How to Use a Laptop In the Sun

After the 10-foot snowbanks melted and I could actually see grass, a wonderful weather phenomena happened: warm spring sunshine.

I love the sun. So naturally, nothing seemed more tempting than grabbing my laptop and heading outside to soak up the rays with a beer so I could do some writing.

Well, I couldn’t see a damned thing. The laptop was on and I was squinting away trying to see what I was doing. Fun? No. Productive? Not at all.

I turned to Twitter to ask people for solutions on how to use a laptop in the sun – I mean, hey. Plenty of folk seem to live in warm, sunny places. They must have all the answers to avoid going screen-blind, right? Here’s what they said:

Face the Sun. The most common suggestion to use a laptop in the sun and prevent screen blindness was to sit facing the sun. Angle the laptop and turn up the brightness for your screen display.

Look Cool. Put on a pair of shades while you’re working to help cut down the glare. And sit facing the sun, of course.

Find the Shade. Sit underneath an umbrella, a parasol or a tarp, or find a shady spot where you can work. You might not have figured out how to use a laptop in the sun, but you;re still outdoors and won’t go blind trying to see the screen, either.

Get a Box. Some contraptions in high-tech styles help box in your laptop to cut down glare. An alternative is to find a nice-sized cardboard box, set it on its side and stick your laptop in it to type. Use duct tape to hold together as required, in true Canadian style

Wear Socks. The best answer on how to use a laptop in the sun was to both sit in the sun and be in a dark place at the same time. Voila! This laptop body sock provided the ultimate solution to isolate yourself and your screen from glare. If you have an Aunt Betty, she could even knit you one.

Go Traditional You can use a pen and paper. The downside is that while you’ll see and be able to write in the sun, you’ll probably get hand cramps because you haven’t used a pen to write with in years.

Give Up. Sage advice included realizing that the Sun God is giving you a message. Begone, industrious worker, or revel in the rays. When you really can’t see, call it quits and go have a great day outdoors.

As a matter of fact, I think I will. That beer’s calling me.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Fantastic tips. I sit outside and try to work between classes, and always fail. Miserably.

    Oh, and I got quite a giggle out of that body sock. :P I wonder if I could get my sister to knit me one of them things. :D

    Allison’s last blog post..Taste and Create 7

  2. I wonder if I could crochet a body sock …

    But I agree that sitting in the sun is reserved for one of three things: quiet contemplation, drinking beer(s) or reading a book.

    The Sun God dislikes laptops. Unless you find a tree with some good shade, I’d say it’s probably not going to work.

    Allison White’s last blog post..Give world news a U.S. context

  3. James,

    Cute post. Red Green would be proud of the box-plus-duct-tape, but even he with his fashion sense would shun the body sock (LOL at the picture).

    I’m an old-fashioned girl. I almost always write on paper. The hottest day that good ol’ Delaware can dish out can’t phase paper.

    Actually, that’s not true. On the worst days it does tire your eyes, writing outside for too long. And don’t put your steel-barreled pen down in the sun, or when you come back you’ll need an oven mitt!

    No more seasonal affective disorder ’til October, eh? Congrats on relaxing for a while. :)

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Are You a Manager or a Leader? Why Pushing Change Always Fails

  4. Tried it a couple of times. Sunglasses aren’t that bad, but you need to crank up the brightness of the screen a lot, which in turn drains the battery and plugging in outside kind of defeats the purpose of a laptop. So I usually followed the last advice, and popped a beer.

    That sock made me laugh out loud by the way. That’s totally hilarious!

    Lodewijk van den Broek’s last blog post..Passionate People Make Passionate Blogs

  5. I am the umbrella in the sun girl anyway, so I have the best of both worlds. face and laptop in the shade, legs and feet stretched out in the sun. It works, I work.
    But only for so long. Then I head to the pool. :)

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..My Attitude, My Choice

  6. Not sure what apple did, but my new mb pro works great in the sun. Of course, I live in Ohio and so what we get as “sun” barely qualifies.

    How Not To Write’s last blog post..Looking for Your Master Theme? Me too.

  7. @ How Not – MAC! AUGH!! Until I have a sleek shiny Apple sitting on MY desk, that word is worse than (*(^%^%&*^%#$$%, which was so bad, I couldn’t write it on my own blog!

    Don’t worry about the sun. In Canada, we have sun for something like… oh, the blink of an eye and then it’s winter again.

    However, yes, you can get a sunburn in the winter. Very bad one, actually. AND go snowblind, which is not fun at all.

    @ Wendy – Pools are also a dirty word.

    @ Lode – I’m with you on the beer :)

    @ Kelly – If I write anything longer than my signature, I get hand cramps, unfortunately. I also sometimes cannot read my own writing. I very frequently cannot even understand jotted notes, so paper and pen are a very bad thing.

    @ Allison and Allison – Nyah, nyah… I can knit those body socks!

  8. Brett Legree says:

    This is a great list of tips. I had come late to the Twitter party and so didn’t add my 2 cents CDN, as the good stuff had already been said, I think.

    For myself, I use a combination – sit in the shade under “tree” (I’ll have to take a picture of him when his leaves are out), face the sun, and often use paper and pen – or just my thoughts. (If the sun can wash out my brain, I’m waaaaay too close to the sun!)

    One other thing to add, that I’ve not tried – perhaps one of the High Contrast colour schemes could make things easier to see. I’ll have to try it.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..my hero.

  9. …and if it’s a MacBook like in the picture, try hitting Control-Option-Command-8…

  10. Ahhh duct tape…
    The surest sign of poor workmanship is wrinkles in the duct tape, don’t cha know?

    Dana’s last blog post..Canadian English: A US and UK Hybrid

  11. Here’s a question: has anyone ever taken a metallic case laptop into the sun for long periods of time? Even a dark colored resin or plastic cased laptop? Wouldn’t it create uncomfortable heat in certain parts of the body?

    Come to think of it, it does already. Perhaps it’s a good thing that I’ve already sired my brood.

    Mark Dykeman’s last blog post..How to say the unsayable

  12. To be honest, although all your suggestions are solid…even the SOCK, (I think??) the last one if my favorite. If the sun is that bright, the rays that warm, the feeling that free…HECK…what are we doing with laptop anyway? :-)
    That is what I love about this world of mine on my LT…
    If the sun is too fine to deny, there is always 2 am for laptops…:-)
    Thanks James…some notable tips.

    PS…WENDY…I am with you on the umbrella…I’ll bring a couple lawn chairs.

    Harmony’s last blog post..What if You Lost Your Mind?

  13. I’m with Tei: Heed the signs, ditch the laptop, and enjoy that sunshine while it lasts!

    Rebecca Smith’s last blog post..The colon: an unappreciated mark with an unfortunate name

  14. That ingenious body sock just inspires me with awe: it looks stylish, protects from mosquitoes and will definitely prevent sunstroke :) Thanks for sharing!

    Copywriting 911’s last blog post..Drill Your Words to March Left-Right-Left

  15. Use a notebook with an LCD screen. The newer macbook pros have them and they work like a charm in sunlight. I use mine outside all the time.

    In fact, I love to work outside so much, I actually upgraded to a newer one just for ability to do this. Now, if I could just keep the bears away…

    Jonathan Fields’s last blog post..Prove it or lose it: how social proof can kill or fill your blog

  16. So, after I got all giddy seeing my name in blue hyperlink on Men with Pens, I stopped to read the post. Thanks SO much for the link, James.

    I am uber jealous that you can work in the sun. Living in Iowa, it’s either too hot or too cold to work outside comfortably. There are maybe two weeks out of the year where the temps are decent…and they invariably include wind. Plus, I work in a cube farm most days…I don’t see much of the sun. :(

  17. Gotta hang with Tei on this one James. Roll in the snowbank and let the sun melt it off. Or just sip that beer. Walk. Unplug.
    Then come back in and write us some more good words about what went through your head.

    Although he body sock was was pretty funny….I’m thinking all those beach combing web workers have a veranda nearby.

    You know me…yep..its a pen, a pencil and a Moleskine for the outdoors. The mac stays inside.

    All best,
    Jan

    Janice Cartier’s last blog post..In Search Of Wabi Sabi

  18. I can crank up my laptop’s brightness, b/c I have to be plugged in anyway. My battery lasts for about 30 seconds before going kaputt, so unless I’m a superhero of typing, there needs to be a power source.

    RLD: Taekwondo Happiness’s last blog post..Whoops!

  19. Of course, you could use them all at the same time, but it would be no fun at all. You’re much better off with a cold beer :)

    Sharon Hurley Hall’s last blog post..Don’t Count Your Chickens

  20. Yaaaaaaaayyyyy! Mine WINS!

    It IS sunny where I am today, but I am too sick to enjoy it. I keep getting up, doing some essential thing, and then going back to bed. You will be pleased to note that one of my essential things for this particular twenty minutes of consciousness is taking care of my obligations to the Menfolk with Penfolk.

    Oh, sun gods. Come heal me. I hurt.

    Tei’s last blog post..Writing for Non-Profits or Why Cheese is Awesome

  21. Hey, I just realized I got the lone Italian salutation. How did you KNOW? Prego, James. Cento di questi giorni, y scrive per loro tutti.

    O’course, I speak French too. Equally badly, but still. I can usually follow when we get all Quebecois in the comments.

    Tei’s last blog post..Writing for Non-Profits or Why Cheese is Awesome

  22. Considering that it’s pouring rain today, this whole post so sucks for me. Even the beer doesn’t taste right when it’s grey outside. Crap. I’ll have to change to wine.

    @ Tei – Hey! Calisse de tabernac, esti, oustqu’t’étais? C’est à peu près l’temps que tu démontres signe de vie, hein? ;)

  23. Now you’re just messing with me. That is not gentlemanly with penly of you.

    See, I can sort of translate this, but any attempt at a coherent response would be embarrassing all round. And what’s up with shoving all the words together so I have to guess, you damned Canadian, you? They didn’t do that do me in France, and they’re all . . . French and shit.

    I know you swore at me (bad monkey) because I’ve never heard holy words doubled up in any other context, but I’ve never heard it before. And I am ALWAYS lively. Even when ill. Me and my swords are going to show you signs of life like you would not believe. Yes. Moi et mes épées. That is as close as I am going to get dueling in French.

    ::grumble, grumble:: This is why my high school French teacher warned me against les Quebecois.

    Tei’s last blog post..Writing for Non-Profits or Why Cheese is Awesome

  24. *cackles in absolute, delighted glee*

    En garde!!

  25. á Tei, Le Quebecois te donnera les lecons , un peu des bons mots. Ecoute bien. Crisse, James, on parle á Tei en francais et pas moi, hmph…!!!! oui, oui elle est malade, je compris. Bien sur. Les hommes, ils changent avec le vent…. hmph ….encore, crisse ( c’est mon favorite)

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..In Search Of Wabi Sabi

  26. @ Janice – Crisse, c’est très, très bien. Calisse, encore mieux. Mais tabernac, ça, ça dit le tout.

    Mais je ne change pas comme le vent. Je suis égalitaire! Un peu à tout le monde, hm? ;)

  27. Geez do I have to babblefish this post now??

    Translater please?

    Harry….James is picking on one of the Pengirl Cheerleadeers…The gang girls are going to have to stick togethr here…..

    ( I just told on you James….so there)

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..My Attitude, My Choice

  28. Oui, je SUIS malade et tout le monde doit être sympathique à moi. Blasphémateurs. Nous maudissons par les choses normales dans les états. Comme le sexe. Et, vous savez. Les chiens.

    Je pense que mon rythme normal de conversation ne marche pas en français. Il semble bizarre.

    Tei’s last blog post..Writing for Non-Profits or Why Cheese is Awesome

  29. Je ris. Te, c’est vrai….elle a dit le sexe, les chiens , le rhythme …et bizarre….

    Mais oui. James, le gentilhomme doit etre egalitaire… moi, je suis femme c’est ma nature d’avoir un peu d’envie.
    Note to self: practice more…calisse , plus forte , tabernac…. and Tei, she is equally entertaining en francais. :)

    Ahh, not even 5pm yet . Wendy is tattling to Harry.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..In Search Of Wabi Sabi

  30. Hmm… Moi je songe au fait que je crois que les chiens et le sexe mentionné dans la même phrase n’est peux-être pas une bonne chose…

    @ Wendy – Well, it all started when I asked Tei where she’s been, lately…

  31. Fucking bitches.

    See? It was easy. And it didn’t profane the holy church.

    That always made me laugh, in translations of French movies. Everything was translated to ‘fuck’. EVERYTHING.

    Tei’s last blog post..Writing for Non-Profits or Why Cheese is Awesome

  32. James,
    Janice is allowed to spell my name wrong, no one ever pointed it out to her before. You are just getting yourself in more trouble with the PenGirls.

    But I’m still listening…it all started when you asked her where she had been..

    and then?

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..My Attitude, My Choice

  33. Oh! THAT’S what that was. Ou est-ce que t’étais. Jeez. Just had to be mean.

    Tei’s last blog post..Writing for Non-Profits or Why Cheese is Awesome

  34. @ Wendi with an I – Damn. Sorry. I did it again.

    So yeah, and then she said my French was all mangled and got upset and drew her fencing sword on me and went and told everyone I was being mean and then they all ganged up on me and nobody understands and I just wanted to be all cool with her and ask how she was feeling and now she’s calling me names but I can’t say anything because they think I pick on girls…

    Worked when I was six. Does it still work at 36?

  35. @ Tei – That’s how it’s pronounced up here :) The French from France say “Ou êtes vous?” which just sounds snobby.

  36. Aw. Quick, everyone, be sorry for James for picking on an invalid only two-thirds as old as he is.

    I don’t have a fencing sword. You are not so lucky. I have double short swords and a long sword. No measly little epee. You are in for bigger holes, my friend.

    But I still loooove you!

    Tei’s last blog post..Writing for Non-Profits or Why Cheese is Awesome

  37. Ah….Tei….. come on…Look at those Puppy-dog eyes..
    and he said he was sorry for spelling my name wrong.

    don’t you think the PenGirls could cut him some slack just this once if he promises to be nice to you for…well….at least an hour or so?

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..My Attitude, My Choice

  38. Yeah, I guess. Since I want him to put in a good word for me with Harry and all. They’re doing my website. I’m kinda psyched about it.

    Tei’s last blog post..Writing for Non-Profits or Why Cheese is Awesome

  39. @Tei

    Well then for sure you want to cut him some slack so they do an awesomer that their normal awesome job.

    ( I’m getting in line soon)

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..My Attitude, My Choice

  40. Wendiiiiiiiiiii. I am so sorry. I have been typing Brian as Brain all day. As the English say…feel as dumb as two planks here….

    Tei, love the f -word…some days, I like to claim total custody of it….it just sounds so emphatically good. Very useful, flexible curse. But rarely, southern conditioning, get to use it in mixed company…

    Maybe creative cursing is a post of interest, Pen Men… here’s one from Amy in Paris on cordon bleu in process….
    http://msglaze.typepad.com/paris/2007/11/how-to-talk-lik.html

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..In Search Of Wabi Sabi

  41. Sacrement…I spend one day in work and you all get out of control.

    @ Tei: put the short swords away, they’re no match for the claymore.

    @Wendi: Don’t fall for the puppy-eyes, it’s a trap.

    @James & Janice: Stop spewing French all over the place or I’ll be forced to start speaking Welsh.

  42. @Harry

    See, that’s what all the Vikings say, but then I bested several and one of ‘em made me his champion for life. And he’s a big dude. He’s all six-foot-five and splendidly bearded and shit. And I’m his tiny little blond champion.

    Besides, I can’t wield a claymore. I’m tiny. But I am SPEEDY. Short swords are great for that. If I get one good arm-shot in, you can’t use your claymore anymore.

    Dexterity over brute force. It’s the rogue way. Ding!

    Tei’s last blog post..Writing for Non-Profits or Why Cheese is Awesome

  43. Oh, Yeah Harry? Look what I found.

    http://www.geiriadur.net/

    :-)

    They started it!!!

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..In Search Of Wabi Sabi

  44. Geeze, I leave for class for 1 hour and you all start a duel w/o me! No fair – I like bloodshed as much as the next girl… Then again, I’m the type to bring a knife to a gun fight.

    Anyway, if you all are going to bust out the French, I’m going to have to start in on my German and German is never a pretty sight, no matter how fluent a person is ;)

  45. @ RLD – Ich haben eine bleischteif. :)

  46. @Tei: Guess I’ll just have to result to the old Indy Jones move with the revolver.

    @Janice: dda swydd. But can you wrap your head around the pronunciations?

  47. @James – ich hab’ auch ein Bleistift und eine Kuli. Ich bin gar mehr kool als dich ;)

    RLD: Taekwondo Happiness’s last blog post..Whoops!

  48. @Tei I’m confused. Can you explain this whole Viking champion thing for me?

  49. @ Sandie

    Oh, man, that’s a long story. In brief:

    I learned to swordfight from a very large, bearded, Viking-esque dude named Jordan. A long time ago. I was very, very good at the swordfighting, and we were very close friends, and in one of those little private spontaneous ceremonies that happens between friends, he forged me a sword over one summer and knighted me as his champion, his protector and that of his children.

    Also, it means I get to fight for him when we have battles. That’s the fun bit.

    Tei’s last blog post..Writing for Non-Profits or Why Cheese is Awesome

  50. Oh yeah Harry?
    The Welsh for the workplace….riviting….real temptin’

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/learnwelsh/

    All this is is making me pretty thirsty and oddly wanting a Heineken, no a Bordeaux Blanc, no a Coors….aughhh …no a Vegas martini, in welsh.. must be the paint fumes…

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..In Search Of Wabi Sabi

  51. Good God, I was going to jump in here and say something coherent about laptops, but I can’t do it in 1 French, 2. Italian, or 3. Viking, so I guess I will be on my merry way.

    Thanks for the tips. I may try again – in the sun that is.

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..Feed on Some RSS Fruit

  52. Brett Legree says:

    Here’s what you need for a laptop in the sun:

    http://www.gadgetcentral.com/eyetrek_intro.html

    Don’t think they make them anymore though.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..my hero.

  53. @Tei You rock my socks, girl.

  54. Hi James – I find this frustrating too – not that we get much sun in the North of England. I tried the huge umbrella one when I went to Spain and that was the only one that actually worked for me. It needs to be a massive umbrella though.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Dirty Little Secrets 2 – The Investigation

  55. Someone mentioned the invert display function standard with macbooks – there is software called nocturne to do this even ‘better’ which is meant to work well in the sun – I’ve tried it a few times and it’s pretty good.

    http://blog.wired.com/monkeybites/2007/05/turn_your_mac_i.html

  56. This was definitely unique! Thanks so much for the tips. I do wish you had of written this last year when I used my new laptop outside for the first time. I messed around moving the laptop for at least 15 minutes trying to get it to where I could read the screen. I was never able to get it where I wanted it, but I managed enjoy the sun for a little while as I wrote. Thanks to your article, next time I venture outdoors with my laptop I won’t have to waste as much time as I did before, because I’ll know what to do this time around. ;)

    By the way, this post was my favorite blog read of the day, which I post at Twitter. In other words, I linked to your article from Twitter announcing it as my favorite blog read of the day. In addition, I’ve also shared it on StumbleUpon, Digg and Del.icio.us. :)

    Thanks again for the wonderful tips!

    Misti Sandefur’s last blog post..Research Resources

  57. @ Misti – Aw, that’s very cool of you! I actually tried to work outside last year too, got completely frustrated, pissed off and gave up. But this year, I’m DETERMINED to find that life of luxurious leisure us home-office web workers are supposed to have.

  58. It was my pleasure, James; your post certainly deserved it.

    Last year I almost gave up out of frustration myself, but I wasn’t going to let the sun win. :)

    Misti Sandefur’s last blog post..Research Resources

  59. Linda - Nickers and Ink says:

    Laptop in the sun . . .

    Ah, finally the warm weather has arrived.

    Of course, if your laptop overheats, as mine does, you may not choose to hold it in your lap. All sorts of weird things can happen.

    Blessings,
    Linda

    SIMPLY SNICKERS – weekly poetry prompts

  60. great tips!
    I love doing it while on vacation near by beach. :)
    sun is really blinding so my “transition” eye glasses is working very good on this.

    :)
    .-= Jomar´s last blog ..Help: The Sound on my Computer is not Working =-.

  61. Nancy in Michigan says:

    By a Mr. Hoody Laptop Shake. Problem solved. Amazon. $30.00 Will change your life.

  62. With a mini spring heatwave affecting England right now, the appeal to sit out in the garden and get some work done is a strong one. Found your post after searching for a solution to the sun affecting the use of a laptop… now I’m off to put some of the ideas into practice, thanks!
    .-= James´s last blog ..Playstation 4 Specification Ideas =-.

  63. wow, great tips there. I still have a desktop PC but im about to buy a laptop and know my friend struggles in the sun when he is on it, i may just pass this on to him, or i might keep it to myself lol

  64. Thanks for the tips, I’ve found that whenever I use my laptop outside I have to try and sit opposite of the sun and tilt the screen way down causing me to look awkward. I became frustrated and have avoided using it outside since, unless I am in a covered area of course.
    .-= mate´s last blog ..Want to guest blog about PlayStation 4, Sony Move, etc? =-.

  65. Wear a black shirt. Shiny screens reflect your shirt and a black shirt will create the least distraction.

  66. Funny how there is no real solution to this problem, unless they start making laptops using e-ink technology. Nothing that is commercially available really seems to work reliably.

    Thx for the article…will try it the Red Green way!!!

  67. Another option if you’re writing in a word document is to crank your font size to near 200% so everything is large enough for you to see comfortably. If you do this in a temporary mode by utilizing the slide bar in the bottom right hand corner rather than as the actual property you are composing in, you won’t have to go back to make adjustments. It will only be in effect while you’re typing and you can switch it back to your normal setting by simply sliding it back into place. I’m going to test this theory RIGHT NOW by the pool!

    Happy Friday. ;-)

    A. Scott Galloway
    Music Journalist
    Los Angeles

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