Dvorak Keyboard Part1..

There are tons of sites on the Internet giving information on the Dvorak simplified keyboard, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here.

For a good run through.. you can check out the rather mundane (but informative) Wikipedia entry & read the online comic book called The Zine, which gives a humorous look at the origins of the Qwerty & Dvorak keyboard layouts.

What I will stress to you is the benefits that the average user can achieve by swapping their keyboard over to the Dvorak system..

It’s easier & faster to learn touch typing than on a Qwerty keyboard.

You can type faster on a Dvorak keyboard.

Your prone to making less errors when typing on a Dvorak keyboard.

Less strain on the hands, resulting in being able to type for longer & there’s a lot less chance of the user getting repetitive strain injuries with a Dvorak keyboard.

If these all sound like good reasons to at least try it, then read on 🙂

Part1 of this tutorial will show you how to set up your Ubuntu installation, to allow the switching between the Dvorak & Qwerty layouts as desired. This will give you the chance to test out the Dvorak system without fully committing to it first.

WARNING: This tutorial has been written for VAIO laptops that use the United Kingdom keyboard, although it should be easy enough to modify for keyboards of different languages.


The first thing that you need to do before even attempting to change your keyboards layout to another one, is to write down your Gnome username & password as it will need to be entered in the new layout. This is so you don’t accidentally lock yourself out of your own system.

Example: A username of dave would need to be entered as eak. & a password of laptop would need to be entered as nalyrl, when using the Dvorak software layout on a Qwerty hardware keyboard.

You can do this by checking the picture below & comparing it to your laptops actual keyboard..


Once this is done, you can continue to change the software layout in Gnome..

Click on Gnomes System menu, enter the Preferences sub menu & choose the Keyboard option. This will start up the Keyboard Preferences program.

Click on the Layouts tab at the top & choose to Add another layout. This will open up the new window as shown below..


Scroll down the left hand side until you can see United Kingdom. Click the small arrow on the left of the writing to see all of the options. Choose the Dvorak one & exit the window by clicking the Ok button.

You should now have the two layouts in your Keyboard Preference program..


Make sure that the Dvorak layout is the lower one & un-ticked.

Feel free to close the Keyboard Preferences program now, as you’ve just set up Gnome to change to either layout as desired 😀

The next step requires you to edit your xorg.conf file. After you do this you will be able to log into Gnome using either the Qwerty or Dvorak settings.

Open up a terminal & enter..

sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf – opens up the text file in an editor.

You will have this section there already..

Section “InputDevice”
Identifier “Generic Keyboard”
Driver “kbd”
Option “CoreKeyboard”
Option “XkbRules” “xorg”
Option “XkbModel” “pc105”
Option “XkbLayout” “gb”

Comment out the existing layout option with a # & add the following two lines & comment out the existing language line so it looks like this (without the spaces in between)..

Section “InputDevice”
Identifier “Generic Keyboard”
Driver “kbd”
Option “CoreKeyboard”
Option “XkbRules” “xorg”
Option “XkbModel” “pc105”

#Option "XkbLayout"     "gb"
Option "XkbLayout"     "dvorak,gb"
Option "XkbOptions"     "grp:shift_toggle"


Now you need to save the file & restart your laptop.

When the laptop reboots & you get to the Gnome log in, you can press both shift keys to change the keyboard layout to Qwerty. That way anyone who doesn’t know the Dvorak layout can still log onto your computer.

Of course this gives you the added bonus of extra security too. Any one that doesn’t know this system, will be pressing a button & having something completely different show up on the screen 😀

When you’ve logged in & the Gnome desktop starts up, a pop up box will appear telling you that the X server & Gnome are using different settings. It will ask you which settings you would like to use; choose Gnome to keep your default layout as Qwerty within the Gnome desktop. The default layout for the X server will be Dvorak though.

All you need to do to swap keyboard inputs in either the X server or Gnome desktop now, is to press both of the Shift Keys together.

Testing Qwerty Layout:

`¬ 1! 2″ 3£ 4$ 5% 6^ 7& 8* 9( 0) -_ =+
qQ wW eE rR tT yY uU iI oO pP [{ ]}
aA sS dD fF gG hH jJ kK lL ;: ‘@ #~
\| zZ xX cC vV bB nN mM ,< .> /?

With right Alt Gr key pressed:

| ¹ ² ³ € ½ ¾ { [ ] } \ ¸
@ ł e ¶ ŧ ← ↓ → ø þ ¨ ~
æ ß ð đ ŋ ħ j ĸ ł ´ ^ `
| « » ¢ “ ” n µ ·


Testing Dvorak Layout:

`~ 1! 2″ 3£ 4$ 5% 6^ 7& 8* 9( 0) [{ ]}
‘@ ,< .> pP yY fF gG cC rR lL /? =+
aA oO eE uU iI dD hH tT nN sS -_ #~
\| ;: qQ jJ kK xX bB mM wW vV zZ

With right Alt Gr key pressed:

` 1 ² ³ € 5 ^ 7 8 ` 0 [ ~
´ ¸ ˙ p y f g c r l / =
a o e u i d h t n s – #
| ˛ q j k x b m w v z


Number Lock On: (same for both)

7 8 9 / Enter
4 5 6 *
1 2 3 –
0 . +

Optional Software:

Right click a task bar in Gnome & choose the Add to Panel.. option.
Scroll down the list & select the Keyboard Indicator from the utilities section, then close the Add to Panel menu.

You should now see the letters GBr in the task bar. This Shows that you are in Qwerty mode. If you press both the Shift keys together, the writing will change & display GBr² to show that you have changed to Dvorak mode. Press both the Shift keys again & it will change back.

Dvorak7min is a simple ncurses-based typing tutor for those trying to become fluent with the Dvorak keyboard layout. This is the software that you need if your serious about learning to use the Dvorak system.

To install this program, enter the following line into a terminal..

sudo apt-get install dvorak7min

Once it’s installed type dvorak7min into a terminal to start the program.

GNU Typist or gtypist as it’s more commonly known, is a universal typing tutor that can teach you correct typing practises for both the Qwerty & Dvorak systems, or help you to improve your current skills by practising exercises on a regular basis.

To install this program, enter the following line into a terminal..

sudo apt-get install gtypist

Type gtypist in to a terminal to start the program.

That should do for now I think 🙂

P.S. The printable SVG keyboard that I made for this tutorial can be downloaded from here!

Part2 of this tutorial will show you how to change over the keys on your keyboard to make it into a true Dvorak laptop.
I’m not too sure when I’ll be doing the second part of this tutorial though, as I’m currently busy writing other tutorials & that will be a lot faster for me with the default Qwerty layout.. for now anyway 😉


4 thoughts on “Dvorak Keyboard Part1..

  1. Cheers for that. Very useful. I prefer the Mozart arrangement though… lsod the keyboard & go make music. Yeehaw! (‘ *,)

  2. Man .. Beautiful .. Wonderful .. I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds alsoI’m glad to search out so many useful information right here within the submit, we want work out extra techniques on this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

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