Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Confusing Keys

Ok, this is painful. I have decided to change over to a Dvorak keyboard layout, which has been touted as faster, more ergonomic, and more accurate (well, you couldn't prove that by me on my first few attempts!)., and safer.

Basically, the QWERTY layout that all keyboards currently have was designed for typewriters, and actually is a lousy layout for speed and easy of typing. I have read (but can't confirm) that it was designed with a maximum speed in mind, to keep the little letter-arms in a manual typewriter from jamming up. It also requires that typists have weird hand positions because of the way that common letters are laid out on the keyboard, and some key combinations require twisting or other contortions.

Right now, I type around 80 wpm transcribing something, can easily hit 120 when I'm just writing off the top of my head. Reasonably accurate -- although I have noticed that my typing style includes 'backspace' as part of often-misspelled words. Why change? Well, I have tendonitis in both hands, a serious case of trigger thumb, and I often get numbness and tingling in my hands. That's what spending ten hours a day at the keyboard will do for you.

I already use two different keyboard layouts, since I often type in Irish Gaelic and needed an easy way to create the á, é, í, ó, ú with the right acute marks over them. (You can do this with ASCII combinations, but it's a pain in the ass). With Windows XP, you can switch keyboard layouts using the language bar and Regional settings. I just went in and added English (Irish) and the Irish Gaelic keyboard mapping. Voila, I can swap between them at will. You can do this with many other alternate keyboard layouts to get the specific characters for the language you want.

At any rate, I worked with a woman who had swapped over to the Dvorak layout (she had a very, very slow contract gig and figured it was going to keep her busy) and I've read quite a bit about the benefits of changing, so I'm going to try. It's not like I have a ton of other things to do, you know? And no one is going to be watching over my shoulder as I try to type a few hundred lines of 5 wpm.

Just so you know, I did type the first sentence using the new layout, but I had to switch back or it would take me an hour to do this. I did find a set of lessons online that seem to follow the standard typing-class rules (start with a few fingers, add on from there). It's going to be harder, I think, since I can't change the keys on my keyboard (I have one of those split keyboards and the keys are really not interchangeable). I'll have to find an Irish Dvorak layout, too, or I'm going to be very, very confused. Perhaps I should search for that first....

1 comment:

laurafingerson said...

So -- are you still using it?? I'm so curious!