Dvorak Thinkpad

In my quest for complete Dvorak immersion, I attempted to rearrange the keys on my Thinkpad T30 last night, the last refuge of QWERTY in my life. I was popping some of the keys off, when I noticed that IBM did something peculiar with the key mechanism. Its similar to a miniature scissor lift in its design and allows the key cap to snap on in only one direction. I didn’t expect that to be a problem until I noticed that some of the mechanisms are rotated 180 degrees from the others, making it impossible to fit many of the keys onto the Dvorak location. I have no idea why IBM did this to their keys and I am very disappointed to say the least. I could glue the key caps in the Dvorak location, but I don’t want something so permanent. I don’t think I really want stickers on the keys either, so I might just have to get used to using both layouts. Perhaps IBM/Lenovo fixed this giving me an excuse to buy a new laptop…


  1. I’m glad I found this post, as I’m thinking about switching my T21 keyboard keys to dvorak. Not a good idea?

  2. I have a Thinkpad T30 and I imagine that the T21 is very similar to the T30. Perhaps I’ll post some pictures later to better illustrate the problem.

  3. i started moving the keys around without a problem…that is until i came to G H & B around the trackball. I think I would have to shave the keys for them to fit.

  4. Putting them back on was not a problem. I imagine if I pop them off too many times the little tabs would break eventually. I checked a T41p today and it has the same problem as my T30. I think for me, stickers will be the best solution until I can touch type on Dvorak.

    The keys around the trackpoint are a problem, but clipping them is something I would be willing to do.

  5. My lenovo n100 laptop has the same odd keyboard clip issue. Oddly enough, so do both of the traditional Logitech PS2 keyboards I own, and exactly the same keys. I’d love to know if there’s some reason for this, but I can’t think of what it would be.

  6. I do not know about the T43, but I do have an X41 that has the same problem. My Dvorak typing has gotten good enough that I can touch type rather well, so I didn’t move the keys on the X41.

  7. I just tried to rearrange the keys on my T61. Unfortunately there are 4 keys that just won’t snap back on. For these 4 keys, both the scissor mechanism underneath, and the keycaps look perfectly fine — and I’ve tried snapping the keycaps onto other keyspaces and vice versa. Seems like these 4 are just not compatible. I’d caution others on reorganizing their keyboards!

  8. Been there, tried that (t40). The mouse-nipple on the keyboard makes it impossible, as the surrounding keys have a cutout to clear this. The way to put the keys on properly is this (learned from much trial and error):

    1. assemble the little plastic pieces, until they lay flat if placed on your desk.
    2. get this piece so that the little bar going all the way through is at the top (closest to the screen)
    3. careful now. put this piece at the bottom of the key, and slide it upwards about 2mm towards the screen. it should then “pop” up nicely.
    4. hook the top of the key over, make sure it is in the centre.
    5. firmly press the key in, until it clicks together.

    hope this makes sense. little hint : try a dvorak overlay, much less hassle, and you can switch layout in about a second. not sure if anyone makes a thinkpad overlay but it seems likely to me.

  9. I tried the same on my IBM T60 and I came across the same problem: the key mechanisms are reversed for some keys so reorganizing just doesn’t work if you want to switch to Dvorak.

  10. Re-arranging the keycaps on my T61 (8897-CTO) keyboard worked fine, except that (1) the 3 keys around the track-stick are special, leaving 6 keys in the wrong places, and (2) the nubs indicating the index finger home positions are no longer in the correct locations.

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