When consumers think about which operating system to choose the last thing they worry about is what the screen saver looks like. But as a proud Mac user you should give it some thought — and when you discover the enormous range of options you’ve got for setting your screen saver, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you decided to buy a Mac.
Your Screen Saver settings are buried in System Preferences (Apple Menu > System Preferences) under the Desktop & Screen Saver panel. If you’re on Leopard, the default Screen Saver is set to Flurry, and if you’re running Tiger it’s probably set to Computer Name.
In Leopard, the first step in customising your Screen Saver is to determine whether you want to use one of the built-in Screen Savers or use photos in a folder, or select from iPhoto or Aperture to create your own Screen Saver. You’ll notice that if you scroll down the list of Screen Savers you’ll find your albums from iPhoto or Aperture, but you’ll also notice a few other options.
The first is the Choose Folder option. Selecting this lets you specify any folder — including one on a network — that contains images. Once selected, the system will scan through the photos in the selected folder and add the folder as a list in your Screen Saver preference panel. If you’d prefer to use an iPhoto or Aperture album scroll down the list until you find it.
Once you’ve decided which album or folder to use the fun begins. Take a closer look below the preview window and you’ll find three small buttons that let you customise how your photos are displayed. The first is Slideshow mode. This is the default option where your images are shown in a plain slideshow — nothing too fancy. In the options for Slideshow you’ll be able to set the order of slides, choose whether to zoom in and out or cross-fade between slides. The next button lets you display your images as a Collage — your images drop on to the screen against a black background and progressively fade out as new images appear. Again, the options here let you display your images in random order, and even annotate your collage with names and dates.
The last and most interesting button is called Mosaic. The Mosaic theme demonstrates the underlying Core Graphics power in OS X and takes your images and creates a mosaic of them — the Screen Saver zooms out from a single image to a large mosaic constructed of lots of your photos. The options let you specify the number of rows in the mosaic, and the speed at which the Screen Saver runs.
If you’re not interested in displaying images on your Screen Saver you can use the .Mac and RSS option to display your favourite RSS feeds. To specify which RSS feeds to display select the Options button under the preview window and enter the address of the RSS feed. Remember, to use this option you’ll need to have an active internet connection.
Additionally, the Screen Saver preference pane also lets you specify how quickly your Screen Saver comes on after a period of inactivity — and should be used in conjunction with the Energy Saver preference pane to control the amount of power your Mac consumes while it’s sitting idle. You can also set Hot Corners that let you quickly activate the Screen Saver by placing your cursor in any corner of the screen.