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I've read somewhere, I can't seem to find it now, that in an experiment involving people learning to type, that the Dvorak keyboard didn't have a tangible typing speed benefit in comparison to the QWERTY keyboard. Do you know of any studies about this?

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I find that the major benefit of typing in the dvorak layout is that it offers consistency and rhythm as well as reducing the amount of stress typing puts on my fingers; Of note is the potential benefit for less-experienced typists in that it may reduce your errors by significant enough a margin that you become more confident in your typing. – user6219 Feb 20 '12 at 19:23
Hmm I had heard that the point of the DVORAK keyboard was to reduce the stresses that cause joint pain and carpal tunnel. Ill see if I can find a notable claim to that and make a new question :) – Chad Dec 3 '13 at 22:44
up vote 23 down vote accepted

Somewhat. Typists can, in fact, learn to type faster on a Dvorak keyboard, it's just not a big improvement.

Consider, from The Standard and Dvorak Keyboards Revisited: Direct Measures of Speed:

The Dvorak typewriter keyboard was found to produce speeds of keying 4.0 percent faster than those of the Standard (Qwerty) keyboard. However, employers were reported to be unwilling to bear the costs of the several weeks required to retrain employees on the novel keyboard.

Even in The Fable of the Keys, a paper whose authors seem to have an axe to grind, admit that (full citations for these can be found in the paper):

In two studies based on analysis of hand-and-finger motions R. F. Nickells Jr. finds that Dvorak is 6.2 percent faster than Qwerty, and R. Kinkhead finds only a 2.3 percent advantage for Dvorak. Simulation studies by Donald Norman and David Rumelhart find similar results.

So there is a speed improvement to the Dvorak keyboard over the QWERTY keyboard. It's just not a very big one.

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A coworker has used a Dvorak keyboard for years. The biggest advantage he sees is that it keeps others from trying to use his PC.... – RBerteig May 8 '11 at 21:29
That first source is a little suspect, to me. What about comparing seasoned Dvorak users and seasoned qwerty users vs. training qwerty users? Also, they tested 10 second bursts and multipled in order to establish a word per minute value. Perhaps unrelated to the specific question, but THIS was pretty interesting in analyzing reach lengths and hand movement between the two. At the end of the day, the practical requirements to switch are, I agree, quite steep though! – Hendy Jun 10 '11 at 21:22
@Hendry, it's not the best study design to research the direct question, but the same can be said of most of the experiments I came across. As for the finger distance measurements, I certainly found several such things when I looked, each with similar results - but I think you'd also want to establish that shorter distance actually correlates with faster typing first. You'd think it should, but I couldn't find anything which actually proved that. So I went with the direct studies instead. – Jivlain Jun 12 '11 at 9:38
This matches my experience of touch typing in Dvorak for 6 years (I never have moved the keycaps from QWERTY). The real advantage isn't speed though, it is comfort; especially commas and periods which were the wost offenders when typing in QWERTY. Downsides include how horrible most shortcuts become and video games where the default keybinds are based on the physical location of a key in QWERTY. – QuantumRipple Dec 19 '14 at 22:46
For the funny part, I'm using BÉPO (french adaptation of DVORAK) and I agree with @RBerteig, my coworkers can't use my PC. Now, for the question about speed: switching to Dvorak or another layout is not only about speed, it is also about comfort. I switched to BÉPO because my hands were painful. The question is also "Does the Dvorak keyboard decrease pain?". – Einenlum May 14 '15 at 13:09

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