When comparing Dvorak Simplified Keyboard vs Colemak, the Slant community recommends Colemak for most people. In the question“What are the best keyboard layouts for programming?” Colemak is ranked 1st while Dvorak Simplified Keyboard is ranked 6th.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro More ergonomic
Designed with comfort in mind.
Pro Standard on all operating systems
You can find this layout on all operating systems.
Pro Opportunity to learn proper touch typing
Most people passively learn and use QWERTY-based layouts before switching to Dvorak. The switch gives them an opportunity to completely relearn 10-finger typing, which is where a significant portion of the speedup comes from. Coupled with more ergonomic key placement, this makes for a more enjoyable typing experience.
Pro Useful keys in home row
70% of more useful keys are placed in the home row.
Pro You can reuse qwerty layout
Since letters and symbols only change place, but not key, you can change the keys on your keyboard and get a full comfortable Dvorak layout, without having to buy a new keyboard.
Pro Vowels all on one hand making it easy to teach to kids
Pro Much more comfortable than QWERTY when touch typing
Pro Highly ergonomic
Pro You can type faster
Because the home row contains more high used frequency characters.
Pro AZXCV don't move compared to QWERTY
If you rely on the Control-A/X/C/V shortcuts (select all, cut, copy, paste), these keys don't move from their QWERTY locations.
Pro Relatively quick to learn
If coming from QWERTY, only a couple of keys move between hands.
Pro Optimized for quick two-letter bigrams
Not only are the most common English letters on home row under your fingers, but many common two-letter combinations are placed next to each other as well allowing for a fluid "inward roll" motion of letter combos (a-r, r-s, s-t, n-e, e-i, and i-o combos). The inward roll motion is debatably speedier than optimizing finger alternation like Dvorak offers.
Pro Backspace is closer
While the uncommonly used caps lock is further away. May be problematic if you previously developed muscle memory of using caps lock as some other key.
Pro Possibly faster
Most people like the common home row and believes it improves speed in comparison to QWERTY.
Pro Multilingual support
Although it‘s optimized for English, the support for a wide range of special characters enables occasional use of other languages. Still, the Carpalx research shows that a significant improvement is also present in Dutch compared to Qwerty. http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/?de_correspondent
Con Inconvenient for common key-shortcuts
Key bindings common to most applications, such as Ctrl+Z/C/V, can't be done on the left hand while mousing with the right. Shortcuts for other applications are out of the QWERTY positions they were designed for and aren't so convenient to access.
Con The U is directly under your finger while the I is far away
I is used more--by about 2.5 times. In fact,
U is the least used vowel after
Y. The consonants
TNSHRDLC all appear more often. So why is
U directly under your finger? And why should you have to stretch for
Con F is too hard to reach
F is not an especially common letter, but it's used much more than the rare letters
JQZ. Why is it on one of the most difficult spots on the keyboard? It's also used in
OF, one of the more common bigrams, ranked at #13. Maybe some other languages use
Z more than English, but why is
F harder to reach than
Con L is too hard to reach
L is not a rare letter. It's used even more than
U is in English. Why put it in a difficult spot for use with the weak pinky finger?
Con Not the standard keyboard layout
It will be difficult to frequently switch between computers.
Con The "ls" command is uncomfortable to type
This is a very common command programmers have to type often when working with the shell. It's pretty awkward in Dvorak, especially when you add common options. Try typing "ls ‐latr", and see how that feels.
Con Difficult for occasional moments when you have only one hand free
Hand-alternation is good for touch-typing with both hands, but problematic (a lot of horizontal movement) when typing with one. Can be avoided by temporarily switching to another layout.
Con Not easy on the right pinky finger
Most useful symbols for programming are on the right pinky finger, which is not very comfortable.
Con Doesn't account for finger length
The keyboard layout doesn't account for E being easier to press than C for example on a QWERTY layout, this can be seen for example using the workman key cap scores done here.
Con Not actually faster than QWERTY
Maybe it's more ergonomic, but that's debatable. You'll certainly get more benefit from an ergonomic keyboard than a change in layout. Dvorak's reputation for speed is due to a typo in the initial press report, and a biased (and since discredited) study run by Dvorak himself. Dvorak is all hype and no substance.
Con Bad for Vim users
Vim was designed on QWERTY. The HJKL "arrow" keys still work in Dvorak, but their positions make less sense in Colemak.
People think Colemak is great because it is easier to learn, but in reality they are deluding themselves thinking that it is better than more advanced alternative layouts.
Con Designed for English
Like Dvorak, this layout privileges English letter frequency, and lacks accented letters.
Since the topic is about programming, the argument is weak as most code is written in English, yet you don't want to learn a layout to type code, and another to type in your native language...
But the problem isn't specific to Colemak, it is tied to all "ergonomic" layouts, and might have no solution.
Con The "HE" bigram is awkward
For all of Colemak's focus on optimizing English bigrams, the second-most used English bigram, "HE", is still kind of awkward due to same-hand lateral motion. This bigram is much easier in both QWERTY and Dvorak. If your concern is RSI, Colemak isn't good enough.
Con AZXCV don't move compared to QWERTY
This will allow one to intuitively access popular shortcuts, but the truth is that the placement of these keys is a compromise in terms of actual typing ergonomics.