Workrave Typing-break Reminder

Workrave is a free (GPL) app for Linux and Windows that reminds you to take typing breaks (with configurable timing, of course).

I found out about it from the Gnome-announce mailing list, of all places. Obviously, their focus was on the Gnome/Linux version, though I’ve used just the Windows version so far. Unsurprisingly, because the Windows version is based on the GTK toolkit, it’s still very… Linux-looking ;).

If you care about preventing RSI, it couldn’t hurt to give Workrave a try. By default, it comes configured to suggest a 30 second “micro-pause” break every 3 minutes, and a 10 minute rest break every 45 minutes (those numbers are from memory, but I think those are about right).

I’m not expert on typing-injury prevention, but that seemed awfully frequent to me (?). If anyone can speak to what kind of numbers are suggested in the scientific community, let me know (for all I know, perhaps that’s how Workrave derived its defaults, but I’m not sure). In the meantime, I’ve configured to the micro-break interval for 10 minutes, which seems a bit less intrusive.

6 thoughts on “Workrave Typing-break Reminder

  1. The main problem here is that there are no “right” defaults. The settings that are required are different from person to person.

    For example, I use workrave with a 25 second micropause every two and a half minute, and a 10 minute restbreak every 20 minutes. I need these frequent breaks, because I’m recovering from RSI. And as I recover, I change the settings to fewer breaks.

    If you have never had any problem at all (using the computer, that is), then you may want much fewer breaks, say 10 seconds micropause every 10 minutes, and a 5 minute restbreak every hour.

    It is very hard to give proper guidelines here. My best advice is to play around and see what works for you. Which settings “feel right”. Basically, that’s how Workrave’s defaults evolve.

    Any pointers to more scientifically founded advice are of course very welcome :-)

  2. The whole point of taking typing breaks is, of course, to prevent repetitive stress injuries (RSI) such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). However, recent evidence seems to point to an entirely different cause for the syndrome, and it has nothing to do with typing or any other work-related activity. According to Roy Meals, MD, clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, one of the most frequent triggers of mild CTS is when people sleep in the fetal position, flexing their wrist and curling up with the back of the hand under the chin, which puts hours of stress on the median nerve. You should suspect CTS if you find yourself shaking your hands most mornings to get rid of numbness and tingling. If patients answer in the affirmative on at least two questions on a simple seven-question screening test, doctors can predict CTS with 97% accuracy. Weird, huh? (Daily Health News, May 7, 2009)

  3. @Andrew P.
    RSI is not carpel tunnel syndrome. This is a myth, though even doctors make this error, as I have personally experienced. The fact is that only about 7% of RSI sufferers have CTS. RSI is much more complicated and definitely is aggravated by things like keyboard work, bad posture, bad hand position, and stress, and taking breaks is the single best thing you can do to prevent it.

  4. Andrew P is quite right. RSI is often diagnosed as Carpel tunnel Syndrome, because the symptoms are similar. Numbness and tingling are also symptoms of RSI where the root cause is neck and shoulder muscle tension or spasm. True carpal tunnel syndrome usually has a hormonal aspect, for example it can occur in pregnant women. RSI is complicated but can be resolved. Normal muscle relaxes for 3 seconds every three minutes, but constant rapid movements over time causes the brain to learn different behavior. Basically it is trained to keep the muscles firing, causing various painful symptoms which create a vicious pain cycle. One tight muscle group can overflow ( in simple terms) to a neighboring muscle group and so on until the body is in alot of pain and can be misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia. I have been treating these conditions since 1992 so am a bit of an expert on the subject. I originally had an OT practice in New Zealand and now am in Pueblo Colorado if anyone is interested in knowing more…

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