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Spanish keyboards are not very friendly to C++ developers. While | # and ~ are hard but reasonably accessible, [ ] { and } are really hard to type. Not to mention, there are some dead keys that force you to press the space bar to output that symbol ( E.g. ~ and ^ ).

As the keyboard is my main work tool, I'm willing to change to a different, more friendly keyboard layout, but I also want to do it in a way that allows me to retain some proficiency with the standard Spanish layout.

The options that come to mind are:

  • Get an English keyboard and learn to use it. I may need to tweak the layout a bit in order to use specific Spanish symbols like accentuated vowels and ñ.

  • Re-label a keyboard as a Dvorak English keyboard and learn it. The completely different layout may help force your brain into different modes.

  • Create a custom keyboard layout, placing the most needed special symbols in the F1-F12 keys and remapping those with the AltGr key (equivalent to English Ctrl+Alt key combination).

    • E.g. In order to get help you'd need to press AltGr+F1.
      Note: I'm not sure how this would interfere with Alt+F4.

I've been trying to research the subject but can't find any information but claims from people who use Dvorak that say that they can use both Dvorak and Qwerty with the same level of proficiency. Those reports tend to sound over-enthusiastic.

So, Is it possible for one person to be proficient with more than one keyboard layout?

  • While I am quite a fan of discussing custom keyboard layouts, I'm afraid the question as stated is a discussion rather than a question that can be answered in the style needed for this site. – JohnGB Jan 16 '15 at 19:50
  • I agree with @JohnGB, but I would say that your question, as stated, could only be answered by you via trial and error. – Code Maverick Jan 16 '15 at 19:58
  • I agree that the question may be answered by opinions, but I hope there is some research on the subject. I changed it a bit, hopefully now it leads better to an objective answer. – Diego Sánchez Jan 16 '15 at 20:50
  • I switched and have used Dvorak exclusively for a decade. When I use Qwerty my proficiency matches the amount of continuous use. An hour or more of continuous typing before my speed get's back to a reasonable level. – hauptmech Mar 11 '15 at 0:58
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Yes, it's a fact. I recall every usable key of Spanish and English layouts.

It's just practice!

I've asked myself the same questions you're asking here, but my solution comes without my awareness. In my first job they provided me with a laptop for programming and it had an English keyboard layout. Then I realized that the distribution was much better for programming and since I didn't need to write any Spanish in that company, I didn't bother about changing it by software. Between 1 and 2 month later I've already learned every key.

I got used to the English layout both for programming and writing but the problem was that it doesn't have some keys needed for Spanish writing like "ñ" and ´ ,

My solution:

For being able to perform the same in every standard keyboard configuration I could get across, I just started using both layouts: English for programming and chat-like Spanish, and Spanish layout just for formal Spanish writing.

I use Windows and Linux and it takes just a 1 minute configuration to make them the only two available. Then you can alternate between these two layouts just by pressing Alt + Shift.
(by default in Windows, configurable in Linux).

In order to do this efficiently, learning how to avoid looking at the keyboard to type is almost a must.

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Yes, most certainly.

I was in university in France, and had to accustomise myself to accessing the numbers through the use of the shift key. Most distracting at first, but then after a couple of years it became second nature. However when I moved back the UK, for a long time, whenever I typed the year 1991, it would come out as !((!, for example. Most annoying.

Then I lived, and worked, in Spain for a number of years and was coding on MacOS (System 6.0.5 and 7 to be precise). I had access to only Spanish (Traditional) and Spanish (ISO) keyboards at the time, and one, very old, extended US keyboard. I preferred the Spanish ISO keyboard as it offered the best selection of commonly used characters.

When I subsequently moved to the UK, and was faced with UK keyboards (as well as German and French - I was working in localisation testing), I ended up using my own Spanish ISO keyboard that I had brought with me, as I was so used to using that. However, over time, I became used to the UK layout and reverted to using that, later maybe a year or so, purely out of convenience, (so that I didn't have to lug my Spanish keyboard about with me).

Now I am in Thailand, and using a mixture of US and Thai keyboards. Now, I more or less ignore the Glyphs on the keys and just set the keyboard layout to UK regardless and use it, more or less, "from memory". I guess using the UK layout for 15 years solidly, before coming to Thailand, "tattooed" the layout on my brain. Especially I as now touch type.

I have never attempted to use a DVORAK keyboard, and I found the AZERTY layout of the German keyboard one of the most frustrating, so not everything is easy... although I guess that if I lived in Germany long enough, I would get used to that particular layout as well.

So, in short, I guess the answer to your question is... It depends what you are used to BUT over time one can adjust to any layout. But to this day, I still miss my Spanish ISO extended keyboard.

I hope that this helps.

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Well, yes. I know I have a hard time learning different layouts but my wife is very skilled. She knows five languages by heart and uses three different keyboard layout without any problem. I'm amazed by her way of switching between languages and layouts without knowing how.

These are English (standard), Swedish with å ä and ö, and Icelandic layout which is unprintable from my keyboard. So yes. It's possible...

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