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Keyboard Layouts 101

This application allows you to analyze and visualize the typing patterns you create when you use different keyboard layouts, such as the QWERTY, Dvorak, and Colemak layouts.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, the keyboard layout you're currently using isn't the only one that's out there, and not all keyboard layouts are created equal. Some are better for your wrists and allow you to type faster and with more comfort. Here are the three most popular keyboard layouts (which I also mentioned above):


Dvorak (Simplified)


My interest in keyboard layouts came after I read a Discover magazine article entitled "The Curse of QWERTY". The article tells the story of the QWERTY and Dvorak keyboard layouts and makes a compelling case for switching from a QWERTY layout to a Dvorak layout. Here is a quick summary of its most important points:

  • The QWERTY layout was created in the early 1870's before touch typing and without speed or comfort in mind.
  • The Dvorak layout was created in the 1930's and is based on years of research. It takes speed and comfort into account.
  • On average, the left hand does 56% of the typing when a QWERTY layout is used. With a Dvorak layout, the right hand does 56% of the typing.
  • The Dvorak layout forces you to alternate hands more frequently when typing, this causes you to type faster.
  • Users type fastest on the home row. With a QWERTY layout, only 32% of your typing occurs on the home row. With a Dvorak layout, 70% of your typing occurs on the home row.
  • It's hypothesized that the Dvorak layout will make it less likely that you'll develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
  • Anecdotally, people who develop carpal tunnel syndrome seem to find relief when they switch from a QWERTY layout to Dvorak layout.

There are more reasons, but those were the ones that stuck with me. I was so convinced by what I read that I switched my work and home keyboard layouts to a Dvorak layout by configuring some Windows XP settings in the control panel (to see how click here). This lasted for about 6 days (3 of those were over the Labor Day weekend), and then I had to switch back since learning the Dvorak layout was slowing me down at work. I also discovered that the Dvorak layout made all the nice QWERTY keyboard shortcuts (Undo, Cut, Copy and Paste) virtually unusable. This was a big minus since I use those shortcuts constantly. The Dvorak layout also over worked my right pinky. I found myself having to take typing breaks, something I hadn't done since high school.

After talking to someone who had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (something I'm worried about getting), I learned about yet another improved keyboard layout that preserved QWERTY's bottom row short cuts and didn't put massive amounts of stress on the right pinky. This layout was known as the Colemak. Unlike the Dvorak, the Colemak layout is relatively new (developed within the last 5 years), doesn't have a lot of research behind it, and it doesn't have a very large following (online estimates put the number of users between 650 and 1,300). However, the layout looks pretty promising.

All of this research is what motivated me to create this application. I wanted to visually compare my typing patterns with the different layouts and get some stats on what hand and which fingers I was using the most.

Hopefully the user interface and output is straight forward enough. I had a lot of fun writing this application, hopefully some of you out there will find it useful.

An analysis of what you typed seems to indicate that the best layout for you is: *

Scroll Down For Statistics and Analysis!

*"Personal Layout" not factored into this analysis. This is because that layout is created to be optimal for what you typed.

Distance Your Fingers Traveled While Typing
Layout Name Meters

Additional Options
Meters Feet Miles

Finger Usage

Additional Options
Left Pinky Left Ring Left Middle Left Index
Right Pinky Right Ring Right Middle Right Index

Row Usage

Additional Options
Number Row Top Row Home Row Bottom Row Spacebar

Frequently Pressed Keys Visualization

Keyboard Layout:

Key Pressed:
Number of Times Pressed:

Additional Options

Include Space Bar

Personalized Layout
And now just for fun, here is what the optimal layout of your keyboard would be if it were tailored to fit the way you type. The layout is based on a frequency analysis of what you typed. It places your most commonly typed characters in the most optimal spots and your least typed characters in the least optimal spots (however, I have frozen certain keys - like the number keys). The more you type, the more accurate this layout will be. I should note that the generated design does not take into account how often you switch hands while typing or how close together common letter pairings are. Most modern layouts take into account ergonomic considerations as well as key usage.

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