Version: 1.8, 7th December 1992
This FAQ is actually maintained by Richard Donkin <richa...@hoskyns.co.uk>.
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...
Please let me know if you know 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.
Internet mail: richa...@hoskyns.co.uk
Tel: +44 71 814 5708 (direct)
Fax: +44 71 251 2853
Changes in this version:
Added information on StressFree, another typing management tool
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
warn of a break, others 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: At Your Service (commercial software)
Tel: +1 (206) 451 3697
Platforms: Mac (System 6.0.4), Windows
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)
Tel: +1 (510) 226 2563
A sound card to plug into your PC parallel port.
Includes 'At Your Service'.
Tool: Computer Health Break (commercial software)
Escape Ergonomics, Inc
1111 W. El Camino Real
Tel: +1 (408) 730 8410
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.
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: EyerCise (commercial software)
One Woodland Park Dr.
Haverhill, MA 01830, US
Tel: 800-451-4487 (US only)
Platforms: Windows (3.0/3.1), OS/2 PM (1.3/2.0) [Not DOS]
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).
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)
P.O. Box 69447
Portland, OR 97201, US
Tel: +1 (503) 246-6200
Platforms: Mac, DOS (Windows version underway)
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
Tool: StressFree (commercial software, free usable demo)
P.O. Box 87522
Texas 77287-7522, US
Tel: 800-947-2178 (US only)
Fax: +1 (713) 474-2067
Demo (working program but reduced functions) available from:
Compuserve: Windows Advanced Forum, New Uploads section, or
Health and Fitness Forum, Issues At Work section.
Anon FTP: ftp.cica.indiana.edu (and mirroring sites)
Platforms: Windows (3.0/3.1) (Mac and DOS versions underway)
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 some extent. Online help.
Version 2.0 is out soon, Mac and DOS versions will be based
Cost: $29.95 if support via CompuServe or Internet, otherwise $39.95.
Site license for 3 or more copies is $20.00 each.
(NOTE: prices may have gone up for V2.0).
I have had a play with this, and it works OK. Its user interface
design is much better in 2.0, though still a bit unusual.
expensive tool around and it does the job. It is also the only
tool with a redistributable demo, so if you do get the demo, post it
on your local bulletin boards, FTP servers and Bitnet servers!
Does not include general info on RSI and ergonomics, but it does
have the ability to step backward in the exercise sequence,
which is good for repeating the most helpful exercises.
Tool: Typewatch (freeware), version 3.8 (October 1992)
Email to richa...@hoskyns.co.uk
Anonymous ftp: soda.berkeley.edu:pub/typing-injury/typewatch.shar
Platforms: UNIX (tested on SCO, SunOS, Mach; character and X Window mode)
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 <t...@cs.cmu.edu>
has put in a lot of bug fixes, extra features and support for
X, Zephyr and Mach.
Not formally supported, but email richa...@hoskyns.co.uk
(for SCO, SunOS, character mode) or t...@cs.cmu.edu (for Mach,
X Window mode, Zephyr) if you have problems or want to give
Tool: Various calendar / batch queue programs
Any calendar/reminder program that warns you of an upcoming
appointment can be turned into an ad hoc RSI management tool.
Or, any batch queue submission program that lets you submit
a program to run at a specific time to display a message to
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
Various sources, e.g. Casio BP-100.
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
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)
Anonymous ftp: soda.berkeley.edu:pub/typing-injury/hsh.shar
Platforms: UNIX (don't know which ones)
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)
Anonymous ftp: soda.berkeley.edu:pub/typing-injury/xdvorak.c
Also built into Windows 3.x.
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* :-)
Dan Wallach "One of the most attractive features of a Connection
dwall...@cs.berkeley.edu Machine is the array of blinking lights on the faces
Office#: 510-642-9585 of its cabinet." -- CM Paris Ref. Manual, v6.0, p48.