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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.