Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, Repetitive Strain Injury and Myopia are painful byproducts of working long hours in a computer. If you’re not careful, they will lead to a situation where surgery will be the only option relieve your pain.

One of the easiest ways to prevent these ailments is to make sure that you take regular breaks when working to relax and stretch your muscles. But when you are so busy with work, you might forget to do that and that’s when Workrave comes in handy. Is it worth your time? Let’s find out!

Installation and Getting Started

This is a freeware and can be downloaded from the official website . Double click the setup file and follow the wizard. Nothing out of the ordinary and definitely nothing that may trip you up.

Workrave monitors your activity in your computer and enforces timeouts for you to take breaks.

If you’re still confused as to what this application does, it monitors your activity in your computer and based on the information, it frequently reminds you to take breaks, enforces timeouts and suggests exercises and health tips to help relax and recover from strain to your body. And the break comes in three main forms.

Microbreak

Sometimes you may be so engrossed in work that you may fail to notice that the big cup of coffee in the table in front of you has gone from hot to cold. This app reminds that your cuppa is waiting for you.

Drink it while it’s hot!

Edison and the light bulb

You might want to fiddle with the settings a bit (preferences -> microbreak) and increase the default time gap between micro breaks to one that you are comfortable with. You wouldn’t want the alert popping up every two minutes, would you?

A recommended option

Rest Break

Microbreaks aren’t enough and after some time you may feel as if your concentration is slowly being eroded. This is where a quick walk and some juice will help. Get out that darn chair and walk it out!

Workrave cares for you and informs you when your rest break is overdue. It suggests a set of exercises. Just simple stuff. No lifting 100 kilos of weight or 100 pushups. Most of these exercises can be done by sitting in the chair itself. You have an option to skip an exercise if you feel a bit shy to do it when you are at office.

Miss. Workrave

Daily Limit

Your eyes water, your body aches and your limbic system goes on hold. It is time to switch off your computer.

Workrave notifies you when your daily limit is up and it advises you to switch off your computer and do something else. Here, the break is not automatically enforced and it waits until you decide what to do next. The urge to just finish one more section of code, or worse, one more turn will be there but shrug it off and head off to bed, champ!

Time for bed!

Modes

Right click on the Workrave icon and you can choose one of the three operational modes that completely changes the way Workrave works.

  • Normal Mode – The default mode. In this mode, the application will prompt you immediately when a break is overdue and enforces it as per your configurations.
  • Quiet Mode – In this mode the application registers your activity but does not prompt for breaks. This mode is handy if you are gaming and you do not need any distractions. Once you switch back to normal mode the app notifies you of overdue breaks.
  • Suspended Mode – The application goes into coma state, alive but doing nothing. It doesn’t even register your activity. This is useful when someone else is using your computer.

Pros

Workrave is fully customizable when it comes to how it works (it has to, otherwise you’ll get annoyed with the software soon). You can tell the app when it should remind you of the necessary breaks and whether or not it should enforce it (blocking both the screen and input, just the input or doing nothing at all).

This app doesn’t take into account the system clock. It measures real activity. If you are working and have not yet reached the break and for some reason you pause, Workrave senses it and if the pause is long enough then it automatically skips to the next session.

Cons

This app would have had a better aesthetic appeal if it were a desktop gadget or at least looked like one. The overall functionality simply doesn’t warrant a full app, with the Windows chrome and everything else.

You can hide the status window though through Preferences -> user interface -> uncheck “Show Status Window”.

Could have been a gadget

Conclusion

Workrave might seem to be an annoying application when you run it for the first time but it is safe to say it’s like a customizable nanny.

Don’t increase the time between breaks too much as that defeats the purpose of the software

Once you have configured it to your liking this app will help you out in the long run by reminding you when you are about to overexert yourself and advising you take preventive measures to protect you from any serious and lasting injury.


Summary

Workrave monitors your activity in your computer and enforces timeouts for you to take breaks.

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