On Keyboards

My TypeMatrix Keyboard

I currently type using the Dvorak layout on my TypeMatrix keyboard. I'm very happy with my speed, accuracy and comfort. I'm a huge fan of the TypeMatrix keyboard and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a better keyboard design. Go to their home page for several reasons why it is a better keyboard. The main reasons for me are:
  1. Small footprint: this allows me to put both the keyboard and the mouse on the keyboard tray and greatly helped me avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. For most people, the mouse is in a location that causes their wrist to be strained (causing carpal tunnel syndrome). The keyboard also travels well.
  2. Matrix layout: on a standard keyboard, the keys are staggered. This makes it hard to find the numbered keys without looking and makes the finger motion awkward. It also causes you to bend your wrists inward, which leads to discomfort. In contrast, with the keys in a row, the motion is mainly up and down. I've found that I can actually touch-type numbers now.
  3. Central backspace and enter: You use these keys all the time. In most standard keyboards, these are in awkward places.
  4. Big shift keys: I hate pressing the CapsLock key on accident (to tell you the truth, I don't ever use it on purpose). With normal keyboards this is too easy to do. Hitting a small lower shift with your pinky is annoying.
  5. Dvorak switching: I use Dvorak, but others don't. With this keyboard, I can switch back and forth between layouts by pressing one button.
As a computer scientist, I spend much of my time sitting in front of my computer. Before getting this keyboard, I was starting to be in serious pain by the end of the day. This keyboard saved me.

About Dvorak

When I received my new keyboard I went ahead and made the switch to Dvorak. Was the switch to Dvorak worth it? In all honesty, no. This is what I had to do to learn Dvorak:

I had to stop using Qwerty and only use Dvorak. All of a sudden my typing speed went from really high to 5 wpm. Not good. Plus, it took a good amount of cognitive energy just to type. If you are a touch typist, you will not realize how easy typing comes to you until you switch layouts. Ouch! After two weeks of sheer frustration (i.e. I was getting e-mails that I needed to reply to, but they were much harder to reply to), I started using GNUtypist, which has a typing tutor specifically for Dvorak (you do need one specifically designed for Dvorak). That helped a lot. After about a week of that, I was up to 20 wpm, which was acceptable. After two more weeks, I was typing fast again. Dvorak is a better layout and I am a slightly better typist than I used to be, but I'm not sure it was worth the effort.

In short, if you want to have an interesting experiment, switching to Dvorak will provide it and you will get a little bit of payoff in your typing ability and comfort. Is it worth it? That's up to you. In contrast, I highly recommend buying a better keyboard (at least if you only type on one or two keyboards).