Introduction: Convert a Macbook Keyboard From QWERTY to Dvorak

Picture of Convert a Macbook Keyboard From QWERTY to Dvorak

I recently switched from Qwerty to Dvorak because of worries about long-term damage to my wrists. After about 5 weeks, I can touch-type pretty well. However, I'm a big fan of keyboard shortcuts (esp in apps like Adobe Creative Suite), and if I have to plant both hands on the keyboard to find a single key, it kind of defeats the purpose.

Alternately, if you need to deep-clean your Macbook keyboard and want to remove the keys, this technique may be useful.

Step 1: Overview

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So basically, there're 5 steps per key:

1. pop keycaps
2. remove from wire
3. reorder keys
4. reattach wire
5. push key into place

It took me about 45m from start to finish. I found it easiest to do each the steps a row at a time, (ie remove the bottom row, then order the bottom row, remove the middle row, then reorder, etc). If you're not switching tasks, you can really get cranking.

In the photo, the wires are lifted in order to replace the keycaps, a row at a time.

Step 2: Pop the Keycaps

Picture of Pop the Keycaps

Slide two flathead screwdrivers an then rotate them towards the outside (i.e., turn counterclockwise with the left, and clockwise w the right). This will gently disengage the plastic clips, without detaching the wire.

The scissor mechanism is detached, but the wire is still attached.

Step 3: Remove Keycap From Wire

Picture of Remove Keycap From Wire

Gently pull to detach the wire, one clip at a time.

Step 4: Reorder Keys

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As I popped the keycaps off, I'd arrange them in order for easy re-attachment. My USB keyboard (already Dvorak) was a handy reference.

Step 5: Reattach Wire

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Its easiest to line the wire up with the groove between the lip of the key and the clip, and then slide it into place

Hook the wire with the two larger clips, and then gently press into place.

Step 6: Push Key Into Place

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Once the wire is reattached, swing it back into place and press to re-engage the scissor mechanism.

Step 7: Finished!

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That's it! You're done!

Oh, you didn't remap the keyboard in software? Keep reading...

Step 8: Enable Dvorak in System Prefs > International

Picture of Enable Dvorak in System Prefs > International

You can find "System Preferences" in the Apple menu at the top left (among other places...)

1. Enable Dvorak (checkbox)
2. Use one input source (radio button)
3. Show input in menu bar (checkbox)

Step 9: Switch Layouts

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Now you can switch in the menu bar.

And yes, now you're really done!


collard41 (author)2008-07-25

i just dont understand why this would be useful to anyone (not the instructable, the keyboard layout) QWERTY is good enough. Anyway why is it called Dvorak.

hintss (author)collard412010-07-29

its also plain faster...

alexbasson (author)collard412008-08-05

QWERTY isn't actually good enough for some of us. The Dvorak keyboard offers enough of a reduction on the repetitive stress of typing to make it worth the effort for those of us who type an awful lot and are concerned about things like tendonitis and/or carpel tunnel syndrome. Btw, it's called Dvorak after the guy who invented it (who happened to be a cousin to the composer).

dunnos (author)alexbasson2009-01-16

i thought it was the layout... so i got gobsmacked when i heard about the composer the very next day i found this

tanmanknex (author)2010-01-01

I don't think that you included the entire layout of the dvorak keyboard in your instructable so i'm posting the layout. the blue keys are the ones that you change, except for the "a" key.

hintss (author)tanmanknex2010-07-29

and M?

albylovesscience (author)2009-09-28

wow i like this its very retro futuristic all white interior future desktops and what not i love computers

JohnMichael (author)2009-04-19

Is there a way to do this for non-mac computers?

twocvbloke (author)JohnMichael2009-06-21

It's basically the same for Windows and Linux PCs, pluck up the keys, swap them round, change the Keyboard settings in the control panel and you're done... :)

whatsisface (author)2007-10-29

Cool, but it could do with a step telling the computer how to recognize it is now a DVORAK keyboard.

Punkguyta (author)whatsisface2007-10-29

Well do show us how to hack the macbook firmware, very very hard, and as far as I know, never seen a firmware hack for even my ibook.

jpb (author)Punkguyta2007-10-29

I added "telling the computer how to recognize it is now a DVORAK keyboard" to the instructable. Its not a firmware hack, it's a basic setting that's standard on all macs. Takes about 45 seconds. (Learning Dvorak takes a lot longer though...)

Derin (author)jpb2008-10-16

it took 3 years for me to learn qwerty,my wpm was about 2-3 now about 30 wpm

whatsisface (author)Punkguyta2007-10-30

Not needed, it's in the Macbook settings.

Punkguyta (author)whatsisface2007-10-30

You can change what key presses corrospond to whichever letters? Other than changing the input mode.

whatsisface (author)Punkguyta2007-10-30

No, it's not needed, just change the setting as shown above.

jpb (author)whatsisface2007-10-29

ooh, good call, thanks

limpport (author)2008-06-08

Hey, I have the same screwdrivers!

F-zero (author)2008-04-09

This is a pretty easy layout. I don't have to bend my fingers in such strange positions anymore and I can type while half awake without errors :D It is a little hard to get used to though.

Eggbertius (author)2008-04-07

oh, bleep, I think i detached the scissor thing and wire with the key.

Eggbertius (author)Eggbertius2008-04-07

never mind. my keys are just different from yours

mbmosher (author)2007-11-11

I just got a new SR macbook and they've rotated the plastic scissors 90 degrees under the F and J keys, so this mod no longer works on new macbooks! (Unless you don't mind having four sideways keys in Dvorak - F,J,E,T.)

jpb (author)mbmosher2007-11-12

Bummer. What's an "SR macbook"?

mbmosher (author)jpb2007-11-12

Santa Rosa

galenorama (author)mbmosher2008-02-04

what does santa rosa mean

quad64bit (author)galenorama2008-02-07

It is the chipset. Santa Rosa is the name of the chipset on the main logic board, the name was given to it by its creator (intel). Here is the wiki:
The wiki describes the differences between the different chipsets, the SR (Santa Rosa) MacBooks are the current generation.

jpb (author)mbmosher2008-01-26

Did you try it? I'd love to see a pic...

jpb (author)sirlegs2008-01-26


zorankovacevic (author)2007-11-05

WARNING! You may break your book, as I did. Some keys and combinations were broken after the (gentle!) rearrangement. Lucky for me, the Mac store fixed it. Guarantee :) (new top cover).

jpb (author)zorankovacevic2007-11-05

uh, yeah: obviously, do this at your own risk, and be gentle. (FWIW, I haven't had any trouble.) Zoran: what exactly broke? The clips? The scissor mechanisms?

zorankovacevic (author)jpb2007-11-08

nothing visible broke. the guess at the mac store was that the signal from some key combinations were broken ... they also told me that it should be doable without breaking ... they repair keys all the time, obviously. have not yet tried again, but since doing qwerty and dvorak both regularly makes me slow at both, i guess i should have another go at it :D

coolflame (author)2007-10-30

for all you german / european writers who are interrested in better keyboard layouts: try out wikipedia and search for NEO keyboard layout. the dvorak layout is mainly for the english typist, the NEO layout is better for europeans (contains lots of special characters).

wordgirrl (author)2007-10-30

this is great! is the shift key any different? i've broken my powerbook's shift key off now after trying to clean accumulated dog fur and lint out from underneath it :(

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