Switching keyboard layouts – QWERTY to Dvorak

Posted on December 22, 2017. Filed under: Keyboards |

“Before” – Jon types around 130wpm using QWERTY.

Come chat with other typists in the TypeRacer Discord!

Yesterday my friend Jon Lachney (jlachneyTRData) — who happens to be both a top typist and the head of the TypeRacer moderation team — mentioned he stopped using QWERTY 2 days ago and has begun learning the Dvorak layout. Partially because I’m a typing nerd who transitioned away from QWERTY over ten years ago, and partially because the debate surrounding merits of different keyboard layouts is a popular and relevant topic in the TypeRacer community, I thought this would be a good chance to use Jon as a guinea pig, and share his experience with the world.

“After” – After 2 days, Jon now types 15-20wpm on Dvorak.

Whether you’re someone who is just starting to learn to type, or a serious player in the competitive typing scene, the topic of different layouts is relevant to you and I hope Jon’s experiment can give you some valuable information and inspiration to use down the road. This is our first “interview” with Jon — and more will follow (assuming he doesn’t give up 🙂 )

Jon has said he’ll answer any and all questions — and as a typist fluent on Dvorak and QWERTY, I’ll match his offer — so leave any questions in the comments, or head to the TypeRacer Discord to chat.


♕ David ♕ (valikor – TRData)

QWERTY – Click here to see Jon typing 165wpm.

Dvorak – Click here to see Jon typing 19wpm.


Q&A with Jon on switching to Dvorak

Q: For folks who don’t know you, can you provide a brief personal introduction?

A: My name is Jon Lachney and I’m from Louisiana. I’m a 21-year-old typing enthusiast.

Q: What’s your typing background?

A: I started typing as a kid and used computers for the entirety of my childhood. Over the years I self-taught myself to type using QWERTY. TypeRacer has significantly improved by speed, and it’s soon to be my fifth anniversary on the site.

Q: What inspired your decision to learn Dvorak?

A: I’ve always heard a lot about the Dvorak layout, and it captured my interest years ago. I’ve always wanted to give it a try. I’m finally doing so, and this is mainly as a hobby. I’m curious to learn something new.

Q: How are you learning Dvorak?

A: My approach is entirely DIY. I use a text editor, pipe out the letters, learning their locations myself. As I learn new key placements, I immediately begin contextualizing the learning by building words. I always avoid looking at the keys and consider this one of the most important parts to learning the layout.

Q: Your account jlachney has an average of 122wpm after 15,000 races on TypeRacer, putting you in the top 0.2% for typing speed. How does it feel to switch to Dvorak, and to be a beginner once again?

A: As of today I’m able to type at 15wpm on Dvorak, on average.  It definitely feels more comfortable typing; it’s tough to definitively attribute this to the new layout,  of course, because the increased comfort could also be due to my typing more slowly. Although I’ve learned where all the keys are on Dvorak, it requires a lot more thought. I’m still enjoying it though.

Q: Your typing speed is around 10% of your old speed. Has this hurt your confidence in typing?

A: Not at all. I’m stubborn and patient, and won’t be giving up any time soon! 

Q: Many typists who transition to a new keyboard layout end up losing speed on their previous layout — sometimes losing the old layout entirely. Are you worried?

A: It’s a potential sacrifice that I’m willing to accept. Of course, I am also hoping to maintain both layouts [QWERTY and Dvorak] if possible. 

Q: How much time are you expecting to spend learning Dvorak, and regaining the speed you had on QWERTY? When will you be satisfied with your speed?

A: I’m satisfied and happy whenever I make improvement on Dvorak.I’m expecting it’ll take a year or so before I regain my QWERTY typing speed [~125wpm].

Q: What has been your biggest challenge or frustration in learning Dvorak?

A: Typing vowels feels weird for me on Dvorak so far. I’m accustomed to using both hands and typing the “spread out” vowels on QWERTY; on Dvorak all vowels are on the left. Some specific keys also feel awkward for me. I do love the feeling of typing punctuation on Dvorak, though — it feels great and is easier to shift my fingers upward when entering punctuation, rather than QWERTY which crams the commonly-used punctuation in the bottom right corner.

Q: Are there any other thoughts or recommendations you’d like to share with fellow TypeRacers, or folks who might be interested in learning a new keyboard layout?

A: Yes. I believe strongly that learning a new keyboard layout is not for everyone. I don’t recommend it to most typist who have already mastered QWERTY. But, if you’re a typing enthusiast who enjoys learning new things, definitely go for it.

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