5 Tips for Laptop Use

CUergo: 5 Tips for Laptop Use Cornell University Ergonomics Web 5

CUergo: 5 Tips for Laptop Use

Cornell University Ergonomics Web

5 Tips for Using a Laptop Computer

  1. Un-ergonomic Laptops – the design of laptops violates a basic
    ergonomic requirement for a computer, namely that the keyboard and screen are
    separated. In the early days of personal computing desktop devices integrated
    the screen and keyboard into a single unit, and this resulted in widespread
    complaints of musculoskeletal discomfort. By the late 1970’s a number of
    ergonomics design guidelines were written and all called for the separation of
    screen and keyboard. The reason is simple – with a fixed design, if the
    keyboard is in an optimal position for the user, the screen isn’t and if the
    screen is optimal the keyboard isn’t. Consequently, laptops are excluded from
    current ergonomic design requirements because none of the designs satisfy this
    basic need. This means that you need to pay special attention to how you use
    your laptop because it can cause you problems.
  2. Laptop User Type – how to you use your laptop? Are you an occasional
    who works on your laptop for short periods of time or are you a full-time
    with the laptop as your main computer? Occasional users will have less
    risk of problems than full-time users. All users should pay some attention
    to how they use their laptop, but full-time users may have more problems.
  3. Laptop Posture – as indicated above, laptops violate basic
    ergonomic design requirements, so using a laptop is a tradeoff between poor
    neck/head posture and poor hand/wrist posture.

    • Occasional Users – because the neck/head position is determined
      by the actions of large muscles, you are better off sacrificing neck
      posture rather than wrist posture. For occasional use:

      • find a chair that is comfortable and that you can sit back in
      • positioning your laptop in your lap for the most neutral wrist
        posture that you can achieve
      • angling the laptop screen so that you can see this with the least
        amount of neck deviation
    • Full-time Users – if you use your laptop at work as your main
      computer you should:

      • position this on your desk/worksurface in front of you so that you
        can see the screen without bending your neck. This may require that
        you elevate the laptop off the desk surface using a stable support
        surface, such as a computer monitor pedestal.
      • use a separate keyboard and mouse. You should be able to connect a
        keyboard and mouse directly to the back of the laptop or to a
        docking station
      • use the keyboard on a negative-tilt
        keyboard tray
        to ensure a wrist neutral posture
      • use the mouse on an adjustable position mouse platform
      • follow the postural guidelines for working at a computer
  4. Laptop dimensions – many laptops offer large screens (15″
    plus) and can work as desktop replacements (giving the viewing area of a
    17″ monitor). However, think about where you will most use your laptop
    to help you choose the best size. The larger the screen the more difficult
    it will be to use this in mobile locations (e.g. airplane, car, train).
    There are a number of smaller notebook and ultraportable laptops on the
    market. Consider issues of screen size and screen resolution. A small screen
    (e.g.12.1″) will be useful in mobile settings, but if the resolution is
    high (e.g. XGA – 1024 x 768) make sure that you can read the screen
    characters and can easily use the input device to point to areas on the
    screen. The smaller the laptop, the smaller the keyboard, so make sure that
    you can comfortably type on a keyboard that may be only 75% the size of a
    regular keyboard.
  5. Laptop weight – if you are a mobile professional who will be
    frequently transporting your laptop think about the weight of the system. By
    the word ‘system’ I mean the weight of the laptop plus the required
    accessories (e.g. power supply, spare battery, external disk drive, zip
    drive, CD_RW, DVD, Blu Ray etc.). Many lightweight portables can become as heavy as
    regular laptops when you add the weight of all of the components together.
    If your laptop + components weighs 10lbs or more then you should certainly
    consider using a  carry-on bag that you can pull along.  If you
    want a smaller bag and can comfortably carry your laptop consider a good
    shoulder bag design (e.g. see  “The Perfect Laptop Bag” article
    , article

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© Professor Alan Hedge, Cornell University, content last updated June 13, 2015




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