Odds are, you've been using a qwerty keyboard your entire life.
People often complain how difficult it is to learn to type. Did you know that was a deliberate design feature of the qwerty key layout?
When typewriters were manual, typists could type too quickly and stick the keys. So qwerty was designed to slow them down.
When computers came out, qwerty was the dominant design so that was simply how electronic keyboards were made.
So what is the alternative?
Typists base their fingers on the home row of the keyboard. If you want to increase typing speed, the home row is where you place the most commonly typed keys. This is exactly what Dr. Dvorak did in his layout — 70% of keystrokes are on the home row; 22% on the top row; 8% on the bottom.
In QWERTY, only 32% of keystrokes are on the home row. Which means most of the time, typists’ fingers are either reaching up for the top row (52%) or down for the bottom row (16%). So not only does QWERTY do nothing for typists, it actually hinders them.
Dvorak further increases typing speed by placing all vowels on the left side of the home row, and the most commonly used consonants on the right side. This guarantees that most of your strokes alternate between a finger on your right hand (consonant) and a finger on your left (vowel). Alternating between fingers from either hand is faster — just imagine texting with one hand or drumming with one stick.
Dvorak lessens your mistakes.
Not only is Dvorak faster than QWERTY, it’s also more accurate. Errors occur more when you type away from the home row, or consecutively with the same finger. When you combine the two problems (using the same finger to type consecutive letters not on the home row) you make even more mistakes.
Dvorak can sometimes help with wrist pain. Many people who use Dvorak report that their wrist pain and carpel tunnel improved or disappeared when switching.
If you've already mastered qwerty and can type at 60+ words per minute will Dvorak help? Not really, no. There are only a few studies on the issue, but they generally agree that speed boosts for proficient typists is perhaps a %10 improvement in speed and a small boost in accuracy. However, if you never really learned to use qwerty and still find yourself pecking away at the keys one or two fingers at a time, give Dvorak a shot!
I just switched my keyboard layout to Dvorak(in windows) and rearranged the keys on my keyboard and it's quite easy to learn. I really wish I had learned on this layout. Three days in and my speed is barely behind my qwerty speed.
Microsoft installs Dvorak drivers by default, so there is nothing you need to do beyond switching the layout in Windows. If you don't want to transplant keys, you can buy a Dvorak "cover" or stickers for a couple of bucks.