XScreenSaver is also available on macOS, iOS and Android.
xscreensaver & xscreensaver-settings
When the user becomes active again, the screensaver windows are unmapped, and the running subprocesses are killed.
The display modes are run at a low process priority, and spend most of their
|The X display to use. For displays with multiple screens, XScreenSaver will manage all screens on the display simultaneously.|
|--verbose||Print diagnostics to stderr.|
|Append all diagnostic output to the given file. This also implies --verbose. Use this when reporting bugs.|
|--no-splash||Don't display the splash screen at startup.|
If the power management section is grayed out in the
When the monitor is powered down, the display hacks are stopped (though it may take a minute or two for XScreenSaver to notice).
Note: if you use
If not, then the screen might not lock until a few seconds after you re-open the lid. Which is less than ideal. So if you don't use systemd, you might want to get in the habit of doing xscreensaver-command --lock before closing the lid.
Both of these features require that xscreensaver-systemd(6) be able connect to the systemd bus. Parts of KDE and GNOME may need to be disabled first for that to work; see below.
In 2012 some distros forked and renamed it as both
To replace gnome-screensaver with XScreenSaver:
1: Fully uninstall the other screen saver packages: sudo apt-get remove gnome-screensaver sudo apt-get remove mate-screensaver sudo apt-get remove cinnamon-screensaver or sudo rpm -e gnome-screensaver sudo rpm -e mate-screensaver sudo rpm -e cinnamon-screensaverBe careful that it doesn't try to uninstall all of GNOME. 2: Launch XScreenSaver at login.
Select "Startup Applications" from the menu (or manually launch "gnome-session-properties") and add "xscreensaver". Do this as your normal user account, not as root.
3: Make GNOME's "Lock Screen" use XScreenSaver. sudo ln -sf /usr/ bin/ xscreensaver-command \ /usr/ bin/ gnome-screensaver-command 4: Turn off Unity's built-in blanking.
Open "System Settings / Brightness & Lock";
Un-check "Start Automatically";
Set "Turn screen off when inactive for" to "Never".
Or possibly that has been randomly renamed again:
Set "Settings / Power / Power Settings" to "Never".
5: Stop GNOME from blocking XScreenSaver's "systemd" integration: sudo systemctl --user mask gsd-screensaver-proxy.service sudo systemctl --user mask \ org.gnome.SettingsDaemon.ScreensaverProxy.serviceWithout the above, video players will not be able to tell XScreenSaver not to blank the screen while videos are playing, and the screen will not auto-lock when you close your laptop's lid.
After running those commands, reboot. Yes, you have to reboot; it won't let you simply stop the service. Logging out won't do it either.
1: Turn off KDE's screen saver. Open the "Control Center" and select the "Appearance & Themes / Screensaver" page. Un-check "Start Automatically".
Or possibly: Open "System Settings" and select "Screen Locking". Un-check "Lock Screen Automatically".
2: Find your Autostart directory. Open the "System Administration / Paths" page, and see what your "Autostart path" is set to: it will probably be something like ~/.kde/ Autostart/or ~/.config/ autostart/
If that doesn't work, then try this:
Open "System Settings / Startup/
Shutdown / Autostart", and then add "/usr/ bin/". xscreensaver
If you are lucky, that will create an "xscreensaver.desktop" file for you in ~/.config/
autostart/or ~/.kde/ Autostart/. 3: Make XScreenSaver be an Autostart program. If it does not already exist, create a file in your autostart directory called xscreensaver.desktop that contains the following six lines:[Desktop Entry] Exec= xscreensaver Name= XScreenSaver Type= Application StartupNotify= false X-KDE-StartupNotify= false 4: Make the various "lock session" buttons call XScreenSaver. The file you want to replace next has moved around over the years. It might be called /usr/ libexec/, or it might be called "kdesktop_lock" or "krunner_lock" or "kscreenlocker_greet", and it might be in /usr/ kde4/kscreenlocker lib/or in /usr/ kde4/libexec/ kde/3.5/bin/or even in /usr/ bin/, depending on the distro and phase of the moon. Replace the contents of that file with these two lines:#!/bin/Make sure the file is executable (chmod a+x). sh xscreensaver-command --lock
This change will probably get blown away the next time your system upgrades KDE.
5: Stop KDE from blocking XScreenSaver's "systemd" integration: You must arrange for KDE's ksmserver (1)daemon to be launched with the command line option --no-lockscreen.
Under KDE 5.00 through 5.16, you can accomplish that by editing the
startkde (1)script in /usr/ bin/by hand, then logging out and back in again.
Under KDE 5.17 through 5.20, you must wrap
ksmserver (1)instead:mv /usr/and replace /usr/ bin/ ksmserver /usr/ bin/ ksmserver-orig bin/with: ksmserver#!/bin/Either change will, of course, get blown away the next time your system upgrades KDE. sh ksmserver-orig --no-lockscreen
Instead of being in /usr/
bin/, the ksmserver program might be in /usr/ lib/or /usr/ lib*/libexec/or usr/ lib/*/libexec/or somewhere else, depending on your distro.
Under KDE 5.21+ this might work instead, and might persist through upgrades:systemctl edit plasma-ksmserver.serviceand then put this in the file you get to edit:[Service] ExecStart=/usr/Regardless of which approach you need to use, if you do not force
bin/ ksmserver --no-lockscreen ksmserver (1)to stop squatting on the DBus endpoint, video players will not be able to tell XScreenSaver not to blank the screen while videos are playing, and the screen will not auto-lock when you close your laptop's lid.
Then restart X11.
1: Create a service. Create the file ~/.config/ systemd/containing: user/ xscreensaver.service[Unit] Description= XScreenSaver [Service] ExecStart=/usr/ bin/ xscreensaver Restart= on-failure [Install] WantedBy= default.target 2. Enable it. systemctl --user enable xscreensaver
Name: XScreenSaver Command: xscreensaver Comment: XScreenSaver
On the General page set the Local Greeter to Standard Greeter.
On the Background page, type the command "xscreensaver --nosplash" into the Background Program field. That will cause gdm to run XScreenSaver while nobody is logged in, and kill it as soon as someone does log in. (The user will then be responsible for starting XScreenSaver on their own, if they want.)
If that doesn't work, you can edit the config file directly. Edit
Greeter=/usr/In this situation, the xscreensaver process will probably be running as user gdm instead of as root. You can configure the settings for this nobody-logged-in state (timeouts, DPMS, etc.) by editing the ~gdm/.xscreensaver file.
bin/ gdmlogin BackgroundProgram= xscreensaver --nosplash RunBackgroundProgramAlways= true
It is safe to run xscreensaver as root (as xdm or gdm may do). If run as root, xscreensaver changes its effective user and group ids to something safe (like "nobody") before connecting to the X server or launching user-specified programs.
An unfortunate side effect of this (important) security precaution is that it may conflict with cookie-based authentication.
If you get "connection refused" errors when running xscreensaver
from gdm, then this probably means that you have
Unfortunately, XScreenSaver is not one of those programs.
If your system is running XWayland, XScreenSaver will malfunction in two ways:
1: It will be unable to detect user activity in non-X11 programs.
This means that while a native Wayland program is selected, XScreenSaver will think that you are idle, and may blank the screen prematurely.
2: It will be unable to lock the screen.
This is because X11 grabs don't work properly under XWayland, so there is no way for XScreenSaver to prevent the user from switching away from the screen locker to another application.
In short, for XScreenSaver to work properly, you will need to switch off Wayland and use the X Window System like in the "good old days".
Alternately, edit /etc/
Alternately, edit /etc/
This keystroke kills the X server, and on some systems, leaves you at
a text console. If the user launched X11 manually, that text console
will still be logged in. To disable this keystroke globally and
permanently, you need to set the DontZap flag in your
xorg.conf or XF86Config or XF86Config-4 file,
depending which is in use on your system. See
|Ctrl-Alt-F1, Ctrl-Alt-F2, etc.|
These keystrokes will switch to a different virtual console, while
leaving the console that X11 is running on locked. If you left a
shell logged in on another virtual console, it is unprotected. So
don't leave yourself logged in on other consoles. You can disable VT
switching globally and permanently by setting DontVTSwitch in
your xorg.conf, but that might make your system harder to use,
since VT switching is an actual useful feature.
There is no way to disable VT switching only when the screen is locked. It's all or nothing.
|This keystroke kills any X11 app that holds a lock, so typing this will kill XScreenSaver and unlock the screen. You can disable it by turning off AllowClosedownGrabs in xorg.conf.|
This is the Linux kernel "OOM-killer" keystroke. It shoots down random
long-running programs of its choosing, and so might target and kill
XScreenSaver. You can disable this keystroke globally with:
echo 176 > /proc/There's little that I can do to make the screen locker be secure so long as the kernel and X11 developers are actively working against security like this. The strength of the lock on your front door doesn't matter much so long as someone else in the house insists on leaving a key under the welcome mat.
You would think that the OOM-killer would pick the process using the most
memory, but most of the time it seems to pick the process that would be most
comically inconvenient, such as your screen locker, or
echo 2 > /proc/
sys/ vm/ overcommit_memory echo vm.overcommit_memory = 2 >> /etc/ sysctl.conf
An implication of this is that if you log in as root on the console,
XScreenSaver will refuse to lock the screen (because it can't tell
the difference between root being logged in on the console, and a
normal user being logged in on the console but XScreenSaver having been
launched by the
Proper Unix hygiene dictates that you should log in as yourself, and
Options to XScreenSaver are stored in one of two places: in a file called .xscreensaver in your home directory; or in the X resource database. If the .xscreensaver file exists, it overrides any settings in the resource database.
The syntax of the .xscreensaver file is similar to that of the .Xdefaults file; for example, to set the timeout parameter n the .xscreensaver file, you would write the following:
timeout: 5whereas, in the .Xdefaults file, you would write
xscreensaver.timeout: 5If you change a setting in the .xscreensaver file while XScreenSaver is already running, it will notice this, and reload the file as needed.
If you change a setting in your X resource database, or if you want XScreenSaver to notice your changes immediately instead of the next time it wakes up, then you will need to reload your .Xdefaults file, and then tell the running xscreensaver process to restart itself, like so:
xrdb < ~/.Xdefaults xscreensaver-command --restartIf you want to set the system-wide defaults, then make your edits to the XScreenSaver app-defaults file, which should have been installed when XScreenSaver itself was installed. The app-defaults file will usually be named /etc/
When settings are changed in the Preferences dialog box, those settings are written to the .xscreensaver file. The .Xdefaults file and the app-defaults file will never be written by XScreenSaver itself.
|timeout (class Time)|
|The screensaver will activate (blank the screen) after the keyboard and mouse have been idle for this many minutes. Default 10 minutes.|
|cycle (class Time)|
After the screensaver has been running for this many minutes, the currently
running graphics-hack sub-process will be killed (with SIGTERM), and a
new one started. If this is 0, then the graphics hack will never be changed:
only one demo will run until the screensaver is deactivated by user activity.
Default 10 minutes.
If there are multiple screens, the savers are staggered slightly so that while they all change every cycle minutes, they don't all change at the same time.
|lock (class Boolean)|
|Enable locking: before the screensaver will turn off, it will require you to type the password of the logged-in user.|
|lockTimeout (class Time)|
|If locking is enabled, this controls the length of the "grace period" between when the screensaver activates, and when the screen becomes locked. For example, if this is 5, and timeout is 10, then after 10 minutes, the screen would blank. If there was user activity at 12 minutes, no password would be required to un-blank the screen. But, if there was user activity at 15 minutes or later (that is, lockTimeout minutes after activation) then a password would be required. The default is 0, meaning that if locking is enabled, then a password will be required as soon as the screen blanks.|
|passwdTimeout (class Time)|
|If the screen is locked, then this is how many seconds the password dialog box should be left on the screen before giving up (default 30 seconds). A few seconds are added each time you type a character.|
|dpmsEnabled (class Boolean)|
|Whether power management is enabled.|
|dpmsStandby (class Time)|
|If power management is enabled, how long until the monitor goes solid black.|
|dpmsSuspend (class Time)|
|If power management is enabled, how long until the monitor goes into power-saving mode.|
|dpmsOff (class Time)|
|If power management is enabled, how long until the monitor powers down completely. Note that these settings will have no effect unless both the X server and the display hardware support power management; not all do. See the Power Management section, below, for more information.|
|dpmsQuickOff (class Boolean)|
|If mode is blank and this is true, then the screen will be powered down immediately upon blanking, regardless of other power-management settings.|
|verbose (class Boolean)|
|Whether to print diagnostics. Default false.|
|splash (class Boolean)|
|Whether to display a splash screen at startup. Default true.|
|splashDuration (class Time)|
|How long the splash screen should remain visible; default 5 seconds.|
|helpURL (class URL)|
|The splash screen has a Help button on it. When you press it, it will display the web page indicated here in your web browser.|
|loadURL (class LoadURL)|
This is the shell command used to load a URL into your web browser.
The default setting will load it into Mozilla/|
|demoCommand (class DemoCommand)|
This is the shell command run when the Demo button on the splash window
is pressed. It defaults to
|newLoginCommand (class NewLoginCommand)|
If set, this is the shell command that is run when the "New Login" button
is pressed on the unlock dialog box, in order to create a new desktop
session without logging out the user who has locked the screen.
Typically this will be some variant of
|nice (class Nice)|
The sub-processes launched by XScreenSaver will be "niced" to this level, so
that they are given lower priority than other processes on the system, and
don't increase the load unnecessarily. The default is 10. (Higher numbers
mean lower priority; see
|fade (class Boolean)|
|If this is true, then when the screensaver activates, the current contents of the screen will fade to black instead of simply winking out. Default: true.|
|unfade (class Boolean)|
|If this is true, then when the screensaver deactivates, the original contents of the screen will fade in from black instead of appearing immediately. This is only done if fade is true as well. Default: true.|
|fadeSeconds (class Time)|
|If fade is true, this is how long the fade will be in seconds. Default 3 seconds.|
|ignoreUninstalledPrograms (class Boolean)|
There may be programs in the list that are not installed on the system,
yet are marked as "enabled". If this preference is true, then such
programs will simply be ignored. If false, then a warning will be printed
if an attempt is made to run the nonexistent program. Also, the
|authWarningSlack (class Integer)|
|After you successfully unlock the screen, a dialog may pop up informing you of previous failed login attempts. If all of those login attemps were within this amount of time, they are ignored. The assumption is that incorrect passwords entered within a few seconds of a correct one are user error, rather than hostile action. Default 20 seconds.|
|mode (class Mode)|
Controls the screen-saving behavior. Valid values are:
|selected (class Integer)|
When mode is set to one, this is the one, indicated by its
index in the programs list. You're crazy if you count them and
set this number by hand: let
|programs (class Programs)|
The graphics hacks which XScreenSaver runs when the user is idle.
The value of this resource is a multi-line string, one sh-syntax
command per line. Each line must contain exactly one command: no
semicolons, no ampersands.
When the screensaver starts up, one of these is selected (according to the mode setting), and run. After the cycle period expires, it is killed, and another is selected and run.
If a line begins with a dash (-) then that particular program is
disabled: it won't be selected at random (though you can still select
it explicitly using the
If all programs are disabled, then the screen will just be made blank, as when mode is set to blank.
To disable a program, you must mark it as disabled with a dash instead of removing it from the list. This is because the system-wide (app-defaults) and per-user (.xscreensaver) settings are merged together, and if a user just deletes an entry from their programs list, but that entry still exists in the system-wide list, then it will come back. However, if the user disables it, then their setting takes precedence.
If the display has multiple screens, then a different program will be run for each screen. (All screens are blanked and unblanked simultaneously.)
Note that you must escape the newlines; here is an example of how you might set this in your ~/.xscreensaver file:
programs: \ qix -root \n\ ico -r -faces -sleep 1 -obj ico \n\ xdaliclock -builtin2 -root \n\ xv -root -rmode 5 image.gif -quit \nThe default XScreenSaver hacks directory (typically /usr/
To use a program as a screensaver, it must be able to render onto the window provided to it in the $XSCREENSAVER_WINDOW environment variable. If it creates and maps its own window instead, it won't work. It must render onto the provided window.
Because XScreenSaver was created back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, it still contains support for some things you've probably never seen, such as 1-bit monochrome monitors, grayscale monitors, and monitors capable of displaying only 8-bit colormapped images.
If there are some programs that you want to run only when using a color display, and others that you want to run only when using a monochrome display, you can specify that like this:
mono: mono-program -root \n\ color: color-program -root \n\More generally, you can specify the kind of visual that should be used for the window on which the program will be drawing. For example, if one program works best if it has a colormap, but another works best if it has a 24-bit visual, both can be accommodated:
PseudoColor: cmap-program -root \n\ TrueColor: 24bit-program -root \n\In addition to the symbolic visual names described above (in the discussion of the visualID resource) one other visual name is supported in the programs list:
|visualID (class VisualID)|
This is an historical artifact left over from when 8-bit
displays were still common. You should probably ignore this.
Specify which X visual to use by default. (Note carefully that this resource is called visualID, not merely visual; if you set the visual resource instead, things will malfunction in obscure ways for obscure reasons.)
Valid values for the VisualID resource are:
|installColormap (class Boolean)|
This is an historical artifact left over from when 8-bit displays were still
common. On PseudoColor (8-bit) displays, install a private colormap while the
screensaver is active, so that the graphics hacks can get as many colors as
possible. This is the default. (This only applies when the screen's default
visual is being used, since non-default visuals get their own colormaps
automatically.) This can also be overridden on a per-hack basis: see the
discussion of the default-n name in the section about the
This does nothing if you have a TrueColor (16-bit or deeper) display. (Which, in this century, you do.)
|pointerHysteresis (class Integer)|
If the mouse moves less than this-many pixels in a second, ignore it
(do not consider that to be "activity"). This is so that the screen
doesn't un-blank (or fail to blank) just because you bumped the desk.
Default: 10 pixels.
A single pixel of motion will still cause the monitor to power back on, but not un-blank. This is because the X11 server itself unfortunately handles power-management-related activity detection rather than XScreenSaver.
|DISPLAY||to get the default host and display number, and to inform the sub-programs of the screen on which to draw.|
Passed to sub-programs to indicate the ID of the window on which they
should draw. This is necessary on Xinerama/|
|PATH||to find the sub-programs to run, including the display modes.|
|HOME||for the directory in which to read the .xscreensaver file.|
|to get the name of a resource file that overrides the global resources stored in the RESOURCE_MANAGER property.|
Please let me know if you find any bugs or make any improvements.
And a huge thank you to the hundreds of people who have contributed, in large ways and small, to the XScreenSaver collection over the past three decades!