Digital Photography Resources

Building a Screen Saver

I use MGShareware's Screen Saver Builder 3 (SSB3). It's a nice little program ... the trial version builds great screen savers, except they have "nag" messages ... if you like it, you can buy a registered copy for only $20.

If you've already organized your favorite pictures by subject, you're set to go. If not, before you even start SSB3, I recommend collecting the pictures you want to use into a single folder, using an organizating program like ACDSee.

Once you start Screen Saver Builder 3, you'll see the advantage of putting all your resized images in a single folder ...

  1. On the Images tab, click on the + symbol. Navigate to your folder, select all the images (CNTL-A), then click open.
  2. On the General tab, fill in your Screen Saver Name and a short description.
  3. Check the Output tab to see where it's going to put your screen saver. It defaults to the desktop and the name you filled in on the General tab. I recommend putting your screen savers in the Windows folder (usually C:\WINDOWS or C:\WINNT), that makes them easy to find when you want to change screen savers in the future.
  4. That's all you really need to do ... now just choose Build, or click the Build Button (the one with the little down-arrow).

To use your new screen saver, go to Display under Control Panel (or Appearance in XP) and on the Screen Saver tab choose your screen saver by the name you specified when you created it. Note: for this to work the screen saver must be output (or moved) to your Windows folder.

If you're just using your screen saver on your own machine, there's nothing wrong with using your original, high-resolution images. However, if you're going to distribute your screen saver to friends, or give them as gifts, I recommend you give some thought to the resolution of the images you use.

What size images should I use for my screen saver?

Some additional suggestions:

  1. Create a two subject folders:  one for your original (or edited) high-resolution photos, a second for the medium-resolution compressed images you'll use in your screen saver. (I keep these medium resolution folders all together under a folder called "Screen Savers".)
  2. First copy images you want to use into the high-resolution subject folder (which I organize by year) ... this will make them easy to find for printing, building a slide show, etc.
  3. Resize the images, storing the results in the new medium resolutionfolder. Be sure to use fairly high compression (low quality) when saving these images (with ACDSee I use a quality setting of 15, with Photoshop a quality of 2).
  4. When building your screen saver, on the Default tab, you might want to choose 2-Fit all images to screen size under the first big images pull-down and also select Shuffle Images ... but the defaults are fine too. All these settings can be changed later when you are using the screen saver ... these are just the initial default settings for whoever uses your screen saver.

Note: With ACDSee all the images can be resized and compressed in a single step. (Just 2 clicks, once you've chosen the correct settings. Warning: prior to version 6, ACDSee didn't do a good job of compressing images ... they were still too big.)

With good compression most images should be in the 30-100 KB range. For example, in a screen saver I just built, I used 20 1024x768 images which after compression ranged in size from 25-75 KB with an average of 38 KB. The resulting Screen Saver (without sound) was only 1 MB which easily fits on a floppy ... remember those? ... my new machine doesn't even have a place to insert one :)

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