f.lux fixes this: it makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. It’s even possible that you’re staying up too late because of your computer. You could use f.lux because it makes you sleep better, or you could just use it just because it makes your computer look better. Ever notice how people texting at night have that eerie blue glow? Or wake up ready to write down the Next Great Idea, and get blinded by your computer screen? During the day, computer screens look good, they’re designed to look like the sun. But, at 9PM, 10PM, or 3AM, you probably shouldn’t be looking at the sun. f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time. When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like your indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again. Tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live. Then forget about it f.lux will do the rest, automatically.
f.lux changes the color temperature of your computer’s display depending on the time of day. Everything’s normal during the day, but f.lux users warmer colors after sunset to match your indoor lighting. This free tool is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and it’s most often used on laptops and desktops. However, f.lux can also be used on iPhones and iPads if you jailbreak, and there are similar utilities available for Android.
The lighting of the world around us changes depending on the time of day. During the day, we’re exposed to bright sunlight that has a cool, blue color temperature. This helps keeps us awake and affects our circadian rhythms. At night, the bright sunlight is gone — instead, we’re using indoor lighting that is generally dimmer and warmer. Our brains secrete melatonin during these darker hours when we’re not exposed to sunlight, causing us to get sleepier.
But our computers didn’t get the message. The theory is that staring at these bright, sun-like screens — late into the night or morning, as many of us do — strains our eyes and inhibits melatonin production. Yes, some computers have brightness sensors and will adjust the screen brightness depending on how bright it is around you, but the color temperature doesn’t change.
f.lux will use warmer colors at night than during the day, making white colors appear a bit more reddish. The theory is that looking at a warmer display at night will help reduce eye strain, and — because you’re not staring at a bright, sunlight-like screen — cause your brain to secrete more melatonin and help you get to sleep earlier and sleep better.
We just covered the promise of f.lux, anyway. Some people just use f.lux because it makes their screens easier on the eyes, some use it because they think it helps them sleep better, and some use it for both reasons. But, obviously, we can’t just trust these claims without looking at the science behind them.
Unfortunately, there have been no scientific studies of f.lux itself. However, a variety of studies have found that being exposed to bright blue light can affect your sleep schedule. Subjectively, many of us have realized that staying on the computer staring at a bright screen late at night keeps us awake, while stepping away from that screen helps make us more tired.
f.lux may not be something you’ll want to use all the time. If you’re a graphic designer who depends on accurate color reproduction for the work you do in Photoshop or another image-editing program, it will cause problems. When watching a movie or playing a game on your computer, you may prefer accurate reproduction of colors over the warmer colors f.lux provides.
To help with this, f.lux provides an easy option that allows you to quickly disable it for an hour or for an entire night. There’s also a “Movie Mode” option that lasts two and a half hours after you enable it. As the official FAQ puts it: “We designed Movie Mode to preserve sky colors and shadow detail, while still providing a warmer color tone. It’s not perfect on either count, but it strikes a balance.”
f.lux doesn’t make any permanent changes — after you disable it, it will go back to the same color calibration your monitor was set to use. f.lux may seem very pink at first, so be sure to stick with it for a while if you decide to give it a try. As the official FAQ puts it: “On first use, it can take a while to adjust to the halogen settings. Try adjusting the color temperature sliders under Settings until you find one you like. Start with fluorescent or halogen and change it when your eyes adjust.”