How-To Geek

Switch to the Dvorak Keyboard Layout in XP

You might have considered the susceptibility of your wrists to carpal tunnel. You might be trying to prevent your invasive friends and family from using your PC without looking like you have something to hide. You might even be trying to ward off Alzheimer’s by intentionally subjecting yourself to the frustration of feeling like you’re five years old again.

The Dvorak keyset aids in all of these endeavors, and making the switch is actually far easier than typing with it enabled. For those game to make the switch, here’s how it’s done.

Note: Switching the keyboard layout will actually move your keys around, so you’ll want to print out a guide before you actually make the switch. For more information, read the Dvorak layout article on Wikipedia.

Switching to the Dvorak Keyboard Layout

Get yourself to the control panel.


Once you’re there double click Regional and Language Options.


Click on the Languages Tab.


Then Details.


Then what you need to do is click the add button. Note the current US keyboard setting.


Once you’re in there click the keyboard layout/IME box. Select United States-Dvorak from the dropdown menu.


Click the OK button and you’ll be taken back this screen. Now, however, there’s the addition of the United States-Dvorak setting.


All that’s left to do is to select it from the top drop down box, then hit apply.


You may have to restart the first time, and you may be prompted for your windows installation CD or a download at some point during the installation. If so, just follow the prompts. When all that’s completed, you’ll be able to type pain free and with ease… well, maybe in a few weeks.

Daniel Gilbert is a geek from down under that really likes Firefox and audio recording.

  • Published 05/27/09

Comments (11)

  1. Arvin

    Impressive that that feature was built in there… although I wanted to bring up an article I can’t remember wherefrom anymore (I think from Wired) that showed that those claims of the Dvorak keyboard being more efficient than QWERTY are actually more wishful thinking than proper science.

  2. Brad

    D’oh! Two months late for April Fool’s Day. But I’m early for next year. [Rubs hands together greedily]. MWAHAHAHAHAAA!!

    I mean, I’m totally going to use it for the betterment of myself and coworkers.

  3. Daniel Gilbert


    There was an often quoted study done in the fifties where it was determined that it would be an inefficient tradeoff to train qwerty competent office workers in Dvorak, does this ring a bell? If so it was performed under fairly dubious circumstances. There’s a little bit of info about it on the Wikipedia page linked to above.

  4. Mr.Chocie

    Unfortunately, I am not utilizing XP. Nonetheless, this post is exceptionally vital. I still utilize virtual keyboards.

  5. JH

    Hang on, if you can’t touch type, that means having to stick something on your keys to remind you where they are.

  6. ander

    Ha! I have to laugh at people who doubt the value of switching IMMEDIATELY to the Dvorak layout. Sticking with the QWERTY layout is like refusing to give up DOS.

    Like most of you, I was quite young when I learned to type on QWERTY. What I didn’t know—did you?—is that QWERTY was designed to slow typists down so they wouldn’t jam the keys of early, primitive typewriters, over 100 years ago. It’s not just un-ergonomic; it’s ANTI-ergonomic!

    I was a 65-word-per-minute QWERTY typist for 20 years. When I read about Dvorak, I switched, cold-turkey. I didn’t re-label my keycaps, or try to switch them around, or anything like that. (Remember, the whole idea of “touch” typing is not to look at your fingers.) Instead, I kept a small diagram of the Dvorak keyboard nearby, and consulted it only when necessary. (If any of you decide to switch, I highly recommend this method.)

    In two weeks, I’d passed my previous typing speed. In two months, I was typing over 100 wpm.

    The Dvorak layout is just a ton less work, too, because your fingers don’t have to travel nearly as far to reach the keys you use all the time. You’ll notice the comfort right away. You’ll realize how much unnecessary work you were doing.

    I “auditioned” for a customer-support job a few weeks ago, and it included a typing test. Before starting, I opened the Windows Control Panel and switched to Dvorak. As I typed, my progress was monitored over the testing network. When I finished the test, I turned around—and three people from the office were standing in the doorway, trying to figure out how the heck I’d typed so fast. It was pretty funny. YOU can do this too!

    So pay no attention to the skeptics. Switch to Dvorak, and never look back—except to laugh at the pokey 19th-century QWERTY typists you’re leaving in the dust!

  7. Mohan

    I tell myself one day I shall have a computer that is dedicated to Dvorak keyboard…and I shall. So does anyone really use Dvorak layout in the world for day to day operation?

  8. Ron

    Learning DVORAK has been on my to-do list for years. I learned touch typing on a manual typewriter at home and an IBM Selectric at school, back at the advent of personal computers (I had a friend who built his own 8-bit kit computer around that time).

    Personally, I think that since the DVORAK keyboard layout is now (actually has long been) built into windoze we should be insisting that all students learn DVORAK instead of QWERTY. As in-the-know and responsible parents, we should be setting up computers for our children to use DVORAK and making sure that the schools make it available. Asking that keyboard manufacturers dual label all keys wouldn’t be too much too.

    You might want to note that on the logon screen if you have more than one keyboard defined there is a little button on the bottom left corner of the screen to select the one input language and keyboard layouts you want to use. Also, there is a languages button that you can have displayed in the task bar (I just can’t find how to enable it at the moment).

  9. Hagledespo

    “So does anyone really use Dvorak layout in the world for day to day operation?”

    I’m writing this on a Dvorak layout, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I was a pretty fast typist back in my QWERTY days, but it’s like the ander said: Sticking to QWERTY is like clinging to DOS. But I’m not judging anyone. If QWERTY works for you: Great!

  10. Arvind

    After being a touch typist on “standard” layout for more than 12 years I learnt the Dvorak layout and I can now say with conviction that it certainly has made a difference. I can easily switch between both layouts now. All the regular computers I work on have Dvorak layout as I have always been willing to change to increase my efficiency. But I still have to switch to the “standard” layout when working on other computers. The only reason the “standard” layout still exists is the sheer force of inertia. People seldom want to change – even for the better!

    Children are naturally more adaptive so I think they should be taught (at least shown) both methods, one to “conform” and other for efficiency. Switching between either layout at will is very easy and whoever knows both methods will naturally be inclined to use Dvorak in situations completely under his/her control.

  11. Matt

    Shouldn’t you also inform people how to change the default user?
    Without changing the default user they will be using qwerty at login. This can be a big pain.

    Also I am not going to argue the merits of Dvorak, but as a programmer in my 12th year of professional work I can honestly say that since making the switch my wrist are amazingly pain free. I also am having no problem consistently typing at my previous benchmarks of 80-90 wpm. I am not typing faster than I was capable of with qwerty, but I am typing faster and with less errors on a consistent basis. In other words my peak has not changed but my total output has. I have been typing on Dr. Dvorak’s design for just over a year now.

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