Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) has become somewhat of an epidemic in the computer age. We have become an electronic people, and everyone types.
Today I want to recommend a product which, if used, would almost eliminate CTS.
Oh, don’t worry. You don’t have to buy anything. You already have it. You just need to use it.
Have you ever wondered why your computer keyboard is arranged the way it is? What kind of logic put a “k” right under our fingers, but the “e” is on a different line? What kind of logic put a semicolon directly under our fingers, while four vowels—all but the “a”—require us to shift to a different line?
This kind of logic:
Back in the late 1800’s, keyboards were called typewriters, and there was nothing electronic about them. Originally the keys were arranged in alphabetical order. This worked well for memorizing the keys, so people became proficient typists quickly. In fact, they became so proficient that the keys—not the ones you pressed with your fingers, but the ones that shot up and struck the paper—would jam.
Manufacturers scrambled the keyboard so that it was harder to learn and harder to use.
Yes, that’s right. You are using a keyboard that is designed to slow you down.
Dr. Dvorak to the Rescue
Dr. August Dvorak spent 12 years designing a keyboard that was designed for efficiency. He even made one designed for those who type with one hand, one keyboard arrangement for the left and another for the right.
Dr. Dvorak’s Result
I am typing on a Dvorak keyboard. It is an option on all Windows and Mac operating systems. You can buy cheap rubber overlays to change the lettering on your keyboard if you need to, but I have left my keys as they are. I’ll explain the easiest way to learn the Dvorak keyboard after I describe its benefits.
The claim I read is that Dr. Dvorak’s key arrangement reduces finger movement by 75%. Is that possible?
Let’s pick some random words from the paragraphs above to test:
- Rescue – On the Dvorak keyboard I have to move from the home keys on 2 letters (c and r). On the “qwerty” keyboard (named for the first 6 letters on your keyboard), only 1 letter is a home key. In other words, I have to move my fingers from the home keys 5 times in that one word.
- Keyboard – Dvorak: 4 home keys; qwerty: 3 home keys
- easiest – Dvorak: 7 home keys; qwerty: 3 home keys
- possible – Dvorak: 5 home keys; qwerty: 3 home keys
The Dvorak layout puts the most used letters in the English language right under your fingers. Not only that, but all the vowels are under your left hand, so that you are more likely to alternate hands as you type out a word. Further, the Dvorak keyboard puts dipthongs, like “th” and “sn”next to each other so your fingers easily roll from one letter to the next.
I have been typing as a primary activity for over 20 years. I have written books and built web sites that are heavy on text. Before Dvorak, there were many days that my forearms ached from all the typing.
It is this strain that produces Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in typists. CTS is called a “repetitive stress injury.” The Dvorak keyboard reduces the stress.
I’ve heard that it reduces the stress by 75%. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that I can type for 16 hours straight without feeling any strain on my fingers or forearms.
How to Switch to Dvorak
Making your computer switch is the easy part. As I said, it’s an option both in Mac and Windows. After you opt for Dvorak, both operating systems will provide you with a button in the taskbar allowing you to switch between qwerty and Dvorak with ease.
On Windows, you’ll find it in the control panel under “regional and language options.” Click the languages tab and then the details button. On Mac, it’s in the keyboard options under “system preferences.” Hit the “input sources” tab at the top of the keyboard option window.
Learning Dvorak, now that’s much harder. Of course, if it means you will never have CTS, isn’t it worth it?
Here’s how I was advised to switch, and it worked excellently for me.
I found an image of a Dvorak keyboard layout online and printed it. I got myself a free typing tutor program which I searched for on the internet. I won’t recommend it to you because that was 10-15 years ago, and I don’t remember what program it was. I’m sure there ar ebetter free ones now.
For 15 minutes each morning, I practiced on the typing program, then I switched back to qwerty for the rest of the day. After 30 days I could type 40 wpm on the Dvorak keyboard, so I switched permanently.
My experience is that it will speed up your typing about 10% in the long run, which is not much, but the reduction in strain on the wrists is phenomenal.