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The ScreenSaver framework is a set of classes for working with Mac OS X’s built-in screen saver. The framework first appeared in Mac OS X Public Beta, and public headers and documentation followed in Mac OS X 10.0.

See also: BuildingScreenSavers.

The ScreenSaver framework exports these classes:

The ScreenSaver framework also includes some handy utility in-line functions for generating random numbers and doing some common geometric shortcuts. These functions are buried inside ScreenSaverView.h.

ScreenSaver documentation is included in Mac OS X’s Developer CD. Once the Developer packages are installed, the documentation can be found here:

[Mac OS X 10.0] /Developer/Documentation/ReleaseNotes/ScreenSaver

[Mac OS X 10.1] /Developer/Documentation/AdditionalTechnologies/ScreenSaver

[Mac OS X 10.3] /Developer/Documentation/UserExperience/Reference/ScreenSaver

MacEdition has an intro to screen savers article at

Here is the order of operations performed by ScreenSaverEngine when it runs a ScreenSaverView (in normal mode).

All drawing should be done in -drawRect: and/or -animateOneFrame.

Miscellaneous Questions

Q: When running a screen saver with multiple monitors, is +[ScreenSaverView performGammaFade] called just once or once for each screen?

A: No, it’s called once before the screen saver module is alloc/init’ed. – MikeTrent

Q: Has anyone had experience placing a ScreenSaverView in a subview? I’d like to create a screensaver that is similar in design to ElectricSheep, where a status bar of NSTextFields is at the bottom and the top view is any other screensaver. Getting the bottom status bar isn’t a problem (load my custom view in as a subview of the current view), but when I instantiate a new ScreenSaverView, make it a subview of my current view, and ask it to start animating, it doesn’t display. –MatthewSwann

A: You need to make sure the subordinate screen saver is initialized properly. That includes both reading it in from its bundle, and installing it in your main screen saver’s view. It may help to explicitly set the size of the module before installing (even though you specified the frame size in initWithFrame:isPreview:). – MikeTrent

Q: How can you disable the screen saver for multimedia apps?

A: See DisableScreenSaver

Q: Is there a programmatic way to lock and unlock the user’s session, a la xscreensaver-command -lock and -deactivate for XScreenSaver under Linux?

A: The best I’ve found to to use a NSTask to launch and terminate ScreenSaverEngine. When terminated, without -background, ScreenSaverEngine will stop to prompt for a password if the user has configured their system to do so.