Friday, October 14, 2022

iOS 16 Includes Dvorak Keyboard

Antranig Vartanian (via Hacker News):

[The] main reason I never moved to Dvorak properly was always a device not having a proper keyboard. Sometimes it was my Android phone with a weird ROM, but most of times it was my iPhone.

However, I just learned that Apple shipped the Dvorak layout with iOS 16.


I use swiping almost exclusively, and HN has discussed before how Dvorak is actually really bad for that.

Having all the vowels next to each other, and so many words in English that differ just by vowels, is actually really hard on the swiping algorithm. As I mention in the comments of that article, it is likely that QWERTY is not optimal for that use case either, but it’s a lot closer.


I use dvorak for my computer, but I think the design goals of QWERTY are actually useful for the small keyboard of a phone being used with thumbs.

It was designed to put diphthongs on opposite sides of the keyboard so that a mechanical typewriter wouldn’t jam as frequently. I think avoiding “jams” with my thumbs is definitely the way to think about it.


As a former iOS engineer at Apple, and a dvorak user, I can verify that this is exactly the thinking (during my time) of why dvorak support wasn’t a development priority. The properties which make it good for typing make it bad for a phone keyboard.

Joe Rossignol:

On an iPhone updated to iOS 16, the Dvorak layout can be enabled in the Settings app under General → Keyboard → Keyboards → English → Dvorak, alongside existing QWERTY, AZERTY, and QWERTZ options. Dvorak is only available for English.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter

I’ve waited 15 years for this, but it turns out unusable for me, indeed.
I actually don’t know where the keys are, because when learning Dvorak, I had made a conscious effort to only ever touch type. So my fingers know the keys, but neither my eyes nor my thumb can find them.

But QWERTY on the touch screen has never bothered me. I doubt there are any benefits to Dvorak when typing with two fingers. And context switching between two layouts is no problem, either, since the interfaces are so different.

I hope this feature only took an afternoon for 1 engineer to implement, because I can't imagine who would use DVORAK in general much less on a touch device. Doesn't Apple have more important priorities? DVORAK may be marginally "better", but I don't really know why anyone would put the effort into learning it when QUERTY works just fine and it's the standard.

Swipe typing has made it possible for me to touch type on a phone. Ie I can look at the input field rather than the keyboard.

Apple's refusal to permit Dvorak really helped me abandon iOS for Android despite being a life-long Mac user and a Mac/iOS developer. It's fantastic to see it finally supported. Every time I had to type on a physical iOS device, it felt like receiving a personalized we-hate-you letter direct from Apple. Sure, touchscreen input is not all about ergonomic efficiency like touch-typing is, but it's still beneficial to have the letters where I expect them, especially when doing one-handed multi-finger typing.

I wonder if the people who fret about Dvorak swipe input have ever actually tried it on Android. I find that Google's implementation works remarkably well. Same with Google's Dvorak autocorrect. You would expect them both to be disasters, but somehow, they work fine. I hope Apple is the same.

As a long-term Dvorak user, this is seemed to be a dream come true. Though I'm not interested in it on the *iPhone* (there's MessagEase for that), an on-screen iPad Dvorak keyboard means that, for the first time, I can touch-type on the screen when I don't have a bluetooth keyboard with me. After trying it, there are some things to note, however: (1) looking at the screen is very confusing; most of us Dvorakists touch-type on Qwerty boards, and actually seeing the letters is off-putting; (2) more importantly, the flick for special characters doesn't work; now a mere exclamation mark takes three taps to input! So close, yet so far ...

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