Invert the colors on my PC?
February 19, 2007 5:37 AM   Subscribe

How to invert the colors on my PC laptop? Plus, what else do you recommend to reduce eye-strain that leads to headaches?

I get migraines every once in a while, especially when I've been doing a lot (and for me, that's a LOT) of computer stuff over a few days. When I've got one, I'm really light-sensitive, and feeling better usually demands some medicine and an hour or so in a dark, silent room.

When the main part of the headache has passed, though, I often need to get back online (usually, to finish whatever project had kept me on the computer so much recently). To avoid the little twinges of pain and head off the possibility of a relapse, it would be *awesome* to invert my PC's colors.

I know OSX can do this natively, with Ctrl-Option-Cmd-8 (try it!). But PCs don't have this ability, and I can't find any share- or freeware to do it, either.

Is there anything else you'd recommend to reduce eye strain? I'm using Work Rave right now, and have been for about a month, but I find myself postponing breaks and shutting it off every time I reach my daily limit.
posted by electric_counterpoint to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't have a system-wide suggestion, but if you're mostly spending your time in a word processor, you might look at Dark Room.
posted by j-dawg at 5:58 AM on February 19, 2007

You can use the High Contrast color scheme (Control Panel > Display > Appearance tab), which isn't exactly inverting but it's a start. HTML won't be affected, so you could try (in Firefox 2.0) Tools > Options > Colors.
posted by djb at 6:09 AM on February 19, 2007

What's the lighting like in the room you work in? Are the windows behind your computer screen, so you're looking out from a dim room into glare all day?

Also, if you can try reducing the overall light levels in the room you're in, and then you can reduce the brightness on your monitor. But, it's important not to have the brightness of the screen too low, so that it's hard to make out what's on it.

Work Rave is great, but I know what you mean about the temptation to shut it off. Better would be to set yourself up to take more natural breaks... get a tea kettle and make yourself small cups of tea occasionally, which you sit down away from the computer to drink without turning on a TV or the like. (I'm assuming you are at home, not in an office.)

Also, if you've got an old inexpensive monitor upgrading to a new crisper one might make a big difference - I hadn't quite realized how bad my old CRT monitor was until I had the new LCD side by side with it. Something had gone seriously wrong with it over the years and the picture was slightly fuzzy - not enough to really notice immediately, but definitely a strain over the course of the day.
posted by voidcontext at 6:38 AM on February 19, 2007

Internet Explorer permits you to override all site colors and specify your own. Tools->Internet Options, press the "General" tab, and look for the "Accessibility" button. Check the "Ignore colors specified on web pages". Then go back and click the "Colors" button and set them how you want them.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:28 AM on February 19, 2007

What voidcontext said.
Buy the highest res monitor you can afford.
It made life much easier for me anyway.
posted by bkiddo at 7:32 AM on February 19, 2007

This might be kinda obvious, but go get an eye exam, even if you think there is nothing wrong with your eyes. A new prescription can reduce eye strain. A series of vision distubances (all computer triggered) led me to the doc, who told me not only was I getting ocular migraines, but it was time for glasses.
posted by natness at 7:55 AM on February 19, 2007

For web browsing, Opera has a high-contrast white-on-black mode (actually, a user stylesheet).
posted by kickingtheground at 8:26 AM on February 19, 2007

I'm sometimes fairly light-sensitive from migraines, and find that the relationship between the room's lighting and the monitor is usually more important than simply reducing brightness. So if the room is gloomy then the monitor's brightness can seem harsh, but if the room is evenly lit (even fairly brightly), preferably with natural light, then at normal settings the monitor is OK for me. Make sure there are no bright lights or reflections in your field of vision, try to diffuse sources of light, etc.

I'm on OS X nowadays, but with Windows I found using a colour scheme with an off-white window background and various medium shades of grey for title bars, menus, desktop, etc., combined with a slightly larger font, was helpful at times. It just took the edge off the harsh white and stopped me closely peering at the screen.

Oh, and as a last resort try wearing shades, even if it makes you feel a bit daft.
posted by malevolent at 8:27 AM on February 19, 2007

Bump up the default font sizes. You can go to Large Fonts in Windows, which is weird at first but OK once you get used to it (screws with some lazily-programmed apps that assume a fixed font size - iTunes has some weirdness, for example). I use this on my widescreen laptop because otherwise the fonts are honestly too small to read comfortably.

Bump up the minimum font size in your browser. FF allows the [Ctrl]-[+] shortcut to do this on a per page basis, IE can remember preferences across sessions if you specify medium or large fonts, and of course FF will allow you to set and enforce a minimum font size for all pages. I typically enforce a 12 pt lower limit, because I notice that at smaller sizes I am bumping the font up to read. Bastards who program for IE end up causing uncomfortably small fonts for FF users.

Also, the above info suggesting custom user stylesheets is a great idea. I think pretty much any browser will allow you to set prefs tha override the page defaults.

If word processing, try turning on the blue background/white text option in MS Word...
posted by caution live frogs at 1:31 PM on February 19, 2007

You can use the free iZoom screen magnifier from Issist: turn magnification down to times 1, turn off speech, and adjust the colours as you desire. iZoom website.
posted by alasdair at 2:14 PM on February 19, 2007

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