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Easy on the Eyes

Student Technology Review

How many hours do you spend each day staring at a computer screen? As a grad student who also works part-time as a graphic designer, I spend the majority of my waking hours at a computer. Not only do I surf the internet for pleasure, I also do a substantial amount of research online. Many of my professors also assign readings available electronically: scanned PDFs, web sites or electronic database or journal articles. This all adds up, and my eyes have noticed the difference.

Many grad students choose to print assigned readings originally offered electronically. I understand the lure to read from paper, as well as to have the freedom to highlight or write side notes. I have not chosen to do this, however, in an effort to save paper and other printing expenses. Thanks to Adobe Acrobat Pro, I am able to scan files for text, highlight and make comments as I read. But the trade off for this decision is increased time in front of a monitor. As my eyes tire, I take frequent short breaks away from my computer.

Recently, I read about a free program that helps lessen eyestrain from backlit monitors. F.lux adjusts the color of a computer’s display based upon current time of day. Setup includes customizing your current location (city, state, zip) to determine the most accurate location of the sun at the current time. The color of available light is also taken into account. You can select from tungsten, halogen, fluorescent, or natural daylight. 

According to their web site, the automatic adjustments made by f.lux throughout the day make a difference not matched by adjusting monitor brightness or contrast alone. With the subtle change in color, your eyes will experience far less strain which can lead to headaches and disrupted sleep patterns. I downloaded the free program and within the day began to notice a difference. My eyes were more relaxed, and several days later, I can say that my eyes no longer distract me from my work at my laptop.

It is important to note, however, that as the f.lux adjusts, it affects the color of the monitor’s display. If you plan to work on color-sensitve projects, this poses a problem. The program can be disabled for an hour while such work is done.  
To read more and download the program, go to http://www.stereopsis.com/flux/