screen savers that suck

Thus far, I've been pretty lenient about what submissions I've accepted into the xscreensaver collection, and I've never deleted any; but let's face it, some of them suck. Comment here telling me which ones you think are so lousy that I shouldn't even bother distributing them any more.
Tags: , , , ,

98 Responses:

  1. pyrop says:

    crystal, cynosure, greynetic, mismunch, munch. All hideous.

  2. premchai21 says:

    Stupid screensavers, in no particular order: Antinspect, maybe Atunnel, Boing, BouncingCow, Cage, Compass, GLForestFire, Lavalite, Moebius, Providence, Twang, XFlame, XJack. ("stupid" being subjective of course.)

    Screensavers that could possibly be merged into a "spinning, bouncing, animated (simple OpenGL model)" screensaver: Cubenetic, DangerBall, Engine, Flag, Gears, GLKnots, GLPlanet, GLText, Lisa, Menger, Morph3D, Sierpinski3D, Superquadrics.

    Screensavers that could possibly be merged into a "spinning, non-bouncing, animated (simple OpenGL model)" screensaver: Cage, Lament, Providence, SBalls, Stairs.

    There's some other groups of screensavers that do very similar things, but I'm too lazy to figure them out and list them right now. Maybe later.

  3. kfringe says:

    Disabled for the last infinity:

    • anemotaxis
    • greynetic
    • mismunch
    • sballs
    • bouncingcow

    I don't much care which get hammered. Keep barcode, kumppa and sproingies and I won't complain.

  4. hawke666 says:

    Attraction, other than (balls)
    nerverot (all variants)
    qix (all variants)

    If any of these aren't in xscreensaver, sorry ... this is just what I've got.

    • A short list, mostly of things that look like they are from 1990 but not in a cool retro way. Hopefully I'm not wasting your time with hacks not actually in xscreensaver.

      Attraction (lines)
      Attraction (orbital)
      Attraction (poly)
      Attraction (splines)
      GLForestFire (rain)
      Qix (all)

      I second the call for somehow merging the "spinning 3D objects" hacks together.

      Also, some of the above would be tolerable in a cool retro way if only they were antialiased.

      And please, get rid of the My-First-OpenGL-Program GLForrestFire ones.

      • taffer says:

        Rorschach is cooler if you change the colour each iteration; set the hue to 1/# of iterations. I was going to send jwz a patch, but I got busy doing paid work...

    • jwjr says:

      Moire is excellent. Anything that I can tolerate that makes some other people turn away from my computer in physical distress is a splendid entertainment.

  5. fo0bar says:

    Some of the posters so far are fools. BouncingCow must stay. The sight of bouncing cows gives meaning to the universe.

    As for screensavers to go, I'd say Forest, Queens and Endgame (neat computational concept, but doesn't really make for a screensaver), GLForestFire (UGLY), and Deluxe.

  6. ioerror says:

    You're opening yourself up to a world of people flaming you for removing the most obscure thing possible.

    I do however applaud your application of American Representative Democracy to screen saver selection. You ask for votes and you'll do whatever you want.

    "What savers do you want removed?"
    "This one and this one and [...] "
    "That's nice."

    I love it! It's just like real politics! Good project leader!

    (I vote that you remove nothing, everyone likes something obscure.)

  7. mtbg says:

    I hate greynetic with a passion. For the love of all that's holy, make it stop.

    I have some lesser degree of dislike for:

  8. mendel says:

    I like a lot of the uglier ones as little glimpses of what was historically considered interesting, but I suppose an old version of xscreensaver itself would meet that need too. So here's mine:

    ccurve, critical, crystal, greynetic (but not cynosure), deco, fadeplot, glforestfire, juggle, kumppa, lisa, lissie, loop, mismunch, munch, noseguy, petal, queens, rorschach, sphere, spiral, T3D, vines, xrayswarm

  9. tdw says:

    Not good (I'd drop 'em personally, but I don't hate them):
    Anemone, attraction (balls), Bouboule, Braid, Compass, Critical, Cubenetic, CubeStorm, Demon, Discrete, FadePlot, Flag, Flow, Fluidballs, Goop, Kaleidoscope, Lament, Metaballs, Moire, Moire2, Mountain, Polyominoes, Providence, Slip, Solarwinds, Sonar, Spheremonics, Strange, T3D, Triangle, Truchet, WhirlwindWarp,

    PLEASE drop:
    Apollonian, Bubbles, Crystal, Cynosure, Deluxe, Eruption, Flame, GLForestFire, GLForestFire (rain), Greynetic, Helix, Hopalong, Laser, Lightning, Lisa, Loop, Mismunch, Munch, NerveRot, NerveRot(dense), NerveRot(thick), Pedal, Pulsar, Pulsar (textures), RD-Bomb, RD-Bomb (mobile), SBalls, Sierpinski, Speedmine,SpeedWorm, Sphere, Thornbird, Vines, XLyap.

  10. strspn says:

    These commenters have no sense of history or nostalgia. Why does your lj make me feel so OLD lately?

  11. dachte says:

    Apollonian, Attraction, Critical, Cynosure, Engine, GLForestFire, Goop, Greynetic, Lavalite, Munch (but please keep mismunch)

    • dachte says:

      I would probably add rd-bomb too if I knew what it's supposed to look like, but on every system I've ever had, it has chosen to segfault rather than do anything.

  12. zebe says:

    omg, Tones on Tail.

  13. herbie says:

    I have to chime in that bouncingcow has got to stay.

    Frankly, it seems to me that there's a lot of hate for the kind of 2D goofiness that reflects the same kind of screensavery as the original After Dark and that generation. On the other hand, I like (some of) them. I'm not especally fond of atlantis, but my girlfrends would probably use it exclusively if she used xscreensaver.

    I appreciate that it's probably a PITA, especially with the porting effort to maintain all this crap, but if you're asking for purely aesthetic opinons, I think some people would probably be happy if you just grouped and packaged the various savers into categories (like "Geek", including julia and other fractal things, all the life clones, etc.; "Classic", for all the retro screensavers; "Animals" for atlantis, bouncingcow, antinspect, etc.; and so on) Of course, this is actually more work for you, and still probably won'te please everybody, but no matter what you do, if you totally remove screensavers, they are going to be "favorites" of some subset of users out there.

    Except GLForestfire. Nuke that sucker.

    • herbie says:

      I should mention, that if it were easier to say "remove the current screensaver from rotation", there's probably be a lot less complaints in general, but of course that's only possible when you can change the administrative interface, so it might be hard on the OS X port.

    • violentbloom says:

      ditto, my cat *loves* bouncy cow
      no seriously he sits and stares at it..though when the cow bounces off screen he gets a little confused.

  14. how about reversing the question. each screensaver dies unless someone speaks up to rescue it. make a poll, let every voter rescue 1, kill the bottom 10%. or whatever.

  15. korgmeister says:

    I don't know why I'm responding because I don't use Linux anymore, but anyway back when I did I found the following really ugly:

    Blaster (Fugly)
    Deco (gives me that "I'm glad I don't have photosensitive epilepsy but I'd rather not risk it" feeling)
    Greynetic (Same reason as Deco)
    Metaballs (If it's capable of doing something non-stupid, I'm unaware of it)
    Noseguy (There's a joke in there, but I'm too young to "get it", I think.)

    I'd probably have more if I could get the OpenGL ones to work, but since I wasn't using the machine to play games, I really couldn't be bothered.

  16. jwm says:


    These the the screensavers I do still have on random:




















    Nerverot (thick)








    Substrate (circles)





    (I'd add flurry, as well, but it segfaults when using ATI's fglrx driver :-/)

    The only one I really think sucks enough to get rid of is GLForestFire.

    Maybe a bit of perl to scan people's .xscreensaver files and mail you what's on and off might be easier?


    • anonymous says:

      You get that too?

      I've been meaning to report it someday but I suspect it's a fglrx bug (since the stack frames are all in, so jwz will just tell me to bug ATi.

      With the latest fglrx drivers you can get flurry to work for almost 20 seconds in a window (it still crashes rapidly fullscreen).

      • jwm says:


        It's an ATI bug, and I've reported it to them, but as their customer service model is built to keep the customers as far away from the company as is possible in polite society, I've seen no acknoledgement.

        Possibly if everyone using fglrx who wants flurry to work (and glslideshow on the root window) sends them a bug report, they might start to care. Especially if you say "don't make me switch to nvidia".


  17. fgmr says:

    My own preferences, for what they're worth, from a single pass through the list (and evaluating the GL ones separately, but then combining them into the one list):

    Ones I don't really get or like (I.e., get rid of these, please): anemone, bouboule, critical, greynetic, halftone, lisa, lissie, lmorph, moire2, nerverot, rotor, slip, speedworm; boing, cubestorm, cage, glforestfire, morph3d, pulsar, stairs, superquadratics, t3d, twang

    Enh: bumps, compass, decayscreen, deluxe, distort, flag, forest, halo, jigsaw, metaballs, noseguy, petri, piecewise, polytopes, ripples, rotzoomer, shadebobs, sonar, sphere, spotlight, whirlygig, xdaliclock (sorry!), xjack, xteevee; ant, antspotlight, atlantis, dangerball, gears, glflux, glblur, glknots, gltext, hypertorus, jigglypuff, lament, lavalite, menger, moebius, pipes, sballs, sierpinski3d

    Enh.. I'm sure I'll get sick of it: fontglide, popsquares, slidescreen, speedmine, wormhole, zoom

    Okay, but short rotation, I'll get sick of it: anemotaxis, c curve, eruption, fuzzyflakes, juggle, klein, penetrate, rocks, sierpinski, truchet, worm; antmaze, atunnel, blinkbox, blocktube, bouncingcow, cragberg, cubenetic, engine, fiberlamp, flipflop, flipscreen3d, juggler3d, mirrorball, pinion, providence, rubik, tangram

    Okay, but short rotation: barcode, blitspin, braid, celtic, epicycle, goop, hyperball, interference, kumppa, laser, lightning, polyominoes, pyro, spiral, triangle, wander, xflame

    Okay: blaster, bubbles, crystal, cynosure, deco, demon, fadeplot, fireworks, fluidballs, helix, kaleidoscope, memscroller, mismunch, munch, pacman, pedal, qix, rorschach, swirl, vidwhacker, webcollage, whirlwindwarp, xlyap; boxed, bubble3d, carousel, circuit, cube21, fliptext, flying toasters, glhanoi, glplanet, glslideshow, glsnake, polyhedra, queens, sproingies, starwars

    Nice, but short rotation: attraction (though fewer modes), grav, vines, xrayswarm, xspirograph

    Nice: boxfit, cloudlife, discrete, drift, euler2d, flame, flurry, intermomentary, loop, maze, mountain, noof, penrose, phosphor, pong, rdbomb, squiral, starfish, thombird, vermiculate

    Great/classic: apple2, bsod, coral, flow, galaxy, hopalong, ifs, imsmap, interaggregate, julia, moire, strange, substrate, xanalogtv, xmatrix; endgame, gleidoscope, glmatrix, molecule, spheremonics, stonerview

    Some of these would benefit from being shown for a shorter time.. they're okay, but pretty much one-trick shows that get old fast. On my home machine, I've only activated the ones from "nice, but short rotation" onwards. I know some of the ones I don't like -- esp. the GL ones -- are CS classics, but I don't really want to look at them.

  18. jes5199 says:

    how about anything that slowly and laboriously draws simple shapes over and over. sphere jumps to mind. i'd probably include Mountain and Forest in that group too.

    Many screensavers that try to draw fire do it very unpleasingly, GLForestFire is the only one of those I see on your page, maybe Debian shoehorns more crap in.

    other than that, I hate 3D, but everyone else seems to like it.
    i like all of the automata

  19. catenoid says:

    Bad: GLForestFire, sballs
    Dull: fadeplot, laser, sphere are kinda dull.
    Not as good as they could be: lightning, rotor (I prefer the xlock one. Eh.)

    I really like ifs and strange. Clearly those baying for its blood are Wrong.

    The chess savers are elegantly rendered and should definitely stay. (They'd be really awesome if the pieces moved in natural being-picked-up paths - even better, if they were moved by disembodied hands or robot claws. No, I do not have a patch for this.)

    • billemon says:

      See, this is the thing. I'm looking through the list so far and about half of them, I'm thinking, "No, don't get rid of that." So it is very largely a matter of taste. Except, as has been noted repeatedly, GLForestFire. :)

  20. noweb4u says:

    I personally wish there was a mode, perhaps default, where all screensavers that will grab a snapshot of whatever's on the screen and manipulate it are disabled. The first thing I have to do on most of my machines at work is hardlock them to a specific saver (just one that isn't annoying and doesn't screengrab) simply because I don't have time to go through the list and disable all the screengrabbers. If this is already possible, feel free to call me something unseemly and point me in the right direction. :-/

    Oh, and the ones that just endlessly draw squares and things like that just remind me of "My first QBasic program", and I could happily do without them, because they're boring. Oh, and I have to concur with the noseguy one, I just don't get it either.

    • jwz says:

      I could explain this to you, but instead I'll just call you a moron and leave it at that.

    • ciphergoth says:

      You can configure xscreensaver so it will never screengrab, but refer to a pallette of images of your choosing instead. On my system this is the default.

    • There is an option to not use shots of your desk, it uses a test patern (or a directory, or file that you chose). (I think this is the long polite version of what jwz said.)

  21. martling says:

    Looking through I see one definite candidate: critical. WTF is that about? It has no technical or aesthetic value whatsoever.

    Two others I think are kinda lame but not as bad: braid, vines.

    Everything else is at least quietly inoffensive for a couple of minutes on random shuffle and adds some variety.

    A few hacks I think are particularly awesome: substrate, ifs, apple2, lavalite.

    • jwz says:

      I agree with you that critical is pretty awful (it's on my list too) but in its defense, it starts doing some marginally interesting things if you let it run for about two minutes. That's not nearly enough though.

    • anonymous says:

      No technical value? Critical is great. Self organized criticality expressed as a power-law random walk! Read the manpage.

      I agree it's not visually interesting if you don't recognize what's going on, but it's definitely in the 'quaint snapshots of yesteryear cool' department for me.

      • martling says:

        Dude, it's a screensaver. I have a life. I am not going to read its fucking manpage before dropping it.

        There are plenty of hacks which are based in interesting mathematics that look cool too, and I can think of plenty of better ways to visualise the maths behind critical.

        It sucks.

  22. anonymous says:

    My recommendation would be to drop spheres, critical, lightning, greynetic, cubenetic, laser, helix and the glforestfire ones.

    Pyro has also always struck me as a little dissapointing in the eyecandy dept.

    • squeekyhoho says:

      Have to completely agree, except for helix. Call it a silly fascination for spirograph pictures, but it's a nice way to get some low CPU eyecandy.

      Greynetic always makes me want to relock the screen to get a different screensaver. It's like an epilepsy test designed by Ralph Furley.

  23. lord_knusper says:

    in reverse alphabetical order, because I like to process lists that way:

    • anonymous says:

      but... but... fibrelamp has kitch cool pouring out of every frame! I even had one of those lamps :)

  24. anonymous says:

    Here are those that I usually turn off. The ones with a * are those that annoy me outright. When someone else's office I try not to have them in my field of vision

    anemotaxis *
    antinspect *
    blaster *
    braid *
    deluxe *
    eruption *
    glforestfire *
    greynetic *
    moire2 *
    pulsar *

  25. evan says:

    I'm a little freaked out that people went to the depth they did about this. No offense intended, but the only screensaver I use is "blank screen". I need less stuff flashing in my life, not more.

  26. jackbrinks says:


  27. tfofurn says:

    I'm baffled by the calls to eliminate Appolonian and Lisa. Anemotaxis is one that makes me feel like I'm watching something happen, so I'd like to see it stick around. In truth, though, my

    Is democracy really the answer? It's not like you've let every submission in the door. I would think everything you've allowed in appeals to some fraction of the audience. Maybe the solution is to demand sponsorships for ones you no longer like or are harder to port/maintain? Challenge people to patch or pay for hacks they want in order to salvage their favorite?

  28. anonymous says:

    Please keep GLForestFire. It's so ugly, I can't live without it. No, I won't reveal my identity.

    I think Critical is the single most annoying screensaver. (On a system I was using for two years it was the only one which crashed before you could see anything. I got really curious.)

  29. jgreely says:

    How about pruning it down to the list of savers you personally think are worthwhile, and then dumping the pre-cleanup stable version on Sourceforge as "Xscreensaver Classic"?


  30. wsxyz says:

    I've been playing with a Fedora 5 basic install (by which I mean that nothing much is installed unless it comes from Gnome) using VMWare player and decided to try to compile Xscreensaver 4.24 (which was not already installed because apparently Gnome just HAD to reinvent the wheel).

    Since none of the devel packages were installed this quickly turned into a nightmare; but after slogging through, recursively installing every package that was depended upon by every package needed to build xscreensaver, I ended up with the situation that configure completed successfully with no warnings or errors, but the build failed when linking demo-GTK because libXmu-devel was not installed.

    Just thought you might like to know...

    • billemon says:

      *points and laughs*

      You did what?

      ncftp .../5/i386/os/Fedora/RPMS > ls xscreensaver-*

      They're, uh, in the distro, still.

      • wsxyz says:

        ncftp .../5/i386/os/Fedora/RPMS > ls xscreensaver-*

        They're, uh, in the distro, still.

        They were not installed, and I wanted to build from source.
        And as it turned out I found out something that might be good to know.

    • phs says:

      but after slogging through, recursively installing every package that was depended upon by every package needed to build xscreensaver

      Um, last I checked yum follows dependencies for you just fine. You can even install apt if you'd rather use it.

  31. anonymous says:

    Computers grow faster than xscreensaver.

  32. wfaulk says:

    You clearly need to move all of them to a C(XSSH)AN.

    Ooh! With an integrated installation utility in the core!

  33. xtkayx says:

    I agree, dump GLForestFire! Also, i think 3 ant savers...Antmaze, Antinspect, Antspotlight...going a little overboard with the ants? I'd ditch Antmaze and Antinspect, the spotlight one is the neatest (imho). On the other-hand, can't get enough ants in Cali...

    I lurrve noseguy (please don't axe him!). Same with bouncing cows and jack (even though my stupid distro omits them - one of these days I'm either switching distros or just downloading and installing xscreensaver from source because of it).

  34. dakone says:

    Wow, as the author of pulsar, I'm surprised people hate it so much.
    I'm curious, is it because it doesn't attempt to render something realistic, or is it just unpleasant-in-a-painful-to-the-eye way?

    For some time now I've wanted to write more savers, but the no-C++ constraint really makes it too painful. There's a lot of stuff in standard C++ that
    makes all the heavy lifting in a saver a lot easier. In particular, I've wanted to write a generic scene graph library and physics system (or link in an existing one) so that people can just write XML files that describe the view and behavior of their saver, without writing any code. All the technology is there to make a really neat saver engine based on that concept. I just wouldn't want to implement it in C.

    • dachte says:

      FWIW, I don't think pulsar is too shabby. I think it's in my default rotation even.

    • lord_knusper says:

      for me, it's the aesthetics, specifically the colors and the 2d/3d/what_the_clipping clash the rotating/intersecting planes seem to create in my mind.

    • freiheit says:

      jagged edges; my eyes tend to focus on the jagged edges, since that's where the most visible movement happens (the jaggedness jumps around a lot as the edges change angles.) Other than that, the overall aesthetic doesn't appeal much to me.

  35. jason0x21 says:

    Keep 'em all. Disk is cheap. There's no compelling reason to dump them, short of vague and conflicting aesthetics. If there are any that actually contribute to screen burn-in (GL forest fire, and I think sonar might be candidates), possibly dump those.

  36. xah_lee says:

    Please remove at least 1/3 of them. It bogged down your software quality. Personally i'd remove 2/3 of them.

  37. zojas says:

    I like greynetic, deco, kumppa, bouboule, and nerverot. lots of people have been calling for their removal, I actually like them.

    of course there are some I don't like, but not enough that it bothers me to do more than leave them out of .xscreensaver

  38. freiheit says:

    must go: anemone, apollonian, attraction (everything but balls), blitspin, bubbles, C Curve (come on, over half the time it spends updating pixels I can't see), critical, crystal, cubestorm, cynosure, deluxe, demon, discrete, drift, endgame, euler2d, fadeplot, flame, flow, fluidballs, greynetic, helix, hopalong, hyperball, hypercube, ifs, julia, kaleidescope, klein, kumppa, lament, laser, lisa, lissie, menger, mismunch, moire, moire2, munch, nerverot, piecewise, providence, pulsar, qix, queens, rorschach, rotor, sballs, sierpinski, slip, sphere, spiral, squiral, stonerview, strange, thornbird, triangle, vermiculate, vines, wander, whirlwindwarp, whirlygig, worm, wormhole, xjack, xlyap, xspirograph

    must stay: BouncingCow!, antspotlight, apple2, attraction (balls), barcode, blaster, bsod, bubble3d, bumps, cloudlife, decayscreen, deco, engine, eruption, flurry, FlyingToasters, fuzzyflakes, gears, glmatrix, grav, halftone, interference, juggle, lavalite, lightning, maze, metaballs, molecule, noseguy, penetrate, phosphor, pong, pyro, ripples, shadebobs, slidescreen, sonar, sproingies, starwars, vidwacker, xanalogtv, xflame, xmatrix, xrayswarm

  39. sfritz says:

    I think part of the charm of xscreensaver is the bajilion screensavers. I vote you remove none of them.

  40. haqr_spice says:

    I'm disappointed that no-one so far has asked you to axe glsnake :(

    (My vote is remove none of them, disk is cheap, there's a config doobie that lets you turn off the ones you don't like, so who cares? Already people have asked that you keep the ones I want to nuke, so I reckon the easiset way out is to not remove any of them.)

  41. srcosmo says:

    My humble suggestions:

    • Dump anything that's 90% black screen (Lisa, Lissie, Vermiculate)
    • Ugly is okay (Deco), boring is not (Attraction)
    • Anything that can display recent Livejournal posts is an endless source of entertainment, and should be kept

    Side note: has anyone ever gotten a decent framerate out of Atlantis or Lavalite?

  42. Bouboule is awesome. It's been my screensaver of choice for about the last seven years (yes, really), since the semester of compsci in which I learned C and C++.

    When you need to relax, but you don't have time to relax properly (ie, leave the office/bedroom for more than fifteen minutes), then locking the screen with bouboule, switching off all the lights and just sitting in front of the computer and watching the points spin round for ten minutes, is a pretty damn good start. (True story.)


  43. idcmp says:

    I'm behind the times, but please never get rid of flow (I've run it -root as wallpaper for years).

    GLForestFire can go. BouncingCow and the man page for xjack must not.

  44. billemon says:

    Just don't delete the screensaver that goes PING.