Have you ever wanted to initiate the screen saver of your Mac by hitting a keystroke combination? You’re not alone, and that’s what we’re going to show you how to do here. While OS X does not include this feature by default, we’ll demonstrate how to create an Automator system service that will accomplish the same feat, activating the screen saver by a keyboard shortcut of your choosing.
To be clear, this service will start the default screen saver, meaning whatever has been selected in the Desktop & Screen Saver preference panel, accessible from the Apple menu and System Preferences. If you want to change the screen saver used by this, simply change it there. For best results, use the screen saver with general password protection too, which will let the keystroke be used as a way to protect the Mac when you’re away from the keyboard or desk.
Part 1: Create a Screen Saver Automator Service for OS X
- Launch Automator, found in the /Applications/ directory
- Choose to create a new “Service”
- Use the search box to find “Start Screen Saver” and drag that into the right side panel
- Change “Service receives” to “no input”
- Go to the File menu and choose “Save” naming it something obvious like “Start Screen Saver”
Now that you have created a service that starts the default screen saver, you need to assign a keystroke combination to initiate the service. Be sure to pick a keyboard shortcut that is unique and easy to remember.
Part 2: Set the “Start Screen Saver” Keystroke for Mac OS X
- Open System Preferences from the Apple menu
- Choose the “Keyboard” preference panel then go to the “Shortcuts” tab
- Select “Services” from the left side menu
- Locate the newly created “Start Screen Saver” service you made, and click on the ‘add shortcut’ button to set your keyboard shortcut to use – in this example we used Control+Command+Option+Down Arrow but you can set whatever you want
- Exit out of System Preferences and test out your new screen saver keystroke
You can try it out by hitting the set keyboard shortcut sequence, which will now initiate the screen saver immediately.
To use this as a variation of the lock screen trick that doesn’t sleep the Mac display, be sure you have set a locked screen password and required the password be used to wake the Mac from a screen saver. That’s handled in the Security & Privacy preference panel under the “General” tab.
Keep in mind you can always use hot corners to start the Mac screen saver too, which for some individuals may be faster and easier to remember than a keystroke, since you simply need to slide the cursor into one of the far screen edges to initiate a hot corner.