(Originally posted by myself on Hacker News)
I’ve been typing with the Dvorak layout for about three years now. I personally can’t fully touch type, and never have been able to, although these days I’m getting pretty close if I stop thinking about it and just start typing. My typing speed has slightly increased, but is more or less limited by the speed at which I can think about what I’m trying to type. The real benefits are in the related experience.
I’ve noticed a dramatic reduction in wrist strain at the end of the day, mainly due to the shorter movements for the majority of keystrokes, as well as the proper alternation between hands. Both are hallmarks of the Dvorak layout’s primary design requirements.
Regarding impact on programming efforts, My biggest complaint is that the brackets are on the number row instead of just above the home row, but when I’m writing Python code, I use them far less, so it’s not much of an issue; when I’m writing PHP, C, or Java code though, it can get a bit annoying, but it’s a good trade-off since the +/= and -/_ keys are now closer at hand.
For my editor, I’ve been using Vim for longer than I’ve been using Dvorak, but I’ve never used the hjkl keys for normal movements; I bought keyboards that specifically have the arrow keys right under the Enter key, so moving to use those is very simple, and allows me to use Vim without having to remap any of the normal movement keys.
In all, I highly recommend the switch, especially for anyone who plans to do a lot of typing in their daily routine. The benefits have far outweighed any of the drawbacks. And purchasing a purpose-built Dvorak keyboard will be one of the best investments you can make. I personally love and highly recommend the TypeMatrix keyboards, not only for their great layout, but because it has a physical toggle switch for moving between Qwerty and Dvorak layouts, which is priceless when you want to be able to play games that aren’t friendly to non-Qwerty layouts.
If you’d like an entertaining way to learn more about the Dvorak layout, DVZine has a very informative comic book about the history and benefits.