I corresponded with a fellow who had a somewhat negative experience retraining to Dvorak. I learned that his schoolwork required him to continue using QWERTY while he was trying to retrain. That's a pretty sure road to frustration.
In light of this fellow's problem, and at risk of duplicating information you might see elsewhere, I submit the following tips for retraining to Dvorak.
- Use a Dvorak-capable typing tutor if possible. You'll be typing real words and phrases much sooner that way. I retrained long ago on something remarkably like Typing Tutor 7; it didn't have Dvorak then, but now it does, and I gather it's even cooler than before. I've also tried Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Version 2.0 (DOS or Mac), and it was OK, but Mavis versions later than 5.0 no longer support Dvorak.
- Don't use QWERTY at all while you are retraining. With some difficulty, you'll probably be able to use QWERTY again after you are up to speed in Dvorak. (But you won't want to!)
After you are up to speed in Dvorak, the difficulty of switching back and forth seems to vary. For me it was pretty easy when I was switching often, less so after a long time using Dvorak exclusively. I've heard similar reports from others.
- If you must do typing work besides training, use Dvorak and take it easy.
If you have to type constantly and can't afford to lose a few weeks' work, I
suggest you put off switching until you can take some time off.
- It is OK to relabel your keyboard and look at the keys if you want to. This makes it easier to do other typing work if necessary. Looking at the keys only becomes a problem after you pick up speed; most people simply stop looking, but if you are worried try to find keycap labels that you can remove later.
- Allow for about 1 hour of training for each WPM to regain your old QWERTY speed (this is conservative by some accounts).
- Don't train for more than 2 hours a day. Rest frequently, especially at first.
- Don't worry about accuracy too soon. That can make you hesitant and keep you from getting your speed up.
- Also forget accuracy when training for speed, but don't go so fast it feels uncomfortable. Stay loose. Fast typing is light, rapid, and almost legato.
- Conversely, when typing for accuracy, don't worry about speed.
If your accurate speed is too slow, resolve to do more speed training later!
Most of these tips are gleaned from The Dvorak Keyboard by R. C. Cassingham, who covers the subject in much more detail.
Several typing tutors that support Dvorak are available. New ones turn up from time to time. I haven't tried them all, but here are some you can try for yourself:
Back to Introducing the Dvorak Keyboard.
Last update: 5 April 1999
Original page established: 12 August 1996
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