I started typing on Dvorak a bit over ten years ago. I love it.
I found it surprisingly intuitive. I used ABCD to get started, and could just about manage to type all letters without looking after only a day or so. I was amazed when I found how many English words I can type with only the home row, so early in the learning process. It’s a whole lot better than qwerty’s “a sad dad’s lad had a fad” or whatever!
After a few weeks I went almost-full-immersion, switching back to qwerty only when I needed to type something really fast. As my Dvorak speed increased that became less and less frequent, but I could touchtype both layouts by muscle memory for quite some time. Eventually I didn’t use qwerty at all any more, and a lot of time went by – I can now no longer touchtype qwerty at any speed, though I can still type it slowly without looking with some concentration, and can hunt-and-peck it with a couple of fingers on each hand while looking at a good enough speed for when I’m at someone else’s desk.
I was pretty fast on qwerty – sustained 120-130 words per minute with peaks of 150-160 or so. It took me probably three months or so to get back to over 100 words per minute on Dvorak, and maybe a year to get back up to my old qwerty speed. I’ll point out that though my typing speed now is similar to my old qwerty speed, I do not now type faster than I did on qwerty, or at least not noticeably. By the way, these amounts of time I’m mentioning are admittedly foggy guesses – it’s a long time ago now. But I never looked back as I was learning.
I get strain a whole lot less often than I did with qwerty, and it’s easy to see that my fingers and hands move a whole lot less than they used to.
I never felt the need to try other alternative layouts, happy as I am with Dvorak.
A few annoyances about Dvorak:
ls -al is all the right hand pinky
- Control-x/c/v are no longer next to each other. Some people remap them but honestly I have just gotten used to it. I use the “X selection” more than the clipboard anyway (a common Linux thing: just select text to copy, then middle click to paste).
- This one is actually not an annoyance to me, but I know it is to some: the movement keys for vim (hjkl) are no longer next to each other. Again, some people remap these, but my opinion is that it’s better not to, because the spots you’d remap them to already do other useful things (with useful mnemonics). They’re actually not in bad places: j and k are still next to each other in the same order for down and up, and h and l are both on the right hand, and h is left of l (though different columns, with space in between). This means they’re intuitive enough to get fluent with. A little annoying they’re on separate hands, but I’m totally used to it.
- It’s a pain if a game doesn’t let you rebind its keys. This was common with old online Flash games, for example, and probably with more modern HTML5 games. Trying to play a game with WASD for movement in the Dvorak positions is a headache! Anyone remember the game QWOP? Controlling that guy with those keys was also a massive challenge, as if the game itself wasn’t already…
Hope this is useful.