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Dvorak Keyboard Typing Why It Works

Faster, Using Less Finger Movement and Less Fatigue Than The Standard (Qwerty) Keyboard.

The Dvorak keyboard is based on time motion studies, where the most common letters are on the ‘home row’. Since vowels and consonants often alternate in words, the vowels A, O, E, U, I, are on the left hand, alternating with the most common consonants, D, H, T, N, S, on the right. There are about 5,000 words that can be typed on the home row alone. This compares to Qwerty’s mere 300, or so.

In many samples of text, about 57% of typing is done on the 'home position' keys, those 8 keys where your fingers rest when beginning or not moving.  Additionally, including the 2 other keys in the middle of the home row brings the percent of use in the home row alone to 70%. 

Many have commented on the effect, that the way the Dvorak keyboard is arranged, will naturally draw one to type using all of the fingers.

Common words such as, the, and, to, in, that, it, are typed in Dvorak on the home row only. The 12 most common words, as per The Guiness Book of Records, take only a third of the finger movement to type. (Dvorak vs. Qwerty typing look at these tests)

The more limber Forefinger and middle finger also type the often used letters E, U, H, and T. Also, digraphs, or common 2 letter sequences in words, ( such as gy, ty, sw, lo, ed, rt, which are typed with one finger in Qwerty) are are more often shared between fingers in Dvorak.

Trigraphs, are like digraphs, but for three letters. Here are the most common ones, typed using the home row only with Dvorak: the, and, tha, hat, ent, ion, tio, has, edt, tis, tho.

Then, there is taken into account the natural rhythmic preference for ‘strumming’ the fingers from the outside in when typing (from the little finger toward the forefinger). Drum your fingers on a table to illustrate this.

Also, there is the ‘long jump’ from the top row to the bottom row that is much more common in Qwerty, than Dvorak. In an informal test, while typing 3 paragraphs from a magazine article, with Qwerty, there were 54 times when a letter typed on the top row was followed by a letter typed on the bottom row, (or vice versa). On Dvorak, in typing the same material, there were none.

The bottom row in Dvorak, the one hardest to reach from the home row, has the least used letters.

A common English language letter frequency rating , most used, to least used is: ETAOIHNSRDLUWGCYMFPBKVQXJZ. 

In Spanish, the advantage of Dvorak is continued with: EAONISRlDTCUMPGBVQFllJHZnXYCH.  Likewise, with Portuguese, and German, the Dvorak advantage is about 35-46%. 

There will be minor variations depending on sample used.

Punctuation, such as the often used periods, and commas are easier to reach.

Here is a comparative look at typing frequency, by rows, in both Dvorak and Qwerty:

dvorak keyboard typewriter diagram
qwerty keyboard typewriter diagram

© 2002 Malcolm Greenway All rights reserved

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