needed: computer settings to minimize eyestrain
August 29, 2005 2:36 AM   Subscribe

healthiest monitor settings: how should I set my computer's display settings to minimize eyestrain?

I just migrated from my old and beloved, but now defunct, 15" CRT monitor to a 17" CRT monitor. this also switches me from 800*600 pixel resolution to 1024*768 pixel (BTW I'm on XP Pro OS).

sure, now I scroll less and actually see pictures and sites as intended but I feel the change is driving my eyes nuts (they feel very very strained). what can I do to lessen the eyestrain? please give me all the technical stuff - resolution, refresh rate, display settings - the works!
posted by mirileh to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The first and most important source of eye strain is the refresh rate (the flicker you see on TVs when in a movie or on video).

Right click on the desktop, select Properties, click on the Settings tab, click on Advanced, click on the Monitor Tab, and in there you'll be able to set the screen refresh rate. Anything below 70 Hertz will definitely cause eye strain. I find that anything below 80 Hertz will also cause strain after an 8 hour period. You can tell if the setting is too low if you notice a flicker out of the corner of your eye if you look slightly away from the screen. (Note: these refresh rates don't apply to LCDs which usually have a refresh rate of 60hz but work differently than CRT).

Next, you can get eye strain from the font being too small (resolution), but IMHO 1024x786 is still a pretty low resolution. If it's too small for you, then there's a few things you can do:

a) Right click on the desktop, select Properties, click on the Settings tab, click on Appearance tab and change the font size from Normal to Large Fonts or even Extra Large fonts.

b) forgo the above and set the font only in your browser (.e.g. in mozilla it's View > Text Zoom and in IE it's View>Text Size (or just ctrl + mouse scroll wheel)

c) Right click on the desktop, select Properties, click on the Settings tab, click on Advanced, click on the General tab, change the dpi (dots per inch) from 96 to something higher (e..g. 120dpi), there's a good chance the OS will ask for the original CD and you'll need to reboot but all text will be bigger. Please note that not all apps are properly designed to handle this and so you may see the occasional weird behavior in text being cut off in sidebar menus or similar.

For those saying that you just need a lower resolution to have a bigger font, they are slightly true, but you see less in photos, you get more jagged edges, and a high res with a larger font will have smoother text.
posted by furtive at 3:21 AM on August 29, 2005


ClearType.
posted by sageleaf at 3:22 AM on August 29, 2005


set the refresh rate as high as it can go. if you're like most people, 75hz should be enough to keep your eyes from hurting. if you're sensitive to it (i am, and it sucks) you'll need to go to 85hz and above. i usually like it around 100hz if i can get it that high.

if you need to go higher in refresh rate but it won't let you, try lowering the resolution. most monitors trade off refresh rate for resolution. example: my 20" CRT can do 125hz at 1280x960, but at 1600x1200, the maximum is 100hz.

more things to do: set the contrast as high as possible, and then lower the brightness until it's comfortable. use light-on-dark instead of dark-on-light colors wherever possible. take a break every half hour or so and focus on something far away, like the other side of the room or out the window. if you're squinting at the screen a lot and struggling to see small things, lower windows' dpi settings. it will make many things larger.

set your web browser to display fonts at an increased size and/or crank the minimum font size up. it's trendy to use microscopic type on websites, which is a pain in the ass to read. make sure you have cleartype off, it's only useful on LCDs. on the vast majority of CRTs, it will just make things blurry.

on preview: you actually need to set the dpi lower to make things bigger. fewer dots per inch = stuff is larger. and i'll reiterate what i said about cleartype: it's useless on CRTs.
posted by tumult at 3:33 AM on August 29, 2005


Along with as high a refresh rate as possible, you should also lower the ambient light in the area, especially overhead lighting.
Glare on the screen itself is a common cause of eyestrain. The way my eye-doctor explained it is that the actual display sits beneath a thick sandwich of glass. Glare highlights this outer layer of glass and causes your eyes to keep bouncing back and forth between the actual screen surface and the glare, searching for focus. You aren't aware of this happening but your eyes quickly fatigue from all the overwork.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:38 AM on August 29, 2005


Increase refresh rate and turn on windows cleartype. Both of these worked well for me.
posted by webmeta at 5:43 AM on August 29, 2005


Not to derail, but is there any potential side-effect of having a high refresh rate? I mean, why wouldn't CRTs just be sat at their highest refresh rate 24/7?
posted by jmd82 at 6:37 AM on August 29, 2005


ClearType.

Wrong. Poster said he migrated to another CRT. ClearType is for flat-panel displays. Note: this is not to be confused with font edge smoothing, which should be turned on. Display Properties > Appearance > Effects > "Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts" > Standard.

I mean, why wouldn't CRTs just be sat at their highest refresh rate 24/7?

Typically when you adjust your monitor resolution and color depth, the system will automatically pick the highest possible refresh rate. Occasionally, the OS doesn't really know the monitor, it just assumes "default hi-res monitor" so you have to adjust it manually. Also, some manufacturers build quality gear with under-rated refresh rates; while you can override the default highest setting, it might shorten the lifespan of your monitor.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:16 AM on August 29, 2005


Re-reading that, I think I worded that too strongly, and I should clarify.

ClearType was designed specifically to improve the legability of onscreen fonts for LCD displays, which, even with Standard smoothing, retain their aliased "jaggies." For some CRT users, enabling ClearType will create ghosted fonts, thus it's better to use Standard smoothing. Others have had success using ClearType on their CRT, and your mileage, as they say, may vary. Try it out for yourself and see if you like it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:20 AM on August 29, 2005


Thanks so much for asking this question; I've been having problems with eyestrain here at the office and the higher-ups seem to think I'm just angling for a new monitor when I complain about my eyes bothering me. I'm going to apply a couple of these suggestions and see if it helps or not.
posted by eilatan at 8:29 AM on August 29, 2005


thanks all! have applied some of your advice already! (i miss my old little monitor though. u can tell i'm a woman...)
posted by mirileh at 9:03 AM on August 29, 2005


Regarding tumult's advice: "use light-on-dark instead of dark-on-light colors wherever possible."- I switched my default window background to light gray and I found that it made a world of difference. Some people prefer even darker window themes- I suggest trying a few out to see how you like them.

In IE (and maybe other broswers) you can hold and roll the mouse wheel to change font size.
posted by Four Flavors at 3:41 PM on August 29, 2005


I switched my default window background to light gray and I found that it made a world of difference

I've done something similar--I set my Windows background to neutral grey--blacks look black, whites look white. Works great for photo editting.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:07 PM on August 29, 2005


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