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    Switching from Dvorak

    • Started by minienigma
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    I've been practicing with Colemak off and on in total about a month or so pretty much cold turkey -- I must admit it is frustrating to feel like a person with speech impairment -- I know what I want to write, but unable to express it freely as the thought flows.

    Before starting to learn Colemak, I'm most proficient at typing using Dvorak. At the risk of dating myself, Dvorak has been my layout of choice for decades. Anyways, I'm taking the plunge into Colemak just out of personal interest. Claims of efficiency and (more importantly) comfort are likely mostly subjective, and I feel the need to learn it to see if all of the claims are true.

    Based on my current learning experience, I would argue that Colemak's biggest disadvantage is its similarity to QWERTY. That is ironic, because it is cited often as an advantage. However, as a primarily Dvorak typist with the ability to also type using QWERTY (with less proficiency), the similarity of Colemak is causing severe conflicts in muscle memory. My hands "recognize" the QWERTY typing pattern and would naturally revert back to QWERTY layout. Then my mind would try to correct itself but then if I'm not concentrating hard enough, it goes back to Dvorak — so it come out as a stream of indecipherable characters, of my mind switch back and forth between QWERTY and Dvorak with the occasional Colemak sprinkled in there in between.

    Since Dvorak is by every measure a much different layout that it may be easier for the brain to adjust to a completely new pattern than to try to decipher the difference between two somewhat similar typing pattern....

    As I wrote before, I've been using Colemak off and on, but each time I come back to continue learning Colemak, I'm surprised at how easily my mind picks back up from where I left off -- perhaps that is a side effect of Colemak's similarity to QWERTY.

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    Similarity to QWERTY is not a disadvantage I believe, unless you're like you and me and come via Dvorak (or another radically remapping layout).

    I don't believe in the hypothesis that more different layouts (or languages) are easier to hold in your mind. You just need to sort them out, and from then on similarity will be beneficial. However, while learning Italian I've taken care not to train Spanish or Portuguese at the same time – so I chose to polish my German a little precisely because it's more different from Italian than the other latin languages. Keep in mind though, that this is in the learning/training situation not in real usage!

    There is a high price to pay for learning Dvorak. First when you learn it, then if you're curious and cheeky enough to leave it you pay a high price again. I did, and you do now. Best of luck with your endeavours! :-)

    Last edited by DreymaR (13-Sep-2016 11:02:28)

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    I like the comparison with learning languages, I don't think that anybody doubt that learning a language similar to one you already know goes easier than a completely foreign one. While the similar languages may use the same word in different (sometimes opposite) meanings, still they have more similarities that helps learning.

    I tried to learn Dvorak a decade ago and gave up because I could not start to use it productively in a reasonable time. It is so pity that I discovered Colemak just in April of this year, but I already using it everywhere.

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    My theory - I am looking for data that confirms this OR that denies it, if you know of any studies, please post them - OK so here it goes:

    My theory is that " rolling layouts"  such as Colemak are easier to learn than "alternating layouts" such as Dvorak. Because "patterns" on one hand are easier to remember than patterns on two hands.

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    I would argue that two "rolling" keys on one hand are good, but three or more are too much. I like "ing" in Colemak and do not have anything against even "the", but I do not like "ion" and "was".

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    DreymaR said:

    There is a high price to pay for learning Dvorak. First when you learn it, then if you're curious and cheeky enough to leave it you pay a high price again. I did, and you do now. Best of luck with your endeavours! :-)

    Reading some of your comments on my own threads as well, you clearly hate Dvorak; probably more than the amount you dislike QWERTY. :P

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    Then I've written something odd or you've misread me gravely, KnightJp!

    Dvorak is a good layout, much much better than QWERTY obviously. However, I had some problems with it that made me switch to Colemak and I'd recommend any newcomers to learn Colemak (with some mods) as it's easier to learn and has some other benefits in my opinion.

    That quote is about the price of learning a new layout. Dvorak is harder to learn than Colemak, and learning Colemak from Dvorak is harder than learning it from QWERTY (I'm pretty sure!).

    Last edited by DreymaR (27-Sep-2016 14:17:31)

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    I would agree to DreymaR, in the QWERTY world it is easier to learn Colemak than Dvorak. I have my own story of unsuccessful attempt of studying Dvorak. May be I was not motivated enough that time, but Colemak went much easier later on.

    Last edited by ckofy (27-Sep-2016 16:33:39)
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    Frankly my experience with Dvorak was rather pleasant. I began learning to touch-type when I started learning Dvorak and I like the hand alteration. I didn't make as many mistakes that I'm making right now. My only issue with Dvorak was the keyboard shortcuts. That's it.... That was my sole reason to choose Colemak over it.

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    I too found Dvorak pleasant to type on, except for a few quirks. Shortcuts were annoying, especially W and V next to each other (so I'd close a window when trying to paste). And the Norwegian letters were awkwardly placed; if I had had the WideAngle mod at that time however, that wouldn't have been an issue.

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    So are you loving Colemak over Dvorak or what?  And the shortcuts.  The shortcuts!  Are they as good as @Knight thunder professes?

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    I'd been typing Dvorak for about 18 years previously (all the while staying "bi-lingual", basically having dvorak at home and qwerty at work. I felt rather proud of that ability to be honest), but switching from Dvorak turns that on its head.  It was a bit of an uphill climb (I've been doing Colemak for the last 5 months).

    The "hump" was the first  week, when I basically just hunted and pecked.  It was rough.

    The good news is that I'm up to a reliable 55 wpm.  The entire reason I switched, to be honest, was to get the shortcuts back. (and that closing a window thing.. my god that pissed me off so much) I got tired of remapping the keys (because even though you can do copy/paste with the right hand, I got tired of taking my hand off the mouse.

    Admittedly, I most dislike the loss of typing periods and commas with my left pinky and ring finger.. I'd rather stretch than curl, which is what you have to do with qwerty and colemak

    I can't say that I "love" colemak.  there is much to miss about Dvorak, but not the shortcuts. 

    After I get completely up to speed on colemak, I may have Unicomp make me a Colemak keyboard with Q,W & F switched with ' , & . , just the way my brain likes it.  :D

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    ckofy said:

    I like the comparison with learning languages, I don't think that anybody doubt that learning a language similar to one you already know goes easier than a completely foreign one. While the similar languages may use the same word in different (sometimes opposite) meanings, still they have more similarities that helps learning.

    I tried to learn Dvorak a decade ago and gave up because I could not start to use it productively in a reasonable time. It is so pity that I discovered Colemak just in April of this year, but I already using it everywhere.


    I actually *don't* like the comparison to learning languages, as there is very little cognitive input to learning another keyboard style.  --rather.. its a total muscle memory thing.

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    pinkyache said:

    So are you loving Colemak over Dvorak or what?  And the shortcuts.  The shortcuts!  Are they as good as @Knight thunder professes?

    Yes, the shortcuts are a lot better on Colemak. OK.. CTRL + Z/X/C/V looks like a recipe for disaster for your fingers. But it is manageable as compared with the using it on Dvorak. In addition, if you are on Mac OS like I am, usage of Cmd + ZXCV is far more easier and simpler. I can use my thumb on Cmd and that leaves my four fingers on my left hand free to press whatever key they please.
    On Colemak, this becomes even more useful. In addition to the standard ZXCV, you have A/S/T/W/Q/P... Colemak is the "keyboard shortcut king" of layouts. Can't get that with Dvorak.

    My two main reasons for switching over to QWERTY now is
    1. I wanted to be able to touch-type on any computer.
    2. On Colemak, I started to feel pain after typing for long hours. The slight dull pain was on my forearm on my right hand and on my fingers. The fingers felt really tired. I never felt that when I was using Dvorak. This part had me a bit confused as most reports stated that on Colemak, my fingers were supposed to be doing less travel and work.

    If anyone wants to choose an alternative layout, I would suggest that they try out Colemak first before they choose anything else. If they feel comfortable on it, great. If not, then please go with Dvorak.

    As for me, QWERTY is no picnic, but at least I know that the fatigue is due to the fact of more effort being used for typing. if I was to choose an alternative layout for myself, I would probably go with Dvorak. I loose the shortcuts, but it was the most easiest & the most comfortable for me.

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    knightjp said:

    if you are on Mac OS like I am, usage of Cmd + ZXCV is far more easier and simpler. I can use my thumb on Cmd and that leaves my four fingers on my left hand free to press whatever key they please.

    Yes, the Cmd key on Mac is much better positioned! This is part of the reason why I use LeftAlt (which is in the same place as Cmd) as my Extend key. Using Extend+Z/X/C/V for me is similar to what Mac users would experience. The Alt key position is wasted for most Windows/Linux users, and the Control key is terribly positioned for a key that is needed frequently.

    knightjp said:

    My two main reasons for switching over to QWERTY now is
    1. I wanted to be able to touch-type on any computer.
    2. On Colemak, I started to feel pain after typing for long hours. The slight dull pain was on my forearm on my right hand and on my fingers. The fingers felt really tired. I never felt that when I was using Dvorak. This part had me a bit confused as most reports stated that on Colemak, my fingers were supposed to be doing less travel and work.

    For 1, What about using a USB to USB converter? That would solve it (well, except for laptop keyboards).
    For 2, I think it's normal to feel some pain initially. Your fingers are suddenly doing a lot of motions they are not used to. Once you adapt, the pain should go away.

    Last edited by stevep99 (22-Jan-2017 16:42:50)

    Using Colemak Mod-DH with some additional ergonomic keyboard mods.

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    stevep99 said:

    Yes, the Cmd key on Mac is much better positioned! This is part of the reason why I use LeftAlt (which is in the same place as Cmd) as my Extend key. Using Extend+Z/X/C/V for me is similar to what Mac users would experience. The Alt key position is wasted for most Windows/Linux users, and the Control key is terribly positioned for a key that is needed frequently.

    Completely agree with you there.

    stevep99 said:

    For 2, I think it's normal to feel some pain initially. Your fingers are suddenly doing a lot of motions they are not used to. Once you adapt, the pain should go away.

    I understand that there is some kind of pain will be there when learning new muscle memory. But the pain that I am talking about was not something I felt initially. This pain came after using Colemak cold turkey for 2 years.

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    knightjp said:

    My two main reasons for switching over to QWERTY now is
    1. I wanted to be able to touch-type on any computer.
    2. On Colemak, I started to feel pain after typing for long hours. The slight dull pain was on my forearm on my right hand and on my fingers. The fingers felt really tired. I never felt that when I was using Dvorak. This part had me a bit confused as most reports stated that on Colemak, my fingers were supposed to be doing less travel and work.

    Point 1 is very controversial. There are so many ways to use any layout on other computers, both software and hardware.
    Regarding point 2, you never felt that using Dvorak not at the same time as you using Colemak, that was before, right? It may be cumulative effect not related to a particular layout, and we are all not getting any younger after all. :)

    Last edited by ckofy (23-Jan-2017 03:03:32)
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    ckofy said:

    Point 1 is very controversial. There are so many ways to use any layout on other computers, both software and hardware.
    Regarding point 2, you never felt that using Dvorak not at the same time as you using Colemak, that was before, right? It may be cumulative effect not related to a particular layout, and we are all not getting any younger after all. :)

    Regarding point 1... The usage of outside terminals is rare and brief at best. I do not think that it is worth changing the layout if I am going to be using the system of a period of 10 - 15 mins. Saves me time if I do not have to. At the same time, I do not want to be stuck using a hunt and peck method; just because my fingers are used to an alternative layout.
    Perhaps it is a defeatist idea, but I guess if you can't beat QWERTY....

    Regarding point 2, I used Dvorak for about 6 - 8 months before I went completely cold turkey with Colemak.
    My experience with Dvorak was good. For instance. The 'l' problem, sorted it out in the same way that I type P on QWERTY - I use my Right Ring finger. Even use the same finger for the Backspace button. Its a muscle memory I am glad that I still have since I make mistakes all the time.
    When I was using Dvorak, I was amazed at how fast I managed to learn the layout, even though the only point of reference was on a cheat card I had in front of me. My keycaps still remained as QWERTY. After two weeks, I did not make as many mistakes as I did with Colemak and keep doing with QWERTY now.
    The movement felt a bit more fluid and natural. Not everyone is the same, that is why I would always suggest to someone to try out Colemak first before trying Dvorak.

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    I think you can learn a layout in an afternoon/couple of hours, getting proficient in it is another matter.  I cursed after picking up Dvorak that I had never really bothered to spend such little effort and time getting Qwerty in my head.

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    Well, if "learn a layout" is akin to "learn the guitar" by learning where to place your fingers in three grips. It won't be good music in an afternoon, for most. ;-)

    Last edited by DreymaR (28-Jan-2017 13:34:30)

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    I tried learning Dvorak for three days. I just didn't like the lack of same side combos.
    Back forth, back forth just didn't feel intuitive to me.

    Tried Colemak and could immediately see
    it was for me.

    But I could see the value of Dvorak and for a different kind of mind it might be superior.

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    pinkyache said:

    I think you can learn a layout in an afternoon/couple of hours, getting proficient in it is another matter.  I cursed after picking up Dvorak that I had never really bothered to spend such little effort and time getting Qwerty in my head.

    Are you saying that you regret switching to Dvorak? Would you have switched to Colemak if you had the chance?

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    TwoLeftThumbs said:

    I tried learning Dvorak for three days. I just didn't like the lack of same side combos.
    Back forth, back forth just didn't feel intuitive to me.

    Tried Colemak and could immediately see
    it was for me.

    But I could see the value of Dvorak and for a different kind of mind it might be superior.

    In his book August Dvorak says that the lack of the same side bigrams in his layout is by purpose, because it is hard to type them by adjacent fingers, especially the weak ones. From this point of view the Colemak's "ar" and "io" are especially bad.
    I'm somewhat agree to that point of view, but 1) this is trainable 2) that was said in typewriters era, computer keyboard requires way less finger's strength.

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    AR and OI aren't the best; RA and OI may be even worse. But I think that August Dvorak in general was too negative of rolls. As you say, he was discussing typewriters with heavier actuations. And if you try typing oienoenoienoien vs oaoaoaoaoaoao for instance, you feel how rolls can be nice (although it's certainly an extreme example!). Again, I think the best may be frequent alternation and small rolls in combination.

    Inward rolls are often very comfortable, even when spanning rows. Examples: oun aft yun wft vsr afp, and so on. Good trigrams make for very nice flow!

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    I remember using an old fashioned typewriter in my childhood. As well as the extra force, the travel distance is also a lot further compared to a computer keyboard. I'd say this means rolls wouldn't work at all well on a typewriter. I can totally see why alternation would be better.

    But a computer keyboard is a totally different beast, the rolls there are much better, especially the strong-finger ones like EN and ST.

    Dvorak may well be better than Colemak for typewriters. But for the computer age, IMO Colemak is easily the winner.

    Last edited by stevep99 (30-Jan-2017 14:22:29)

    Using Colemak Mod-DH with some additional ergonomic keyboard mods.

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