It's been almost a year since I decided to begin learning the Dvorak layout, and just over six months since switching entirely. I thought I would post one last update about my progress and observations on typing with the Dvorak layout.
First, the speed. I am just a tad slower than I was when typing under the QWERTY layout. In QWERTY, I could type around 65-70 WPM on average, with peaks around 90 WPM. Using the Dvorak layout, I sit around 50-55 WPM peaking around 80 WPM. So while I am still no up to par with where I was on QWERTY, the speed is bearable, and really, I don't even notice that it feels slower.
Next, the accuracy. My accuracy has increased about 10% since the switch. On QWERTY, my average accuracy was around 80-82%. On Dvorak, I sit roughly around 88-91%. The funny thing, is I feel that my accuracy has gone down. However, when I sit and look at it, it's not the accuracy of the letters that is bad, but the inability for my brain to process complete logical sentances BEFORE typing. When I sit at a typing tutor or type text that is already before me, my accuracy is around 98%. It's when the words are in my mind that the accuracy slips.
Finally, the comfort. This was the #1 reason why I switched in the first place. I spend my entire day in front of a computer typing away. On QWERTY, I could feel the fatigue of my hands and wrists, and on occasion, pain. Since switching, I no longer feel that fatigue or pain. However, with that said, right after the initial switch, I was typing ~5-10 WPM. It was so slow, that I found myself stiffening my wrists while I typed. It was much more painful. However, I stuck through it, and my wrists have since relaxed, no longer giving me discomfort. Overall, I feel better while typing in Dvorak.
So, those are my observations since switching. Of course, I would be ignorant if I didn't talk about some of the drawbacks to Dvorak since switching. Not everything has been peaches and cream.
The number one problem that I face is when I sit at another computer. The world is using QWERTY. I accept that, although I may not like it. What is frustrating is doing the two-finger peck dance when sitting at that computer. For someone observing me type, this can't look good knowing that I am a computer scientist and programmer. But, after sitting at the keyboard for a few minutes, the QWERTY keys come back, and I can type sub-marginally. Being a Dvorak typist in a QWERTY world is frustrating. Also, when someone sits at my computer, for whatever reason, I have to switch the layout back to QWERTY to accommodate their needs, or type for them. This can be a hassle.
The second problem that I have noticed, is Dvorak favors people who are right-handed. This is intentional. When August Dvorak created the layout, he wanted to favor those who are right-handed as the majority of people use their right hands over their left. However, I have seen some lefties come to the layout, and sense frustration with the layout preferring the right hand. I am not a leftie, so I can't empathize, but apparently, left-handed users experience some frustration.
A note about switching to Dvorak: it really isn't that difficult. If you play more than one music instrument, then you are probably familiar with learning a new staff, notes, rules, etc. that come with learning that instrument. However, it probably came fairly easily to learn. The same rules apply with Dvorak. Think of it as learning a new instrument. It takes a little time, and brain power, but once you sit down, and get into "Dvorak mode", it really comes easy. As with learning a new instrument though, the key is practice, practice, practice. I would say, that if you practiced 30 minutes a day for 2 - 3 weeks, you could be at a decent typing sped where you wouldn't need to fall back to QWERTY.
All-in-all, I'm glad I made the switch. It's always a fun conversation piece. People don't realize that there could possibly be another keyboard layout. Everyone must type in QWERTY. Even those who speak different languages. Right? Heh. Most people don't even know that the layout they use is referred to as "QWERTY". So telling them that I use a layout that has the keys in different locations gets some crazy looks. 🙂