in commentary, dvorak, mac os

On Dvorak and the future of the keyboard

1. Dvorak-Qwerty redux

I decided to test out Tweetdeck, a new Twitter application in Beta developed on the Adobe Air platform. I like it. But when I attempted to hide the app with the shortcut ?-H … it didn’t work. Then it hit me. It’s an Adobe app. Of course it doesn’t work. That’s because I type using a keyboard layout called Dvorak.

It’s a common enough layout that it’s included as an international keyboard option for both the Mac and PC. The Mac also has a unique keyboard layout called ‘Dvorak-Qwerty,’ which I use. This allows one to type using the Dvorak layout, but use Qwerty key combos. It’s a thoughtful tip of the hat to Dvorak users who know and rely on standard Qwerty keyboard shortcuts.

Most of the applications on my Mac respect this convention and work very well with the D-Q layout. The glaring exceptions are Microsoft Office and Adobe products. I’ve given up on Microsoft ever fixing this problem, seeing as the OS still doesn’t include a D-Q option (and likely never will). But Adobe? Come on. I can’t imagine that fixing this little glitch would take much time. Correct me if I’m wrong, Adobe.

I’ve written about this on Adobe forums, I’ve sent in suggestions, I’ve posted on this topic here and on other blogs. Nothing has changed. While I’m sure that there are not many Dvorak typists using Adobe creative suites who rely on Qwerty key combos, I’m surely not the only one! And, hey, we’re paying customers. And those suites are expensive.

Someday, I hope that Adobe will fix this relatively simple thing. Adobe: take heed that Smile on my Mac fixed this same problem with TextExpander with one simple update. I wrote to them about the problem. And it was fixed with their next update a few weeks later. Now that’s service.

2. This Dvorak post rocks

So, I got an email a while back from Francis Siefken from the Netherlands, a fellow Dvorak user. He put forward a convincing case that switching the U and the I on the Dvorak keyboard would lead to even greater efficiencies. I love this kind of analysis.

Check out his post even if you don’t use Dvorak, if only to appreciate the time and thought he clearly put into this. It seems that his blog may have went into hiatus after this one post (something that I can certainly appreciate!), but it’s worth the read nonetheless. As is how he named his son, which also appears on this page. I hope we’ll see more posts on his blog someday soon.

My view: why not switch the U and I keys? The point is that the keyboard—our primary interface to the digital realm—must continue to evolve. Dvorak, while imperfect, is arguably an evolutionary leap forward from Qwerty. But why stop there? I say let’s continue to perfect the layout of keys to meet our needs.

Note that Siefken emphasizes that the primary benefit of Dvorak isn’t necessarily speed. It’s comfort. If you’re someone who types a lot (as in all day, every day) it may be worth your time to learn Dvorak if you’re not already heavily invested in Qwerty. Let the keyboard evolve, and let repetitive stress be damned!

The careful reader might now ask why I don’t use Dvorak keyboard shortcuts, preferring instead to keep using Qwerty shortcuts. The answer? The most-used shortcut keys are largely grouped down by the ? key, so it’s easier and faster. D-Q is a great combo.

3. On the evolution of the keyboard

And speaking of the evolution of keyboards, check out the Optimus Maximus. It’s expensive as hell, but wow. It’s the future of keyboards.

And what’s Apple doing on this front? Perhaps making an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) keyboard of their own. Will it be cheaper than the Optimus Maximus? Probably. Will Art.Lebedev Studios, creator of the Optimus and other wonderful and expensive design goodies, sue Apple? This might be a story we hear more about next year.