What is the Dvorak Keyboard?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The Dvorak keyboard is a keyboard with a different layout of keys than the QWERTY arrangement. Dr. August Dvorak, and William Dealy developed the Dvorak keyboard in 1936. One may see the Dvorak keyboard referred to as the Simple keyboard, or simplified keyboard. However, in most cases, the design has failed to garner much attention, and the QWERTY layout is far more popular.

The layout of the Dvorak keyboard places the heavily used vowels toward the center.
The layout of the Dvorak keyboard places the heavily used vowels toward the center.

There is some indication that the Dvorak keyboard might result in faster typing for people trained to use it, because of the placement of the letters. In 1985, Barbara Blackburn earned the Guinness Book of Records “World’s Fastest Typist” title using a Dvorak keyboard. Her maximum speed measured at 212 wpm, and her typing speed over fifty minutes was an average of 150 wpm.

Those who "hunt and peck" on keyboards may struggle with a Dvorak keyboard.
Those who "hunt and peck" on keyboards may struggle with a Dvorak keyboard.

Many believe Blackburn’s success is directly related to the principals Dvorak had in mind when determining where to place keys on the Dvorak keyboard. The most frequently used letters are in the middle row, and the top row contains frequently used letters as well. The bottom row has the least frequently used letters. Further, most of the most frequently used letters are on the right side of the keyboard and support right hand dominance.

But over all, part of the principal of the Dvorak keyboard is to increase speed by alternating between hands to type each letter. The most common words frequently are consonant, vowel, and consonant. On the middle row of the Dvorak keyboard, the board is split between all the vowels on the left, and the most common consonants on the right.

Most new computers have software available for converting a regular keyboard to a Dvorak keyboard. If one was learning the style, though, they might have to customize the keyboard in order to see which letters are different in the Dvorak keyboard.

Dvorak also designed several keyboards for one-handed typing. These are designed separately for use by right or left one-handed typing. With the one handed typing often accompanying texting, these might become more popular.

The QWERTY typing format will likely to continue to be taught more than the Dvorak keyboard even though support exists for conversion. Not all older keyboards can convert, and learning typists, or hunt-and-peck folks would need to occasionally see what letters they were striking. This is perhaps unfortunate, since tests of the Dvorak keyboard indicate it is probably more efficient.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent EasyTechJunkie contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


"Not all older keyboards can convert" How old are we talking here - 1980? All windows and mac computers, with all keyboards made in the last ten, and I would guess the last 20 years or more - that is, every computer keyboard 99.999 percent of people will ever use - can use the Dvorak layout. And you can use not only Dvorak, but type in Mandarin, Greek, Spanish, and so on, as well. The keyboard map is in the OS and can be easily changed by the user in the system settings.


History has it that the QWERTY design was to actually slow typists down because they could eventually type faster than the early machines could handle and cause them to jam up.

When I was a boy, I could jam the keys of my moms typewriter by typing on the keys very fast; no I really was not typing words, just playing at typing oh about 58 years ago.

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