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Switching to QWERTY

May 02, 2024

Until some time ago, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been using some sort of AZERTY layout with all of my computers for as long as I’ve lived.

From my first own computer in 2004 running Windows XP (that I used to play far too much Age of Mythology and Urban Assault) to my latest MacBook purchase in 2020, I always had computers or keyboards with the conventional keyboard layout here in Belgium.

I never learned to properly touch type either, so I’ve been pecking with two fingers at my keyboard for years now, unwilling to learn how to properly touch type. I’m quick enough for it not to matter… and I keep saying that one day I will learn how to properly touch type. I’ll make it a proper goal for later this year, actually.

Mac or PC

On Windows, that’s the AZERTY (Belgian Period) layout. On a Mac, as I found out in 2011, that’s the AZERTY (French) layout. These are slightly different, so I’ve always been used to minute differences between typing on a Mac, and typing on Windows.

The modifier keys between Windows and Mac layouts are different too (Command in favor of Control and Option in favor of Alt on Mac) so I simply got used to that.

QWERTY gaming

In order to get my work done, I always work on my Mac. But I still use my PC sometimes for productivity… but to be fair, it’s mostly a gaming rig.

Video games often assume that I’m using a QWERTY layout, so whenever I would play a new game, I would have to rebind the different keys if my layout wasn’t detected properly.

At some point, I simply switched my virtual keyboard layout to QWERTY and called it a day. The next mechanical keyboard I bought for my gaming setup from that point forth was a QWERTY keyboard. As such, I’ve been gaming on my gaming PC for years now using this QWERTY layout.

Switching everywhere

But recently I’ve been thinking that perhaps it’s time to make the switch everywhere. On my phone’s virtual keyboard, on my Mac, everywhere. One common universal layout everywhere. Super easy, right?

It would require me a little bit of getting used to the new layout, especially for programming, but otherwise there’d be no major downsides… right?

Here’s the issues I bumped into:

  • Some laptops needed stickers. New keyboards are expensive, and it’s not possible to swap layouts on MacBooks.
  • Some of my most frequently used keyboard shortcuts are now different. Especially Ctrl/Cmd-A and Ctrl/Cmd-Q are annoying, because I’ve found myself accidentally quitting apps when I wanted to select all text. Oops.
  • On Windows, entering accented characters is a massive pain in the ass. On Mac, you can just hold down the key and select the accented character. Much easier! Also, managing multiple keyboard layouts is kind of buggy on Windows, too.
  • Using any other keyboard on any other computer now has you typing the wrong characters. Most people are not using QWERTY keyboards here in Belgium.

There are, of course, a couple of advantages associated with getting a QWERTY keyboard. The biggest one is that I now use the exact same layout on both Mac and PC, with no more minute differences.

I can also take the same Bluetooth keyboard and use it on both a Mac and PC. (I picked up a NuPhy Air75 v2 which I really like, and it can wirelessly connect to my Mac or PC with a simple press of the button.)


So much of the world seems to have standardized on QWERTY, so I felt it didn’t make a lot of sense to remain an AZERTY holdout here, especially given that I’m not living in the French part of Belgium. I don’t often need to use accented characters, after all.

So far, I’m not too unhappy about the switch. I’m sure it’ll be plenty annoying for a couple more weeks, but I doubt this annoyance will last much longer than that, especially as I get back into programming more with the new layout.

Tagged as: Programming