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US Qwerty and Dvorak Keyboard Layouts

Features common to all TouchStream Layouts

For our US Qwerty, Dvorak and International Layouts, most keys are about the same size (19mm X 19mm) as those on a full-sized mechanical keyboard. We've made a few re-arrangements of peripheral keys like tilde (~), BackSpace, Delete, and Enter to make them easier to reach within the split design. We've also lessened the slant of key columns, since when typing quickly on a smooth surface, your fingers naturally flex in straight, not slanted columns. The left and right Hand icon keys double as Windows keys on PCs, Apple keys on Macs, and Meta keys on Unix Workstations. On a Mac, Alt is equivalent to Option. Though Shift and Ctrl keys are provided at their normal locations, most people will prefer our Shift and Ctrl modifier chords, which are activated by holding 4 fingertips on home row.

Raised dots (like Braille dots) at the center of each home row key ( A S D F BackSpace Space J K L ; ) provide the only texture on our typing surfaces. These dots help ten-finger touch typists find and remain centered on home row.

It is not necessary to strike the exact center of each key. If you touch in between keys, a built-in English spelling model guesses which key you intend by finding a sensible spelling. This greatly assists accuracy so long as your hands remain roughly aligned with home row. You can also enter passwords and filenames without trouble because the spelling model is not invoked when you do strike near the center of keys and with an even rhythm.

All TouchStream units can be reconfigured electronically to behave as QWERTY or DVORAK keyboards. However, the symbols printed on the surface cover can not be changed. When viewing the pictures below, remember that the LP surface halves will be split and angled by 10 degrees so key columns that look slanted below will actually align vertically with finger travel. Click on the sample images for larger full-scale views that you can print, cut and try on your desk. Background color of actual product is burgundy, not purple.

LP Qwerty Keyboard Layout
Programmer's Qwerty Layout Silver Programmer's Qwerty Layout

The QWERTY letter arrangement appeared on the first typewriters in the 1870's, and hasn't changed since. Unfortunately it is far from optimal, with more typing done on the top row than home row, and awkward hops between top and bottom rows required for many common English words.

The FingerWorks QWERTY layout has optimized key column angles for touch typing on ZeroForce surfaces. Why? Because without key edges, straight flexion & extension are simpler, quicker motions for your fingers.

The QWERTY layout also includes an embedded punctuation pad on the right half. The punctuation pad lets programmers type frequently-needed punctuation symbols without inaccurate pinky reaches. The embedded punctuation symbols are active while the AltGr modifier chord is held by the left hand, just like top row punctuation symbols are active when the Shift modifier chord is held.

LP Dvorak Keyboard Layout
Dvorak Keyboard Layout
Dvorak Keyboard Layout

The DVORAK key layout was carefully designed by August Dvorak in the 1930's and became an ANSI standard in 1982. All vowels are placed on the left hand home row keys, and the most common consonants ('D','H','T','N','S') lie on the right hand's home row. This way most (70%) typing is done within home row, and finger hops between upper and lower rows of keys are minimized.

This is a stark contrast to QWERTY, which requires finger hops for common letter sequences like 'EC','EX','CR','CT','CE','BR','BE', and 'UN'. (Compare finger travel to type 'EXCRUCIATING' on QWERTY versus on the DVORAK layout above).

Typing gurus and academics have long debated how much faster DVORAK is than QWERTY. While DVORAK appears to increase mechanical keyboard speeds only 5-10%, one thing is clear: it greatly (90%) reduces finger motion and travel off home row! This can be very helpful for people whose hand or wrist injuries make repeated finger stretches painful. By eliminating sources of hand drift, DVORAK offers performance advantages that are even more important for zero-force surface typing than for mechanical keyboards.

What's the catch? If you've already learned touch typing on QWERTY, retraining your brain to type quickly on DVORAK keyboards could take 3 to 6 slow, frustrating weeks. All alphabetic and punctuation keys except 'A' and 'M' move to new positions! The least frequently used keys (e.g. Z X [ ]) and keys that move to the opposite hand seem to take longest to relearn.

FingerWorks Resellers that stock or specialize in Dvorak keyboards:

Links to some interesting Dvorak enthusiast sites:


Qwerak Experimental Layout

Qwerak is an experimental, hybrid layout that FingerWorks is optimizing specifically for surface typing. Because Qwerak is still experimental, you cannot order a TouchStream with Qwerak printed covers. However, if you think learning Dvorak is tame and like the idea of rewiring your brain with something even more eccentric, order a Dvorak and give Qwerak a try by enabling it electronically. Feel free to make your own tweaks to the key placements in the MyGesture Editor's layout editor.

As you can see from the image above (click for full-size printable), the right half especially is very similar to Dvorak, with a few Qwerty influences on peripheral keys. Here is how Qwerak's surface-typing optimizations differ slightly from Dvorak's objectives for mechanical keyboards:

  • Minimize frequency of corner reaches by index and pinky fingers, e.g. move L from pinky to middle finger and Y from index to ring finger.
  • Slightly decrease frequency of hand alternation (e.g. swap S and O) where within-hand rolls across adjacent surface keys can be less tricky than inter-hand alternation timing.
  • Least-frequently-used keys like Z Q / " take longest to relearn because you practice them less often. Qwerak leaves these in same place as Qwerty to cut retraining time a bit.

International Layouts

Selected International Layouts are also available.

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