Archive-name: typing-injury-faq/software Version: 2.0, 12th June 1993 This FAQ is maintained by Richard Donkin <firstname.lastname@example.org>. I post it, along with the other FAQ stuff. If you have questions, you want to send mail to Richard, not me. -- Dan Software Tools to help with RSI ------------------------------- This file describes tools, primarily software, to help prevent or manage RSI. This version now includes information on such diverse tools as calendar programs and digital watches, which tends to contradict the title somewhat. Oh well... Please let me know if you come across any other tools, or if you have information or opinions on these ones, and I will update this FAQ. I am especially interested in getting reviews of these products from people who have evaluated them or are using them. The major difficulty with all these products is that when you are under pressure you tend to cancel out of the break reminder almost automatically - any suggestions on how to avoid this would be appreciated. Any software vendors who want me to include their products in here are invited to send evaluation copies. Richard Donkin Internet mail: email@example.com [note change of preferred address] Tel: +44 71 814 5708 (direct) Fax: +44 71 251 2853 Changes in this version: Coverage of new version of StressFree, a.k.a Exercise Break Added three new tools, Activity Monitoring Program, DOS Stretch and PC-FIT User-Saver TYPING MANAGEMENT TOOLS: these aim to help you manage your keyboard use, by warning you to take a break every so often. The better ones also include advice on exercises, posture and workstation setup. Some use sound hardware to alert you to a break, but most use beeps or screen messages. Often, RSI appears only after many years of typing, and the pain has a delayed action in the short term too: frequently you can be typing all day with little problem and the pain gets worse in the evening. These tools act as an early warning system: by listening to their warnings and taking breaks with exercises, you don't have to wait for your body to give you a more serious and painful warning - that is, getting RSI. Tool: Activity Monitoring Program (commercial software) Available from: Anthony Steven Office Automation Systems 7 Clarks Terrace Heworth YORK YO3 0DQ Tel & Fax: +44 (904) 423622 Platforms: Windows Description: This product is specifically aimed at helping employers meet the requirements of EC directive 90/270, so it is of most interest to European users. It does not provide animations of exercises, instead providing them in the manual - the rationale for this is that the EC directive requires breaks to be taken away from the computer, so sitting at your keyboard doing exercises is not allowed. In any case, it is better for you to stretch your legs as well as arms, and rest your eyes by leaving the computer, so this seems sensible. The program feels less intrusive than some others as a result, it simply pops up a small window asking you to take a break. Unlike most other programs, you can set a hierarchy of some work then micropause, longer work then short pause, and still longer work then a long pause. This hierarchy is closer to medical recommendations than just taking a break every N minutes. Also, this program is only activated by keyboard or mouse activity, unlike some other programs that pop up at a given time even if you are not at your PC. The program does not let you exit it or change the settings without a password (though this protection is configurable) - ideal for companies that want to discourage people from bypassing the program. Tool: At Your Service (commercial software) Available from: Bright Star Tel: +1 (206) 451 3697 Platforms: Mac (System 6.0.4), Windows Description: Provides calendar, keyboard watch, email watch, and system info. Warns when to take a break (configurable). Has a few recommendations on posture, and exercises. Sound-oriented, will probably work best with sound card (PC) or with microphone (Mac). Should be possible to record your own messages to warn of break. Tool: AudioPort (sound card and software) Available from: Media Vision Tel: +1 (510) 226 2563 Platforms: PC Description: A sound card to plug into your PC parallel port. Includes 'At Your Service'. Tool: Computer Health Break (commercial software) Available from: Escape Ergonomics, Inc 1111 W. El Camino Real Suite 109 Mailstop 403 Sunnyvale, CA Tel: +1 (408) 730 8410 Platforms: DOS Description: Aimed at preventing RSI, this program warns you to take breaks after a configurable interval, based on clock time, or after a set number of keystrokes -- whichever is earlier. It gives you 3 exercises to do each time, randomly selected from a set of 70. Exercises are apparently tuned to the type of work you do - data entry, word processing, information processing. Exercises are illustrated and include quite a lot of text on how to do the exercise and on what exactly the exercise does. CHB includes hypertext information on RSI that you can use to learn more about RSI and how to prevent it. Other information on non-RSI topics can be plugged into this hypertext viewer. A full glossary of medical terms and jargon is included. CHB can be run in a DOS box under Windows, but does not then warn you when to take a break; it does not therefore appear useful when used with Windows. Cost: $79.95; quantity discounts, site licenses. Comments: The keystroke-counting approach looks good: it seems better to measure the activity that is causing you problems than to measure clock time or even typing time. The marketing stuff is very good and includes some summaries of research papers, as well as lots of arguments you can use to get your company to pay up for RSI management tools. Tool: DOS Stretch (commercial software) Available from: John Fricker Software PO Box 1289 Ashland, OR 97520 Tel: 503/488-5699 Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Platforms: DOS (Hercules, EGA, VGA) Demo (VGA only, single exercise) available from: Compuserve: Health and Fitness Forum, Issues At Work section, file DSDEMO.EXE Description: This break reminder program includes exercises but no ergonomic information. It includes 11 exercises, taking about four minutes. They are animated using a cartoon figure. The demo includes a hand exercise that seems useful; the full program includes a reminder TSR. Cost: $27.00 Tool: Exercise Break [formerly StressFree] (commercial software, free usable demo) Available from: Hopkins Technology (distributors) 421 Hazel Lane Hopkins, MN 55343-7116 Tel: +1 612-931-9376 Fax: +1 612-931-9377 Mail: email@example.com (developer) Demos (working program but reduced functions) available from: Compuserve: Windows Advanced Forum, New Uploads section, or Health and Fitness Forum, Issues At Work section. (Windows and Mac versions in latter) Anon FTP: ftp.cica.indiana.edu (and mirroring sites) CIX: rsi conference Platforms: Windows (3.0/3.1), Mac System 6.0.5 or higher, DOS version soon Description: Aimed at preventing RSI, this program warns you to take breaks after a configurable interval (or at fixed times). Displays descriptions and pictures of exercises - pictures are animated and program paces you to help you do exercises at the correct rate. Quite a few exercises, can configure which ones are included to a large extent. One useful feature is that when it is running minimised it shows the time to the next break, helping you plan your work to the next break rather than it coming as an interruption. The new release, 3.0, is renamed Exercise Break, supports Mac and Windows and should include a DOS version. I have been trying out a beta version and it has some useful features, including Typewatch (no relation to the freeware program ...), which graphs your typing rate over time, with optional warnings to slow down and export facilities for spreadsheet analysis. It also includes a full ergonomic checklist online to help set up your workstation, and a picture of correct posture and workstation adjustment. An unusual feature is the ability to include your own exercises in the program, providing you have access to a Windows SDK, without programming. Cost: $29.95 if support via CompuServe or Internet, otherwise $39.95. Site license for 3 or more copies is $20.00 each. Comments: This is the only tool with a redistributable demo that is not just a slide show, so if you do get the demo, post it on your local bulletin boards, FTP servers and Bitnet servers! Includes the ability to step backward in the exercise sequence, which is good for repeating the most helpful exercises. Hopefully a number of add-on exercise modules will become available now that it is possible to add exercises. Tool: EyerCise (commercial software) Available from: RAN Enterprises One Woodland Park Dr. Haverhill, MA 01830, US Tel: 800-451-4487 (US only) +1 (508) 521 4487 Platforms: Windows (3.0/3.1), OS/2 PM (1.3/2.0) [Not DOS] Description: Aimed at preventing RSI and eye strain, this program warns you to take breaks after a configurable interval (or at fixed times). Optionally displays descriptions and pictures of exercises - pictures are animated and program beeps you to help you do exercises at the correct rate. Includes 19 stretches and 4 visual training exercises, can configure which are included and how many repetitions you do - breaks last from 3 to 7 minutes. Also includes online help on workplace ergonomics. Quote from their literature: "EyerCise is a Windows program that breaks up your day with periodic sets of stretches and visual training exercises. The stretches work all parts of your body, relieving tension and helping to prevent Repetitive Strain Injury. The visual training exercises will improve your peripheral vision and help to relieve eye strain. Together these help you to become more relaxed and productive." "The package includes the book _Computers & Visual Stress_ by Edward C. Godnig, O.D. and John S. Hacunda, which describes the ergonomic setup for a computer workstation and provides procedures and exercises to promote healthy and efficient computer use. Cost: $69.95 including shipping and handling, quantity discounts for resellers. Free demo ($5 outside US). Comments: I have a copy of this, and it works as advertised: I would say it is better for RSI prevention than RSI management, because it does not allow breaks at periods less than 30 minutes. Also, it interrupts you based on clock time rather than typing time, which is not so helpful unless you use the keyboard all day. Worked OK on Windows 3.0 though it did occasionally crash with a UAE - not sure why. Also refused to work with the space bar on one PC, and has one window without window controls. Very usable though, and does not require any sound hardware. Tool: Lifeguard (commercial software) Available from: Visionary Software P.O. Box 69447 Portland, OR 97201, US Tel: +1 (503) 246-6200 Platforms: Mac, DOS (Windows version underway) Description: Aimed at preventing RSI. Warns you to take a break with dialog box and sound. Includes a list of exercises to do during breaks, and information on configuring your workstation in an ergonomic manner. Price: $59; quantity discounts and site licenses. The DOS product is bought in from another company, apparently; not sure how equivalent this is to the Mac version. The Mac version got a good review in Desktop Publisher Magazine (Feb 1991). Good marketing stuff with useful 2-page summaries of RSI problems and solutions, with references. Tool: PC-FIT User-Saver (commercial software, free slideshow demo) Available from: Human-ware Burggasse 88/16 A-1070 Wien Austria Tel: +43 222/526 02880 Fax: +43 222/526 02889 Demo (slideshow) available from: Compuserve: Health and Fitness Forum, Issues At Work section, file PCFITD.EXE CIX: rsi conference, file PCFITD.EXE Platforms: DOS 3.1 or higher, Windows (3.0/3.1), Macintosh System 7.0.1 or higher Description: This program warns you to take breaks, provides exercises for the muscles and for the eyes, and includes information on ergonomics. Exercises are animations based on photos of a model (mime artist?), which together with cartoons elsewhere lend a light-weight feeling to this package, as far as I can tell from the demo. Orientated to EC 90/270. Cost: no prices available Tool: Typewatch (freeware), version 3.8 (October 1992) Available from: Email to firstname.lastname@example.org Anonymous ftp: soda.berkeley.edu:pub/typing-injury/typewatch.shar CIX: sco conference Platforms: UNIX (tested on SCO, SunOS, Mach; character and X Window mode) Description: This is a shell script that runs in the background and warns you to stop typing, based on how long you have been continuously typing. It does not provide exercises, but it does check that you really do take a break, and tells you when you can start typing again. Typewatch now tells you how many minutes you have been typing today, each time it warns you, which is useful so you know how much you *really* type. It also logs information to a file that you can analyse or simply print out. The warning message appears on your screen (in character mode), in a pop-up window (for X Windows), or as a Zephyr message (for those with Athena stuff). Tim Freeman <email@example.com> has put in a lot of bug fixes, extra features and support for X, Zephyr and Mach. Not formally supported, but email firstname.lastname@example.org (for SCO, SunOS, character mode) or email@example.com (for Mach, X Window mode, Zephyr) if you have problems or want to give feedback. Tool: Various calendar / batch queue programs Available from: Various sources Platforms: Various Description: Any calendar/reminder program that warns you of an upcoming appointment can be turned into an ad hoc RSI management tool. Alternatively, use any batch queue submission program that lets you submit a program to run at a specific time to display a message to the screen. Using Windows as an example: create a Calendar file, and include this filename in your WIN.INI's 'load=' line so you get it on every startup of Windows. Suppose you want to have breaks every 30 minutes, starting from 9 am. Press F7 (Special Time...) to enter an appointment, enter 9:30, hit Enter, and type some text in saying what the break is for. Then press F5 to set an alarm on this entry, and repeat for the next appointment. By using Windows Recorder, you can record the keystrokes that set up breaks throughout a day in a .REC file. Put this file on your 'run=' line, as above, and you will then, with a single keypress, be able to set up your daily appointments with RSI exercises. The above method should be adaptable to most calendar programs. An example using batch jobs would be to submit a simple job that runs at 9:30 am and warns you to take a break; this will depend a lot on your operating system. While these approaches are not ideal, they are a good way of forcing yourself to take a break if you can't get hold of a suitable RSI management tool. If you are techie enough you might want to write a version of Typewatch (see above) for your operating system, using batch jobs or whatever fits best. Tool: Digital watches with count-down timers Available from: Various sources, e.g. Casio BP-100. Description: Many digital watches have timers that count down from a settable number of minutes; they usually reset easily to that number, either manually or automatically. While these are a very basic tool, they are very useful if you are writing, reading, driving, or doing anything away from a computer which can still cause or aggravate RSI. The great advantage is that they remind you to break from whatever you are doing. Comments: My own experience was that cutting down a lot on my typing led to my writing a lot more, and still reading as much as ever, which actually aggravated the RSI in my right arm though the left arm improved. Getting a count-down timer watch has been very useful on some occasions where I write a lot in a day. I have tried an old fashioned hour-glass type egg timer, but these are not much good because they do not give an audible warning of the end of the time period! KEYBOARD REMAPPING TOOLS: these enable you to change your keyboard mapping so you can type one-handedly or with a different two-handed layout. One-handed typing tools may help, but be VERY careful about how you use them -- if you keep the same overall typing workload you are simply doubling your hand use for the hand that you use for typing, and may therefore make matters worse. Tool: hsh (public domain) Available from: Anonymous ftp: soda.berkeley.edu:pub/typing-injury/hsh.shar Platforms: UNIX (don't know which ones) Description: Allows one-handed typing and other general keyboard remappings. Only works through tty's (so, you can use it with a terminal or an xterm, but not most X programs). Tool: Dvorak keyboard tools (various) Available from: Anonymous ftp: soda.berkeley.edu:pub/typing-injury/xdvorak.c Also built into Windows 3.x and available free with MS-DOS 5 and 6 (AccessDOS package) Description: The Dvorak keyboard apparently uses a more rational layout that involves more balanced hand use. It *may* help prevent RSI a bit, but you can also use it if you have RSI, since it will slow down your typing a *lot* :-). AccessDOS also includes ways to avoid holding down mice buttons during drag operations, and many other potentially useful features for RSI sufferers. -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- Dan Wallach "One of the most attractive features of a Connection email@example.com Machine is the array of blinking lights on the faces Office#: 510-540-5535 of its cabinet." -- CM Paris Ref. Manual, v6.0, p48.