This tip comes from messing around with my system and general clues about how screen savers work from various forums. The basic idea behind this trick is to install some cool screen savers that are not in the most obvious positions. Its quick and simple to do. As well as this there are some really cool effects that should really be installed by default. There are two sets, the black and white version included on every system and some really amazing screen savers found only on your Leopard disk. These could be found in Tiger you would have to look your self.
As you may or may not know most screen savers are quartz compositions. Quartz compositions is the technology Apple uses for a lot of its cool effects found on your system. As a default install there are only a couple of quartz files installed as default but if you hunt around your can find a whole lot more. A whole folder full.
If you point your Finder window to
System/Library/Compositions you will find a folder full of files. Some movie files but the majority are good screen saver candidates. In my system there are over 80 files which can be used. If you are a user of iChat, slideshow transitions, image effects or iTunes visualizers some you may have seen them before. Some work really well some don’t. I will go through a list of the ones that are good candidates a bit later in this post.
To install a new hidden screen saver it is a simple method of drag and drop. You find the file you want and drag it onto the System Preference pane with the screen saver tab open. This is the best and most efficient way as the original file will stay in its original spot in case it is needed by another program. Double clicking on a file can cause different effects depending on what programs you have installed. The safest route is to drag and drop. Once you have let go you can view the visualization.
To save you the plan of dragging and dropping every single file onto the screen savers window to find which ones are good I have gone through the entire list to find which screen savers are worth installing. As a side note if you want to uninstall a screen saver just right click on the name in the menu and select move to trash.
The following is a list of the really good quartz files from the file path above. Each one has a small image giving you a quick overview of what each one looks like. If you click on the image you can find larger version. I will tell you how you can make them more colourful and move away from the black and white look as well as changing the variables.
The first screen saver is a very fine floating grid that will move towards you. Very relaxing to watch. Variables include changing the background colours, the grid angles in x and y, the pace of the grid as it move and the density of the lines. This screen saver looks really good until you change the angle of the lines then it seems to lose its effect,
Once again very hypnotic circles gently caress across the screen. The variables to change include the foreground and background colours, the pace of the circles, size of the circles, the blur, density of the circles and finally if you want to use hexagons or not. This is one of my favorites.
A very simple screen that moves a gradient lines across the image as if you were looking at a copy machine or scanner while in motion. The only problem I find with this one is that it does not repeat often enough. Variable for this one include changing two image which seem to have no effect and the background image.
This type of screen saver will appear a couple of times in this list. It is a collection of small falling beads in lines that move across the screen. Very simple but very cool. Variables include the bead colour, background colour, line pace, angle in x and y of the line, depth, and the glow of the lines.
This screen saver isn’t very useful of interesting but I really like it. This is a very geeky quartz composition as it shows the try power of the animation engine. To me it looks like rendered water that gently moves across the floor. You can change the colours to make them more interesting. The input variables include the floor colours and the pace, moving the pace up makes things look really interesting.
A very simple file that enables you to move a simple shape around. The shape file has to be black and white, or a mask if I can remember correctly. The variables for this screen saver include changing the image, speed and colour.
What I feel as the reject screen saver from flurry, this little file involves a small energy beam darting around the screen. Very colour full and interesting to watch. Variables include changing the speed of the dart.
The moving beads are back in the form of travelator. This file is a bit more complex and has a couple move movement effects. The variables include the foreground and background colours, pace, angle in x and y, depth and glow.
The final one I have picked out to be a good candidate to install. This file gently moves across the screen. Very simple and effective. Variables include speed and colour as mentioned before numerous times.
I have mentioned a couple of times the variables which can be changed to adjust the composition files. These are found through the option menu within the screen savers tab. By clicking on the drop down box you will be given a list of check box’s with random names used by the engine. Since these aren’t final products they haven’t been polished off and named and presented sensibly. Most of the variables are very self explanatory. Just change the sliders about click on a check box and see what happens, you can usually make them brighter and better looking by changing the variables. Most of the time the change will be instantaneous. If you mess up and want them set back to defaults you can click the appropriate button.
If you remember at the beginning I mentioned that there are two places in which you can find quartz compositions to use as screen savers. The first are used by the system the second are used example which are a lot better. If you want to find the better example you need your Leopard installation disk. The examples will be found by installing the Xcode tools. If you think installing 2.5Gb of tools is a bit overkill you can just install the examples found on the disk. If you go to
/Optional Installs/Xcode Tools/Packages and install DevExamples.pkg you should get all the packages.
Once as you have installed the examples you can no navigate to
Developer/Examples/Quartz Composer/Compositions. Here you will find a whole load of folders and files which you can use. I will show you the ones which are worth checking out. I will also mention a couple which should be checked out in passing. Since these a split up into folders I will write the folder they belong to.
These include particles system (shown right) and blob and explosive. All three are really good screen saver choices. They are colourful are bright and at the same time interesting. Uniquely these don’t have any variables which you can change.
Some of the best screen savers are found in this folder. The best one being Image TV as shown right. This involves a wall of images cascading and moving around your screen. You may have seen it being shown on various Apple adverts. It was definitely shown with the Apple TV. Others include flip clock. As many people have asked you can download the file here if you don’t want to install the packages.
My two favourite files are located here. One being star shine, which shows a whizzing colourful particle beaming moving around the page. The second being psychotic. Psychotic taps into your iSight camera and shows you a CCTV type image that stutters around the page in eerie black and white. Reminds me of a horror movie.
Inside this folder you can find a really cool file called scanner. It basically an animation which makes it look like it is in a star field whizzing around. Its quite hard to explain. The only thing I do know is that it looks cool but breaks if you change the image. Other include the gimmicky static which looks like you left an untuned TV on.
As the last folder to check out and to nicely round off this segment if you look in screen savers you will find a file called Security. This again taps into your iSight camera and take an image of what ever is sitting in front of you computer and transforms it into a CCTV/security type image. Great fun.
You must agree with me that these second lot are a lot more interesting and fun to watch. You may also be wondering how I found out how these look. Its is really simple you install and use Quartz Composer. If you install this application from the Leopard CD, under the Xcode tools, you will be able to click on any .qtz file and open it up for quick viewing. This is really quick and enables you to quickly open the file, check if it is any good, and then decide if you want to use it as a screen saver. I did this by the way with every single .qtz I found to see if it was any good. The image below is an example of how complicated quartz can get, the lines almost look the back of a computer server. But the effects are amazing, I really like the image tv file as an example.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I really enjoyed writing it. I *might* try and have a fiddel with Quartz Composer to see how it works and see if I can produce anything. As a final note check out these hidden screen savers to see how they manage on CPU resources. As they are not designed to be screen savers many of them take up a lot of CPU, if you are on a laptop they can drain your battery pretty quick.
Any comments or suggestions please leave one below.
Edit: I have added the .qtz file for the Image TV as many people have requested it. You can find it here.
Edit 2: If you are having trouble make sure you look in Macintsoh HD > System > Library > Compositions. There is also one in Macintosh HD > Library > Compositions but that one is empty and only used for person compositions.