The Qwerty Keyboard Layout Vs The Dvorak Keyboard Layout

Qwerty
Qwerty
Dvorak
Dvorak

This tool compares the efficiency of the standard Qwerty layout with the Dvorak layout and newer alternatives.

Check out the results for a few large texts

Grand Mix of All Types of Text Wikipedia's entry on The Tiger (2010) Microsoft Encarta's entry on Africa (2004)
HG Wells - War of the Worlds (1898) Mark Twain - Roughing It (1872) Lester Del Rey - Police Your Planet (1981)
Top 1000 Words in UK English. Shakespeare - all his works (1586-1612) C# Language Specification Document (2003)
Collection of 20 news stories (2010) Collection of blog posts (2010)

Or see for yourself: Paste some text below to compare the efficiency of the keyboard layouts

Note: You cannot submit more than 50,000 characters (that's about 25 pages).

Want to see results for other layouts? Add Your Own Layout        


 

  • Enter (new line) (typed with the pinky), Shift and Space are taken into consideration. Tab characters (if any) are removed before analysis.
  • All layouts are defined as typing Space with the right thumb, so the left thumb is unused. You can change this when you define your own layouts.

Test results show Dvorak is about 20% more efficient than Qwerty

First of all, let me point out that the results are remarkably consistent. The difference between the values for H.G. Wells's science fiction novel and those for Lester Del Rey's novel written 80 years later is almost always less than 1 percentage. The difference is still less than 2% when comparing it with the modern Encarta Encyclopedia Article.

  • Alphabetical layout - keys arranged in alphabetical order. Think of it as a random layout, without any optimisations whatsoever. This layout gets the worst scores.
  • Qwerty layout - the most widely used layout today, it was designed in the 19th century starting from the Alphabetical layout with the aim of spreading the keys around so a typewriter won't jam. The overall score for Qwerty is some 12% better than that of Alphabetical because it does a better job of balancing the keys between fingers.
  • Dvorak layout - designed in the first half of the 20th century, and optimised for touch typing. It scores significantly better than Qwerty.
  • Dvorak (weak pinky) Dvorak layout, with the 'i' and 'u' switched, and the following changes to reduce pinky use: Right Shift is not used at all, Enter has been moved to '9' (on the middle finger), Left Shift has been moved to 'q' (on the left ring finger).
    Note: I have created this layout as an example. Such optimisations of SHIFT and ENTER might significantly improve other layouts as well.
  • SDDvorak layout (Standard Developer's Dvorak) is my own Dvorak-based layout created for programmers. It has all improvements to Dvorak mentioned above, plus all the symbols have been optimised so if you test computer code, you will see further improvement.
  • Colemak layout is a new (2006) alternative to Dvorak. It scores a bit better in some areas and a bit worse in other areas, but its overall score is usually a few percentage points better than that of Dvorak.
  • Workman layout - one of many examples of recently developed layouts. The goal of this particular layout is to reduce horizontal finger movement. Indeed you will see the index fingers and pinky fingers do less work in this layot, and so it is the most balanced layout, however it does worse in other areas. This kind of trade-off tends to happen with all newly created layouts, which suggests we are pretty close to an optimal layout.
  • Maltron layout - this is the layout that comes with the Maltron ergonomic keyboard. It places e on a new key under the left thumb. This essentially creates an extra home row key and results in less effort.

Considering switching form Qwerty to Dvorak?

On average, Dvorak requires 20% less effort than Qwerty. By ignoring data which is the same for all layouts such as key press effort or the Shift, Space and New Line keys you can come up with misleading statements such as Dvorak is 60% (or even 100%) more efficient than Qwerty.

But the fact is, the Qwerty layout is not very friendly to the touch-typist (touch-typing hadn't been invented when QWERTY was created). By switching to the Dvorak layout you will type faster and feel more comfortable while typing. It's impossible to say exactly by how much, as 20% less work does not translate into 20% more speed, and comfort is a personal thing.

I never learned to touch-type in Qwerty so I can't personally make a fair comparison between the two, but my typing speed was 30-35wpm after years of 'hunt and peck' in Qwerty, and 3 months from starting to touch-type with Dvorak I was typing at 55wpm. It's unlikely I would have learnt to touch-type if I hadn't learnt about the Dvorak layout.

You can change your layout in minutes (you don't need a new keyboard or any new software!).

Try my Dvorak layout Dvorak Simulator. Simply select the option 'Convert from Qwerty to Dvorak'.

Considering switching to Colemak?

Colemak is slightly better than Dvorak and more similar to Qwerty (thus easier to learn) but you must install it, whereas Dvorak comes with pretty much every operating system so you won't have any trouble when using different computers. A note of caution is that Colemak does consistently score worse than Dvorak in some areas. Although I am suggesting its 'pluses' are greater than its 'minuses', this might well be a personal thing.

If you're already using Dvorak, switching u and i, moving Backspace to Caps Lock and remapping Cut, Copy, Paste would make up for a good part of the small advantage Colemak has over Dvorak. On the other hand, that's no longer standard Dvorak, so this also takes away the advantage of using Dvorak as a 'standard' layout that's already on all computers and doesn't require an installation.

Touch-Typing

There is a bit of a chicken and egg problem here. Qwerty makes it hard to touch-type. So most computer users won't learn to touch-type. If you "hunt and peck" instead of touch-type, then using Dvorak won't bring much of a benefit. For this reason there hasn't been a great move towards using Dvorak.

The consensus seems to be that:

  • From a comfort perspective, touch-typing is better than "hunt and peck" (it's not just about hand movement, touch typing also improves posture since you don't need to look down at the keyboard).
  • Further, it is clear that if you touch type your hands will have an easier time on Dvorak (or indeed, any of the newly developed layouts) than on Qwerty.
  • Finally, the physical keyboards we tend to use were designed a long time ago for a typewriter, not for touch-typing in front of a screen. For this reason using an ergonomic keyboard would be highly beneficial.

Of the 3 things listed above, doing only 1 is unlikely to bring much benefit to your typing speed/comfort. They tend to reinforce each other and if you improve your typing technique, change your layout to Dvorak (or a similar layout) as well as upgrade to an ergonomic keyboard you find comfortable, you will see a great difference (after a 1-3 months adjustment period).


If you have found this useful, please consider making a small donation (the button on the top right) so I can continue to develop and host this tool.

A word of caution: notice that I talk about typing 'comfort' rather than 'health'. There is evidence to suggest the above would help with RSI or other such typing-related injuries, but this might not always be the case. It's a good idea to try out diffent ways of typing and see which one works best for you, but any health concerns should be dealt with by a health professional on an individual basis.