What Keyboard Layout Should I Use?

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Updated August 16, 2022

Finding the best keyboard requires more than purchasing a great device and plugging it in; you also need the right layout. Most people assume they must stick to the traditional key layouts; however, this isn’t the case. Every keyboard layout offers slightly different benefits. So, for everyone out there wondering, “What keyboard layout should I use?” keep reading.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Consider using alternative layouts if you suffer from chronic wrist and hand pain caused by typing.
  • Dvorak and Colemak layouts try to enhance the basic layout by moving common letters to the middle row, allowing users to reduce finger movement.
  • No definitive studies conclude that any single physical keyboard layout is faster or more ergonomic than the other. But still, many users claim to have reduced pain and more efficient typing after switching.

What Is the Best Keyboard Layout to Use?

Most people understand what a QWERTY keyboard is; it’s likely the key layout you’re using right now. The QWERTY was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1874 after he patented the first typewriter in 1867. His original design would jam when typing too fast, and he created the QWERTY to fix this issue. Since then, the QWERTY layout has become the default in English-speaking countries. But two alternative keyboard layouts have amassed loyal followings, as well.

Insider Tip

Both Dvorak and Colemak layouts are pre-installed in Mac and Linux operating systems.

The Dvorak keyboard was invented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak. His unique layout sought to simplify and increase the efficiency of the standard QWERTY design. He put the most common letters on the middle row (also called the home row), where they were easiest to reach, and the less common letters on the bottom row.

Another “efficient layout” is the Colemak. The Colemak is a less drastic shift from the QWERTY’s original scheme, but like the Dvorak, it seeks to move the more common letters to the home row. Additionally, if you’re looking to switch to a European language layout, we have an article that explains AZERTY vs QWERTY.

Typing Speed

No one layout is proven to be faster than the other. Colemak and Dvorak indeed reduce the amount of finger travel, but neither they nor QWERTY has proven to be the fastest. That said, the reigning typing speed world champ won using the QWERTY layout.

Warning

Many claim Dvorak and Colemak are both faster and more comfortable. However, there is no clear evidence, and the user should test each layout to determine what is best for them.

Ergonomics

Again, there’s no clear layout king here either. The only advantage any of them have over the others is that the Colemak layout decreases the amount of space the fingers need to travel when typing, which might have ergonomic benefits. For those who struggle with wrist and hand pain when typing, switching from the default keyboard layout to Colemak might be worthwhile to see if it helps.

STAT: The Colemak website claims that switching to their less active keyboard layout makes the fingers move 2.2 times less than QWERTY keyboards. (source)

What Keyboard Layout Should I Use FAQs

How can you switch your keyboard layout?

Once you know the correct layout is downloaded and accessible, go to your computer's language settings. From there, you can select the keyboard layout.

Does Colemak come pre-installed on Windows OS?

Colemak does not come pre-installed on Windows systems. Instead, you have to download and install the program separately.

Why is QWERTY still the most used layout?

QWERTY was the popular layout when typing equipment was first put into mass production. It's remained the default for no definitive reason.
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