How I use my keyboard
3 min read

How I use my keyboard

I wanted to document how I use my keyboard on a day to day.

What I use

I have a Kinesis Advantage 2 with modification to use QMK and load my own firmware on it. The modification replaces the default Kinesis keyboard controller with a kinT controller.

QWERTY or Dvorak?

I am a long time QWERTY user but I never learned to properly touch type. I started off by hunt-and-pecking and got increasingly good at it (I attribute that to many hours of playing MMORPGs with my friends as a teenager. You had to type fast if you wanted to live and communicate simultaneously... 😅). I was able to comfortably reach about 100 WPM.

However, after discovering the Kinesis Advantage 2 from ThePrimeagen, I wanted to try it. With the ortholinear layout, concave keywells, and ergonomic design, I knew that I would need to relearn the way I typed. It was going to be a radical change – I wouldn't be able to even continue using my made-up typing method on this keyboard, especially since it was split.

I've always been a fan of the Dvorak keyboard layout and even tried to learn it in the past couple times. I even tried learning it on my phone, but I soon realized that Dvorak really shines when you touch type – there wasn't much benefit from typing Dvorak with two thumbs. With my decision to learn the Kinesis Advantage 2, I decided to learn Dvorak at the same time.

The pains of transitioning

I figured learning not only Dvorak but also learning how to touch type would be hard, but man, it was hard. I first started off learning the alphabet through TypingClub. I really like their typing exercises and highly recommend it if you're trying to learn Dvorak or even learn how to properly touch type. Until I learned the full alphabet, I couldn't really use it in my day to day. I quickly learned the basic alphabet layout and although I was far from my normal typing speed, I decided to go cold-turkey and just use Dvorak.

This was incredibly difficult, since I was still working a full-time job. A large part of my job is typing and having to respond slowly to everything had me very frustrated. The biggest thing that annoyed me was how I would start typing a response to someone on Slack, and before I could finish, the other person would send another message which required me to rewrite my entire message... I eventually changed my approach and if anything would require more than a few lines of back and forth, I would ask to jump on a Zoom call instead.

It really was painful, but slowly, ever so slowly, my WPM improved. Once I reached about 30 WPM, I felt like I could function in my work day. I am currently at about 70 WPM (still far from my original QWERTY speed of 100 WPM), but I definitely don't feel constrained by typing speed anymore. However, typing speed aside, there was still something that was very difficult to adjust to...

Using Vim. All of my Vim keybindings that I've gotten very adept with were now all different! Actually, not only Vim keybindings, but pretty much any keyboard hotkey/shortcut was now different. This was another thing I had to get used to that was just as difficult as learning the alphabet on Dvorak. I initially was exploring if I should just use Dvorak for the alphabet, but use QWERTY for anything related to hotkeys and keybindings, but I ultimately decided against it. Probably the most annoying thing to get accustomed to was the HJKL navigation keys no longer being next to each other anymore.

My layout

My layout is very much a work in progress but it has been influenced by this blog post. You can also find by layout on Github.

Now

I now use only Dvorak when I type on my Kinesis Advantage 2. I am used to it now and I actually can't type QWERTY even if I wanted to on this keyboard.

I also considered also switching to Dvorak on when I use my standard laptop keyboard, but I decided against it for a few reasons:

  1. Laptop keyboards are not ortholinear so kept hitting the wrong keys when I tried to type Dvorak.
  2. Laptop keyboards do not have thumb clusters and thus I kept getting confused for any key that was usually on my thumb cluster.
  3. I figured it would be still useful to know and proactive QWERTY. Not all keyboards I will use for the rest of my life will be Dvorak so I will need to flex my QWERTY muscles periodically. Also I've heard of people also completely losing the ability to type QWERTY after typing on a non-QWERTY layout, so I wanted to ensure I don't lose it.

Now that I have QMK support on my keyboard, I want to play with QMK specific features. Stay tuned for that!