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Screensavers
And LCD Displays

It's ironic but 100% true: while screen savers once served a very useful purpose when we all used cathode ray tube monitors (ie they helped prevent phosphor burn and thus extended monitor life), the rise of LCD monitors in the last few years has changed everything.

In fact, some people argue that screen savers now reduce the lifespan of monitors and we should all stop using them.

Why so? Well, two reasons:

  • Monitors running screensavers consume the same amount of power as they do when running normally. However, most modern computers can be set to switch the monitor into a lower power mode and blank the screen altogether after a set period of inactivity. In fact, a power saving mode for monitors which allows this to happen is usually part of the power management options supported in most modern operating systems (though it must also be supported by the computer hardware and monitor itself).
     
  • In addition to this, using a screensaver with a flat panel or LCD screen instead of powering down the screen can actually reduce the lifetime of the display, since the fluorescent backlight remains lit and ages faster than it would if the screen was turned off completely (a typical LCD screen loses about 50% of its brightness during a normal product lifetime if left on continuously).

Both of these arguments are perfectly true.

But against this, it has to be said that monitors are nowhere near as expensive as they once were (many people now buy a new monitor every few years as a matter of course). And many people enjoy screen-savers for their own sake, regardless of purely practical considerations.

So the choice of whether or not to use a screen saver these days really comes down to an individual, personal choice about how you'd like your desktop to look and work

The days when this choice also had a practical aspect are quickly going, going... gone.

Other Screen Saver Maker Resources

Screen Saver Makers
Background: A screen saver is a simple program that displays images - or even nothing at all - when your monitor hasn't been used for a certain period of time. Contemporary screen savers can display static images or Flash animations (sometimes both) and will often include sounds as well.

In general, screen savers will prolong your monitor's life and help you avoid screen-burn (ie having an image burned into your monitor screen because the same image has been displayed for too long).

This is something that used to be a big problem with early cathode ray tube monitors but is slightly less of a problem with today's flat-screen monitors, though it can still occur if you leave your monitor switched on and displaying the same image for long enough.

Windows comes supplied with a variety of screen savers and you can set which one will be displayed and the inactivity period after which the screen saver will kick in through your Control Panel (this is generally found in Start > Control Panel > Display > Screen Saver).

However, many people find Windows screen savers very dull and prefer to use their own instead. So they use a screen saver maker to produce their own screen saver. And many other people like to create screen savers to use them as giveaways (very often, for advertising or promotional purposes or for corporate branding, such as creating a standard screen saver for all the machines in a company's network)

When Windows first began to become popular there were very few screen saver makers on the market and most of them were commercial software. And these days - while there are now hundreds of screen saver makers available - most are still commercial.

However, we've found five wonderful, free screen saver makers that will allow you to create your own screen savers quickly and easily; along with a high powered trialware one that will let you make unlimited screen savers for commercial distribution for an incredibly low US$30.

Here's what they are:

 

Popular Screen Saver Makers
InstantStorm
Jan Kolarík and Ondrej Vaverka's InstantStorm is a freeware tool for creating Flash-based screen savers that has many advanced features. All you have to do is to choose an SWF file, set the screen saver's parameters and compile an executable installer. InstantStorm supports all 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows (from Win95 to Vista) and the finished screen savers don't have nag screens or other annoyances. Unlike many other screen saver tools, InstantStorm allows you to fully customize your screen saver's about box, installer and uninstaller (including all text - so you can modify it to display any language you want). The software also provides screen saver scale options; easy to use WYSIWYG designs for your screen saver's installer, uninstaller and settings dialogs; a Wizard mode for beginners; support for interactive screen savers; external file support (eg: when your SWF file requires external files like TXT or AS, InstantStorm allows you to include them); a customizable screen saver icon file; and the ability to create screen saver desktop and Start menu shortcuts. InstantStorm is quite a brilliant program and it's completely free for all uses (including commercial uses). We were very impressed with this software and we think you will be too. Get InstantStorm.

 

iScreensaver Designer 3
Here's something different! iScreensaver Designer allows you to build screen savers for both the Windows and Mac platforms using any QuickTime-compatible file. You can create screen savers - with installers - for both Macintosh and Windows PCs using a single computer. iScreensaver will process any QuickTime movie file into a screen saver (including MooV, MPEG, MP3, MIDI, some Flash etc) and you can also use static images (Picts, JPGs, BMPs, PNGs, etc). The software includes a Wizard to guide you through the process of building your first screen saver and a simple-to-use editor that will allow you to preview what your finished screen saver will look like within the build area. This surprisingly powerful program also provides a wide range of customizable features including an alternate content and unlocking feature (users can enter a code to unlock deluxe content); in-built image protection (photos are stored in a proprietary format); password protection; "hot corners"; sound control; and many others. The Windows version runs on all versions from ME to Vista; and the Mac version runs on Mac OS 9 to 10.5. iScreensaver is distributed as trialware but you can run it for an unlimited time (a personal licence is US$29.95; a full commercial licence is US$199 to US$499).
Get iScreensaver Designer.

 

FlashForge
Goldshell Digital Media's FlashForge is a the well known and very popular screen saver creator that converts Adobe/Macromedia Flash files into a screen saver plus an installer. FlashForge has an easy-to-use wizard interface that will allow you to create a Flash screen saver in minutes, and its intelligently designed editor takes care of the mundane details of assembling screen savers, allowing you to focus on the creative side of the work. FlashForge has many options including a movie previewer; the ability to include a readme file with the end product; a screen saver uninstaller; and many more. The software also compresses the screen saver installer, which makes the finished screen savers ideal for web-delivery (the end-user can install the screen saver by simply double clicking on the downloaded file). FlashForge runs on all versions of Windows and was distributed as shareware for the first 8 years of its life. However, Goldshell Digital Media now make it available as freeware (even for commercial use). FlashForge has won several prestigious awards and we think they're well deserved.
Get FlashForge.

 

AnyImage Screen Saver
If you'd just like to create a screen saver using your own images (but not distribute the end result), then RJL Software's AnyImage Screen Saver is worth looking at. AnyImage supports images in JPG, BMP, EMF, WMF and ICO formats. Simply install the software, select it as your screen saver, store your images in a directory on your computer, and then configure AnyImage to point to this images directory - simple! AnyImage has more than 170 transitional effects you can apply to your pictures, and you also have the option to randomise the display order; make the images full screen, centred or appear in randomised positions; and show (or hide) the mouse cursor. You also have the ability to filter the types of image files it displays, their sizes and file attributes. Additionally you can control the close method for the screen saver. AnyImage won't let you compile a screen saver you can distribute to others. But if you want to create one for your own enjoyment (or perhaps experiment with different display options before you compile a final screen saver in another program) this software is ideal for the purpose. AnyImage runs on Windows (all versions from Win95 to Vista) and it's freeware.
Get AnyImage Screen Saver.

 

ScreenSwift
TenMiles' ScreenSwift creates screen savers from Flash files (including Flash 8 files and SWF files created by other programs - eg: Swish). All files used by the screen saver are bundled in the installation so end-users don't require any plugins for the screen saver to run (eg: Flash player). The software has an intuitive editor for screen saver assembly and you can preview your finished screen saver within it. You can also customise the installation screen; control the sounds and interactivity of your screen saver; play the movie at its original size or stretch it to the full screen; customize the screen saver background color; include hyperlinks to e-mail and web addresses in the end product; and many, many other quite useful features. ScreenSwift runs on all versions of Windows (from Win95 to XP) and is free for private use. A commercial use licence (to distribute screen savers to others) is just US$69. Get ScreenSwift.

 

Screen Saver Construction Set
Finally: Alchemy Mindworks' Screen saver Construction Set runs on all versions of Windows (from Win98 to Vista) and is distributed as trialware (ie you need to pay a US$30 fee if you want to distribute the screen savers it produces). So although this means it isn't truly freeware, it's such a nice program that we recommend you look at it if you're looking for screen saver maker software to learn on and/or want to distribute top-class screen savers without having to pay the big dollars that some other screen saver software packages command. Alchemy have been around for as long - or longer - than we have and are probably best known for their GIF Construction Set (one of the pioneer programs for creating GIF animations). And if you ever used GIF Construction Set, you'll already be familiar with Alchemy's good software design, which gives you great ease of use combined with a surprising depth of features. We like Alchemy and if you want to make commercial screen savers very economically, you might too! Get Screen Saver Construction Set.
This page last updated: 16-Aug-2008

 


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