Home Study Should you learn an alternate keyboard layout?

Should you learn an alternate keyboard layout?

by Joy Liang

Look down at your keyboard. The first six letters in the top left are positioned as Q, W, E, R, T, Y. This is the standard layout, and every keyboard I’ve ever come across was designed like this. But why are they positioned this way? 

 

When the typewriter was first introduced in the 1800’s, the keys were positioned in alphabetical order, which led to some issues. If the keys were pressed in rapid succession, the metal arms holding the keys would jam. Because of this, the QWERTY layout was designed by Christopher Latham Sholes. His solution was to place commonly used letter pairings apart from each other, such as “ST”, reducing the speed at which people typed, and his layout stuck. So why do we still use it? Simply put, QWERTY was and is the standard. Even though the layout was essentially designed to make typists type slower, it is still used around the world.

 

Alternate Layouts

 

There are a number of alternate layouts, the most popular of which include Dvorak, Colemak, and my favorite, Workman. The four shortcut keys (Z, X, C, V) are still in accessible locations. It prioritizes the home row and places the most commonly used keys under the strongest fingers. There is little reliance on the middle column, which avoids far jumps and awkward hand positioning. As a programmer, I find the inverted top row very useful.

 

Should you learn an alternate layout?

It depends. If you type frequently, whether it be for school or for work or just in general, I would consider picking up Workman. The optimized layout can help with typing speed and better posture, but alternate layouts have a steep learning curve. 

Pros:

  • Not QWERTY
  • Optimized typing
  • Inverted top row (for programmers and system administrators)
  • Reduced finger movement
  • Maximum home row usage
  • Forces the skill of touch typing

Cons:

  • Not QWERTY
  • Steep learning curve
  • Difficult to switch back to QWERTY
  • Loses the accessibility of QWERTY keyboards

 

Whether you decide to learn an alternate layout or not, I would highly suggest learning how to touch type if you don’t know how to do so already. Many people look at the keyboard when they type, which wastes time, energy, and is generally very slow. With Workman, I couldn’t look down at my keyboard for reference since the keys were in the wrong locations. This forced me to instead type relying on only my muscle memory. I’ve always found it useful to be able to see what I’m typing on the screen. Having the skill to type above 75 WPM can save you a lot of unwanted time spent working.



Inspired by pinguefy.

 

Sources:

 

https://www.npr.org/transcripts/714080306#:~:text=The%20QWERTY%20layout%20was%20designed,up%20by%20the%20gunsmiths%20E.

https://www.cnet.com/news/a-brief-history-of-the-qwerty-keyboard/

https://workmanlayout.org



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