Converting from Qwerty to Dvorak layout?

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Converting from Qwerty to Dvorak layout?

Postby TorbenGB » 14 Feb 2011, 14:54

Dustin's post reminded me of another issue I wanted to ask in the forum. This is not about Dvorak itself, but about how to put a new layout on the TSLP?

I don't mean how to switch the keyboard layout in Windows, nor how to switch the layout in the TSLP.
I do mean how to actually change the physical surface of the TSLP from Qwerty to Dvorak (or reverse, if that's your case).

I know that the colors are printed directly on the underside of the clear lexan plastic that is the actual surface of the TSLP.
I know (from my 2007 Digitouch review) that the lexan is slightly glued on top of the actual electronic sensor array, very much like a sticker.
This means that actually replacing the image would require replacing the lexan itself, which requires taking the TSLP apart. Not a good idea!

I've experimented with other solutions, like printing a custom image on normal paper and sticking the paper on top of the lexan. With some iterations, that approach gave me the best results -- described below. But I'd also like to hear what experiments YOU have done in this regard?


My best attempt was to take the original layout images (jpg file) and clean it up in a graphics program to remove the colors, icons and letters I didn't need. Then I painted my new layout (in my case, Dvorak + Danish characters). This was then printed on paper and put on the TSLP using normal sticky tape.

I found that regular paper was much better than photo paper, transparent overhead sheets, or other materials - because the dry surface of regular paper allows for the smoothest finger slide across the surface. Normal paper also absorbs a bit of finger moisture, so the image might smear a bit if it was made on an inkjet printer, and you'd get a bit of color on your fingertips too. In reality, both of these problems were so small that I could ignore them.

I also found that it is essential to keep the paper directly on the lexan, because a slight gap between paper and lexan caused inaccurate and sporadic sensor readings. To achieve this, I cut the paper to a size exactly fitting inside the plastic frame of the TSLP, and then I simply used small bits of sticky tape on the TSLP frame and paper edges to keep the paper in place.

The biggest problem in fact (apart from the challenge to re-learn the actual layout) was that the small home row dimples could no longer be felt. I made some new dimples in the paper by pressing a small object (like a blunt pencil) into (but not through!) the paper from the underside. But because paper is soft, these new dimples were quickly flattened again just by using the surface normally.

I hade more success with a different approach: Dimples disappear but crease lines are more robust. I folded the paper along the key borders in order to essentially make a "grid" of crease lines. This was a little difficult because the key borders aren't straight lines but somewhat curved; and they don't go all the way from edge to edge of the surface. Still, I managed to crease the paper and create my "key grid". After all that folding, I had to flatten the paper between some heavy books for a while in order to avoid sporadic sensor readings caused by hovering paper, as mentioned above. The crease lines could still be clearly felt without obstructing gestures.

The result was impressive: The tactile feedback to avoid finger drift was much improved compared to the lexan surface. I'm thinking the lexan could've been made with such crease lines as well, and perhaps FingerWorks had some such prototypes but rejected them, possibly because of higher cost or poor crease quality in the lexan.

This experiment was some years back, and I don't have photos to show. But I do still have the image files, though these are easily made from the originals again. I should make another set of paper surfaces and post some photos.


What experiences do you have??
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Re: Converting from Qwerty to Dvorak layout?

Postby jmadison » 15 Feb 2011, 20:55

I used the same paper-overlay method when I was learning to type Dvorak on my QWERTY Touchstream. My experiences were very similar to yours. One thing that I did have trouble with, though, was that the paper would wear out quickly. It would kind of stretch, or expand with use, and then it wouldn't fit tight. So, I printed out a new one and started over. For me it was a temporary solution because I was just trying to help with learning Dvorak, so I didn't mind replacing the sheets.

There is one thing I always meant to try out but I never did: I wanted to use a hole punch to make holes in the paper where the home row keys are. I thought that would give me some tactile feedback, but not impede any other function of the keyboard. I also wonder if it would be possible to make a small punched hole at the center of every 'key' so that there is tactile feedback everywhere the fingers hit. Maybe the paper would wear out faster, though.
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Re: Converting from Qwerty to Dvorak layout?

Postby TorbenGB » 16 Feb 2011, 10:05

jmadison wrote:One thing that I did have trouble with, though, was that the paper would wear out quickly. It would kind of stretch ...

Yes, I also found that normal-weight printer paper (80g/m2) is too weak because it absorbs finger moisture and becomes uneven. I used heavier letter paper (200g/m2) and that worked just fine. Also, the creasing only worked well with the heavier paper.

I agree that punched holes would probably fray after some use, and I expect they're less tactile than crease lines. But still, given how easy it is to print/crop/tape a new set of paper overlays, it's no problem at all to do this every once in a while.

Just discussing this stuff makes me want to have another go at it. :)
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Re: Converting from Qwerty to Dvorak layout?

Postby nomaded » 29 Mar 2011, 22:45

While learning Dvorak, I tried a couple different approaches for relabeling the keys on the surface.

On the Stealth at home, I wrote the letters of layout on the surface with a silver Sharpie marker. Over time, the ink would wear off from sliding my fingers over it and I would need to rewrite the letters, but as I learned the layout, it mattered less.

On the LP I had a work at the time, I used a Brother P-Touch label maker to print out each character in the smallest font, cut them out and stuck them to the corner of each "key" on the surface. Having both layouts visible was helpful to learn Dvorak, and to be able to switch back to QWERTY/Sholes the few times I needed to use the old layout.
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Re: Converting from Qwerty to Dvorak layout?

Postby ShawnMcCool » 12 Apr 2011, 18:32

I personally suggest against relabeling the keyboard for educational reasons. I suggest printing the dvorak layout onto paper, then gluing or taping it to a piece of cardboard then attaching it to the side of the top of your monitor. It's more appropriate and more convenient to not be constantly looking down. I personally wish the keys had no labels whatsoever. But, I'm somewhat of a typing enthusiest. I went from 125wpm qwerty to 140wpm dvorak. My 6 daughter is also being cross trained in both qwerty and dvorak use. Once she's a little older I'll completely remove the qwerty interactions from her home life as she'll have plenty at school. If you keep up use of both layouts then you can switch back and forth as easily as spoken language.
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Re: Converting from Qwerty to Dvorak layout?

Postby personwholives » 18 Apr 2011, 20:23

Yeah, I just printed out a copy of the dvorak layout and put it at the bottom of my monitor (which is on risers), then just used that. For a short while, I was also using a digitouch labeled in dvorak as my primary keyboard, but I never really looked at it much. Now I've had to switch to using my backup board at work, which is also labeled in dvorak, but I really don't care about it too much. It does help some coworkers who might occasionally need to do something on my computer.
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Re: Converting from Qwerty to Dvorak layout?

Postby ShawnMcCool » 18 Apr 2011, 20:31

personwholives wrote:Yeah, I just printed out a copy of the dvorak layout and put it at the bottom of my monitor (which is on risers), then just used that. For a short while, I was also using a digitouch labeled in dvorak as my primary keyboard, but I never really looked at it much. Now I've had to switch to using my backup board at work, which is also labeled in dvorak, but I really don't care about it too much. It does help some coworkers who might occasionally need to do something on my computer.

That's a very valid concern. I personally relish the inaccessibility of my various computers to others. But, I don't happen to come across circumstances in my work such as the one you mentioned.
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Re: Converting from Qwerty to Dvorak layout?

Postby TorbenGB » 18 Apr 2011, 21:04

ShawnMcCool wrote:I'll completely remove the qwerty interactions
Sounds nice. What's your take on how she will feel about this?

I've been trying to do that to myself but failing at every step because no device offers Dvorak, also not any smartphone and no work computer (they're locked down for security, it's a bank after all) and all the public terminals even if just to check in at the airport or cinema or train station is all wired to qwerty. It's so dang hard to be a convert, it's like every step is an effort and an uphill battle. I've asked myself, Is it really worth it? when the rest of the world just doesn't "do" it. My only Dvorak today is my digitouch at the tv couch, though I do have a qwerty sticker for it too but I don't want to replace it as I very rarely need to type on it anyway. I've pretty much resigned to qwerty simply because I got tired of being the odd guy in a mainstream world.

(Sorry if I'm coming across rudely -- I don't intend to! I'm honestly interested.)
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