Switching to Vim with Dvorak

Last year, I made the switch to using the Dvorak simplified keyboard. I have never been a very fast typer, and I agreed with the philosophy behind Dvorak: keys are organized based on frequency and patterns of common use (whereas the standard QWERTY layout was actually designed to slow typers down as a method of preventing typewriter jams). Since making the switch, I have already improved my typing speed over anything I was able to do with QWERTY.

The biggest hurdle I had to overcome since the switch to Dvorak was reorganizing the physical keys on my keyboard - which I did on a MacBook Pro (and then switched them back to sell it), on the new MacBook Air, and also on an Apple wireless keyboard that I use with the Mac Mini that powers my television at home (and which I use for the pairing iMacs at EdgeCase).

But then I decided to learn the Vim editor.

While Coda worked great for my past PHP work that often used FTP to push to servers and TextMate worked well as I got started with Ruby and Rails, Vim has since proved to me why it is one of the editors that has stood the test of time. There’s just one problem: Vim commands were designed with a QWERTY keyboard layout in mind. As shown by one of the most popular Vim cheat sheets, the accessibility of commands has been designed around where your fingers naturally sit on a QWERTY keyboard (notice especially the navigation arrows that con be used entirely with the fingers af the right hand).

While many programmers do use Dvorak with Vim, it results in some uncomfartable command combinations as seen in this Dvorak version of the cheat sheet (notice that even cursor navigation has now become a two-handed process, slowing much of the efficiency). While some suggest remapping my keys in Vim to revert back to the QWERTY layout when not inserting text, this seems better suited to those who first learned Vim in QWERTY and are switching to Dvorak for text input.

For now, I’ll stick to using the standard commands with the Dvorak layout.