How many times have you found a feature in iOS that you wished was part of OS X/macOS?
With the latest iteration of iOS 9, we’re treated to a new feature – Night Shift. Night Shift adjusts the color temperature of your screen to work with your circadian rhythm (your sleep pattern).
The brain perceives blue light (computers, HDTVs, etc.) as sunlight, sending a signal to your brain that you should be wide awake. Conversely, amber/yellow light conveys the message that it’s nearly time to visit the Land of Nod.
A more vivid way to demonstrate the concept of color temperature is to ask if you have ever watched a movie produced in the 70’s, where the scene took place in a room with fluorescent light. Many times everything on screen had a vibrant green hue! That was caused by the temperature of the light that the fluorescent bulbs produced. (Technology has since created fluorescent bulbs to match the color temperature of any given lighting condition while filming, so now you notice no difference.)
And as with many features found it Mac OSs, they weren’t the first to the table.
“f.lux for OS X 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.”
f.lux for OS X has been around for nearly a decade. I honestly only found out about it when I was telling a friend how much I was looking forward to trying Night Shift. He told me that he had been using f.lux for years on his laptop and loved it. As f.lux for OS X is made for your desktop, it complements Apple’s iOS version. (That is, until Apple inevitably incorporates Night Shift into they’re desktop OS.)
Once installed, you access f.lux through an icon in your Menu Bar. From here you can adjust your preferences and various other features or quit the app.
As in Night Shift, you enter your zip code so that the application knows when sunrise and sunset occur locally. It then automatically adjusts the color temperature shifts accordingly.
You can choose from several presets which your can sample ahead of time, in order to select the one you prefer most. You also set what time you wake up so that the temperature is set when you sit down to work or whatever. (I found amusing the messages that it presents in the upper left corner of the preference pane. One is obvious – “The sun is up.” But there is one that pops up occasionally that tells you the sun is up and then instructs you to “go outside.”)
Underneath the preferences in the menu, you’ll find Options (i.e., “Sleep in on weekends, Extra hour of sleep, …), Color Effects (i.e., Movie mode, OS X Dark theme at sunset, …), and Disable (i.e., for an hour, for current app, …).
I gave the Movie mode setting a whirl and was expecting to be underwhelmed. But to my surprise, I found it to be unnoticeable. The whites appeared white. All the colors seemed to be true. Also, when you launch Movie mode it automatically sets a timer to turn the mode off in 2 1/2 hours, just in case you should forget to reset the app when you’re done watching whatever it is that you’re glued to. Or fall asleep, perhaps?
The one thing that I came across that bothered me, but is in no way a deal breaker, is that when you’re scrolling text in Night mode, the text has a red shadow while scrolling. Don’t know why (maybe it’s because of my background in video), but I found it mildly disconcerting.
If you plan to use f.lux on El Capitan, there is one issue that the developers are currently working on to remedy. “The new “automatic brightness” feature [in El Capitan] is not compatible with f.lux. You’ll see blue flashing and fading if they are used together. For now you’ll need to disable it by using System Preferences -> Displays and unchecking “Automatically adjust brightness”.”
After using f.lux for OS X for about a week, I had the same experience that I had when I began using Night Shift. I found the change in color tone initially jarring, but it was particularly noticeable on a larger screen. At first, I was sure that there was no way that I could become accustomed to this. But as I began using it regularly, I found the difference became imperceptible within a couple of days. I think that using Night Shift for several weeks prior to installing f.lux made the adjustment much smoother.
I also noticed as an added bonus that my eyes didn’t burn while using the computer at night. I had always assumed that the sensation was simply caused from staring at the screen for so long. Guess I was wrong. (Although taking a break every so often, like using the Pomodoro method of time management, doesn’t hurt either.)
If you find yourself benefitting from Night Mode, I definitely recommend that you give f.lx for OS X a try.
f.lux for OS X can be downloaded on the home page for free, but the developers ask that if you benefit from it, to please consider donating to continue development. System requirements: OS X 10.6+ can run the latest version, plus they keep old versions available for 10.4 and 10.5.
If you would like to learn more about the science as to why this technology works, click here.
Now, if they could only have the same temperature adjustment automation for my HDTV, I could possibly get a decent night’s sleep.
©2016 Frank Petrie