A few weeks ago I had a frantic week of coding at work that left my hands and fingers feeling stiff and sore. I immediately feared the worst; irreversible RSI! After analysing what I had done in particular to cause the pain and discomfort in my hands I soon realised that I had incredibly poor typing technique.
Learning to touch type is one of those things that has been on my to-do list for years, but was just too boring and time consuming for me to spend any time doing it. The fear of not being able to do my job properly due to potential RSI has rekindled my urge to improve somewhat drastically…
After some research on the net I came across something that I vaguely remember hearing about before and thinking ‘everyone should learn that!’, but not doing anything about it: The Dvorak keyboard layout.
The Dvorak Keyboard Layout
In a nutshell, the Dvorak keyboard layout is designed to be the most efficient layout for typing English, where the current industry standard, the QWERTY layout, is probably one of the least efficient layouts.
The Dvorak Keyboard Layout
After digging a little further I came across the Programmer Dvorak layout. I couldn’t believe it, a super efficient keyboard layout just for programmers!
The Programmer Dvorak Keyboard Layout
I decided to learn to touch type on the Programmer Dvorak layout with the aid of Typing Master Pro which has support for the standard Dvorak layout. I prised all of the keys from my keyboard, popped them back in as close as I could get to the layout and I was ready to go!
After two weeks trying to get to grips with the new layout by doing a couple of hours in the evenings, I figured I’d never learn properly if I didn’t make the switch at work too. This is not an easy decision to make, as my typing speed was bound to take a dramatic hit. My justification for making the switch was that the slow-down in typing speed, and use of proper technique, will help my hands to heal fully whilst I keep working, knowing that the speed and accuracy of my typing will eventually improve.
Using Programmer Dvorak in the UK
The Programmer Dvorak layout does not include the GBP (£) symbol on any of the keys, but there is a ‘compose’ key next to the left shift that I was only ever pressing by accident; producing some rather strange results. After looking for a way to customise keyboard layouts in Windows, I found the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator. And then subsequently discovered the Programmer Dvorak source file for MKLC.
The UK Programmer Dvorak Keyboard Layout
Get the Layout
If you are interested in switching to the Programmer Dvorak layout and you prefer the UK layout, you can install it on windows with the following package:
If you fancy making changes of your own, here is the source file:
I have been working with the new layout for a couple of days now, and with Programmer Dvorak for about a week before. My typing speed is painfully slow, but the pain is not in my hands! The physical effects of my old typing technique have all but gone, and now all I have to do is be patient and work on my touch typing skills until I am coding back at my usual pace, but in a more efficient, less painful way.