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Five free apps to help remind you to take a break

Jack Wallen has found apps that remind users to take breaks and practice good ergonomics, and they do this without costing a penny.

We all work too much. Many don't realize how important it is to step away from the monitor and take a break. This isn't just for your physical health, but your mental health. For some users breaks come naturally. For others, a bit of a heads up is necessary. As you might expect, there are plenty of apps out there to help you with the task of stepping away from your tasks. But not all of the available apps are free. Of those that are free, the question is which are worth using? I have scoured the Internet to find the apps that actually do a good job of reminding us to take breaks, and do so without costing you a penny.

Let's take a look at these varied applications and see if any of them are what you are looking for.

This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

Five Apps

1. Eyeleo

Eyeleo is unique in the listing of 'break' tools in that it focuses on making us rest our eyes. We all often forget that the wrists and hands aren't the only pieces of the complex human system that can be damaged with over usage. Staring at a computer monitor for too long can place serious strain on your eyes. Eyeleo helps you by reminding you to rest your eyes. Eyeleo helps you take two kinds of breaks: Short breaks (dims the screen and walks you through a few quick exercises for your eyes) and Long breaks (disables your screen for a specified period).

2. Workrave

Workrave is a cross platform (Windows and Linux) break reminder that does a great job of forcing you to take micro breaks, long breaks, and even limiting your daily usage. Workrave is highly configurable and allows you to specify time between breaks, how long each break is, and even offers a tiny status window that remains on your desktop to allow you to see when your next break is coming up. Workrave also offers a selection of exercises you can do during your breaks.

3. Big Stretch Reminder

Big Stretch Reminder allows you to configure your breaks exactly how you want them. Time between breaks, length of breaks, what breaks are for, select level of intrusiveness, automatically increase the numbers of breaks, display countdown indicator, use sounds for reminders, choose between RSI advice or even set up your own message. Big Stretch Reminder is available for Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 (Desktop mode only).

4. PC Work Break

PC Work Break is a multi-type break system that will remind you to take micro breaks, stretching breaks, eye exercises, and even walks. What is unique to PC Work Break is that it focuses on specific PC usage models. PC Work Break features: Flexible break settings, professional stretch demos, breaks compliance statistics, unicode support table, 32 and 64 bit support, and multi-language support. PC World Break supports Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, and 8.

5. EVO

EVO is different in that it is web-based break software (so it's fully cross platform). EVO's focus is eye strain. EVO allows you to select from three different modes: 20-20-20 (Every twenty minutes staring at a screen, you will focus your eyes twenty feet away for twenty seconds), 60-5 (sixty minutes staring at a screen followed by five minute break), and custom (set your own break mode). If you use the Chrome browser, you can install an add-on that will enable desktop notifications through EVO.

Bottom line

You do not have to test the limits of your eyes, your hands, or your sanity. Use one of these tools to ensure you take a break during long days of computer usage. If you don't, you might regret it in the long wrong.

Also read:

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

9 comments
LeHunchback
LeHunchback

Thanks - that PC Workbreak added to my RSI by including a load of crappy malware that you have to spend ages removing if you accidentally accept the invitation to install it!

DFO_REXX
DFO_REXX

it proved too annoying, or too easy to ignore because it would invariably pop up in the middle of doing something important and I could easily dismiss it "for a few minutes" until I was done. It's a nice idea, and thanks, Jack, for sharing it. Something like this will work for some people. I learned to listen to my body and let it tell me when I needed a break.

Craig_B
Craig_B

I wrote a Windows PowerShell script to do the same type of thing as these programs. I scheduled a task which runs all day. The quotes.txt file was written in Notepad, with a text on each line. #PowerShell Script: StretchAlarm.ps1 ### Configure a Scheduled Task to Run at Logon. ### Scheduled Task Actions: Powershell.exe -WindowStyle "Hidden" -noprofile -file c:\scripts\StretchAlarm.ps1 $QuoteFile = "c:\scripts\quotes.txt" # If no time set, set default of 30 minutes If (!$args) { $DelayInMin = 30 } Else { $DelayInMin = $args[0] } #If Quote file exists load it else set to default quote. $FileExists = Test-Path $QuoteFile If ($FileExists -eq $true) { #Read in quotes file $quotes = Get-Content $QuoteFile } Else { $quotes = "Have a great day!" } # Function: Displays the attention message box & checks to see if the user clicks the ok button. function Show-MessageBox ($title, $msg) { [System.Reflection.Assembly]::LoadWithPartialName("System.Windows.Forms") | Out-Null [Windows.Forms.MessageBox]::Show($msg, $title, [Windows.Forms.MessageBoxButtons]::OK, [System.Windows.Forms.MessageBoxIcon]::Information, [System.Windows.Forms.MessageBoxDefaultButton]::Button1, [System.Windows.Forms.MessageBoxOptions]::DefaultDesktopOnly) | Out-Null } # Wait X minutes then show message and play sound, repeat every X minutes once OK pressed - Loop until end of day. Do { $waitMinutes = $DelayInMin $startTime = get-date $endTime = $startTime.addMinutes($waitMinutes) $timeSpan = new-timespan $startTime $endTime Start-Sleep $timeSpan.TotalSeconds # Play System Sound [system.media.systemsounds]::Exclamation.play() #Display a random quote from Quote file. $quote = get-random -inputobject $quotes -SetSeed ((Get-Date).millisecond) Show-MessageBox Reminder "Time to Stretch`n(Body, Mind & Spirit)`n`n $quote" } # Loop until 6pm Until ($startTime.hour -eq 18)

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

I don't have problems remembering to take a break, but sometimes it seems my employees need something to remind them to take a break from taking a break, hehe! ;)

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Maybe it is because I have 30 years of experience, but taking breaks is not a problem with me - I get up and walk around about once every hour. But that may not be normal behavior for everyone - do you need a reminder when it comes to taking a break?

eaglewolf
eaglewolf

No, I don't need a reminder. And trust me, I wouldn't allow any of those pop-up, cartoon-y things on my system. It's a disruption and a distraction. Why is it that there seems to be an app for everything? Do we need one to remind us to breathe? And set it to some sort of dancing little objects that run as a metronome - maybe with sound? Blink? A lot of people stare at the monitor - ah, hah! Chronic dry eye! Better yet, when is the app coming out that blanks the user's Facebook page and blasts across the screen: GET BACK TO WORK And if you don't? Then it starts the 'Countdown' app that shows by how much your paycheck is being docked for the wasted time!! :)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Me neither but then again I was toilet trained when I was very young and don't need reminders to go to the Lo I go when I need to. Not too sure about some that I see at work these days though so maybe this is a great idea though it needs to be drastically expanded to cover lots more things than just taking the occasional break. Col

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

How can we live without a VDU & a Life Program. http://www.lyricsmode .com/lyrics/r/redgum/fabulon.html Seems that they had it right all those years ago. Col