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One of my fellow Tassie travellers not only has a very covetable MacBook Air (pretty!) but she also types using the Dvorak keyboard layout. As someone who types a lot for work and obviously a lot writing and does get hand and wrist pain despite using an ergonomic keyboard and stretching etc, it was very interesting watching her type and seeing her hands move a lot less than a QWERTY typist.

I’ve read about Dvorak before, particularly a few years ago on Holly Lisle’s blog but at the time it all seemed too much hassle. But I’m thinking I’d like to give it a go this time. Have been scuttling round the internet reading various articles about pros and cons and people’s experiences.

I also found Colemak but even though I found it a bit more intuitive than Dvorak on a website that lets you try different layouts without switching your keyboards, the cold hard fact is that you still have to install Colemak and the day job is not big on letting us install things on our work computers (even the portable version might be a problem). Plus there’s no Colemak option on an Alphasmart (and there is a Dvorak option). I use my Alphie to draft fast without thinking too much, so if my QWERTY speed drops from switching, I need to be able to use whatever alternative method on it. So I think, for me, Colemak is a no-go. Something to be put in the ‘maybe later’ category when I have perhaps changed from an alphie to an eee or something similar and Colemak is maybe imbedded into OSX and Windows a la Dvorak.

But I definitely want to give Dvorak a go to see if it helps my hands. I’m not sure I can do the cold turkey method because I do need to produce lots of text every day but I’m going to do some lessons and practice and see how I go, following the system suggested here. It seems like it can be harder for fast QWERTY typists to switch and I guess I fall into that category (My speed is around 70wpm when I’m stopping to think about accuracy and probably a lot faster then that when I’m drafting and don’t care about typos). I don’t want to lose my QWERTY skills so I’m going to try and be come bi-keyboard-al. I’m going to try and use the version that keeps the QWERTY commands the same at first. Command keys are the one thing that trip my brain up a bit between Mac and Windows, so changing the position of the keys I’m reaching for has the potential for true chaos whilst I’m still in the position of having to use both.

So let’s see how this goes. I’ve got my mac set-up to be able to switch between layouts easily and am going to try some drills today…I’ll keep you posted.

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