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iPhone now supports 86-year-old Dvorak keyboard layout natively, delighting Woz

The Dvorak layout is now available for iPhone.
Enlarge / The Dvorak layout is now available for iPhone.

Benj Edwards / Ars Technica

Tired of QWERTY? Starting with iOS 16—which launched last month—the Apple iPhone now supports the 86-year-old Dvorak keyboard layout natively. Previously, Dvorak typing aficionados needed to install a third-party app to use the layout.

Dvorak uses a different arrangement of keys than the standard QWERTY layout with the aim of improving typing speed and ergonomic comfort. August Dvorak and William Dealey invented the layout in 1936 after studying the deficiencies of the QWERTY typewriter keyboard, which was already 60 years old at that point.

Apple and Dvorak have an interesting history. The company first included native Dvorak support for its computers in the US model of the Apple IIc, released in 1984. It included a special “Keyboard” button that would swap the layout between QWERTY and Dvorak logically, but the physical keycaps would need to be re-arranged to match if you needed a label reference.

The QWERTY and Dvorak keyboard layouts side by side on iPhone.
Enlarge / The QWERTY and Dvorak keyboard layouts side by side on iPhone.

Benj Edwards / Ars Technica

Interestingly, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (“Woz”) learned Dvorak around 1993 and never looked back (he wasn’t involved with Dvorak on the Apple IIc, he says). In an email to Ars Technica, Woz recounted how he first learned Dvorak. “I was on a flight to Tokyo and I ran Mavis Beacon teaches typing in Dvorak mode,” he wrote. “I spent 5 hours learning it and never again looked at a QWERTY keyboard. That’s all it took. My son had already switched over successfully, and learned Dvorak in a short time and quickly got up to the same speed he typed in QWERTY in about a week.”

Selecting the
Enlarge / Selecting the “Dvorak” layout in Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards.

Ars Technica

To use Dvorak on your iPhone, first make sure you’ve upgraded to iOS 16 or later. Next, open the Settings app and navigate to General > Keyboard > Keyboards, then tap your language and select “Dvorak” from the list. The next time you pull up the keyboard, you’ll see the different layout, with a home row that reads “AOEUIDHTNS”—exactly how August Dvorak would have liked it.

It’s worth noting that Dvorak’s purported speed improvements come from using 10 fingers to type, so if you’re just learning Dvorak, you might not see any speed improvements over QWERTY when typing with two fingers, such as your thumbs. However, longtime Dvorak users will likely be pleased.

“What I liked most about Dvorak then was the feeling of using less energy with your fingers,” Woz said. “Since iPhones came, I had to resort to QWERTY but it wasn’t in my brain anymore. I had been a very fast QWERTY typist my whole life, but now it’s gone. I have to look at the letters on my iPhone.”

Ars informed Wozniak of the native Dvorak support in iOS 16, and he replied, “OMG! Thank you very much!”

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