Wednesday, September 07, 2005

An Unusual Writer's Tool

Since this is a blog by a group of writers, it only seems appropriate that we take a moment to get practical and discuss some writer's tools.

One of the essential tools for any writer is her computer and a good keyboard. But are all keyboards alike? Of course not. Some have split keyboards, some have different weights to the keys, some have fancy buttons for added features. But most writers are surprised to hear that I've written all of my books using a different keyboard layout.

My favorite way to type is using a layout called the Dvorak layout, which comprises an entirely different placement of the keys on the board. It's easy to switch to this layout in Windows right from the Regional and Language Options tool in the Control Panel. I started typing in this layout years ago to battle the possibility of carpel tunnel syndrome. I've not had pain from typing since. Here's what it looks like:

Funny, huh? The normal keyboard layout, called the QWERTY layout (named for the first 6 letters on the top row), was actually created to make us type slower. When typewriters were first created, people learned to type very fast on them. Unfortunately, the striking keys would always get stuck together, so manufacturers realized they needed to do something to slow typers down. In response, they switched keys around to make the most common keys in harder to reach places. Of course, with computers, this is no longer a problem, but we're stuck with a layout from an ancient system.

The Dvorak layout does just the opposite. The most commonly used keys are on the home row and off your strongest fingers. I 'm actually able to type faster now, with less movement than before. Here's a fun comic explaining how the Dvorak keyboard works, along with a tutorial and more.

Of course, this messes me up a little when I go to use someone else's computer, but with a little refreshing, I can go back to QWERTY if needed (it's like riding a bike--you never forget).

Anyway, if you've been wanting to try something new, I encourage you to give the Dvorak layout a chance, if nothing else than just because it's fun. I learned the layout in just a few weeks since I forced myself to use it when doing regular work.

Let me know of your progress! :)


Christopher Maselli


Donita K. Paul said...

I have never heard of this, Chris. Don't think now is the time for me to try it as I am on a heavy deadline. But Wow! I might just have to later on.


Christopher Maselli said...

I truly love it and think it's worth the try--I've been using it for about 8 years now. It's probably not for everyone, but if you've felt finger fatigue, it's worth a shot. Check out that link to the comic and they even have an area that lets you see how fewer keystrokes you use with Dvorak. Pretty cool stuff.

Sarah Anne Sumpolec said...

Yes Chris, but does it work for hunt and peckers like me?

Yes, I am admitting to writing all five of my books with two fingers...

hanging my head and slinking away...

Christopher Maselli said...

Sure it would...though I guess you wouldn't get the same benefit! :)

Anonymous said...

hunt and peck typists can benifit too, as all the vowels are on the left home row and the most used consonants are on the right home row.