We've all seen that picture with a row of men going from left to right, straightening their spine while advancing from Australopithecus to modern humans and then curling back again as modernity overcomes them. In truth, nothing compares to the spine bending, hand contorting, eye-straining computer station. Experts give clear warnings that sitting at your computer for too long presents several health risks. You can avoid these if you take frequent pauses to relax and refresh. But how often do we remember to take a break? Whether we're busy coding, skyping, or playing Europa Universalis, breaks are quickly forgotten. Unless you're a habitual smoker, you can easily find yourself utterly stiff after eight or more hours of immobility. Setting up a break timer is a good measure to prevent stiffness, but the better idea is to try out Workrave.
Workrave's main feature is the Rest break timer. This one is used for standard breaks, in which you shouldn't just continue staring at the screen. In case you lack ideas, you can let Workrave suggest several exercises to perform in the meantime. So when a break comes up, You're shown a random selection of activities that involve physical and eye exercises. You may control the number of activities you wish to perform. If you think you know better than Workrave, you can even set the number to zero.
Once a break comes up, you also get to choose between skipping, postponing, and locking the computer. When you select to Skip, the timer is reset. Selecting Postpone will dismiss the break, but it will pop back in a couple of minutes. If you select to Lock the computer, Workrave will launch the Windows screen lock. Upon unlocking, the timer is again reset.
There's also a timer for taking micro-breaks. Some studies concluded that frequent breaks worth a few seconds could accelerate the healing process. Micro-breaks work like Rest breaks, except that you can't add in exercises.
Finally, there's the Daily limit break. Unlike the feature in Final Fantasy VII (although it might be comparable in some instances), this one is used to remind you that you have a life, or at least that you should get one. In essence, there aren't many differences between these break timers. It's just that there are fewer settings to fiddle with regarding the Micro break and Daily limit.
Speaking of Settings, the main window consists of just the timer control buttons. To get to the Preferences window, you will need to right-click on Workrave's system tray icon. It's from there that you can customize each break timer and explore some further settings.
One other notable feature is Networking. By installing Workrave on multiple computers and setting up a username and password on each one, you can use the same timer wherever irrespective of the workstation that you're at currently. That's helpful if you frequently switch between work computers, but you want to follow Workrave breaks strictly.
- Three automatic break timers
- Suggests break activities for physical and eye fitness
- Networking mode enables its use on multiple computers
Workrave hasn't been updated since 2010, but it is still a decent application that doesn't need many improvements. The Networking feature is, I think, unique and the exercises can help you develop some good habits while for when sitting at the desk.