Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Screensavers were meant to be protective shields that kicked in when a computer stood idle. It’s not true anymore because screen technology has hopped ahead. We don’t actually need them to shield our screens from phosphor burn-ins.
Screensavers today may be as useful as a brick from the Berlin Wall. But just like that plain old brick’s value as a memorabilia; screensavers also have managed to retain their charm.
The protective use of screensavers has given way to their use as fun tools. Then there is its Hyde-like face, when a Trojan hiding inside a screensaver file wrecks havoc on an unsuspecting computer.
But we like the good. So let’s not focus on evil cousins like spywares and malwares. Instead let’s look at ways how to use screensavers not only entertainment tools but also as utilitarian ones.
Screensavers make a fleeting appearance, as long as a computer stands idle. Even for those blink and its gone seconds, a screensaver can be put to a lot of creative uses. Let’s see how far the creative side of screensavers is being stretched.
A Temporary Shield To Secure Your Files
Walking away from your desk for some water-cooler chat? Secure your computer with a password protected screensaver. The password protection applies only if you use a log-on password.
Read the Microsoft Help post [No Longer Available] to know the simple 3 steps to protect your files by using a screensaver password.
Make Your Own Desktop Art Gallery
Last year’s post on 5 Ways to Make Your Own Screensavers took a look at some easy and quick ways to create your own screensavers. Once you know the How-to on screensavers, creating personalized screensavers is easy. There is no lack of ideas.
How about a family photo album? Or a chronological series of your child’s growing up photographs? One of the best uses I have seen is a screensaver being used to display a child’s artwork. In short, if you think of ways to use a photo, you can put it on a screensaver.
You can set up photo feeds using. Photo feeds are streams of images from sites that support and viewable in Google Photos Screensaver.
Loopy is a Flickr based screensaver that displays the newest photos that gets uploaded on Flickr. You can click on the photos and directly go to their Flickr photostream.
Jog Your Memory With A Reminder
While putting together this article, I came across a mention of how an elderly person used a screensaver as a pill reminder tool. Neat!
When we can have to-do pop ups from task management apps, why not use a screensaver for the same? If you know how to put together some text in MS Paint or even PowerPoint, you can use the simple graphic files as a reminder screensaver.
Five Seconds Of Motivation
The same technique applies to piling up a bunch of motivational posters and using them as screensavers. The previous link on how to make a screensaver shows the Picasa way to set it up with Google Photos Screensaver.
Alternatively, you can set up a word cloud with a bunch of motivation triggering life goals and put it as a screensaver.
Why not put a screensaver to do the Digg-ing for you? Digg Labs has five real time Digg tools which can be downloaded as screensavers for both Windows and Mac. The [NO LONGER WORKS] five tools are ““Arcs, BigSpy, Pics, Stack, and Swarm. All of them let you visualize real time Digg information on the screensaver. You need to have an internet connection and Adobe Flash 9 installed to enjoy them.
Your Own Blogosphere Telescope
Just like the Digg real time visualization tools, the blogosphere also has some of its own screensaver help. Twingly is a blog search engine, but it’s the cool Twingly screensaver that takes the eyeballs. Here’s a review which talks about the 24X7 blog feed streaming feature of the screensaver. You get to see what’s getting updated in blogs around the world with the visual help of an interactive 3D globe. You can rotate the globe and see blog postings in different corners of the world.
The 2.09MB download is Windows only.
The Same For RSS Feeds & Twitter
Screensavers are also available for free download which can enhance your desktop by giving you real time updates of RSS feeds and Tweets.
Screensavers & RSS feeds
RSSMore is a free screensaver that works like a feed reader by letting you subscribe to RSS/XML feeds. You can keep the background blank or set it up to display photos from picture albums. RSSMore cycles through the feeds and displays the feeds in boxes framed against the background. You can also click on any link and go to the source, directly from the screensaver.
displays a world map of green dots. RSS news is tracked and displayed as interchanging red and yellow location dots on the map. Red dots are for updated feeds while yellow is a bit more passive feed. By rolling your mouse over the dots, you can read the titles of all new articles. By clicking a title, you jump to the author’s website to read the entire article.
RSS Saver is another screensaver with RSS preview and visualization features. It displays RSS feeds one at a time.
Screensavers & Tweets
(now in public beta) combines Twitter, Flickr and FFFFound to bring you location wise Tweets and images.
is another cool photo screensaver you can try out that takes in photos from Twitter’s public timeline.
Some Random Wikipedia Browsing
The Wikipedia screensaver loads random pages from the online encyclopedia. The time delay between each page load can be set by the user. The Wikipedia screensaver can also be configured to disable any process running in the background, like IE and Firefox.
It is a small 123KB download, but it requires .NET 1.1 or later to run. It is tested on Windows XP and Vista (only for admin account).
As Your Desktop Weatherman
When you read about the really cool weather app called YoWindow, you can miss the mention of its use as a screensaver. YoWindow gives you a virtual glimpse of the weather outside by taking in the data from the METAR stations network. It displays an image of a landscape with the kind of weather you may be having.
I came across a screensaver download from Inrumor.com [No Longer Available] which also is a very good example of how to package your website’s branding into the utility of a screensaver. Inrumor is a site that talks about lifestyle, celebrities, auto industry, Hollywood, artists, politicians, and technology.
The screensaver in jet black gave me the local weather and a 2 day forecast. Following the theme of the website, it presented a scrollable stream of news feed on what it calls – rumors. A calendar and an analog clock rounded off the features.
Screensaver & Learning
Even the brief spell of a screensaver can be used to drill some bytes of learning. Check out a few examples at the links below.
SOHO Screensaver from the European Space Agency lets you watch spectacular, almost real-time images of our Sun. The images come from ESA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). The screensaver comes in Windows and Mac OS X versions.
Screen-o-mania has some great screensavers. The Cities of the Earth 3D Screensaver finds popular mention. The screensaver shows highlighted cities with information about its population and country names. And you can add your own city.
Check out this simple screensaver which tries to promote hand hygiene using a screensaver.
And let me end with a brief mention ofwhich inspire care for the ecosystem. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.
Have you put screensavers to out of the ordinary uses lately? Let us pick up some more ideas.