How to type in Dvorak but keep Qwerty shortcuts

Every Dvorak user knows the pain: shortcuts in every program on earth is designed with Qwerty in mind. Cut – Copy – Paste is supposed to be next to each other but it’s not so in Dvorak.

As A Dvorak user, I’ve had to find and try many solutions for this problem over the years. It involved all sort of hacks and modifications to the deepest parts of the operating system: creating custom keyboard layouts, modifying the registry, write a new input method etc. Even so, it didn’t work in some applications (looking at you, IntelliJ, Java and Firefox – the bugs isn’t even fixed yet, and they are almost 10 years old!).

Almost 10 years later, in 2019, I finally found solutions that work for all major operating systems, and here they are:

MacOS

Apple makes great software, even though I don’t like their business practices, that’s an undeniable fact. MacOS is the simplest of the three OSes: Simply add Dvorak-QWERTY as an input method and you are good to go!

Windows

Used to be the second-easiest OS to work with, but recently Microsoft started cracking down on custom software and drivers so any custom keyboard layout not provided by them will get wiped out (and basically becomes very buggy with Windows 8 and up).

My solution? Use AutoHotKey! Yes, it’s an extra install, but it works reliably across all machines I’ve used with little setup required.

How to use Dvorak-QWERTY with AutoHotKey on Windows

  1. Install and set a Dvorak layout as your default (which language doesn’t matter)
  2. Install AutoHotKey
  3. Save this gist to your machine
  4. Optional: Convert the .ahk file to .exe with AutoHotKey so you can use it elsewhere without AHK
  5. Put the .ahk file in your startup folder
  6. Profit!

Notes about the AHK script

  • It will switch the layout to Qwerty when control keys or a combination of them is pressed (Ctrl, Alt, Win, Ctrl + Alt, Ctrl + Win)
  • It will disable itself when the input language is Korean (code = 68289554) so you can type Korean characters uninterfered. You can find similar code for Japanese, Chinese, etc. using AHK’s inspection tool
  • It will disable itself when scroll lock is on. This is for exceptional cases when you want to use Qwerty without pressing modifiers key
  • If you need additional combination of control keys, you must copy a whole section and add the control keys manually. For some reason, AHK’s * doesn’t work properly with control keys no there’s no way to make the script shorter

Linux

What worked for me: modifying the xkb keymaps! This idea came when I tried to replicate the AutoHotKey solution on Linux. I found source code of past projects that tried to achieve this. Sadly no step by step guide on how to apply them. Here’s how:

  • Press the plus button
  • Choose English (United States)
  • Choose any of the English (Dvorak-Qwerty), the flavor you prefer
  • Now switch the keyboard layout to your newly added layout
  • You’re done!

Conclusion

Dvorak is a good ergonomic layout but it hasn’t seen more widespread adoption due to entry barriers like the QWERTY shortcut problem. I hope this post solved part of that problem.