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Is It Time To End Our Love Affair With the QWERTY Keyboard? 557

Master Moose writes "Brisbane-based entrepreneur John Lambie currently has in beta an alternative to what he calls the 'dysfunctional' QWERTY keyboard. Given the way the world is abandoning their keyboards for smartphones he sees now as the perfect time to introduce a new layout. He calls his new keyboard Dextr and believes it is the natural progression from using a number pad to enter text — This is especially so in developing countries where users have not grown up with QWERTYs on thier phones. While he is not the first to ever propose an alternate or alphabetical keyboard — Are we locked into QWERTY for familiarity's sake, or as we shift to smaller, more mobile and new devices, is Mr. Lambie's project coming at the right time?"
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Is It Time To End Our Love Affair With the QWERTY Keyboard?

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  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @08:16AM (#40613021) Homepage Journal

    I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to "plug in" any text input widget you choose with a decently designed device. It would make supporting languages other than English a hell of a lot easier, and it would let people opt for things like stylus/printing interfaces instead of virtual keyboards.

    Frankly I'd be shocked if the Qwerty soft keyboards were hard coded -- companies would be locking themselves out of non-English markets, and that's not good global thinking or marketing.

    Myself, I hate virtual keyboards of all kinds. I'd much rather use a stylus with handwriting recognition.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @08:20AM (#40613063)

    I would recommend Colemak. It is easier to learn for those that know qwerty already, about as efficient as dvorak with respect to hand movement and it is not as annoying with the placement of the L and the S key, which is sort of fundamental when you work with UNIX-like systems.

  • Re:No (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @08:25AM (#40613101)

    I've been using a custom keyboard layout for years, and I do find it better than QWERTY's default.

    For the curious, top left to bottom right:

    Familiar enough to be able to swap between the two, but much more comfortable to type on.

  • Chorded Keyboards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @08:39AM (#40613227)

    If there's one thing that deserves to make a comeback in this mobile world, it's chorded keyboards. QWERTY sucks on mobile devices because it takes up too much space, especially a physical board. On the other hand, you could probably put enough keys (say, three for each hand) on the back of a mobile device to make them practical physical keyboards without taking up valuable real estate that could be used for the screen.

  • Re:Inertia (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @08:46AM (#40613315)

    I generally have way more wear on the top row (particularly the left site with E, R, and T) than on most of the home row.

    I mean, it's not that big a deal; like the old joke goes, when your programmers are saying "hey, I'm almost up to my old typing speed in Dvorak!" it means they don't have enough work to do. But you've got a weird letter distribution if you're getting more wear on F and J than on E.

  • Speed gains (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:12AM (#40613553) Homepage

    For what it's worth, I once spent a good deal of time testing this hypothesis. I spent a lot of time researching optimized layouts, picked one, and used it for a solid year - parallel to the QWERTY layout that I was still using at work. After a year, I was equally proficient with both (I could touch-type either at will, same error-rate, etc.), and I ran a number of tests.

    The results were quite consistent: about a 10% speed increase (from 60wpm to 66 wpm), no significant difference in the error rates. For what it's worth, at that point I decided for QWERTY. That's what most keyboards in the West are based on, and for a 10% gain in speed, you have the irritation of switching back-and-forth all the time. If you don't type a lot on both layouts, your speed-gain on one quickly becomes a massive speed-penalty on the other.

    Note: there is a nice little open-source application [] out there that will let you take your personal keyboard layout with you whereever you go. Unfortunately, it currently only supports Windows.

    For smart phones, the situation is obviously different. If you want to be able to type quickly, you pretty much need a predictive keyboard (something like SwiftKey, for example). Beyond that, it's simply a matter of being able to find the "keys" quickly. For anyone who also uses a normal keyboard, that means QWERTY.

  • Alternate hands is much, much, much more common on Dvorak than QWERTY. I know this because it was one of my major frustrations with the Dvorak layout--all sorts of things I used to be able to type one-handed, I no longer could. I've used Dvorak every day for almost 10 years now, and I still don't have any one-handed combos unless you count "ls", which I don't, because I never need to type that one-handed, and it uses the mouse hand anyway.

    Try it out--just take random words, and see if they're typable one-handed on each layout. Tally the results, stop when you're satisfied.

    Actually, screw it, here:

    # Words typable with left hand only, Dvorak:
    # aspell dump master | grep -E '^[pyaoeuiqjkx]+$' | wc -l

    # Words typable with right hand only, Dvorak:
    aspell dump master | grep -E '^[fgcrldhtnsbmwvz]+$' | wc -l

    # Words typable with left hand only, QWERTY:
    aspell dump master | grep -E '^[qwertasdfgzxcvb]+$' | wc -l

    # Words typable with right hand only, QWERTY:
    aspell dump master | grep -E '^[yuiophjklnm]+$' | wc -l

  • the grammar nazi's kid sister: the analogy literalist

    i swear, every time someone posts an analogy on slashdot, somebody has to get pedantic with the analogy

    there IS such a thing as bad analogies, but why esperanto isn't spoken is a good analogy as to why the dvorak or any other nonQWERTY keyboard won't take off: historical lock in

    THAT'S the analogy. get it? historical lock in

    but you go and take a literalist approach to the analogy, and think it means something to point out an analogy is not the same equivalency. no: your point means nothing. really. it just means you are being pedantic

    we understand an analogy has its limits. ok? everyone can see this. it is an easy, and pointless, exercise to point out where two examples are not the same. the point is: where are they the same? and does that say something useful?

    slashdot, please listen:

    pointing out where two examples are not analogous, UNLESS that difference counteracts the parts that are analogous, is USELESS

  • Re:Inertia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot@ja w t h e s h a r k . com> on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @10:51AM (#40614771) Homepage Journal

    Hey, I used to be a Belgian... I was born in Antwerp. My native language is Flemish. However, isn't saying "The Dutch language, spoken by most Belgians" is quite a bit misleading? Now, there may be more Flemish people than Walloon people, but saying "most Belgians" is really an exaggeration.

    Furthermore, to answer your question why "azerty" is the Belgian keyboard, you have to simply look at your own history. When keyboards got in widespread use, Flanders wasn't the economic powerhouse of Belgium. Back then, it was Wallony with it's coal mines. French was the most important language and was used in business as well as by the bourgeoisie. Sure, now Wallony is the poorer part and Flanders the richer part, but that wasn't always so.

    Funnily enough, this is exactly on topic because it's pure history and inertia that makes "azerty" the Belgian layout.

  • Re:Inertia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xyverz ( 144945 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @11:54AM (#40615519)

    I've been using Dvorak on the PC for over 10 years now. Until I got my Android phone, all my texting has been done in QWERTY. On my new phone, I decided to try out Dvorak for a bit and I found something horrifying: dvorak on the phone is not as easy as using qwerty.

  • Re:Inertia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @01:34PM (#40617029)

    Since dvorak, colemak, and other optimized layouts haven't really caught on, I'm afraid we'll be living with qwerty and it's international variants for a long time.

    I wouldn't be so sure.

    1. Replace keycap letters with e-ink.
    2. Allow users to remap keys to their liking.
    3. Use whatever layout you want, qwerty, dvorak, abcdef, or whatever this new one is.

    The thing that's been keeping qwerty alive is everyone having to learn it. Even if you use dvorak, you still have to learn qwerty because you'll frequently sit down at a physical qwerty keyboard. With the move to virtual keyboards and the development of technology which would allow easy reconfiguration of a physical keyboard (including the letter markings), a lot of that inertia disappears.

    It's like I say about GUIs - rather than trying to force everyone into a menu model or a ribbon model, include both. The people who like menus can use the menus, the people who like the ribbon can use the ribbon, and if a menu-user sits at a ribbon-user's computer (or vice versa), a single configuration option should let you switch between the two. We should be adapting computers to match the way we (as individuals) like to work, not expecting individuals to adapt how they work to match one monolithic way all computers work.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990