Dvorak users of the world unite!

I encountered yet another Dvorak bug today. For the benefit of those (ok, probably all of you) who do not know what Dvorak is, it’s an alternative keyboard layout. It’s generally considered faster and more efficient than the standard QWERTY layout.

I can certainly type quite fast and, since the Dvorak keys are not in the same place as the QWERTY keys, I learned to type without ever looking down … it wouldn’t help anyways. Never needing to look down is a plus in my book. Anyhow, it turns out that TextExpander does not support the Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard layout. Dvorak-Qwerty is a Mac OS option (available via the International/Input Menu preference pane) that allows one to type in Dvorak but still access the command shortcut keys in their designated QWERTY positions. That means that I can type in Dvorak, but still use the QWERTY Command-C/V/Q etc. The tech support guy (who responded to my query very quickly, I should add) said that the add this support to the feature request list, although he was not authorized to say if it would or would not be fixed to add this support.

So what’s the bug? When the keyboard setting is DQ (that’s short for Dvorak-Qwerty), TextExpander cannot expand text. You type in the short cut, and your shortcut is replaced by … nothing. You just get an empty string where your expanded text should go. This is frustrating. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only Dvorak user out there, though I’m sure I am not. A great feature of the Mac OS is the built in Dvorak support with QWERTY command keys. While Windows supports Dvorak as an option, it does not (and apparently will never) support the QWERTY command function.

Even though I use this alternate layout, I am a slave to Mac keyboard shortcuts (the QWERTY style shortcuts). The Mac OS has long supported this, recognizing the need amongst mac users to have command-C map to the ‘C’ character printed on the physical keyboard, even though it’s not the ‘C’ character in the Dvorak layout is located where the I character is printed. Make sense? Windows does not have this. I was using a freeware program called Hotkeyz on my Windows (work) machine to remap my keys. This solved the PC problem beautifully. But, alas, my IT staff made me take it off because of my workplace ‘no shareware or freeware policy.’ Blah.

Anyhow, most mac programs work fairly well with Dvorak-Qwerty. Except for TextExpander, and except for Adobe CS3 (actually, I don’t believe Adobe products have ever supported Dvorak-Qwerty … and except for Mac MS Office (which I don’t use – iWork handles Dvorak quite well). What this means for me is that I have to turn Qwerty on when using Photoshop, because Command-C otherwise does not work. I could re-learn the shortcuts for the remapped Dvorak keys, but I don’t want to. I like the shortcut keys mapped to what’s printed on the keyboard. Besides, I’m so conditioned to type the Command key shortcuts that it would take major reconditioning to learn the alternate locations. The bottom line for me is this: I know there aren’t many of us out there, but there are people out there that rely on Dvorak-Qwerty. The combo, exclusive to the mac, is one of those little things that makes my mac experience better than my work-a-day PC experience. I can’t imagine it would take much of a code fix to support this feature … it is built in to the OS, after all. So, Adobe and Smile on My Mac … please support the DQ keyboard layout!!

By the way, I found this nice little freeware app that fixes one annoying DQ layout problem – the inability to use command+shift in DQ


  1. First, thanks for fixing the registration system, I can now comment on this entry 😉

    And thanks for pointing out to the improved DQ layout, I’ve been using it since I’ve read your post and it’s great.

    I discovered your post after discovering problem with TextExpander just after switching to DQ. I also contacted smileonmymac about this, and they were really helpful: the latest version of TE (2.04) works with DQ and DI!

    You can read my posts about this there:

    Thanks a lot for your posts (I’m really enjoying the current GTD apps series).

  2. Thank you much for the comment and your kind words. It’s good to find another Dvorak user out there. I am so happy that TextExpander fixed our problem that I’m about to blog about it. I’d like to link to your blog if you don’t mind. I’ve just spent some time reading articles on your site, and I’m intrigued by your gaming posts. I love Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne – I have German versions that I picked up when we lived over there. My wife and I discovered a Catan card game here in Hawaii that we’re now enjoying (especially since it only takes two players!). I have a game question for you, but I’ll post it over on your site.

  3. You can link anything you want 😉

    About games, I saw your post, but as I was away traveling I have not yet had the time to answer it (and I need to think about it first as well). I’ll try to do it this week.

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