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Ask HN: Should I teach my kids to type with QWERTY or Dvorak?

While I'm not training my children to become programmers, it's a virtual certainty that any job/profession will require the use of a computer, and that means the ability to type. I keep reading that those who can type using the Dvorak layout are faster but have always thought "I'm too old to switch keyboard layouts at this point" -- but what about my kids who haven't even learned to type yet?

Are there downsides of learning something other than QWERTY and, if so, do the benefits outweigh the negatives?

24 pointsparvenu74 posted 5 months ago86 Comments
86 Comments:
ausbah said 5 months ago:

I don't think there is anything to gain speed wise from using Dvorak, and you'll only more compatibility issues from having to work in a QWERTY focused world.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/17/18223384/dvorak-qwerty-ke...

Above is a good article on the topic.

mruts said 5 months ago:

It's not really about speed, it's about comfort. I can type with both layouts very quickly, but can maintain my speed for longer on Dvorak. Moreover, Qwerty makes my hands hurt very very quickly, while I can keep typing with Dvorak all day long.

ScottFree said 5 months ago:

I don't know why mruts is being downvoted. The only reason to use Dvorak, imho, is the better ergonomics. I switched to it over a decade ago because my hands were showing early signs of repetitive stress. The pain went away right after switching and has not come back. The other benefit is that nobody can use my computers because nothing but gibberish comes out when they type.

That said, if you can type comfortably in Qwerty, I suggest using it. Being able to type on any keyboard without having to hunt around for the keyboard layout switcher is nice.

Nadya said 5 months ago:

As someone who learned to type in QWERTY, Dvorak, and Colemak (in that order) my belief is that most people attribute ergonomics and improved typing ability to the new alternative layout they learned instead of the fact that they finally learned how to type properly, seeing as very few people I know seem to have learned how to properly type - even ones who can type much faster-than-the-average (80-120wpm where average is well under 60wpm)

I found Dvorak to be significantly worse than QWERTY in both speed and comfort, seeing as Dvorak is more heavily biased towards the right hand and I am left hand dominant (although mostly ambidextrous). I then gave Colemak a try and found it to be a bit more comfortable and eventually trained to reach my previous QWERTY speed of 165-170wpm. I use QWERTY at work but Colemak at home.

Note: by "mostly ambidextrous" I mean that most tasks I can use either arm/hand. I write with my right but throw and punch with my left.

ScottFree said 5 months ago:

> my belief is that most people attribute ergonomics and improved typing ability to the new alternative layout they learned instead of the fact that they finally learned how to type properly

Not in my case. I first learned to type properly on Qwerty.

> I found Dvorak to be significantly worse than QWERTY in both speed and comfort, seeing as Dvorak is more heavily biased towards the right hand and I am left hand dominant

I'm going to need to see some proof for that assertion. Just going off the top of my head, I'd say I type far more with my left hand than my right using Dvorak.

Nadya said 5 months ago:

>Not in my case. I first learned to type properly on Qwerty.

I'll take you at your word, but most people I see claim this have extremely poor typing habits. Similar to a self-taught musician who ingrained poor habits because they never had anyone around to correct them.

>I'm going to need to see some proof for that assertion. Just going off the top of my head, I'd say I type far more with my left hand than my right using Dvorak.

Sure thing. Summing the frequencies in the English language and applying it to the keyboard layouts gives:

Dvorak: Left 43.2%, Right 56.8%

QWERTY: Left 58.7%, Right 41.3%

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_frequency#Relative_freq...

300bps said 5 months ago:

my hands were showing early signs of repetitive stress

I learned to type 37 years ago and type 160 WPM with 100% accuracy and have the www.typeracer.com profile to prove it.

About 15 years ago I started having RSI symptoms and ended up sleeping in braces every night because it got so bad. EMG studies showed significant damage to median and ulnar nerve conductivity. Someone on slashdot.org pointed me to the work of Dr. John Sarno. His theory is deceptively simple but if you take the time to truly understand and practice it, you won't have RSI issues any longer.

Resources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsR4wydiIBI

http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu/mb_what_is.html

Someone1234 said 5 months ago:

TMS is fringe medicine. Or non-medicine depending on who you ask.

It has a single peer reviewed article that only shows modest reduction in pain symptoms with no control group. The protocol involves emotional support/emotional sharing/etc. The reason why those two links were chosen rather than Wikipedia was because Wikipedia largely debunked it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tension_myositis_syndrome#Cont...

There's no known physical mechanism wherein TMS could work, and oddly its proponents haven't released scans of impacted areas (back, wrist, etc) that show this "increased blood flow" and physical restoration for which their claim is based.

> Critics in mainstream medicine state that neither the theory of TMS nor the effectiveness of the treatment has been proven in a properly controlled clinical trial, citing the placebo effect and regression to the mean as possible explanations for its success.

DarkWiiPlayer said 5 months ago:

QWERTY 100%

Living in Germany and being used to QWERTY it's really hard for me to use someone elses computer, because it will most likely be QWERTZ (German layout) and that alone annoys me to no end. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to be used to a completely different keyboard.

stunt said 5 months ago:

> it's really hard for me to use someone elses computer

How often do you type on someone else's computer? It is not comparable to the amount of time you use your own keyboard.

jabwork said 5 months ago:

For the OPs context (their kids) I expect they'll have a lot of typing too do on school computers

yitchelle said 5 months ago:

I get used to it pretty fast. My keyboard at work in QWERTZ and my keyboard at home is QWERTY. For me, it's a mind thing.

bjelkeman-again said 5 months ago:

I use QUERTY and UK/US keyboard layout, and the just memorised the Option key combos for the åäö etc. was less hassle for me.

DarkWiiPlayer said 5 months ago:

Under linux I do the same, but under windows I have to constantly switch the layout to german, type ä, ö, ü or ß and switch back to english.

That's not the problem though; the annoying thing is when a PC is configured to only have the German layout available, so I constantly mix up Z and Y

yitchelle said 5 months ago:

This situation got me. Maybe I was rather tired when I did this. It was when one of the letters in my bank's password is a Z but I keep hitting the Y key. After 3 attempts, I got locked out and had to wait until the Monday to contact the bank!

sundvor said 5 months ago:

Or you could memorise the ascii codes and type e.g. alt+[keypad] 0248 => ø.

Edit: Is that what GP Bjelkeman meant by "option key combos"?

jnskw said 5 months ago:

On macos you can press <Option-u> followed by a vowel and you will get the corresponding Umlaut. (üäö) Additionally there are other combinations for accents and stuff like that.

sundvor said 5 months ago:

Thanks, that's good to know!

mprev said 5 months ago:

Think of it this way: would you teach your kids Esperanto instead of the native tongue in your country?

Perhaps without realising it, the question you're asking is, "Should I teach my kids the thing that will help them in society as it exists or should I teach them a potentially superior but less applicable alternative?"

raverbashing said 5 months ago:

Thanks for putting it so eloquently

The tech crowd sometimes misses the network effects of common solutions that might not be "the best" (and I'm really really skeptical that Dvorak is better)

diggan said 5 months ago:

I guess the difference between _how_ to write something compared to _what_ to write.

If people writing qwerty couldn't understand people who wrote dvorak, I would understand your argument, but languages are so much more different than a keyboard layout.

But in the end, both keyboard layouts end up being able to write exactly the same words, the only difference is the speed (as I understand, only once tried using dvorak so I don't really know)

mprev said 5 months ago:

I see what you're saying but I think you're taking my point too literally.

QWERTY is the default layout (in English speaking countries and as QWERTY was mentioned, I assume OP is in an English speaking country). QWERTY is on the computers in schools, on the computers available to buy in stores, on the computers in offices.

Teaching kids Dvorak is putting them at a disadvantage in life, just as teaching them Esperato, Inrterlingua, Lojban, or similar artificial languages instead of English might seem intellectually appealing but would set them up for a life of difficulty.

diggan said 5 months ago:

I see what you are saying too but I don't think speaking/understanding two different languages are the same as using two different keyboard layouts.

If I never seen a qwerty keyboard before and only used dvorak, I could probably type with it, it would only be a bit slower than usual. Same when I see someone with a dvorak keyboard. Although the layout is very different, I could still use it, but it slows me down a lot.

However, if someone only speaks/understands Esperanto meets someone who only speaks English, it will be way harder for them to understand each other, harder than trying to understand another keyboard layout.

mprev said 5 months ago:

I'm not suggesting that they're the same. Instead, I'm offering an example of another thing you could do in your child's education that might seem good at the time but would actually give them a disadvantage.

I get that using a Dvorak keyboard isn't a total barrier to communication but it is non-standard in our society and so possible advantages would be outweighed by the children having to adjust when they encounter the world at large.

c0vfefe said 5 months ago:

> the only difference is the speed

And ergonomics.

The analogy isn't that a qwerty typist can't understand a dvorak typist, but that when our society uses a certain standard, using something else that's only marginally better might be more trouble than it's worth. Would you want your kid to be unable to use the keyboards at school, or the library, or what comes stock on laptops, or (directly addressing OP) the workplace? Sure, many jobs require computer use, but unless it's an office, they're likely shared computers.

Relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/927/

KlaymenDK said 5 months ago:

My kids are not quite old enough to require keyboard input (doing it, not receiving it, ya dummy) but I have pondered this very question.

I have been using Dvorak almost exclusively for about 15 years now. It's not faster, that's a myth -- but it is much more easy on the fingers: depending on the nature of your prose, you'll save perhaps 30% finger movement. With Colemak, that number is less, but you gain a more comparable (to qwerty) shortcut-key layout.

Obviously, there are all sorts of adversities facing Dvorak typists: native hardware keyboard layouts, limits to the users ability to configure software keyboard layouts (for instance, you may be able to change it on your desktop -- but not on the lock screen!), and of course having to fall back to qwerty on other's devices.

Curiously, on a non-touch-typing device such as the touch screen of a tablet or mobile phone, I'm useless on Dvorak (perhaps exactly because Dvorak was designed for hand-alteration?), so there I'm by far more proficient with one hand on qwerty.

In the end, I think I will settle for showing them both layouts in use at their home, and let them decide which to use. However, @kqr makes a number of very good points, not least the RSI one.

There's also quite a lot of knowledge tucked away in this post: https://blog.hanschen.org/2010/01/30/dvorak-two-years-later-...

gota said 5 months ago:

> doing it, not receiving it

Thanks for the clarification

On a more serious note,

> having to fall back to qwerty on other's devices

This alone effectively nullifies my will to learn Dvorak

federico3 said 5 months ago:

> It's not faster, that's a myth

This is false. There a plenty of statistics showing that Dvorak is faster (albeit it's true that the main benefits is around finger movement)

> native hardware keyboard layouts

Never been a problem: you don't need (or want) to look at the keys anyways.

> limits to the users ability to configure software keyboard layouts

Also not a problem: you cannot touch-type on a phone and also you type with thumbs.

bluGill said 5 months ago:

Studies often show Dvorak is faster, but when you dig you discover they are not comparing equivalent. People who learn Dvorak are more likely to be better typists. When you compare equals you discover that the speed of the mind is the limit not the speed of the fingers and so it makes no difference.

As I recall there is one exception: if you are just copying something without having to think about it dvorak is faster. This isn't a common job, but it does exist.

tomaha said 5 months ago:

Teach them QWERTY. I use Programmer's Dvorak and I love it. But I also have a very specialized setup and everything optimized for myself. Your kids will have to work with different setups in the next decade or two. For them it's more important to be flexible. Later when they specialized themselves and only work in an environment they control they can switch and choose whatever fits them.

c0vfefe said 5 months ago:

To get philosophical, a parents' job is more to prepare a kid for the world as it is, rather than engrain your own preferences to the point of impracticality.

ordu said 5 months ago:

I'll ask one question. Is someone really needs typing speeds over 200 keys/minute? What task nowadays benefits from such speeds? Will these tasks keep being relevant in ten years?

As a programmer I do not need 200 chars/minute. I believe that developed skills to use movement keys and key sequences, like arrow keys, Ctrl-arrows, Home, End, and others. For example, I struggle every time with a laptop keyboard, because Home/End/Delete are oddly placed and I miss them half of the times.

beatgammit said 5 months ago:

I'll ask a different question: why should someone use QWERTY? If you're learning for the first time, you don't have anything they to compare to, so you might as well use a scientifically better option, right?

I learned Dvorak because I wanted to be part of an elite group (I mean, how many Dvorak typists are they?). I kept using it because my wrist pain went away. Perhaps that's because I relearned to type and thus fixed bad habits. I had pretty good form before learning Dvorak, so I like to think that the reduced finger travel is helping.

But how will your child feel when they're different than their friends and have to make special accommodations when using someone else's computer? That's a bit more important than any technical benefit IMO, and is why I'll teach my kids QWERTY.

ordu said 5 months ago:

Please, notice, I do not argue that someone should use QWERTY. I'm just trying to point that the strongest reason to prefer Dvorak maybe not a reason anymore. Maybe there are other reasons, I dont know. But it seems for me that people keep arguing about speed while all that discussion might be obsolete. They'd better to discuss other reasons.

> But how will your child feel when they're different than their friends and have to make special accommodations when using someone else's computer?

Accidently I wrote a wall of text answering to this. I'm sorry, it is one of my favorite topics: developmental psychology. The tl;dr version of it is: I wouldn't teach my child how to type at all.

Now the long version.

If children wanted to be different, than I would say them: it is all up to you, my children, if you need my blessing, you got it.

Look, a person get a desire to be different somewhere after 15 years old typically. Maybe some manage to develop to this point earlier, but I do not know about such a cases. Mostly they get to it after 15. Before that his difference from others would be either indifferent or annoying.

If you taught your child to use Dvorak while he was in a kindergarten, it would go as you planned up to a moment when you child hits puberty (~12yo). Before it the motivation of a child is built over her desire to be a good girl (or boy, gender doesn't matter). She was not interested in being like others or being different. After that the motivation is an approvement of her friends. It means that teen becomes obsessed of being like others, and her underdeveloped skills of using QWERTY might get on the way of it. What will follow? The same that follow everytime with every teen and her parent, teen will decide that her parent is crazy weird graybeard, that it is a shame to have such a parent, and the only way to deal with it is to hide parent and his weird habits from friends. It means to pretend that she prefer QWERTY, to use QWERTY always, and even to provoke parents by using QWERTY defiantly and by arguing that Dvorak is bad and causes pimples. If you allow her to provoke you, if you start argue, than you just prove her that she was right about your inability to accept new ideas.

It is not necessarily would go by this scenario, but it is completely plausible scenario. If you are going to teach your child to some uncommon habits, then you need to take into a consideration that it could end badly. May I suggest an other way to do it? Don't teach your child to use Dvorak. Don't teach your child to use QWERTY. Let him to be a bad typist for the first 15 years of his life, it would do him no harm. Teach him instead to play a piano -- it gives him meta-skills that could help to learn any keyboard layout. Teach him to play a piano and wait patiently. Watch for him, you need a moment when your child stops being a jerk who believes that his friends are smarter and more experienced than his parents. It can happen at 15 years old, or 17 years old, or even 20 years old. Personal differences are great here.

After that you a free to convince your kid to learn Dvorak. It might be not so hard as it looks. After ~15 yo teens like to work on themselves to become better and stronger. So it is completely possible to convience him to learn Dvorak even without a manipulation.

Moreover, after all that was said, I believe that it is a bad idea to teach child to type. He will not need his skill for 10+ years at least. So why to bother? It is like to teach child to read at 3 years old, to be able to brag about how bright child is. No one is interested that for a 3 year old it is very hard to learn to read, it would be much easier at 5-6 years old. No one is interested that 3 years old have other skills to develop, skills that are easier to learn at 3 years old and maybe impossible to learn at 5 years old. No one is interested that to learn how to read child needs to read, but if he was taught to read at 3 years old, than he wouldn't use his skill for 2-5 years when he would read his first book. He might lose the feeling of novelty, and the book reading would seem boring for him before he tried.

People obsessed with early development but do not bother to learn basics of developmental psychology and to develop their children for a sake of children, not for a sake of parents.

simonh said 5 months ago:

Bear in mind there's no point switching to a Dvorak keyboard unless you also teach them to touch type. A touch typist on a regular keyboard is still going to be a lot faster than a non-touch typist on a Dvorak.

benrbray said 5 months ago:

I'm confused--according to a quick search, "touch typing" is being able to type without looking at the keyboard?

Can you even say you know how to type if you have to look at the keys to do it?

tomsmeding said 5 months ago:

I'm afraid this will be seen as a fairly arrogant stance. Plenty of people cannot type reasonably without looking at their keyboard once in a while, if only for the symbols. I know plenty of programmers who are productive enough, and can type letters and parentheses and so forth without looking away from the screen, but need to glance at the keyboard for the lesser-used symbols.

Those people definitely know how to type. In fact, they know how to type _far_ better than many of the people in this world who don't work with a computer 7 days per week >=8 hours per day.

simonh said 5 months ago:

If you watch most people typing they occasionally glance at the keyboard, especially for little-user keys. A true touch typist should be able to type for extended periods without looking at the keyboard at all even for only occasionally used keys. Also true touch typing minimises finger and hand movements by using as many of the fingers of the hand to type with as possible, while most keyboard users rely on a few, and often just two fingers for most or all typing.

viraptor said 5 months ago:

Yes. Have a look at some professionals you interact with that you'd expect to type a lot. Real estate agents, doctors, bankers, etc. You don't have to look far to find someone who pecks with index fingers whole looking at the keyboard. They sure know how to type (they produce the text they intend to) and do a lot of it every day.

sundvor said 5 months ago:

Seeing people hunt for keys with one or two index fingers - not when writing something profound, requiring of thought, but simply filling out forms - is incredibly frustrating. I'm going to argue they can't type when they're still using the keyboard as if it's the first day they saw one.

A day or two spent learning to type would pay itself back with dividends.

I put in the ground work for touch typing at school on the good old typewriters; it was certainly the best extra curriculum subject I've ever done.

Shish2k said 5 months ago:

> I'm going to argue they can't type

They push the buttons and letters appear on screen. That's typing - everything else is optimisation :P

beatgammit said 5 months ago:

I've seen plenty of people in the middle that didn't get formal training, but instead developed patterns based around clusters of keys. They may use more than two fingers, but they have no concept of the home row. In fact, I've been asked by people who type fairly often what the little bumps on the 'f' and 'j' keys are, which tells me that they most likely didn't learn to type properly.

My 5yo can "type" by hunting and pecking, and he's actually getting good enough that he doesn't get frustrated trying to type simple words (he likes looking up words at the library computers). My 2yo, however, knows his letters, but I don't think he really understands how keyboards work.

Personally, I'd say that someone can type if they can use a keyboard productively and have some means of speeding up entry besides looking at every key until they find the one they want (most people know vaguely where there keys are, even if they can't touch type).

bluGill said 5 months ago:

If you are not at a keyboard often a few days spent learning to touch type is wasted: your brain will quickly forget and you are back to looking. You need to practice ANYTHING to retain the ability to do it (some things are easier than others which is why you can ride a bike after years of not touching one).

If you are going to use a keyboard often, then the time spent to learn a keyboard is well worth it. However if your day job doesn't require a keyboard those classes won't be helpful.

wccrawford said 5 months ago:

Some people do claim that, yeah.

But I'd say there is actually a level between non-typist and touch-typist where the person needs to be looking at the keyboard, but knows where each key is and reaches that direction without actually having to move their eyes. They're really close to being a touch-typist, but they still need their eyes to get their fingers on the buttons reliably.

I'd argue that Qwerty vs Dvorak relies on that intermediary step rather than actual "touch typing", but there isn't really a name for it.

danieka said 5 months ago:

When I was in school the only computers I had access to were in the schools computer halls which were shared with every other class in school. Settings like keyboard changes could not be persisted, and even so I got a different computer every time.

I love Dvorak and using it has been a huge boon for me, but I'm also able to control my environment and always use the same computer.

So I say go with QWERTY.

c0vfefe said 5 months ago:

Even if the kid has a laptop like many do now, how easily will they learn Dvorak when qwerty comes stock?

todd8 said 5 months ago:

I don’t use Dvorak, but I’ve been intrigued by alternative layouts for years. I taught my daughter QWERTY years ago. My reasoning was that the speed difference between QWERTY and other layouts isn’t great, technology may change input methods before she was typing enough to worry about repetitive use injuries, and primarily because QWERTY keyboards are everywhere. At school the ubiquitous keyboards are all QWERTY and at work likewise.

As an EMACS user I bind my keyboard’s caps lock to ctrl. That makes me realize just how often I’m typing on someone else’s keyboard (my fingers automatically hit caplock-B instead of back arrow for example). If I used Dvorak I think it would be much more frustrating trying to use a random keyboard.

It didn’t take very long to teach my daughter touch typing. I would place my fingers on top of hers at first and touch her fingers during simple typing lessons to show her which finger to use. This seemed to allow her to connect a letter to the correct finger very quickly.

Xah Lee has studied typing and keyboards for years. Take a look at his web site; it’s full of information [1]. He’s a Dvorak user.

[1] http://xahlee.info/kbd/keyboard_dvorak_layout.html

cordite said 5 months ago:

You can be bilingual in layouts.

I first learned QWERTY without any training, I needed to type for school and I wasn’t gonna hunt and peck. Then I decided to try out Dvorak for comfort and never looked back. (Though the experience was painful to switch over after years of QWERTY)

I can still type QWERTY, in fact that’s what I use on my tablet with my thumbs, it’s a great layout for thumb typing, rarely do I find my fingers reaching over one another and I can type without looking at my screen.

That said, for physical tacticile button pressing, I much prefer Dvorak, even without labels (typing on a MacBook keyboard for example, I ignore the QWERTY printed layout) I don’t have difficulty. It’s all about the physical sensation and which mode or language or whatever gets invoked in my head.

I cannot type QWERTY effectively on MacBook keyboards or on most mechanical ones now, because of how they feel and what I use that feel for. But if it’s a cheapo Logitech or dell keyboard that you find at public locations and at work, there is barely a moment of conflict.

brutally-honest said 5 months ago:

I switched from QWERTY to my language's equivalent of Dvorak and a few years later back.

I think most important than the layout itself, is to learn how to touch type. Keeping your fingers on the home row. Using opposing control characters instead of using one hand to reach multiple keys, etc etc.

viraptor said 5 months ago:

Why not both? If you're teaching kids, as long as you keep them interested, they'll learn anything. Knowing both, they'll be able to both use shared systems and choose the preferred layout for private situations.

robotmay said 5 months ago:

I looked at learning an alternative layout last year and opted against Dvorak, as to me it just seemed illogical (personal opinion). I ended up teaching myself the Workman layout instead (https://workmanlayout.org/) which is actually really nice. I was using a split keyboard and I found it very comfortable when typing prose, but I found punctuation frustrating due to the board I was using it on. I'm currently back on Qwerty as I've swapped to a different board.

Ultimately I discovered that my typing style with Qwerty was actually not stressful on the hands (I float over the keyboard a lot and definitely don't sit on the "home" keys) and my RSI at the time was instead caused by position and lack of exercise. I now type on a Japanese layout keyboard which has some interesting differences to the standard UK ISO layout. At some point I might give Workman a go on this board too, but currently I'm actually completely happy with Qwerty again. I think a lot of these alternative layouts suffer problems if you aren't a home-row typist, and I don't actually think it's unergonomic or incorrect to type in a more floating, active way. But I play a bunch of key-based instruments too so maybe that affects my preference :)

It took me about 1 month to be close to my normal typing speed when using Workman btw.

federico3 said 5 months ago:

Dvorak. I know 5 people, including myself, that switched to Dvorak and none of us regretted it or switched back.

It's not about speed, at least for me, but reducing stress on fingers and prevent inflammation and RSI.

Touch-typing comes easier with Dvorak. Even better if you use a Dvorak layout on a querty keyboard: there's no point in looking at the keys and this is also good for back/neck posture.

Please ignore all the people who insist on using qwerty without having had at least a year of Dvorak use experience.

quickthrower2 said 5 months ago:

I’ve heard Dvorak users complain the regular shortcuts are geared up for QWERTY. I’ve also heard that Dvorak isn’t any faster. All anecdotal of course.

c0vfefe said 5 months ago:

The most common shortcuts do tend to be on the left side of a Qwerty, but in a Windows environment at least, almost every letter key is bound to a common shortcut. As an avid shortcut user, the only letters for which I can't remember a hotkey is Y, and M if you don't use Win+M.

Programs like AutoHotkey can solve that issue when available.

viraptor said 5 months ago:

Depending on the system, you can create layouts where ctrl/alt give you temporary qwerty layout and revert as soon as you let go. That would solve most shortcut issues.

comboy said 5 months ago:

Others answered the question, I'm just about this "I'm too old to switch" bullshit.

Whatever age you are, it will be hard. It will be very uncomfortable at first. But that's kind of great. You get to teach your brain something new. Keep pushing that neuroplasticity.

When you are old(er) it's really hard to learn something truly new. Learning most things is just connecting a few existing patterns. You'll get some dopamine and you will be really proud that you've done that.

You can also rationalize that it will pay off on the long run, but let's be real, if you are an advanced programmer you likely spend more time thinking than typing. It can be a more pleasurable experience to type though.

Take the challenge and teach yourself Dvorak (or Colemak, doesn't matter). Even if you are a proficient typer it's also a chance to do some refactoring of the skill.

peelle said 5 months ago:

I use Dvorak, I'm faster in Dvorak, and have less RSI issues. As an adult that works from hardware I control I almost never have to type QWERTY anymore.

In the past things like computer labs, and locked down school computers would have pushed me to recommend QWERTY. Nowadays everyone has their own iPad, or laptop, so this is much less of an issue.

The only time I have issues is during computerized testing, or using someone else's computer. I have a USB dongle that I can put between the keyboard and computer that'll swap the characters I type Dvorak, and the dongle swaps the QWERTY input to the correct ones as I go.

For testing I can request they change the layout, but it rarely gets approved. For random people, they usually let me add another layout without issue.

I'm recommending Dvorak, but there will still be a few pain points.

kqr said 5 months ago:

If you're willing to put in the effort of teaching them touch typing on a real keyboard (by blanking out the keycaps or whatnot), go ahead and teach them on Colemak or Dvorak or whatnot.

I don't care much for the arguments of the ubiquity of Qwerty for multiple reasons:

1. They will be exposed to Qwerty on devices where touch-typing is meaningless, such as smartphones and tablets.

2. They will learn Qwerty eventually anyway, and they'll be proficient in both. Why set them off on the worse of the two options from the start?

3. I'm sure schools and other parts of society are moving away from shared workstations onto personal laptops, where they get to control keyboard settings.

4. If I had to choose between being doomed to RSI or encountering keyboard incompatibilities every now and then, I would not pick RSI lightly.

Learning Colemak was painful for a while, but worth it many, many times over in retrospect.

shawxe said 5 months ago:

> 1. They will be exposed to Qwerty on devices where touch-typing is meaningless, such as smartphones and tablets.

I'm not sure having a keyboard layout completely interalized is ever really meaningless. For example, I typed this entire reply on my phone without looking at the keyboard once, based solely on knowledge of the positions of the different keys in relation to one another. Furthermore, even if I had been looking at the keyboard, having memorized the locations of everything in some part of my mind would definitely make it faster to type than if I had no idea where anything was. Besides, if someone were most familiar with a non-Qwerty layout, why wouldn't they just set their phone to that?

Wowfunhappy said 5 months ago:

> If I had to choose between being doomed to RSI or encountering keyboard incompatibilities every now and then, I would not pick RSI lightly.

Is the situation with QWERTY really that dire?

scottmsul said 5 months ago:

I taught myself Dvorak my first year in undergrad. It definitely felt easier to type, but as soon as I went to physics lab I realized I couldn't use the lab computer! I have stuck to Qwerty since then.

When your children go to school, do you think using Dvorak will make it easier or harder to use school computers?

melling said 5 months ago:

Perhaps people should also consider ergonomics. QWERTY tends to require a lot more finger movement.

http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-analyzer/#/main

Over a lifetime this might lead to RSI.

mruts said 5 months ago:

I don't think there are really any downsides. I can type in both Dvorak and QWERTY at over 120wpm and don't have any trouble switching between the two. I also use QWERTY on my phone, so maybe that helps a bit.

Dvorak is definitely superior to QWERTY comfort-wise (I used to get bad RSI with QWERTY, but that doesn't happen for Dvorak), and maybe speed-wise, though my speed in both is about the same. I can keep up a high rate of speed on Dvorak longer than QWERTY, though.

An an aside, I don't think you're ever too old to try something new. I learned Dvorak as an adult and it only took me a couple weeks before I was up to my QWERTY speed. Interestingly enough, after I learned Dvorak my speed with QWERTY actually increased, for whatever reason.

stunt said 5 months ago:

Choose a comfortable layout but also consider hardware and software support for it. Dvorak is a good choice. Comfortable enough and well supported. QWERTY is probably one of the worst layouts for your fingers.

I'm using Dvorak and I can still type on QWERTY keyboards with 70% of my normal speed.

I'm pretty sure the total amount of time that I'm typing on someone else's computer (QWERTY) is less than one hour per year and I don't need speed or accuracy when it happens. Not to mention, my external keyboard supports Dvorak in hardware level. So I could just connect my keyboard and type Dvorak on any computer without changing any configuration. But it happens so rarely that I don't bother to do it.

cameldrv said 5 months ago:

I think this is almost the same as asking "should I encourage my ambidextrous child to write with his left or right hand?" You can get by just fine as a lefty, but there are daily annoyances, because the world is built for righties.

Keyboards are on computers, phones, on-screen in video games and TVs, on vending machines, and in car entertainment systems. Some of these can be converted into Dvorak if you find the right menu setting, others must be used as-is.

If someone hands you their phone or you sit down to pair program, now you have to figure out some menu setting, and then you have to remember to reverse it when you're done or the owner of the device is going to be annoyed with you. Not worth it.

ryandvm said 5 months ago:

Teach them to use QWERTY first. It's the layout that almost everyone uses and it's one of the skills that will make them relevant in the modern workforce. The last thing an employer wants to deal with is some sap that shows up pissing and moaning that they need a new keyboard.

Teaching them DVORAK first is like raising your kids to speak Esperanto as a primary language. Sure, maybe it's an objectively better language, but at what cost?

If they actually get to the point that they're typing enough that they're interested in pursuing more efficient/ergonomic layouts, that's a choice that is best left up to them.

jmull said 5 months ago:

Looks like there's already plenty here you can use to make an informed decision, but one more thing to think about:

Typing speed, beyond a basic level of competence, has pretty much nothing to do with programming skill. In fact, if your bottleneck is typing speed, you're likely better off stopping and spending some time thinking about how you might be doing things differently. (Not that we haven't all been there, but it should be a vanishingly small proportion of your overall time, hopefully.)

said 5 months ago:
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docdeek said 5 months ago:

I learnt QWERTY as a kid/teenager in Australia.

Arriving in France 13 years ago I was a bit lost tempoararily with the switch to AZERTY, almost to the point of seeking out a keyboard online to get back to a ‘normal’ keyboard. I stuck it out, though, and soon anything but AZERTY seemed strange and slow - visiting my parents in London and henpicking around their keyboard when I am meant to be ‘the tech-y one’ is always a little amusing.

Go with QWERTY, and if they want to change later they can and will.

dougmwne said 5 months ago:

You are not too old to learn Dvorak. If you're interested in it, go for it. It took me about a week and it was a fun project. Then, after a few months I dropped it and went back to Qwerty. The world uses Qwerty and I was being too contrarian.

There's no need to subject your kids to this mess of a debate. You don't even use Dvorak at home. There's basically no chance they'd continue to use it later in life. Prepare them for the world that's actually out there.

alasarmas said 5 months ago:

If you live in the United States, one thing to consider is that the GRE (Graduate Record Examination, standardized entrance examination for graduate school) requires the test-taker to type an essay on a QWERTY keyboard, with no possibility of using a different keyboard layout short of a documented disability. Further, spelling counts on this essay, so typos made due to unfamiliarity with the keyboard layout will bring down the grade.

AdmiralAsshat said 5 months ago:

I type somewhere between 90-103 WPM on a QWERTY layout, and I'm not even using proper home row position. My uncle let me play with a computer starting from the age of 5, and so by the time they taught us "keyboarding" in high school, my self-taught method was pretty set in stone. I only use maybe 6 of my 10 fingers when typing.

Which is to say, your children will be fine. Just let them practice, and they'll get more than fast enough.

Endy said 5 months ago:

The QWERTY standard has lasted since the Remington 2, and most devices are based on it. That's what you should teach your children first. If you intend to teach them languages early, QWERTZ or AZERTY might be valuable. If you're thinking of teaching them Mandarin, teach them to use a Chinese keyboard as well as QWERTY.

jyriand said 5 months ago:

Maybe not the best analogy, but teaching Dvorak is like forcing left-handed child to write with right hand. But maybe it’s other way around. I wouldn’t actively try to teach them anything, but let them learn on their own. At some point they would understand that my laptop keyboard is different from mommy’s and adapt accordingly.

c0vfefe said 5 months ago:

The reason it's not the best analogy is because keyboard layout is not biologically programmed like handedness. If anything, Dvorak being more ergonomic makes it more biologically friendly.

> I wouldn’t actively try to teach them anything, but let them learn on their own.

Not to dole out parenting advice, but not influencing your kid concerning a fundamental skill like typing is 1) a mistake, & 2) unavoidable once they start asking questions.

mcfunk said 5 months ago:

They might find greater ease with learning both at this point in life. But unless you homeschool, the probability that your children will have to work on QWERTY computers they don't have the ability to change into Dvorak input mode at school approaches 1. They'll need it.

kgwxd said 5 months ago:

No one has ever presented hard evidence that another layout is faster or healthier. Any job that requires typing faster than you can think would have to be mindless and, no matter what keyboard, would likely result in RSI. I wouldn't recommend anyone take that job.

foreigner said 5 months ago:

I also have kids and am interested in the same question, but I would raise it up a level and ask: "Should I teach my kids to type?"

Right now they mostly use voice recognition and seem to be getting along pretty well...

bjelkeman-again said 5 months ago:

Learning to touch type was probably life changing for me. I write quite a lot of reports, business plans, proposals, grant applications etc. and I can type nearly as fast as I can verbalise what I am thinking, and it has made me super productive compared to when I couldn’t type.

viraptor said 5 months ago:

You can't take notes in a public / busy / quiet place using voice recognition. You can't do it at lectures and conferences either.

ghaff said 5 months ago:

Voice recognition will continue to improve but even for those situations where using it is appropriate, typing has a random access aspect with writing that you don't really have with voice. (Though, to be sure, I assume giving dictation will probably become a skill that many people acquire again.)

But, yes, typing properly is probably a worthwhile skill to have. It's something I'm a bit sorry I never learned properly. (Also shorthand.)

c0vfefe said 5 months ago:

Voice typing will never be robust enough to handle the innumerable use cases of text input, even if the technology were significantly improved from where it is now. As a trivial example, inputting information that you don't want to be heard by whoever's around.

More concretely speaking, do you think their teachers & future employers would be OK with them not knowing a computing skill that's become fundamental to modern life?

timw4mail said 5 months ago:

I can not imagine trying to use voice recognition for programming for one thing.

And I don't think COBOL or BASIC will suddenly have a huge comeback.

jenhsun said 5 months ago:

Don't worried. Let them choose what to play with. They will learn faster than you, I promise.

Off-topic: I'm kinda worried our kids might not know or use pens correctly if we keep pushing keyboard use.

hackerpacker said 5 months ago:

been there, use qwerty.

1. every keyboard in the wild they encounter will be qwerty

2. probably a matter of time before keyboard is fully optional/non existent.

This will give them zero "advantage" in the real world.

kojeovo said 5 months ago:

You gonna teach them to carry a Dvorak keyboard with them everywhere they go too?