Advantages & Disadvantages of Using the QWERTY Keyboard

keyboard #5 image by Adam Borkowski from

The QWERTY keyboard layout has been the standard for typewriter and computer keyboards since the late 1800s.

It was originally designed to help prevent typebar jams, which occurred when two typewriter keys near one another were struck simultaneously and would tangle together inside the machine---a problem obviously irrelevant for computer keyboards. However, while other keyboard designs have been presented in the last century, none remain as popular as the QWERTY.

Computer Advantages

The only real advantage the QWERTY keyboard has for computers and laptops is familiarity. Because it has existed for so long, it is the first method most people use when learning to type, and many are reluctant to learn a new layout later in life. Schools are reluctant to teach typing on another keyboard layout because most companies use QWERTY keyboards, and if students aren't comfortable or familiar with that layout, they might be at a disadvantage when looking for jobs.

Computer Disadvantages

The QWERTY keyboard was designed with the purpose of solving a typewriter issue, one that has no relevance with today's computers and laptops. More recent keyboard layouts, such as the Dvorak, claim that the QWERTY design causes a lot of unnecessary movement in the hands, wasting time and leading to greater risk of issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome. In one example, a paragraph typed on a Dvorak keyboard involved 35 per cent less movement than the same paragraph typed on the QWERTY, which could represent around a minute of work.

Mobile Device Advantages

More work is being done today on mobile devices such as PDAs and smart phones than ever before. Most of these devices come standard with some form of a QWERTY keyboard---typically a bar style, a touch screen, a slide out style or a flip style, in which the keyboard is condensed so that each number has two to four letters. The only real advantage the QWERTY keyboard offers in this case is again familiarity. Most smart phone and PDA owners own computers and are familiar with the layout, so finding letters when typing a text message or e-mail on a mobile device is already second nature.

Mobile Device Disadvantages

Because all 10 fingers are not used to type on mobile devices, the QWERTY has even less relevance. Most smart phone owners use their thumbs to type---a slow process on a QWERTY keyboard that wastes time. More mobile devices, including tablet computers, are moving toward touch screen technology, and keyboards are now emerging that make typing more convenient that the QWERTY, such as Swype, which allows you to trace out words by swiping your finger from one letter to another. As these mobile devices continue to advance, the QWERTY keyboard becomes increasingly more awkward and difficult to manage.