Dvorak is a keyboard layout designed to be much more efficient for typing than the traditional QWERTY. It was invented in 1936 by August Dvorak and his brother-in-law William Dealey. There are also single-handed variants for people who can only type with one hand.

The advantages of Dvorak are supposed to be that it’s more ergonomic than QWERTY, reducing the risk of repetitive strain injury and enabling faster, more accurate typing. The layout never caught on enough to become mainstream, because QWERTY was invented 60 years earlier and so generations of typists had already been trained on – and become efficient with – the QWERTY layout. Dvorak was not seen as enough of an improvement to justify re-training everyone and going through a painful adjustment period. However, Dvorak does have a solid contingent of devotees to this day who use one of the layouts, and most major operating systems allow you to set it as your keyboard layout. iOS does not by default, but you can install a third-party keyboard app like SwiftKey which does support it.

Another layout which also aspires to be a more ergonomic replacement to QWERTY, but with fewer differences for a less-steep learning curve, is Colemak.

Standard Layout

Dvorak’s original layout also shifted the position of the numbers depending on their frequency (!); this was pretty swiftly changed and the modern standard layout does not do this, although there is a “programming layout” that does. The diagram below is of the standard layout.

Illustration of the standard Dvorak keyboard layout, showing keys’ locations

Image from Wikipedia, in the public domain. Original found here(external link).

Left-Handed Variant

This and the right-handed variant, below, were invented in the 1960s. This, the left-handed variant, is the keyboard layout that I personally use. I first started using it in 2008, and used it between then and 2012 pretty much exclusively, and between 2012–2016 part-time (as devices like work computers and my smartphone keyboard could not be switched to left-hand Dvorak). I eventually switched back in August 2021, around the time I wrote this blog entry about the Dvorak left-hand layout. I can also use it on iOS, thanks to the Keybuild app (see relevant blog post).

Personally, I find using this layout very advantageous for me. I type faster on it compared to QWERTY, but most importantly my accuracy on it is much better, meaning my effective speed (typing speed minus time spent fixing typos) is a lot faster.

Illustration of the left-hand Dvorak keyboard layout, showing keys’ locations

Image from Wikipedia, licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0. Original found here(external link).

Right-Handed Variant

Invented in the 1960s at the same time as the left-handed variant, with much the same benefits for single-handed typists whose one good hand is their right.

Illustration of the right-hand Dvorak keyboard layout, showing keys’ locations

Image from Wikipedia, licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0. Original found here(external link).

Other Variants

  • There is a “programmer variant”, mentioned earlier
  • There are some variants for other locales, including UK (with the @ and " positions switched), Swedish, and numerous implementations for other languages