What f.lux is and Why You Should Be Using It

by Paul

Do you often find yourself spending time late at night working away on your computer? This can be harmful to you - f.lux was created to prevent this.

We've all done it. Whether it be because of leaving that essay too late or because we can't sleep, we've all spent the early hours of the morning sat in front of a computer screen.

Little do most of us know, this may be the very reason as to why we couldn't sleep in the first place. Computer screens aren't designed to be viewed in the early AM.

However, the geniuses over at stereopsis.com have created f.lux which lets you view your computer screen whenever you wish - with a lessened risk of harm.

What Exactly Is f.lux?

Available here, f.lux is designed to help improve the health of late night computer users and just computer users in general. If you use a computer screen, you can certainly receive benefits from this program - the best part is that it's free.

If you've ever seen anyone use any form of electronic device with a bright screen on it late at night, the blinding light bouncing off their face will allow you to see just how bright they can actually get.

The reason they're designed to be so bright is a good one. If you've ever been out in the middle of the day with your cell phone in hand, you'll have noticed if it's not bright enough it's very hard to see.

Now we understand why computer screens need to be bright during the day, but if we took that previously unreadable cell phone from earlier inside a dark building, we would be able to see it perfectly. So why do we need bright computer screens at night?

We don't.

A Demo of What f.lux Looks Like

How Does It Work?

F.lux's goal in life is very simple. It strives to match your computer's screen brightness to the room surrounding it. It does by simply changing the color temperature of your screen.

As you may have seen in the video above, the user's screen seems to change from blue to orange. The f.lux demonstration in the video is built in to f.lux and is designed to show how your screen will change over a 24 hour period.

Color temperature describes how much a room is being illuminated by blue or red light. It's measured in Kelvin(K) and seems to be backwards as the warmer temperatures are a lower value than cooler temperatures.

The later it gets at night, the more warm the screen will become. A clear blue sky can range from 15,000K to 27,000K and sunrise and sunset are usually around 1800K which is the same color temperature of a candle.

Where does this leave our computer screen? On average, they have a color temperature of around 6,500K which is in the same ballpark as an overcast day.

F.lux fluctuates the color temperature of your screen between 3,400K and 6,500K depending on the time of day and where you live.

Beginning at sunrise or sunset at your current location, f.lux will change the color temperature from cool to warm or vice versa over a period of 20 seconds or 60 minutes.

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Why Do I Need It?

Yes, it may make your screen look a little orangey at night and this may take a few minutes of getting used to, but it's well worth it.

The developers behind f.lux have collected research on how using f.lux can benefit your sleep and this can be found here.

However, to summarise the research listed, it is claimed that "blue light in the morning" treatment is a popular treatment for people with sleeping disorders. F.lux allows for this by increasing the color temperature at sunrise.

It is also agreed that it is best to avoid blue light within two hours of sleep. This is because it is commonly thought a high color temperature at night prevents us from sleeping for "roughly an hour and sometimes more".

Furthermore, f.lux prevents eye strain as warmer colors are far less harmful to eyes late at night.

It's very possible to see these effects yourself.

After you've downloaded f.lux and set it up, which takes all of a few minutes, you simply have to sit and wait.

Once it's been a few hours past sunset and your screen has changed to a much warmer color, disable f.lux. 

I've yet to see anyone not be shocked as to how bright their screen now becomes and since then anyone I've known to use it has continued to do so - and you should too.

Updated: 01/18/2013, Paul
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Tell Us About Your f.lux Experiences!

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Sheri_Oz on 11/26/2012

I will probably give that a try, Paul. Thanks. But not right now. Ha ha.

Paul on 11/25/2012

I've seen extensions for Google Chrome that pop up a little message saying that it's time to look away which may be of use to you? It's http://bit.ly/SXIDOC if you're interested. I used to use it but to be honest it got to a point where it annoyed me and I was just ignoring it...

Sheri_Oz on 11/25/2012

I've tried the "looking at something far away every 20 minutes I'm on the computer" but it doesn't work. Mainly because by the time I remember to look away at something in the distance 2 hours have gone by. I guess I could set an alarm for every 20 minutes, eh?

Paul on 11/24/2012

Glad to see immediate benefits! It might also be worth taking a 20 second break every 20 minutes by looking at something far away - I'm led to believe that this somewhat alleviates your eyes' focus on an object that's close.

HollieT on 11/24/2012

Paul, I've only been using it a couple of hours, but usually when I come away from the screen for a short period, it takes me ages to adjust to looking 'distance' if that makes sense? I'm usually rubbing my eyes and have to wait a minute or so to focus properly. I'm not having to do that at the moment, first time in a long time. I've tweeted this, it's brilliant.

Paul on 11/24/2012

Glad to see it's already showing some signs of improvement, Hollie! and turning down the brightness will certainly help, but it isn't the same as what f.lux does. Changing the brightness doesn't change the color temperature of the screen - a lower brightness just makes it seem less "sharp" on the eyes.

Personally if it's late at night I have my brightness low and f.lux also enabled and it helped me as I used to get terrible headaches in the morning if I'd been on my laptop late at night.

sheilamarie on 11/24/2012

I have a question: I use a Mac which can be calibrated to automatically adjust brightness as ambient light changes. Isn't this the same thing?

sheilamarie on 11/24/2012

Thanks for this info, Paul. You have just helped a bunch of us.

HollieT on 11/24/2012

Fantastic, I've just downloaded it. It's a strange colour but I'm not squinting when I look at the screen. Thanks for this info, Paul.

Paul on 11/23/2012

Haha, glad I could help! :)

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