I've tried in the past but gave up. Thoughts?

Edit: I'm a software engineer and can't afford the initial productivity hit. I'll need to use both QUERTY and Dvorak until I'm up-to-speed.

+6  A: 

How did you learn QWERTY?

Arthur Thomas
Erm, a typing class in middle school? Learning dvorak also requires a certain degree of *unlearning* in addition to learning...
Nik Reiman
So you can't know how to type on two keyboards at once? thats not true. You do not have to unlearn qwerty to learn another layout.
Arthur Thomas
+1  A: 

you just have to type. that's the only way.

Darren Kopp
+5  A: 

Get yourself a Das keyboard ultimate (has no labels on the keys), set your PC to Dvorak and you'll be flying.

When you're forced to learn something (which you will be, having no labels on the keys) you will do it a lot quicker!

You also buy the mechanically identical keyboard from cherry (G83-6105 et al.) for 1/6th the price and scratch the labels off :)
Geeze talk about throwing yourself into the deep end! A lot of people here seem to think the only way to learn a new keyboard is "cold turkey".

the concensus within the office is to "Just do it" and don't give yourself other options.

Why would you set out to learn Dvorak?

Bob Chatman

One thought would be to make sure every machine you use has a Dvorak keyboard. This way, you'll have to use it, and you won't fall back into using QWERTY when you're on another machine.

Chris Roberts
+2  A: 

It's a tough thing to do if you've already learned Qwery. I've tried to learn Dvorak and failed after a little while. The problem that I ran into was that I couldn't completely give up Qwerty due to my job.

I think to actually have a good chance at learning Dvorak you'd need to be in a situation where you wouldn't have to use Qwerty, because switching between the two causes a lot of learning problems.


Put tape over your keys and write the Dvorak layout on them. After that, I'd recommend doing guided learning exercises (there are many on the web) or simply chatting on IM.

+2  A: 

Print out a picture of the dvorak layout and put it under your monitor. Don't buy a dvorak keyboard, because then you'll be tempted to look at the keys all the time. Use a normal qwerty keyboard and switch the layout at the software level.

Then, only type in dvorak. Look at the layout picture when you type until you remember it. Yes, it's horrifically slow and painful at first, but give it time. In mere weeks you should be able to type reasonably well.

(Yes, I use dvorak exclusively and this is how I learned. I have never looked at the keys since.)

Denis Bueno

Assuming you want to use only Dvorak: Switch and use nothing else: You can get up to 30+ in the matter of a day or two, and high speeds come with practice:

If you know you're going to be switching back and forth, set aside a specific period of time to practice typing dvorak each day. Then use a typing tutor application (there are several that support dvorak), and once you learn the layout make it a policy to type x Words each practice period. Increase that goal over time.

the trick is figuring out the mental switch that moves you from one layout to the other. It seems to be different for everyone, but once you've got it, it's not too hard.

+1  A: 

I used a typing program with Dvorak support. Make sure you can focus on using it:

"If you must do typing work besides training, use Dvorak and take it easy"


I whole-heartedly agree with JonC. Das keyboard should be perfect to learn touch typing.

By the way, don't concentrate on what your learning consciously, you should train your fingers' memory. So get yourself a long text from a newspaper or a magazine, put it on a paper holder, and try to type while only glancing at your keyboard. It doesn't even have to be in English.

As soon as your brain figures out the approximate location of where the keys are, you'll find yourself pressing the right ones almost every time.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

+1  A: 

Switch to dvorak on your layout in windows and print out the dvorak layout to keep by your monitor. Then just use it for about 2 months and you will have learnt it.

It's what I did.


Years ago, I wrote a small program in Visual C++ that simply would do an automatic translation from letters typed in an edit box to the Dvorak equivalent. This allows one to practice dvorak in a small app whenever there is free-time but then switch over to another app (as your OS is presumably still in QWERTY-mode) and do some work whenever needed.

Writing an app like this is pretty straight-foward and such a gradual introduction to Dvorak is a fine approach. Plus, during the initial period of learning there is no equipment to buy and no system configurations to change. The only disclaimer I have is that I have long since abandoned learning Dvorak for the simple reason that I will frequently use other machines, and other people will sometimes use mine.

Ryan Delucchi
that's cool. -- Windows also offers hotkeys under language settings that lets you switch between dvorak and qwerty quickly. really useful.

I changed to Dvorak a few years ago, simultaneously at work and at home, by buying two>ezReach keyboards. As I needed to continue to work efficiently, I needed to retrain very quickly, so I first forbade myself to go back to Qwerty / Azerty, and I spent between 30 and 60 minutes every evening training with programs such as dvorak7min.

I believe that I was fairly comfortable after 2 weeks, and back at my normal speed after 2 months.


Steve Yegge has a great post called "Programming's Dirtiest Little Secret". The point to take away is that you can teach yourself to type properly (in any keyboard), by practicing a little bit each day. I recommend getting some good touch typing software (I recommend the free Type Faster), and just sit down and start doing drills for about 30 minutes every day using your chosen layout. It will take you 2 or 3 weeks to get up to a usable speed, at which point you should be able to switch over permanently.

+11  A: 

I've been using dvorak for about 10 years now. I failed twice before I succeeded in switching, here are some hints based on my experience:

  1. You have to switch fully to dvorak from one day to the next, otherwise you risk just grabbing qwerty whenever you're in a hurry. So, make sure you're not in a hurry. I learned dvorak during a summer break from school. I wouldn't recommend switching when you have to be productive at school or work.

  2. Do NOT re-arrange the keys on your keyboard. The whole point of learning to touch-type is that you don't look at the keys. Just tape a small picture of the dvorak layout on your desk or monitor. Learn what the resting position of your hands should be and learn to find that without looking at your keyboard (remember, the F and J keys have ridges just for that purpose).

  3. Practice using some typing tool, look for 'dvorak7min' if you're on linux. You can also practice on a site such as

  4. Though you cannot avoid it entirely, try not to use qwerty at all when you're learning dvorak. Once you're comfortable with dvorak you can start using qwerty again in those situations where switching to dvorak is too much hassle (visiting family, etc...). It will take years before you lose that qwerty proficiency.

Finally, doing this is not easy, the only way to do this is to spend the time doing it. It takes about one or two weeks to get up to a decent speed for most people, after three or four weeks you should be near your old qwerty speed I think. These are very rough estimates, it will differ for everyone.


I agree with a lot of posts above about doing total immersion. Switch, and do not use qwerty at all until you've attained Dvorak touch typing.

If reading other people's experiences helps you any, you can read my journal (entries from July 2003 onwards) about my switch to Dvorak. :-)

Chris Jester-Young
+3  A: 

I learned Dvorak years 10 ago. I disagree with those who advocate for total immersion.

Total immersion will be needed eventually, but trying to switch over at work will probably fail.

1) Use a typing tutor with reasonably fun typing games. I used Mavis Beacon back in the day (but they've dropped their Dvorak support since then, I hear). 2) At first, promise yourself that you'll only use Dvorak at home. That is, not at work, and NO QWERTY AT HOME. No matter how slow you are at home, stop, breathe, and keep typing. 3) Once you get basically comfortable at home, THEN do total immersion.

I agree with using qwerty at work and 100% Dvorak at home, as a compromise, assuming a lot of typing at home. :-)
Chris Jester-Young

If you have to dabble with qwerty too, I suggest you use a different physical keyboard for that. you seem to develop a custom mapping for each keyboard you deal with. Cf. your notebook versus desktop keyboard. Some keys are in different place, but as long as the entire setting is different, there's little confusion.

Also useful, the mac has a dvorak - qwerty ⌘ mode, which is dvorak, except for command-key combos, which are qwerty. So if key combos like ⌘-q,x,c,v are so hardwired to qwerty in your brain, it makes it easier to just train typing while still being able to perform everyday application commands.

My mind just exploded.
Mike Comstock
+1  A: 

How about an OLED keyboard like the Optimus Maximus?

Insanely expensive at the minute but the cost will come down and keyboards like this will be great for alternative & custom keyboard layouts.

Jonathan Webb
HOLY $%$#% that thing is crazy! Gotta get me one when the prices come down, a lot!
It is great but the price needs be lower than $200 before it will catch on. I think Apple have applied for patents related to OLED keyboards too.
Jonathan Webb

Use A Basic Course in Dvorak (ABCD). A lot.

Don't bother buying a new keyboard or swapping keys or anything like that. Just switch the layout in software. You don't need a reference to look at.

Don't use QWERTY. Do all your normal work in Dvorak. Expect that for an entire week you won't be able to use either one well. After you have Dvorak down (should only take a week or so) you can go back and re-learn QWERTY, but expect that it will take you at least an additional month before you can switch between them.


The best way to do it is don't.

  1. the original speed comparisons were rigged. There is no longer any need whatsoever for anyone to learn to do 150 WPM.

  2. you will lose the "error correction" inherent in the Scholes keyboard. Read Sean M. Burke's article from tpj#20 for discussion of and demonstration of this effect

There is no need to make an assumption as to why OP wants to learn Dvorak. The question is about what is the best way to learn, not whether or not they should learn. Having said that, the link you posted is quite interesting.
Switching to dvorak is not about speed. I don't type faster than I did with qwerty. I do make less typos and typing in general is more comfortable.
@warpr: The biggest difference I noticed is the comfort as well. :)

In response to the OP's edit: I learnt Dvorak as a full-time developer. In my experience (your mileage may vary), coding doesn't require me to be typing at the keyboard all the time, and thus, learning Dvorak while coding hasn't damaged my productivity at the time.

However, I understand that some people really have to type full-speed at work all the time. In that case, I believe you can probably get away with using qwerty at work if both of these statements are true:

  1. You do a lot of typing at home
  2. You commit to using no qwerty whatsoever at home

Part 2 is hard, especially if you're on instant messaging or the like where your friends expect a certain response rate from you. When I first started learning Dvorak, I had to tell my friends that my typing speed would be one-tenth of my normal speed, and that they'd have to bear with me until I got through. :-)

Because of part 1, that means you're effectively learning to be "bilingual", just as you would if you (say) did C# coding at work and Python coding at home. (You do code at home, right?)

Chris Jester-Young

I fully agree with taping the layout on your monitor - that's what I did.

Another trick I used was to simply open Notepad.exe and practice a particular pattern that I wanted to master. This "teaches your fingers" to handle similar words that you can then build up in complexity.
E.g.: on Dvorak, typing "the then there that this" for a paragraph or two keeps you on the home row and gives you a sense of what's nice about the layout. As you feel happier, add new letters to your repertoire.

What I liked about this is that the barrier was very low - I could practice whenever I had a couple minutes and I knew what I wanted to focus on. It also didn't require any apps outside of a text editor.

One other note - I use the Programmer Dvorak layout. My opinion? Use the standard one! I don't mind the extra hassle of installing it on new computers, but it's much easier to just use standard Dvorak.


I learned Dvorak on a Kinesis Contoured keyboard. I think having a keyboard that was physically different helped a lot. It force instantly force me into a different state of mind when I touched the keyboard. I would only type Dvorak on the Kinesis and use it as much as possible, but I did allow myself to type Qwerty on a "flatboard" (and only a flatboard) if necessary.


I found that jumbling the keycaps into random positions (to prevent reliance on hunt and peck as well as increase the geek factor), affixing a map to your monitor, and switching cold turkey, works wonders.


I made a complete switch 2-3 years ago.

Check out my answer here


Switching between dvorak and qwerty is not harder than switching between walking and swimming, if you do different tasks using different keyboard layouts.

When I first started using dvorak at home, I did mostly programming, while using qwerty at school, where I used the internet. The confusion arouse when I took programming classes at school, and got internet at home...