Laptops, Notebooks, and Netbook Computers
Laptops, notebooks, netbooks are great devices. They allow us portable "on-the-fly" access to our files, such that we can give presentations, check stock levels, order stock, and a myriad of other things.
However, with these benefits come problems. The laptop is designed to be portable, and hence it is small. More recent additions to the laptop family, such as netbooks, are smaller still. The location of the input devices (keyboard and mouse) and the monitor are fixed. They cannot be moved in relation to each other. The presence of the touchpad, in the centre and in front of the keyboard pushes the keyboard about 2” further away than it does in a standard keyboard. Prolonged use of these devices can contribute to operator discomfort.
For example, if you position the laptop so that the monitor is in the correct position, the keyboard and mouse are too far away and too high. If you position the laptop so that the keyboard and mouse are in the correct position, the monitor is too close and too low.
The following are some suggestions that can help you reduce the discomfort felt when operating a laptop.
Using a laptop in your office
Mimic a desktop setup. Such a setup could include:
A Laptop Stand
Laptop stands are a frequently used device to make a laptop more ergonomic. Stands allow you to raise the laptop monitor such that the monitor position is more ergonomic. However, using a stand usually precludes using the laptop's built-in keyboard and touchpad. Consequently, to use a laptop stand you will need to attach a separate keyboard and mouse. Note: if your laptop does not have enough USB ports to accommodate a keyboard and mouse then consider an inexpensive USB hub.
Laptop stands often include a copy stand, which allows you to position your source documents immediately in-line with the monitor. This eliminates the neck twisting that occurs when source documents are off to one side.
Some examples of laptop stands:
|Ergo-Q 330 Notebook Stand||Ergo-T340 Laptop Stand|
Separate Keyboard and Mouse
Your choice of keyboard or mouse can be plugged into your laptop. As you are not carrying these keyboards and mice around, portability is not an issue.
Using a laptop on the road
There are portable devices that can help you adopt a more ergonomic posture when working on your laptop while on the road. Unfortunately, these devices increase the bulk and weight of the equipment you have to carry around. Such a setup could include:
An Ergo-Q Ultra-Portable Laptop Stand This compact stand folds to a width of less than 0.5" and weighs less than 1 lb. It has a built in copy stand, allowing alignment of source documents and monitor. It will require a separate mouse and keyboard.
|Ultra-Portable Laptop Stand 220||Ultra-Portable Laptop Stand 260||Ultra-Portable Laptop Stand folded up|
An InsTand Laptop Stand This stand comes in two versions: one for sitting and one that allows you to operate the laptop while standing. The model for sitting folds to 2" x 13" and weighs 1 lb. 6 oz; the model for standing folds to 2" x 18.5" and weighs 1 lb 10 oz.
|Basic InsTand Laptop Stand||InsTand Sit/Stand Laptop Stand|
Separate Keyboard and Mouse (portable)
Using a stand like the UltraPortable Laptop Stands will require you to take a keyboard with you, so portability is paramount. Small footprint compact keyboards are a good choice. Touchpad mice are a good portable alternative
Carrying your euqipment
Get yourself a carrying bag that has wheels on it. It will save you a lot of neck and shoulder wear and tear. Backpacks may not be big enough to carry your laptop, keyboard, mouse, and stand, plus any books or anything else you need to carry. I use an Eddie Bauer Drop-Bottom Rolling Duffle Bag when I visit clients. It is bulky, but I am able to transport my netbook, portable printer, catalogues and a healthy selection of product samples. I can take it on public transit without too many complaints from other riders.
Using a laptop in bed
If you are forced to work from bed it is still possible to use a laptop without twisting yourself into a pretzel. Such a setup could include the Laptop Laidback, as pictured below: