Did you know that the QWERTY keyboard set-up traditionally found in the US isn’t the only option?
Why would you use a different configuration?
If your fingers are frequently cramping from typing or you have wrist pain, you might find that an alternative layout works better for you. Some studies like this one conducted by the Assistive Technology Research Institute at Misericordia University seem to support the claim that alternative layouts can improve typing speeds and are more ergonomically and energy efficient. This is because unlike QWERTY, which was designed for typewriters, other configurations are designed to place the most frequently used letters in English on the home row of keys to minimize movement and hand strain.
Types of Non-QWERTY Layouts
Popular configurations include Dvorak, which places vowels under the left hand on the home row and frequently used consonants on the right; and Colemak, which also places the most used keys on the home row, but only has 17 changes from the standard QWERTY layout to make the transition easier. While these are two of the most popular layouts, there are plenty of others that are optimized for various types of usage, such as typing in other languages or coding, so you can choose a configuration that fits how you use your keyboard.
How do I change my configuration?
The good news is that if you’re considering a new configuration, you don’t have to buy a new keyboard. While your keyboard may be set-up as a QWERTY keyboard when you open the box, you can easily change the settings on your computer to suit you. Many computers already have these alternate keyboard set-ups preloaded making changing your configuration as simple as a single click within your keyboard settings in your control panel or preferences. You can also use software like AutoHotKey to create a whole new custom set-up or just create new shortcuts.
You also aren’t stuck with mislabeled keys. Keycaps for mechanical keyboards are made to be replaceable, so you can switch your caps as needed or order new ones if you want to further personalize your keyboard. You can also order blank keycaps if you want to train yourself not to look at keys to improve your speed. Of course, you don’t have to change your configuration if you’re happy with QWERTY. Learning a keyboard layout can be frustrating, as it may take several months of practice to type at your old QWERTY speed. Ultimately the decision is a matter of personal preference, but if you think an alternative layout might improve your health or speed, why not give it a shot? Do you currently use an alternative keyboard configuration, or do you plan to? Tell us what you think in the comments below.