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Teaching Yourself Dvorak Keyboard Typing

Tips for Training

The Prize: 

Being able to type more easily, the process being more transparent, with a lot less fatigue, injury, or errors, using maybe one half the finger movement that you use on the standard Qwerty keyboard, every time you type.  And, for those so inclined, a chance to double your typing speed. 

The Cost:

An hour and a half,  to six hours or so to learn the keyboard, then maybe 20 hours or so of slower typing. until your speed increases to what you have now, increasing more from there.  Time forgettable a month from now.  (Dvorak is much faster than Qwerty for beginners to learn).

Select a week or two when a lot of speed is not needed.

Find a time when your schedule is such that you can switch to Dvorak without having to go back to Qwerty. During this time, use Dvorak exclusively. This will minimize the work required, and the time needed. After you are competent and up to speed with Dvorak, some can go back and forth (you will not want to!).

If you simply must type, use Dvorak and be easy. This is not a time to cram that report out the door!

You can look at the keys if helpful.  Relabeling the keys is OK, after you pick up speed, most simply quit looking. 

(See Dvorak Keyboard Buy or Make Your Own )  

Many find that using a keyboard diagram near the monitor is as good.  (Print a Dvorak keyboard diagram)

Train only for 1 or 2 hours a day. Doing more will give diminishing returns.

Plan to spend 1 hour for each WPM you typed before. This is a ‘safe’ estimate, many can go much faster.

Accuracy training, and speed training are not the same. Worrying about speed when you are striving for accuracy and vice versa may have you hesitant, so separate the two.

Many, who were 1 or 2 finger 'hunt and peck' typists in Qwerty, find that Dvorak will 'lead' naturally to the use of all of the fingers.

Many people teach themselves, using only the information presented here.

A good way to begin is to take the keyboard diagram and put it near your monitor. For some, this is as good as relabeling the keys. Use this diagram, unfold as shown, and use any usefully sized object, to weight it in place, and prop it up:

how to fold and prop up your dvorak keyboard diagram

Change your keyboard to Dvorak, (Type on a Dvorak keyboard in 30 seconds)

dvorak keyboard diagram small size

(Print this keyboard diagram

Look at the diagram as you type instead of the keys (like typing teachers recommend), so no labeling of the keys will be necessary.

To learn this keyboard quickly, you want to teach your fingers to move from the shaded home row keys to other keys using the shortest path possible.

Your fingers should rest lightly on the ‘home row’, with the fingers on the shaded letters AOEU and HTNS, leaving only to strike another key, then returning. The finger guidelines on the diagram show the keys stroked by each finger and speed learning. Each finger should strike ONLY ‘its’ letters as shown by the guidelines. You should learn to move your fingers the same way each time. (why take longer than needed to learn several ways of moving?)

At first, it was helpful to me to make ‘soft keys’ that is, take thin cloth, or paper, cut into ½ in squares, and tape it to the tops of the 8 shaded home row keys. (Make a loop of tape under the cloth.) The idea is to make these keys ‘feel’ different. Or, alternately, use the positioning ‘bumps’ on 2 keys found on some keyboards.  At first, this was helpful to get me to start my hands in the same place by feel each time. Don’t worry too much how they look—you will remove them soon as you learn to ‘find’ the home row by feel.  Many skip this step.

Using this method, I could type (slowly) most of the keyboard after an hour or so, mostly without looking.

If you need to look at the keys while typing, re-label your keys with labels, if desired, or helpful, as you learn the keyboard.  You will naturally look less as your speed increases (see resources Dvorak typing)  or (Dvorak  keyboard.How to buy or make Your Own) 

If possible, select a week or two when a lot of speed isn’t required. Avoid switching back if frustrated, as this will make the change take longer, and add unnecessary frustration.

It is best to limit your sessions to 1 or 2 hours a day, with frequent breaks. More will give you diminishing returns. Allow 1 hr. for each wpm you typed before. Soon you may find yourself typing faster than before. You definitely should be more comfortable.

After you can ‘find’ most of the keys, any practice can be used to increase speed.

You can copy text from a book, (a magazine will lay flat) or better, use a document in your word processor. Select a document, click the Save As function to make an identical copy, and give it a new name.

 Place your cursor at the end of a line, press ‘Enter’, to put the curser below the line, and copy the line which is now above, for example:

You can type faster with Dvorak, using less effort.

You can type faster with Dvorak, using less effort.

You can type fastar with Dvarak usinggg |

Both your correct typing as well as your errors are readily visible, making this an effective and readily available tutorial. Due to the fact that Dvorak is designed around ease and frequency of letter use, this is more effective in learning Dvorak, than it would be in Qwerty. To find your word per minute rate, use a watch, and use your word processor’s word count feature.  Do not save the changes, so that it may be used again.

You can do the same with the tutorial found on this site.  Dvorak keyboard Free Typing Tutorial  Display the tutorial, Go to Edit, at the top of your screen, choose Select All, click Copy, go to your word processor, and click Paste (from the Edit menu.  This will give you a copy to work with.  

There are also tutorials on both the web, in the resource (resource for Dvorak keyboard) section.  Be sure that the ones that you use are for Dvorak – and not the old Qwerty exercises. A lot of these like to brag about the graphics and games, but I was more interested in typing—quickly—and on to other things.  (Dvorak keyboard free typing tutorial)

© 2002 Malcolm Greenway

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