copy paste. I found this very useful when I was out of the country and had to write a bunch of emails at public computers.

USB Drive

Put this Dvorak Utility on your USB drive.

Run this app and it will put a icon in the system tray on windows. This icon will switch the computer between the two keyboard layouts and it works. (If you have tried switching back and forth from dvorak to qwerty you will know what I mean. Windows does the worst job of this one bit of functionality.)


I'm using a homemade version of QWERTY (with all french letters mapped) at home and at work. I am personally stuck when I have to use the usual layout here (AZERTY). I feel your pain.

For what I have witnessed, everyone gets used to a single mapping, and trying to use an other layout is quite hard.

+4  A: 

Very possible. Although I became sadly mono-keyboarded after learning Dvorak, my wife is equally speedy at both. She recommends learning the other layout slowly, with frequent breaks to reacquaint with the previous layout.

DVAssist on a USB stick should make it easy to switch layouts on random computers. I

+2  A: 

Yes, it is very possible. Just remember to use Qwerty every once in a while. I've been leaning Dvorak myself for about 2 weeks, and I'm up to 75wpm average. I use Qwerty every day for a bit, but most of the time I'm using Dvorak. My Qwerty speed is still averaging around 100wpm.

I also learnt the Korean Dubeolshik layout several years ago, and I average about 100wpm on that too.

Learning different keyboard layouts is much easier than learning multiple languages. And people still manage to remember their native tongue! So if you ever knew Qwerty, with a good bit of practice you should be able to get back up to speed on that fairly quickly.

Vincent McNabb
+1  A: 

I'm ambidkeyboardwhatever, but in two different languages, so that helps with the muscle memory that someone mentioned. I use a Qwerty in English and Azerty in French. My colleagues curse every time they try to use my computer!

I looked briefly at learning Dvorak, but that would only be able to replace Qwerty, because it doesn't have the accented characters.

Having said all that, whatever keyboard layout you choose, the most important thing is to learn to touch-type!

There do exist Dvorak variants for French, but it seems they're not very popular.
+1  A: 

Yes. I type Dvorak on a Kinesis Advantage keyboard on my desktops, but type qwerty on my Macbook. Possibly it helps that they are so different, my muscles figure out what it is that they are typing on.

I agree. I have been doing both since 2000 (as wife and co-workers have qwerty).Admittedly when I'm away from Qwerty for a long time it takes me a second to switch into the right mindset. Also, my laptop is qwerty, and I never got keytops for it.
+1  A: 

That said, is it possible to be "fluent" in both qwerty and dvorak at the same time? If not, are there any good solutions to the situation I found myself in?

I've switched to Dvorak a few years ago and I've been fluent in qwerty and dvorak most of the time since (only slightly slower in qwerty than I used to be; much faster than I used to be when I use dvorak instead).

I found that the only part where switching back and forth was really hard was the beginning: I needed a few months until dvorak felt natural enough so that switching back and forth wouldn't confuse me (and hurt the learning curve). After a few months, switching back and forth was a little awkward, but quickly became entirely natural after I got used to it (school computers and a few games didn't easily let me change to dvorak, so it was nice to be able to work either way). So I think if you practice this a bit, it should be fine :)

Incidentally, once I was comfortable with both layouts, learning other layouts was extremely easy in comparison to learning dvorak. It took me only a few hours until I felt more comfortable typing Japanese characters (Hiragana direct input) than I did spelling them out, even though I had to learn it by hitting all keys and seeing what produced which character. It felt a bit like it did with languages -- once you knew two well, learning other similar languages is a lot easier than it was for the second :)

+1  A: 

Myself, I type 40wpm Dvorak versus 80wpm QWERTY, which roughly correlates with how often I use these layouts. It takes me about a minute of typing to fully make the switchover.

My sister has managed to train herself to type QWERTY on full-size keyboards but Dvorak on the miniature keyboard on her ASUS Eee, and has no trouble switching between two keyboards at will. She does have major problems when trying to use Dvorak on a full-size keyboard or QWERTY on the Eee, so I guess it's something related to muscle memory.

So, with some qualifications, I'd say that yes, it is completely possible to be "ambikeyboardrous".