July 10, 2009

The mixed blessing of using Dvorak and Linux

 

I presume that everyone reading this knows what Linux is (duh!). But I'm not use that everyone knows what Dvorak is. But before telling you what Dvorak is you must know what QWERTY is. It was created in the early 1870s by Christopher Sholes for the of the time new typing machines. One problem with these machines was that the typebars would clash together if the typist would write too fast. So to correct this error he placed the most used keys as far away from each other as possible, and the result is the QWERTY keyboard layout.

But time passed on and the typewriters became and better until the problem with the clashing typebars became less and less of a problem. In the year of 1936 August Dvorak patented his Dvorak Simplified Keyboar which he had developed during twelve years studying statistics of psycolegy, physeolegy and the occurrence of letters in the English language. This layout is by estimate 200% to 300% more effective, it lowers the wear and tear on your hands and allows for much more comfort when used.

QWERTY is designed to be as slow as physically possible. And Windows is designed to be compatible with every older version of Windows/DOS ranging back to the eighties. Using these means of operation is like trying to compute the 5000th prime number using an abacus.

So where is the issue one might ask? Linux and Dvorak together it seems would be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well they are, if it weren't for a third party.

The third party in this case is applications like Firefox or OpenOffirec.org. And the reason why they become a problem is because they are designed for QWERTY. All commands in these applications are designed to be useable with one hand in QWERTY. For example ctrl+c and ctrl+v. Copy and paste, one of the most basic operations we do day to day. Look down at your keyboard and see how the keys are conveniently reachable with one hand. That's not the case if you're using a custom layout for your keyboard such as Dvorak or any other localized layout such as AZERTY.

There are solutions to this. For the Windows platform a close friend of mine has developed a small tray application that translates the Swedish QWERTY live to Svorak, Swedish Dvorak and allows for QWERTY to be the layout while function keys are pressed. This application along with it's source code can be found at www.ubarskit.com/svorak and at google code: http://code.google.com/p/svorakremapping/ .

But for the Linux plattform there seems to be no solution for this problem. The GNOME layout keyboard settings allows for some setting to be made, it can change layout as the Alt keys, Super keys and the right Ctrl key is pressed down. But an option for changing layout while the right Ctrl key is pressed shines with it's vacant.

How it is with other desktop environments, I don't know. But I have seen no answer in any chat channel or at any forum across the wide plains of the Internet. So if there were someone who knew how to solve this problem, hopefully across all desktop environments, I'd be greatful!

 EDIT: Using the GNOME keyboard settings to make your Alt, Ctrl or Super keys act as temporary layout changer is highly unwise since it renders the keys unusable! This got me locked inside my VirtualBox because my releasekey, right Ctrl, was used to change layouts.

For those with some time over: Here's an really old US military video showcasing Dvorak. You can fast forward to when you see the two layouts side by side:

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkMB5Q27nQI 100x100]

Click Here!