Please Santa, bring Dvorak to my iPad!

Dear Santa, I don’t ask for much geeky stuff, but one very good gift in that area would be a Dvorak keyboard for my iPad. And please don’t give me a side real hardware keyboard, I am talking of a touchscreen keyboard (the combo external keyboard + iPad looses the battle with my Mac Air…).

Dvorak Simplified Keyboard

Dvorak Simplified Keyboard (Photo credit: Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta)

I switched to the Dvorak keyboard map not so long ago, last July. Reason for that was not to be faster (like many others) even if this would be a nice side effect, but exploring solutions to solve the pain of a recurring carpal tunnel syndrome. My friend Paolo advised this, explaining it would make my finger, hand and wrist move way less, as a result, it should reduce the inflammation and then the pain. If you are interested in the Dvorak keyboard, jut read it on Wikipedia, or from already almost 10 years ago!

For learning resources, you will find plenty around the web so I won’t say much here beside a short feedback if you are interested:

I am not yet 100% up to speed but really happy with that switch – I am still fighting a bit for all special characters and also for french accents… but I made progress in speed compared to my Qwerty typing. I am finally touch-typing and have my pain slightly diminished, which was the main goal. While not perfect yet, still very positive change!

I must say though that I can’t type for a too long time or pain still comes back but it is definitely an improvement compared to Qwerty. I also still have a hard time using it when not really in a ‘typing mode’, for instance when taking notes in meetings. And finally, I am just a bit annoyed by the blind or Dvorak stickers that I use on my keyboards as it is not the most comfortable solution. One day I will take the time to remove and switch keys.

Actually, now, the very main issue is coming from iOS. The Dvorak keyboard would be a perfect story for me if only I could use it not only on my computers but also on my iPhone and iPad but I can’t! It simply seems impossible to find a way to have a Dvorak map configured on the iOS system. Come on Apple, what the heck!? Can you believe that?

This is supposed to be so easy to support, certainly not more than a bunch of configuration files to change. Instead of that, we are in the paradoxical situation where we were able to find a solution for hardware keyboard and not for purely software ones…

And let me add that this is a typical example (among plenty of others) where I would love iOS to be more open if not open source. We are so far from it now with Apple. Openness would enable a bunch of happy few to make this thing happen quickly, without hurting Apple or asking their contribution, and pleasing many other users… but no! This has a taste of “innovation is over”… I will certainly keep a very interested eye on Android phones and tablets, and feel the change coming stronger and stronger.

And to conclude, I took 20 minutes to write this post because, even if just a drop in the ocean, I wanted to contribute to the Dvorak keyboard cause! It is super interesting and deserves more attention from device and system makers. It also needs to be known by more users. I believe that it is an interesting option with lots of potential for people like me. When I think about people writing, typing, translating, transcribing all day; I strongly feel Dvorak could be a much bigger change worth to consider.

My Dvorak keyboard for learning

My Dvorak keyboard for learning


And if you have a solution to my problem, please let me know!

45 thoughts on “Please Santa, bring Dvorak to my iPad!

  1. korikachan

    I remember learning about Dvorak keyboards in school at one point. I’ve never had the option of using one, but it sounds like a fantastic idea. Have you considered possibly looking to see if any apps for it exist out there? Or if perhaps you could commission someone to make said app? I don’t know quite how pricey that would be, but if you could get a group of people who support the cause behind it, an iOS programmer could potentially do it by changing the settings on the on-screen keyboard. Hope this helps, and good luck!

    1. Roland Post author

      Thanks a lot.
      There is no App that I know really replacing the iOS keyboard. There is one or two but you must type in the app itself and not anywhere else… this is pretty much useless!

      I am unsure how iOS is open and how this could be done by an external developer but if so, it would definitely be a good idea to have a group of people supporting the cause, I am sure there are many like me who would like to have this.
      (My bet was that it is a thing that need to be done by Apple)

    1. Roland Post author


      I would have definitely stick to it if I had no carpal tunnel syndrome… but now I realize it’s definitely better and I would recommend to anyone.


  2. Talking Shoes

    I switched to dvorak when studying medical transcription because I thought it would help me type faster. While I think I’m still about the same speed (80wpm), the dvorak layout is definitely less “stretchy” than qwerty and so I can see the benefit in sticking with it for carpal tunnel. That coupled with an ergonomic keyboard. As far as my phone is concerned, I’m fine sticking with qwerty because the keys are all in front of me and easy to spot but with a larger area like an ipad (and I don’t have one – yet!), I’m with you in the fight for the dvorak cause!

  3. JAD

    Reblogged this on No Dice At All and commented:
    Bring Colemak to Android! Oh wait, we can already use that via keyboard apps like SlideIT. Sometimes I forgot just how locked down Apple products can be. It can be easy to argue for the reasons for not allowing for customization but in the end customization is king. We all may use the same tools in life but we don’t use them in exactly the same manner everyday. I used to strain my hands after using a Qwerty keyboard layout for hours of typing but Colemak, an alternative layout, has helped me in using my computer more easily. What Colemak does is more evenly distribute typing work between the left and right hands by modifying 9 keys of the Qwerty layout. I have never found a physical keyboard that uses Colemak for its’ layout but luckily enough I’ve been able to make the change via software in Windows, Linux and Android. I hope that Apple can allow for iOS to become more customizable for its’ users. I may not use their hardware personally but I do support it and I do believe that people should be able to modify their software and hardware with ease. You shouldn’t have to become a programmer and an amateur engineer to make a change as simple as a keyboard layout. Google offers language changes but Google also allows for completely replacing most applications as the default in Android. Without that option I probably would be using a Blackberry as my primary smart phone.

  4. Shannon

    I too am considering the switch; my issues are higher-up, more in the forearm, but decidedly repetitive from over-typing (paired with hand-chopping veggies).

    I hate typing on the iPad or any touch screen keyboard, but should I switch to the Dvorak, it would be nice not to switch back and forth between that and QWERTY! I love the feel-bumps on F and J that lightly communicate to my hands where they are on a plug-in keyboard before I begin to type — look away from the screen is not necessary. I’ve even learned to thumb-mouse on my pad to keep my hands there. (I still use all the DOS keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse for speed and comfort.)

    Congrats on the FP which brought me here. Your 20-mins was as least not completely wasted! Though I hope that Apple takes note. Any recommends for learning typing on the Dvorak?

    1. Roland Post author

      I am sure as well about Android, surely the next move… 😉
      Indeed jailbreaking would work but I would not go that way for some reasons!


  5. poorlocavore

    I can attest that there are Android keyboard apps that feature Dvorak, and even standard or left-handed Dvorak options. I’d hate to have to totally switch OS environments because there’s no suitable keyboard option. I’m still enduring the transition to a Chromebook.

  6. TheWordpressGhost

    I gotta say, a voice translation device should be better for you either way.

    Then you are only fixing typos, reducing your overall keystrokes by around 98% ….

    Then it really wouldn’t matter …. Then again, I am a GEEK. Why use a mechanical short term fix when there is an electronic substitute?


  7. Andrew B

    I tried the Dvorak keyboard a few years ago, but gave up in the end because I was at uni and for most of the time I was forced to use QWERTY keyboards and this made it hard to improve my typing efficiency.

    I may give the Dvorak keyboard another chance now that I have less computers I use

  8. Clydesdale54

    It’s crazy that technology has come so far yet we’re still stuck with the idiotic qwerty layout. It was chosen because it was the best at SLOWING DOWN the typists of the era. It took me one day to learn it, it makes so much sense. I’ve used it for decades, on all my computers. I love Apple, but it’s ridiculous for them to deny us the ability to switch layouts. There’s a Dutch layout, for crying out loud!

    But besides Dvorak, there are better layouts for 1-handed typing, such as the Fitaly keyboard. These were designed for stylus use – I had great success with them on my Palm Pilots.

    Apple really needs to open this up, as they did for the Mac.

  9. primalnights

    I have consider changing a number of times for all the reasons typically used but have been scared becasue I am finally quite good with qwerty and am a bit scared to change again for the reasons you encounter. Did it take long to get use to the new board and how well did you type before you started to change. I type about 60-70 wpm and dont even know if my fingers will be able to “un-remember” qwerty.

    1. Roland Post author

      I was not that a good typist, a bit slow and looking at my keyboard so this has also been the occasion to change this and really touch type. i am still slower than you but already faster. i took me 3 weeks of hell and 2 months of pain then I think I was better than before.

      the way I did it is using a blank external keyboard (but having a dvorak keyboard on the laptop for visual help when needed)


  10. Isabel

    I have the same problem with my tablet. I switched to Dvorak a couple of years ago, but the Blackberry Playbook has absolutely no way to switch the keyboard layout.

  11. rkutchjm

    Excellent write. From a nutritional/pharmacological point of view, have you tried omega-3 fatty acid capsules or better yet, 3 fish meals weekly that are high in omega-3’s? In addition, the B-Complex family which includes Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) may lessen pain. Of the anti-inflammatory medications, naproxen is one of the safest but ibuprofen is one of the strongest. All OTC and Rx anti-inflammatory medications causes an increase in cardiovascular risk. You probably are already wearing the wrist support device to keep the problem in check. If I come across anything new for your condition, I will keep you informed.
    Have an excellent and healthier 2013.

  12. Huffygirl

    this keyboard does not look easier to me. I think after all these years I would not want to even try a new keyboard. Silly me, I thought this post was going to be about the composer. Congratulations for being Freshly Pressed.

  13. pareech

    I speed type and have often thought about eventual problems I may have with carpal tunnel syndrome in the future. The only problem I see with a Dvorak keyboard is it will have to be adapted to the multiple languages available. I type on a English/French Canadian keyboard and am not sure how Dvorak would affect me. Even among QWERTY keyboards, certain keys change from country to country. However, your blog has given me something to think about regarding keyboard options.

  14. quirkywritingcorner

    Have you tried the curved boards? They are designed to help with carpal tunnel. Approximately 50 years ago when I was learning how to type, I used a book with at least 6 different styles of keyboards. I picked out the one that matched by typewriter. Originally there was no set key system. QWERTY was used because the keys would not stick together with that placement. Now a days, we don’t have that problem. From others that I have talked with who use Dvorak, it sounds like a better system and should be in general use.

  15. jensine

    never heard of this before but since I type with my own unique 4-6 finger system not sure if it would make much difference … but I like the idea of startling others when they sit down to type

    1. Clydesdale54

      Using QWERTY I can’t do anything BUT hunt and peck with 4 fingers, and it’s slow. With Dvorak I immediately started using both whole hands, and within a week could out-type my secretary. And of course I don’t look at the keys – much. Except for the symbols – I still can’t get them right. Dvorak should be the standard.

    1. Roland Post author

      On ipad and iphone, there is voice dictation capabilities (inherited from Siri I guess) but I have not try yet.
      I should may be but I doubt this can be fast enough honestly, and also is usually very inaccurate for persons like me who write in different languages and have a strong foreign accent…


  16. Roland


    I think it would be better to switch your iPad & iPhone for Android Powered devices as the openness of Android means that a Dvorak keyboard can be used by simply Installing a 3rd party keyboard that supports the Dvorak keyboard layout, where as with iOS your only option is to use an external keyboard which somewhat defeats the object of a smartphone or a Tablet Computer.


      1. a six

        I tore up my left hand at uni and went from a decent typist to devistated. (Look under your left hand and try typing with mostly right you’d cry too) and when I was about to lose my job for typing too slow… I was given a right hand keyboard and advised to join a chat group to learn to type… jump foreward ten years and if people don’t know they don’t catch it. Dvorak is the best gift ever and now I am hearing windows 8 and 9 won’t support it so if mac wants the business of people who can’t use qwerty now is the time to hit the market.

  17. Crenshinibon

    Hi Roland,

    I switched to Neo2 a little more than a year ago, it is optimized for German, and fully understand you. I built a bluetooth keyboard from scratch so that I can use my favorite key layout wherever I want. I wrote about it, check out my blog.



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