If you type a lot (and chances are that if you are reading htis, you do) you probably know and are slightly worried about that horrible disorder known as carpal tunnel syndrome, a form of repetitive strain injury (RSI) common among keyboarders. It's a really painful disorder in your wrists and fingers. And once you have it, it's really hard (and expensive) to cure. Obviously then, it's a lot better to prevent yourself from getting it in the first place rather than trying to cure it. The best way to prevent carpal tunnel is to simply take periodic breaks from typing every now and then. Unfortunately, it's really hard to remember to do this. That's why Workrave was created.
What the heck is Workrave?
Setting up Workrave
Workrave is a piece of cake to install. Windows users can download the handy installer, while Linux users can usually find it in their distriubtion's repository. If you can't, it's easy to compile Workrave using the source code. Workrave isn't available for Mac users, so if you live in a world where Steve Jobs is king, you may want to try another product like AntiRSI or Dejal Time Out.
Workrave: I'll never get RSI again
After launching Workrave, a little icon of a sheep will appear in your taskbar. Right clicking on it will give you a menu of things to do with Workrave. You can open a timer (which shows when the next break will occur), tell it to go into a rest break, find some good exercises to do, or configure it. Right now, just select the last one. In the Timers pane, you can configure the behavior of the microbreaks and rest (macro) breaks. I prefer to put my microbreaks in every 15 minutes, with a 0:30 postpone time. If you want to force yourself to take a break, uncheck the Show Postpone and Skip button checkbox. If it is checked, you can choose to skip the break. The rest break tab works the exact same way.
Another useful feature that Workrave includes is the Exercises command (right-click the sheep and hit Exercises. It will pop up a 3D model with instructions on how to do different stretches to keep your body limber. You can hit the Forward button to go to the next one and the Back button to repeat. This is a really good thing to do from time to time, since sitting in the same position for hours is a really bad thing to do.
Lastly, there's a statistics tool (right-click the tray icon and click Statistics) to tell if you've been naughty or good when doing your exercises. You can see how many breaks you've had, how many you've actually taken, and your mouse and keyboard activity (don't look at this unless you like feeling guilty).
If you type more than an hour a day, you should definitely install Workrave. RSI is a really painful syndrome that you do not want to get. I had a light case for a month and it hurt. And my father has it permanently and has to occasionally get acupuncture and other nasty things done to alleviate the pain. Workrave is a great way to stop carpal tunnel syndrome in its tracks, and I recommend it to all of my computer typing friends.
Platforms: Windows, Linux