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Summary:

One of the great attractions of web work is supposed to be the ability to work anywhere, right? And now that we’re at the height of summer, the urge is strong to charge up the laptop and head to the beach or the mountains or even […]

One of the great attractions of web work is supposed to be the ability to work anywhere, right? And now that we’re at the height of summer, the urge is strong to charge up the laptop and head to the beach or the mountains or even the local park and set up outdoors, enjoying the sun while billing some poor office-bound client your full hourly rate. What could be better than touching up your tan while you work?

If you’ve ever tried this, you know immediately what could be better: being able to actually see your laptop screen, that’s what. Laptops are great for many things, but visibility in bright sunlight is not one of their high points. Over my years of mobility, I’ve tried a bunch of things to get around this, and collected ideas from others. If you insist on going out to work, try some or all of these potential solutions to see what you’re doing:

  • Work under an awning or umbrella.
  • Wear a baseball cap, cowboy hat, or other cap with a brim, pulled low to put your eyes in shadow.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses.
  • Equip your laptop with an anti-glare screen. (The last time I tried this, a few years back, I couldn’t actually find any that worked, but perhaps the technology has improved.)
  • Equip your laptop with a sunshade. You can buy a commercial version or spend a few minutes with a big piece of cardboard and some tape to make your own.
  • Take frequent breaks to look away from the screen to ease your eyestrain.
  • Give up, have a beer, and decide that the summer sun is more important than work. You probably need to stop billing in this case, though.

If you’ve got another solution to using a laptop out in the summer sun, we’d love to hear it!

  1. The umbrella tip is a good one. That’s the drawback of the newer glossy laptop screens, they reflect EVERYTHING … I miss my older, slower laptop that had more of a “matte” finish.

    – Dave

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  2. [...] to the point of this post…how to use a laptop outside. If you’re determined to do it, Web Worker Daily explains how to actually see the screen when you’re in the great outdoors. An [...]

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  3. beer sounds good to me…

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  4. [...] How to Use Your Laptop Outside One of the great attractions of web work is supposed to be the ability to work anywhere, right? And now that […] [...]

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  5. The glossy screens are brighter, so in theory should be easier to see outside? Only just ordered one so it will be interesting to test. Also older laptops simply aren’t as bright as newer ones, and of course the brighter the better.

    You might need to test different polarised sunglasses. A cheap pair I tried only let light in from my powerbook screen at a 45 degree angle. Maybe other glasses or panels work at different angles?

    Using the laptop in the shade, with a hat to block as much sunlight reaching your eyes as possible is the best I’ve managed to get it.

    Perhaps something like a privacy socks might be good?!

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  6. I think the point of this post was to get outside and get some sun instead of sitting on the computer all day :)

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  7. Some of the tablets and ruggedized laptops have ‘ViewAnywhere’ displays that you can use outside as well as inside. Quality, of course, varies…

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  8. [...] It’s summer, well in the Northern Hemisphere at least, and some of us might be tempted to use our laptops outside occasionally.  Web Worker Daily has a few tips for this and this one is my favourite: Give up, have a beer, and decide that the summer sun is more important than work. You probably need to stop billing in this case, though. Source: Web Worker Daily » Blog Archive How to Use Your Laptop Outside « [...]

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  9. Mac users (I would think there would be a windows equivalent) can also install “Nocturne” (http://nocturne.en.softonic.com/mac) a freeware app that switches display to a negative monochrome. It’s listed as being helpful to reduce eyestrain at night (low light), but I also find it helpful when working outside or in a bright cafe (both inderect light).

    I also find this better than the Universal Access (System Preferences) alternative, b/c the monochrome does not reverse colors, thereby making them distracting (to me).

    May not work with serious browsing, but with text editor / spreadsheets / etc., I find it very useful.

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  10. That’s how I created my Sunbox and it’s still working after a year.

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