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May 18, 2004



The biggest hinderance to using Dvorak, for me, is having to relearn all my vim keystrokes. Oh well. :^)

Saul Bottcher

You were typing 100wpm... and that *wasn't* fast enough for you? :^)

Brett Douville

It's funny. In most cases, you advocate taking the longer view. See, for example, your article on Turnaround Time. Sure, it'll cost you time to teach people how to use precompiled headers (for example), but in the end, that cost is outweighed by the benefit.

I would consider taking the longer view here. Your top speed will be higher with Dvorak; you'll probably get a 20% bump overall, though it might take you 8 months to get there. It'll pay for itself in higher productivity in under 4 years, assuming you never get more than that 20%, which is a simplification (you could potentially see as much as 50%, from what I've read).

That said, I'm perfectly happy with my 120wpm or so, since beyond that I'm not able to think much faster than I can type. And when I'm programming, I spend way more time designing than I do coding, so that's fast enough.

Saul Bottcher

Can anybody actually think themselves a stream of good code at 100wpm?

I don't know if typing faster would necessarily accomplish anything -- other than creating more stuff to delete when you reconsidered how you wanted method X or class Y to work. (When writing *new* code I'd bet that thinking/planning/design are already the bottleneck at much slower typing speeds).

Jamie Fristrom

Since I spend more time writing e-mails than actually coding these days...

R. Hurter

I tried dvorak for a while, for general typing I liked it and was getting my speed up to somewhere where my qwerty was at, but for coding it seemed I was too used to the location of the frequently used c characters like (){}; etc.

I was about to do my own study on an optimal keyboard configuration for my c/++ programs, but then I got bored with the idea before anything useful came of it :)

Saul Bottcher

"Since I spend more time writing e-mails than actually coding these days..."

Was this a lament, or just a statement of fact? :^)

Jamie Fristrom

Actually, standing in the shower thinking this morning, I realized there is at least one nice thing about fast typing that can help your code: clear identifiers. When I worked on the Magic Candles, the lead didn't touch type, and his identifier names were chosen for conciseness. I'd never be able to remember his abbreviations - I'd start typing a function name, have to stop and open the file where it was declared, and then go back and finish. It bugged the crap out of me after a while. Now, one of the items we have on the "coder guidelines" page for our team is "avoid abbreviations unless it's one of these previously agreed upon ones from this list." Of course, Magic Candle was back in the Borland C++ days, before we had auto-completion, and maybe abbreviations aren't as big a deal as they used to be. Still, I think a variable called enemyPosition is much more readable than, say, enmyP.


Great point. I consistently had the longest variable and class names in Starfighter's codebase. In fact, the lead programmer sent out mail at some point indicating that a class name (autogenerated from one of my classes via a macro, I think) was like 40 characters long. I've never used autocompletion, can't stand it, interrupts my flow, so fast typing has been very helpful.

Zachary Slater

My favourite part about typing fast is the disgustingly long passwords I use (approaching 30 chars). Which also help for when you've been using the computer too long and your body is telling you to stop. (If I can't type out my passwords, I know it is time to give up and do something else).

Martin Donlon

I would still consider Dvorak a net loss. Unless it is commonly supported on all machines (a lot of people wouldn't even have a dvorak keymap installed). I spend maybe about 10-30% of an average work day working on other machines besides my own, so I guess thats why its important to me.

John Kuner

I love dvorak - I switched to it three or four years ago when I was bored at work and on an ergo kick and haven't looked back. Since I stopped coding and mudding as much I'm back up to 70-80 wpm but haven't really exceeded that. It is pretty easy to install a keymap on most windows and linux boxes; not sure about macs. If I'm going to use someone else's machine for a while, I just ask them and then add the keymap as a non-default option...

Jamie Fristrom

Okay, so I lied - a few days after I posted this I felt like my fingers wanted to return to qwerty, if that makes any sense. (And I simply could not seem to get to 90 wpm with dvorak, after months of using it.) It's as if the training needed some time to incubate. So I gave qwerty another shot, and was back to 40 in no time - and the next day I was 60 - and the next day 70. Now I'm back up to 90, faster than I ever was with dvorak. It felt like although I had forgotten where the individual qwerty letters were, I remembered whole words. It felt like doing a port - you go from nothing to having a whole game in no time. Like those old neural pathways were there, and I just had to do some digging to unlock them. I wasn't trapped after all.
I'm believing all the Dvorak detractors, now - it does not pay to switch. Dvorak falls into the camp of so many things which in theory sound better (like a lot of software engineering practices) and then turn out to be snake oil. I wouldn't be surprised if the Dvorak layout actually encourages slower typing - the way keys get separated between the two hands may increase the likeliness of transposition typos, for example.
I don't regret trying Dvorak, though - as long as some attempts at process improvement succeed, the failures are worth it.

Chris Busse

I don't think it's a matter of theory over practice. I believe it just didn't work for you.

All of the fastest typers in the world use Dvorak, there are truckloads of testamonials of people acheiving 20% or better increases in typing speed with Dvorak.

It didn't work out for you that's all. Add one point to that column.


I hope everyone is practising with Typing of the Dead ?! (Although it gets repetetive after a while the challenges and the whole highscore system is a great motivation.)

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