“Do we really need apps and software to protect our eyes?’ you might ask.
Well, it is no secret that we are getting increasingly dependent on our smartphones and computers. Most of the urban population now spends hours every day staring at computer and smartphone screens. While smartphones and laptops make our work easier, constant use of them also is a health hazard. The rising cases of back and neck pain, wrist injuries and eye problems among computer and smartphone users are a proof of this.
If I look at myself, 90% of my waking hours pass before a bright screen. If I’m not working on my computer, I am using my smartphone. Then, of course, there’s television too. And the result is that I have already paid a heavy price for it. Because I stared at the computer screen so constantly, and because I loved reading ebooks long into the night, cataract developed in both my eyes and progressed at an alarming pace. The doctor warned me that if I delay the operation for even two months, I might lose my vision permanently.
Sure, that was a shock!
But as I later learnt, due to the effect of staring at bright screen for long hours, cataract is no longer an ‘old-age’ ailment. Many young people are having it now. Even children. I also learnt that staring at bright screens in darkness can lead to worse problems, including incurable eye cancer.
So, yeah, I’m terrified now of harming my eyes even more. But it is also true that I can’t give up the use of computer and smartphone. I work online, I write online, I live online (well, almost!). So I did some research to see what I can use to reduce the negative effects of bright screens. And to my surprise, I found out numerous apps and software to help protect eyes.
Here are the ones that appealed to me the most. All of these are free:
Manage Screen Colour: One of the major reasons of eye strain while using computers and phones is the bright blue light the emits from them. If you implement some way to control this blue light, it might help in reducing the strain on your eyes. One software that can help in this is f.lux. It can be used on Windows, Mac, Linux devices. I tried it on my Windows laptop. It downloaded and installed in less than a minute. And although it has some settings to customize the user experience, I felt no need to tinker with its setting. I am just using it with preset settings. It automatically calculated my day and night timings and has been managing the colour tone of my laptop’s display without causing me any hassle. Besides the ease of its use, I also like that in case you are doing some colour sensitive work on computer, f.lux can also be very easily disabled for an hour or ‘until sunrise.’ It also has a movie mode for not disturbing the screen tone while you are watching a movie. And yes, f.lux is absolutely free.
Break Reminders (Downloadable): However, just managing the screen colour and brightness is not enough. It is also imperative to give regular rest to the eyes. Here too, several software are available that can help. These include fadetop which automatically detects when you have been working for long and fades the screen into specified colour or picture to make you rest when you seem less busy. PCWorkBreak is a similar software but it has more features. It offers various types of break reminders like micro-break, stretch, eye exercise break etc. It also shows users the compliance rates. This software is free to download but asks for payment for automatic upgrades. Another software, EyeLeo is much like PCWorkBreak. It gives reminders for short and long breaks. It also gives timely notification that a long break time is about to come up. Its other features include a cute leopard demonstrating eye exercises and Strict Mode that does not allow the users to skip breaks. it too is free.
Break Reminders (Online Tools): While all the above mentioned software are free and handy, one may not want to download an additional software just to take breaks. I didn’t download them either. Instead, I tried some online tools. The one I found most recommended is at protectyourvision.org. It is a very simple online tool. Just visit the website, allow it to give desktop notifications (available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers) and click on the Start PYV button. In the next screen, select the mode you prefer from among the options. These include Custom so you can set your own schedule too. Now whenever it is time for you to take break, the website will give a sound alarm to remind you to take a break. Another useful feature of this website is Eye Gymnastics. Just click on it and it will lead you through quick eye exercises. Protectyourvision tool can be used for free without any registration or login required. There’s another online tool at regularbreak.com. This requires the user to register so the website can monitor the breaks. Both these tools require no downloads and are free. But you have to remember to go to the website whenever you want to use it. Or just ‘pin’ the tab if you are using Chrome so that the website opens up when you start your browser.
Break Reminders (Chrome Extension): This is my personal favourite method. I did not want to download any software to remind me of breaks. I also did not like having to keep open a website while I work and have other various webpages open in different tabs. Especially when I use my old laptop, I don’t want any unnecessary webpage open as it affects the speed. So instead, I installed Eye Care. It is a Chrome app by RaduF. I just downloaded it from Chrome apps store. It is a very simple and light-weight app that can be activated from the Chrome App Launcher. It allows the user to choose from the given break schedule options or set a Custom schedule. It allows activating and deactivating sound alarm. One can also reset its timer. The app gives reminders of break time by raising a popup which has the option to take the break or do it some time later. You just click on the option you want to use. If you choose to take the break, the screen will get clouded over. If you choose to take the break after some time, the popup will keep on reminding you till you take the break. This is the tool that I am using regularly now. Besides EyeCare by RaduF, there’s also an eyeCare – Protect Your Vision app that can be used on Google Chrome.
If you use Firfox, you can try extensions like Night Mode Eye Guard and Screen Dimmer etc.
There are plenty of apps available for Android devices that can help in controlling the bluelight and force you to take regular breaks from staring at the smartphone. I am currently using Eye Rest Reminder Free. It is a very simple app that just causes the screen to get clouded over based on the selected break schedule. It has some simple configuration options like selecting the break time etc. I like its simplicity. But sometimes, its configuration panel fails to open up and I only see the app name till I go back and try opening the panel again. The app is free and runs in the background. Another app that I am using is Twilight. It too is a very simple app. It automatically detects the time of the day and adjust my phone’s screen tone accordingly. I actually quite like the way it makes my phone’s display look at night. Adds variety to the display colours. Both these apps remain always active in the background. However, I haven’t noticed any marked effect of them on my phone’s battery life.
Users of iOS devices can check out the Eye Care – Save Your Vision app.
These are some of the software, websites and apps that you can use to protect your eyes while using computer or smartphone. Besides these, correct posture, comfortable font size and optimum ambient light are also very important to reduce the strain on eyes. But most important is your will. Because if you just keep on ignoring the alarms for rest time, even these software, websites and apps won’t be able to do much.