Computers & Tech

Your keyboard & You… QWERTY is no picnic

typing-post-on-computer1Sometimes I think to myself, how much of a nerd could one person be to talk about keyboard layouts. Well, let’s face it. I’m a nerd.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re at your computer and if you look down you will see the exact same thing as in the picture. Am I right? You are using QWERTY. Now I will not attempt to go in to the whole history of keyboard layouts and how many are out there.

You can read those in the following articles mentioned below.

Your Keyboard & You. I’ll Stick With Colemak
Colemak vs Dvorak – So Hard To Make A Decision

In a previous article, Good Bye Colemak… It’s Been Fun, I mentioned that after more than a year of learning Colemak, just when I was I was getting to grips with the layout, I decided that for certain reasons, I would be switching over to QWERTY as my primary keyboard layout.

So is QWERTY the best option for me? I’m still not certain. In the article, I mentioned that I would be like to be universally competent, no matter what system I have in front of me. So being able to touch-type on QWERTY is something that would not go in vain.
However, it has been a year since I switched to QWERTY and I’m still not able to type a single word properly without making so many errors. Maybe I’m thinking or reading too much into it. So far the only real amount of muscle memory that I’ve managed to get familiar with is the “Backspace” key on my keyboard. So frustrating.. 😦

Frankly I can’t say that I’m surprised. After experiencing layout much more comfortable and easier, I suppose that my hands are sort of frustrated with me & my choices. They seem to have a mind of their own now. Haha.

causes-of-carpal-tunnel-syndromeDon’t believe me how bad QWERTY can be?
Go to this site: Keyboard Layout Analyser
Paste a large paragraph of text and see where QWERTY comes in. You will see what I’m talking about.

The biggest reason for anyone to use alternative layouts is to reduce injuries caused by excessive computer usage. While there is no real definitive proof that the QWERTY layout is the main cause of Carpal tunnel and RSI, there are many typists who suffer from said injuries and have seen definitive relief by switching. I’ve always believed that prevention is better than cure. So I think that if you are going to be using only your personal system, and you work long hours typing away at the computer, then rather than risk injury, you should consider switching. This is just a general opinion though. Not a suggestion.

Of course I’m not sure that my typing needs leave me vulnerable to anything. However I’m still keen on getting into programming and that would need for me to type more than what I do now.

When I initially started to learn touch typing, one of the main reasons why I preferred to get into the alternate layout is that I’ve always believed that if there was a better way of doing something, that would the best way to do it. Regardless if it was experimental or going against the norm, I would do it. I’m not one to follow the crowd, just because of popular opinion. So I started with Dvorak. Then moved to Colemak.

Anyways with the trouble that I’m having now with typing on QWERTY, I’m thinking whether in the long run if I would be better off with an alternative layouts. Logging my experience with forums, I often get replies from veteran Colemak users saying that I should switch back. Why go through the hassle? I went through enough trying to get used to Colemak and just when I was making progress, I switched again.
When I switched to QWERTY, I imagined that I would be using more different systems on a regular basis. Plus learning the standard layout would allow me to be more universally competent. I’ve explained my reasons in the linked article above. But it seems the case that I’m only using systems that have been assigned to me on a permanent / long term basis. And at home, I have Albert.

So would switching back to an alternative layout be better for me? If Yes, then which one. Colemak is certainly the most modern and logically the best. But at the moment, its not wide spread on every single computer. If I do switch, I think that I would be using Dvorak. Apparently it comes in second place when compared with Colemak, but those who know me, know that I alway vote for the under-dogs.
I’ve had this debate before and having tried out them both, I would say that if I need the  keyboard shortcuts, surely Colemak is the better bet. But for me, when I was learning Dvorak, I actually found it much more easier than Colemak or QWERTY. I think its the hand alteration. It works better on me and I was typing proficiently without any mistakes in hardly any time at all. Another thing that Dvorak has is that it is ready available as an optional layout on any computer, any OS & it takes only a few clicks to switch. So if I do need to use different system for a length of time, I can do so easily without any problems.

Colemak is still not standard on Windows which is what I would mostly be using when I’m not at home.

So… am I throwing in the towel for Dvorak?
QWERTY is no picnic, but I would not be giving it justice if I give up just now. So the answer is No.. People who know me know that I will not let technology beat me. I’m not a defeatist.
When I was learning Colemak, it took me 2 years to be able to type a coherent sentence without a single mistake; just as fast as I would be on my hunt and peck method with QWERTY prior to that. This compared with just 3 months required on Dvorak.
Seeing that QWERTY is not as ergonomic as Colemak, it will probably take more time than 2 years for me to get proficient with it. I’m making progress; snail-like progress, but progress just the same. I just probably need to get into a proper typing program and really focus. Otherwise, I’m just going nowhere  fast.

8 replies »

  1. if you’re using the same computer for long periods of time, then you should use the best layout that fits you using the most productive software and hardware. in this case, look beyond just dvorak and colemak. there are quite a few layouts much better than both Colemak and Dvorak in all areas of measurable statistics.

    you can try modern layouts (such as HIEAMSTRN, ADNW, and MTGAP, or my BEAKL), or create your personal optimized layout (using ADNW software). most of these newer layouts tend to follow Dvorak style of vowels on the same hand and high hand alternation. this makes sense because hand alternation reduces fatigue and confusion on same hand and increases reaction speed with the other hand.

    (but if you really like Dvorak, then stick with it. hand alternation and wide support are great qualities. but careful with the pinkies.)

    • Sorry for the late reply. Thanks for the comment. More than 2 years with QWERTY, I still face issues, with typing in a sentence without making a single mistake. So with that I probably would be switching to the Dvorak layout. However, I do not like the way that the keys are for the shortcuts.

      • I’m on Dvorak. For shortcut cut keys, I just switch back to QWERTY with shift+alt, use my shortcuts, then switch back to Dvorak.

      • Thanks for the comment.. Great to hear from you. To be honest, for the past 6 months, I have been using Dvorak as well. I am still not settled on it though. Since I use Mac, I used the “Dvorak + QWERTY Cmd layout”…

      • I’m replying to your latest comment to me, but there’s no reply button showing up, so I’ll have to reply here. As much as I appreciate the ergonomics of Dvorak compared to QWERTY (and I don’t plan to quit Dvorak), my ultimate solution is to learn to type steno using Plover. Unfortunately, I don’t have a steno keyboard that would suit me (and I don’t know how to make keyboards or even program them), and COVID has put a lot of strain on the entrepreneurs who make and sell these keyboards (as a one person operation, so you can imagine how terrible the supply situation is). Hopefully, luck will be on my side in 2021 and I will acquire a split ergonomic steno keyboard – I found one that has all the functions and ergonomics I need, only the seller has a long wait list they’re capping out at 100. I don’t know if I made the list. I also hope one day a company is set up to mass produce steno keyboards.

      • Sounds good. I wish you all the best on that. At the moment, I am just trying to get back into QWERTY at the moment. While I put in a stint with Dvorak and I absolutely loved using it. But the ultimate goal is to be able to type on anything, so in order to do that, QWERTY is the only choice for me at the moment.
        I did buy a Sun Type 7 keyboard to use at work because I wanted to make use of the left button cluster for the standard copy and paste shortcuts whilst on the Dvorak layout; because I have to use Windows at work and there is no layout like the one on the Mac. However as much as I looked, there are no Windows drivers that will allow me to use that Cluster.
        I prefer using standard layouts that come with the OS because it would be better if ever the IT department issues me another system at work, etc.

  2. Hi Julx!
    Since you leaped from other keyboard layouts to QWERTY I ask you: what sort of minor changes would suffice to improve the standard layout? In other words, would you like to have other function keys more directly available? Other funtion keys? Any key exchanges? (Without considering a pure and simple switch to other existing layout, that is)
    ThkU in advance!

    • Thanks for your comment and your question. I know that I gave you an answer before, but having spent even more time with QWERTY after trying to type on a glass keyboard these couple of months, I can safely say that there are things that need to be changed in the standard layout. I would exchange the CAPSLOCK to the Backspace easily. The number of times my fingers have accidentally pressed CAPSLOCK is infuriating; but I can basically put that one to the BASTRON glass keyboard design. The semi-colon should be interchanged with “‘”.. We use that more. Personally I would have “‘” and “-” on the home row, move the “[” & “]” to the number row and “;” and “=/+” in their place.
      Personally, one of the biggest issues of the standard layout can be solved. We need to move away from the staggered key layout. I needed to be staggered for the typewriter.. Doesn’t need to be for the computer keyboard.

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