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Free Hidden Leopard Screen Savers For Mac OS X

written by: Michael Dougherty•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 8/13/2008

Apple has included some free, hidden screen savers that are actually included with OS X but don't show up in the normal Desktop & Screen Saver system preference. Here's how to find and install them.

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    Recently the AppleBlog posted an item by Bob Rudis that described how to find some free, hidden screen savers that are actually included with OS X but don't show up in the normal Desktop & Screen Saver system preference. I was skeptical that Apple would have included any cool screen savers in OS X that didn't appear by default in the screen saver options, but I have to say I was very wrong. I've been playing with these screen savers all weekend and it turns out there's some great ones tucked away in a default Leopard OS X system that you might never know about if you didn't go digging. Here's how to find and install them.

    The "hidden" screen savers we're talking about are actually sample Quartz Composer files. Most of these can be found in the Compositions folder of the default System>Library directory. To get these into your Desktop & Screen Saver system preference menu first open a Finder window to that location. (For a shortcut, paste "System>Library>Compositions" into the Finder's Go To Folder dialog box.) You should see a bunch of files with the .qtz extension.

    Now open the Desktop & Screen Saver system preference and select the Screen Saver tab. To view these as screen savers just drag one of the .qtx files onto the test screen of the screen saver dialog box and wait to see what happens. In some cases you will see a new screen saver and in other cases the Quartz Composition requires a base image to do anything. So if nothing happens, you've likely selected one of the compositions that needs a base image. To assign an image, just click on the Options button and then click on the image box to select an image from somewhere on your system to apply the Quartz Composition to.

    Once you've dragged a .qtz file onto the screen saver system preference it will now show up in the list of available screen savers, under "Other". I especially liked Moving Shapes and Defocus, but there's lots of interesting effects here to play around with. Most have configurable options that can be tweaked by pressing the Options button on the screen saver system preference dialog box.

    It turns out there's even more interesting screen savers included with the Leopard Developer Tools. If you've installed the Developer Tools from the Leopard installation CD that came with your system, navigate to "/Developer/Examples/Quartz Composer/Compositions" for some more goodies.

    There's an assortment of screen savers in the various sub-folders of "Compositions", poke around yourself to find other .qtz files and give them a try. But don't miss looking inside the "Screen saver" folder for two neat ones. There you'll find  "Retro" and "Security". Retro just jiggles a copy of your screen in an old-style looking patina, but Security is hands-down my favorite. It utilizes the built in iSight camera of your Mac to display scrolling snapshots of whatever is happening in front of your camera. Point it outside or somewhere where there is something interesting going on and that's now part of your screen saver!

    If you've grown tired of the screen savers included in OS X, make sure and check out these free hidden screensaver gems that Apple included in Mac OS X 10.5.