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I've been trying to learn the dvorak keyboard layout of late and I have been making some good progress this time around. The trouble I am finding now is that all of my hotkeys are all in the wrong places. As a vim user this is particularly troubling. I have found good resources to switch the bindings back so that they are in the places in vim, but I wonder if this is worth it. I also use set -o vi in my ~/.zshrc file so that I can use the familiar bindings in the terminal as well. hjkl navigation is also featured in a number of other applications such as less. For those of you out there who have successfully made the switch, is it worth remapping things to be familiar again, or is it better in the long run to just deal with weirdly placed hotkeys?

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7 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I agree with ldigas.

I was a Dvorak and ViM user for almost a year. I type on qwerty between 100-120 WPM. I had 'carpal tunnel'. Even after a year on Dvorak, I was nowhere near the speed on regular typing, and I was purely touch typing. Any effects on my pain level were simply because I was taking longer breaks in not using the keys, or being slower on typing.

No matter what you do, ViM was not meant for Dvorak. It just isn't quite the same. I don't remember specific examples, but I was always looking for a way to kludge it together to make it 'feel' correct.

Also, dvorak layout for programming is even more difficult to get used to. I got used to it, but the symbol key placement for programming in qwerty is nicer than it was in Dvorak.

I know you aren't asking for this advice. I'm sure there are people successfully using dvorak and progrmaming out there. But as a programmer who has to work on code, other peoples computers (people will NOT like you switching their keyboard layout), it just isn't worth the time and effort.

They didn't intentionally cripple the typewriter to slow people down.

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Actually, they did, and 30 years after inventing qwerty the inventor made a new layout very similar to dvorak. Of course the jamming hasn't been a problem since 1870 however. In my experience non-windows users don't care to much for me adding a keyboard layout. Only in windows layout switching is very irritating, because it is per app, instead of os-wide... –  markijbema Nov 7 '11 at 19:11
    
@markijbema A popular myth is that QWERTY was designed to "slow down" typists though this is incorrect – it was designed to prevent jams[4] while typing at speed, allowing typists to type faster.[5] (Wikipedia, linked source). –  Raymond Oct 30 '12 at 19:54
    
I never claimed it was. However, it wasn't optimized for speed either. So when the jam-requirement was dropped, other layouts became available which were suited more for speed/ergonomics. My favourite myth is that was qwerty was designed that way because one can spell typewriter using only the top row ;) –  markijbema Oct 31 '12 at 14:16
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I was a Dvorak + Vim user for many years and ... remapping the keys just isn't worth it. I had them remapped for some time.

The issue I ran into was that I became dependent on the remappings. As anyone who's ever tried to switch layouts knows, typing is muscle memory. Effectively my brain was trying to wire three kinds of cursor movement modes:

1) Dvorak Vim with remappings (when I'm on my own machine)

2) Dvorak Vim with no remappings (when I'm on someone else's machine and have the keyboard remapped)

3) Qwerty Vim (when I'm on someone else's machine and don't have the keyboard remapped)

This is, simply, too much. Your life as a programmer is hard enough without you having to learn three different spatial layouts for text editing commands.

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Vim dvorak users may be interested in this wiki page that tells you how to use dvorak in insert mode while keeping the command keys the same in normal mode:

http://vim.wikia.com/wiki/Using_Vim_with_the_Dvorak_keyboard_layout

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IMHO, it's just best to stay at regular qwertz/y layout. Instead of redefining the world.

It's the standard (with a few differences in regard to different countries keys), and although dvorak, colemak, ... state your preference, have always had that cool factor, I seriously doubt the usefulness of switching to them, then having to redefine (first, your memory) and second, shortcuts in every piece of software out there. Seems like a lot of wasted effort just to come back to the old productivity level.

And then you go to your neighbour, and he gives you qwertz keyboard again :-)

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Both agree and disagree: I agree with you for the neighbour keyboard fact, but I disagree on the redefining thing. 3 layouts are really way too much for me as well, but when the muscolar memory is established, you will not feel the need of remapping the whole of the software universe: I think that is just a matter of habits. –  dag729 Mar 16 '10 at 22:53
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All of the above answers are valid....for my 2 cents....I have been using the dvorak layout and vim for about a month now. I learned vim on the qwerty board, and was very fast. But for what it is worth I would give it a good go for a month or 2 without remapping the keys. It works for me. I am not yet as fast as I was at qwerty but, I am getting faster each day. Also, you have to weigh it against a lifetime of coding....personally I think the time is well worth it, but that is just me aye.

Have fun.

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I just didn't do any remappings, and used the existing keys as they were defined by default, and basically re-learnt all the combinations, and navigation with dvorak layout. And i found that it works just as good, and have had no issues. But then, I've been using dvorak since 2000, and learnt all the navigations in dvorak as I was learning all the command line tools in college.

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I think what kiwiburger thinks about maintaining the keys of in vi during normal mode as is is perfectly valid to the maintain the muscle memory of vi's commands. But when insert mode or ex mode is instantiated, it switches to Dvorak. To make the feature portable on others' computer would surely be the only task at hand.

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