The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard
I use the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout, an ergonomic alternative to the standard QWERTY keyboard.
You don't need a special keyboard to use Dvorak!
I am currently using Dvorak with the following remappings:
- Caps Lock and Backspace switched (adopted from Colemak)
- Bottom row starts: Win - Fn - Alt - Ctrl - SPACE
I can hit both Backspace (left pinky) and Ctrl/Alt (left thumb) without moving my hands away from the home row. Ctrl-Backspace to delete the last word is especially useful. The location of Ctrl and Alt allow easy access to Emacs shortcuts.
After touch-typing with QWERTY for years at ~90wpm (words per minute), I learned and started typing exclusively in Dvorak in the summer of 2007. I was at 30wpm after a week and surpassed 90wpm in three months. My typing speed is now above 130wpm on average (my current record (135 WPM) on Ryan's typing test).
Typing fast in English takes much less strain with Dvorak than with QWERTY. I think it's plausible that this also helped me the type faster (especially for bursts, where I can reach 170wpm), but the speed-up is likely as much a result of retraining to type properly. Dvorak's biggest benefit for me has always been the comfort.
Is Dvorak the best keyboard layout for English?
Certainly not. For example, l with the right pinky is uncomfortable, g and h shouldn't both use the right index, and u and i should be switched. Besides Dvorak, there are Colemak, Arensito, and many other alternative keyboards, all arguably as good or better than Dvorak. But Dvorak is the only layout available on every modern computer without any external program. It's unlikely that there will be a consensus on the best layout for English in the near future, so Dvorak is a fine and very convenient choice.
What about other languages?
While it's true that all these alternative layouts were designed for the particular letter distribution and combinations of English, Dvorak is still much better than any QWERTY-based keyboard for many European languages using the Latin alphabet (French, Spanish, etc). Versions of Dvorak exist for many of these languages, but there is no standard. If you type mainly in English, I recommend using the standard Dvorak layout with customizations to allow accents, say using hotkeys.
What about the keyboard itself?
I hear the Kinesis keyboard is great.