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Introducing Screensavers

What is a screensaver? A screensaver is a pop up simple program within operating systems that appears whenever you leave the keyboard or mouse unattended for a couple of minutes. To find out whether it can start the screensaver or not, Windows sends a message to the foreground application. This command is asking the application, "Can I start the screensaver?"

A non-Windows program will not understand the command, and therefore will not answer it. A CBT application will understand it, but will respond with a command that means "No, I'm providing training right now." All other applications should respond positively to the command.

The screensavers were originally designed to protect the computer monitor from phosphor burn-in. The phosphors, used to make the pixels in the display, would glow at a constant rate for such a long period of time that they would actually discolor the glass surface of the CRT. This discoloration would then be visible as a faint image overlaying whatever else was displayed on the monitor.

Now you can use screensavers for:

  • Entertainment - most people use screensavers for the fun of watching them. There are several screensaver categories like: natural environments (e.g. animated waterfalls, aquariums, fireplaces etc.), favorite actor/actress screensavers, cars screensavers etc.
  • Advertisement - many companies have developed their own themed screensavers (e.g. a black background with the name of the company scrolling up and down).
  • Security - this might be one of the most important uses .You can simply set a password so when your computer exits the screensaver will actually require a password to go back to its desktop. Many people use this option to prevent others from invading their privacy.

Screensaver Development A screensaver is really just an executable file, with the extension changed from .exe to .scr. By putting a screensaver file into the Windows or System directory and giving it a .scr extension, Windows knows that it should treat this file as a screensaver and makes it available as an option in the Display properties window.

The bulk of the screen saver is written in C++ and uses OpenGL for rendering. It is shared between both Windows and Macintosh versions. The Windows version also is in C++ and talks directly to the Win32 API (no MSVC classes). The development environment is Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 Express, but a VC++ 6.0 project is also included. The Macintosh version is in a mix of C++ and ObjectiveC, and is built with Xcode.

The screensaver interfaces indirectly with the operating system to cause the physical display screen to be overlayed with one or more graphic 'scenes'. The screensaver typically terminates after receiving a message from the operating system that the mouse has been moved or a key has been pressed. The screensaver file can be programmed in several different ways. It can:

  • Simply present a black screen
  • Load and display a particular image or group of images
  • Display a particular line of text
  • Display an animation or series of animations
  • Display information from another program or a Web site

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