Create A Custom Flickr RSS Screensaver and Wallpaper 1


Create A Custom Flickr RSS Screensaver and Wallpaper


Today’s post is about using Flickr and all of its wonderful images to form an RSS feed that can be used to populate a custom screen saver and generate a self updating wallpaper for your Mac. The magic of this trick is that ever type a new post is submitted to the Flickr group, pool or user page your screen saver or wallpaper will automatically update. I think it is really cool and interesting, and makes your Mac a bit more dynamic and interesting. I have tested this on Snow Leopard and I assume it will work on Lion.

RSS Feed Setup

This tip can work with an RSS feed of images from any source. I am going to use Flickr because there is a wealth of images which we can us. The first step is to get our RSS feed set up. In Flickr find the group or user you who’s images you want to use. Select the feed link from the bottom of the page. For instance I like the minimalist group.

Select the latest RSS feed for the newest images.

The problem with the latest feed and Flickr is that the images are small. So we are going to use a bit of magic to get the large images. One of these tools is a tool from Yahoo Pipes called Flickr Feed Image Resizer. Simply put your RSS feed into the URL box and select large from the options. It will take your feed, extract the large images and push out a new RSS feed with the large high resolution images.

A Yahoo Pipe to build an RSS feed with large images.

Screen Saver

Now we have an RSS feed with large images contained inside of it we can now place it into a screen saver. Open up System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver, select the screen saver tab. Below the list click on the new button and select “Add RSS Feed”.

Adding in the RSS is simple. Just select the right option.

When the input box appears, add in the Yahoo pipes URL and select OK. It will take a while for the URL to be accepted.

After the RSS feed URL has been added your screen saver is complete. It will update and pull the latest images from the group when they have been added. You can also change the view options by selecting the options underneath the preview, you can select between mosaic, single image (known as slide show), or a collage effect where the images drop down and build up as the screen saver runs.

There are some great flickr groups out there, so you can have a lot of fun making some fantastic screensavers. If you have a group you want to share, please leave a comment.


We can now extend this little tip to the desktop. By applying a simple Terminal command or using an app we can set the screen saver to be our background. This will then enable you to have a background that constantly changes and updates. To apply this command ensure you have set the RSS feed as your screen saver in the System Preferences. Then open up Terminal and type:

/System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Resources/ -background

It must be all one line for it to work. After a second you will notice your desktop wallpaper is now your screen saver, if you have set your screen saver to the image RSS feed it will now update like your screen saver.

If  you want to close Terminal after running the command write the following instead, again all on one line:

nohup /System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Resources/ -background &

Terminal will probably come up with a warning when you want to close it. However, the screen saver will still run in the background. If you want to close the screen saver as a wallpaper open up Activity Monitor and close ScreenSaverEngine. Alternatively you can use Wallsaver, which does the same task but in app form.

The screensaver running in collage mode as the wallpaper.

The screen saver as a wallpaper will take up ~5% CPU depending on your Mac, I do believe the screen saver runs via your GPU. I noticed a small slow down in the visual effects such as using Expose but nothing to bad.


Hopefully from this post you should be able to set a screen saver from an RSS feed, you can use any RSS feed, flickr is good I doubt mine would suffice. Adding it as a wallpaper is probably not for everyone, but I find it useful on a second monitor that shows more of the desktop.

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