A Bit About Early Keyboard Design
When keyboards were being developed there wasn’t so much of an interest in crafting a solution that would lend itself to better typing speeds and overall good ergonomics. Instead, there was a simple need to get the manual keyboards to stop jamming and simply work. Early typewriter designs require that the previously pressed key be allowed to exit the paper strike area before the next key was pressed. This technical limitation also meant that greater spacing had to be made between each key so that the keyboard mechanisms wouldn’t jam.
However, those design priorities ensured that the character placing didn’t allow for the best typing rate or ergonomic design. Some of those disadvantages that were identified and addressed by the Dvorak designers (Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, Dr. William Dealey) are as follows:
- Many common letter combinations require awkward finger motions.
- Many common letter combinations are typed with the same finger instead of a rhythmic alternation.
- Many common letter combinations require a finger stretch from the home row.
- Many common letter combinations are typed with the weaker left hand while the right hand sits idle.
- Approximately 30% of typing is done on the lower row, which is the slowest and most difficult row to reach.
- Approximately 52% of keyboard strokes are done in the top row, requiring the fingers to travel away from the home row.
While the Dvorak keyboard was designed to increase typing speed and reduce injury, it is important to remember that the design was specifically optimized for the English language. Even though the performance may not be as high if used for typing Spanish, and French text, in many cases the Dvorak keyboard still has an advantage over QWERTY. In any case, there are Dvorak keyboards that are optimized for foreign languages.
So, what is the advantage of the Dvorak layout keyboard over the QWERTY, we say they are quite a few. Not least of which is its ability to increase typing speeds and reduce repetitive strain injuries.