At approximately 09:32 on Monday, January 2, 2006, I switched to Dvorak, cold turkey.
I printed a sheet with the locations of the letters, taped it to my iMac G5, and went about my daily tasks. After a few days I even switched to 100% Dvorak (the command keys for copy, paste, etc.).
I won’t lie to you. It was hard at times and I contemplated quitting. For the first few days there was still the thrill of joining the elite. Days 8-12 were the worst as mental and physical fatigue set in. It’s like learning a new language and not being able to communicate, which is extremely tiring. Still, there was the reward of taking a speed test and noting progress every day.
Fortunately, I stuck with it and am pretty comfortable at 40-50 wpm after only one month. I no longer cringe when I have to delete a word that just took me 5 minutes to type. I’m composing this article on my laptop without any chart to guide my fingers (my keyboard still has the Qwerty letters). My wife types Qwerty and easily switches the input setting via the menubar (switching between the two takes only a few seconds in Windows as well).
There is no magic bullet, but my hands feel more comfortable and less tired at the end of the day. Typing on a laptop keyboard used to be uncomfortable, and my hands would cramp up after a few minutes. I can now type on a laptop keyboard for a few hours in relative comfort.
People have brought up some Navy study that incorrectly concluded that Dvorak helped people type faster after only a month or two. I typed 80-100 wpm before, so speed was not a reason for switching.
I hate to use things that are poorly designed. When I had a car, I drove a Saab (I walk or ride the bus most places now). The Saab is great because you can’t run down the battery by leaving the lights on; they turn off when you take the key out. I’ve heard that they are hard to repair (it was definitely costly), but the user experience was well designed.
Dvorak feels the same way. The vowels are on the left home row and the most commonly used consonants are on the right. Sometimes I type whole words without leaving the home row. Statistically, your fingers move less when typing Dvorak. If you type the Unabomber Manifesto frequently, you’ll save about 2.4km of finger movement every time you type it (5.7km vs. 3.3km).
When I see someone typing Qwerty, it looks like their hands are going through such odd contortions. No wonder my hands hurt after 8 or 10 hours of typing (or even 2 or 3).
I can’t guarantee that you will become smarter, more wealthy, or better looking because of the keyboard layout you use. There are many smart people who don’t use Dvorak. If you choose to switch, it will be a difficult month (or two). But if you are currently experiencing pain in your hands after typing, premature hair loss, or dampened sexual appetite, I recommend it.