Microsoft

Unlock missing screen saver configuration settings in Windows 7

Greg Shultz describes his HTML applications, which allow you to tweak the Bubbles, Ribbons, and Mystify screen savers.

The HTML applications and the PDF version of this blog post are available in this TechRepublic download.

When Microsoft launched Windows Vista, I was excited to see several new, native screen savers in the operating system. However, I was really bummed out when I clicked the Settings button in the Screen Saver Settings dialog box and encountered an error message. I quickly discovered that none of the new screen savers provided any configuration settings with which you could customize the display.

Since the settings were in the registry, I always figured that Microsoft would release a patch via Windows Update that would provide a GUI that would make the settings available. While that may have been the intention, Microsoft always had more important things to patch in Vista.

When Windows 7 came onto the scene, I discovered that there were fewer screen savers, but I really expected to be able to click the Settings button in the Screen Saver Settings dialog box and see a GUI that would allow me to customize the display of the Bubbles, Ribbons, or Mystify screen savers. However, I encountered the message shown in Figure A.

Figure A

In Windows 7, there are no settings that you can configure to customize the display of the Bubbles, Ribbons, or Mystify screen savers.

Therefore, I sat down over the weekend and dug out the three HTML applications (HTA) that I created in the Vista time frame and refreshed them to provide a simple user interface for configuring Windows 7's screen savers.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll describe my HTML applications and show you how to use them to tweak the Bubbles, Ribbons, and Mystify screen savers.

The Bubbles screen saver

As you know, the Bubbles screen saver provides a very pleasing display of transparent bubbles that gently float across your desktop. As they do, the bubbles change colors and can be rather entertaining as they bump into the edge of the screen and bounce in the opposite direction. However, that's not all they can do.

To configure the Bubbles screen saver, just double-click the Bubbles.hta file and you'll see the main screen, as shown in Figure B. As you can see, there are four settings that you can use to manipulate the appearance of the Bubbles screen saver.

Figure B

The Bubbles Screen Saver Settings HTA allows you to alter the screen saver's display configuration.
  • In the Surface Style section, you can select either Transparent bubbles or Solid bubbles. (The Transparent option is the same as the screen saver's default configuration.)
  • In the Background section, you can select either a Transparent background or a Black background. (The Transparent option is the same as the screen saver's default configuration.)
  • In the Shadows section, you can either enable or disable shadows. Keep in mind that if you choose a Black background, you won't see shadows at all. (The Shadows option is the same as the screen saver's default configuration.)
  • In the Size section, you can choose between Small, Medium, Large, and Huge bubbles. Keep in mind that if you select the Small option, your screen will eventually fill up with hundreds of small bubbles. On the other hand, if you select Huge, there may be as few as two bubbles on the screen. Now, if you have multiple monitors, the Huge option will display more bubbles because there is more screen real estate to accommodate them. (The Large option is the same as the screen saver's default configuration.)
Once you make some selections, you can click the Preview button to see what the screen saver looks like. For example, Figure C shows the Bubbles Screen Saver configured with small, solid bubbles on a black background.

Figure C

The Bubbles Screen Saver is now configured with small, solid bubbles on a black background.

If you move your mouse or press a key, the screen saver will disengage and you'll return to the Bubbles Screen Saver Settings dialog box. This makes it very easy for you to experiment with a wide variety of settings.

If you wish to return the Bubbles screen saver to its original configuration, just click the Reset button. If you are satisfied with the configuration, just click the OK button. When you do, the Bubbles Screen Saver Settings dialog box will close and the settings you chose will be enabled the next time the screen saver kicks in.

The Ribbons and Mystify screen savers

Both the Ribbons and Mystify screen savers essentially display a set of colorful lines that streak and curve across the screen. In the case of the Ribbons screen saver, you get several single, wide lines. In the Mystify screen saver, the lines multiply as they move across the screen.

The Ribbons and Mystify screen savers each have two settings that you can use to manipulate the appearance of the display. In both, you can change the number and width of the lines used in the screen saver.

To configure the Ribbons screen saver, just double-click the Ribbons.hta file. When you do, you'll see the main screen, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

The Ribbons Screen Saver Settings HTA makes it easy to alter the screen saver display.

When you click the Number of Ribbons drop-down menu, you can select any one of the following numbers: 2, 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100. When you click the Width of Ribbons drop-down menu, you can select any one of the following settings: Thinnest, Thinner, Thin, Thick, Thicker, and Thickest.

Once you make your selections, you can click the Preview button to instantly test the screen saver with those choices. For example, Figure E shows the Ribbons Screen Saver configured with 60 of the thinnest lines.

Figure E

The Ribbons Screen Saver is now configured with 60 of the thinnest lines.

When you are satisfied with your configuration, just click OK, and the Ribbons Screen Saver Settings dialog box will close and the settings you chose will be enabled the next time the screen saver kicks in. Now, if at a later date, you decide that you want to alter the settings but can't remember what settings you selected last time, you can click one of the Get Current Value buttons and you'll see a dialog box showing the current setting.

If you wish to return the Ribbons screen saver to its default configuration, just click the Reset button.

When you double-click the Mystify.hta, you'll see the screen, as shown in Figure F. As you can see, this looks and works just like the Ribbons Screen Saver Settings HTA.

Figure F

The Mystify Screen Saver Settings HTA allows you to alter the screen saver's display configuration.
Once you make your selections, you can click the Preview button to instantly test the screen saver with those choices. For example, Figure G shows the Mystify Screen Saver configured with 20 thick lines.

Figure G

The Mystify Screen Saver is now configured with 20 thick lines.

Downloading the Screen Saver Settings Package

You can download the Screen Saver Settings Package for Windows 7 as part of the TechRepublic Download associated with this document. After you download the package (SS-Settings.zip), you can extract the three files (Bubbles.hta, Ribbons.hta, and Mystify.hta) and copy them to any folder you want. Then, just double-click an .hta file. When you do, you'll see the main screen and can configure the screen saver as described earlier.

What's your take?

Will you use these HTAs to configure your screen savers in Windows 7? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

TechRepublic's Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report newsletter, delivered every Friday, offers tips, news, and scuttlebutt on Vista and Windows 7, including a look at new features in the latest version of the Windows OS. Automatically sign up today!

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

29 comments
Jaytmoon
Jaytmoon

while screen savers were nessesity in the old crt days, most LCD/LED displays will last longer if they are allowed to go into standby. It's likely why Microsoft has reduced the number and features of included screen savers in win vista and 7.

denishaw
denishaw

Excellent, just love to make tweaks & changes

acees
acees

Thank you Mr. Greg! You are really Great. It was unbelieveably easy with the tool designed by you, i.e. "Screen Saver Settings Package for Windows 7".

stoneheadhmt204
stoneheadhmt204

I use a paided for product put out by Soundspectrum, It's called G-FORCE. It has Thousands of configurations also has the ability to respond to voicve-music-,so I use it alot when playing back Podcasts that I have downloaded much better then just looking at a screen with printed word or some other just plain screensaver. The also offer a FREE version but you don't get all the perks of being able to customize. Still all in all it is fantastic. And if you really want to be creative you can oupt in on the BETA versions and tweak away with it. It's the BEST Screensaver I have ever seen or used+ they have 3 other versions but they are all very differant from each other. Product is awesome, & I use it for a night light too.

bella1965
bella1965

Thanks! The tiny bubbles are a gasser! *typo edit*

Quaint_Data
Quaint_Data

That's pretty Sweet. Thank you so much Greg,you're a legend for sharing it. I like the full bubbles.

JimInNM
JimInNM

Guess I'm like you, I enjoy tweaking things to what I think "makes them better". Maybe some unnatural inkling but enjoyable never the less...Thanks, I'll use them

mlusoto
mlusoto

Nice to see that the little tricks to configure Windows are still around. Reminds me of the ol' After Dark with the Flying Toasters where you could come up with some great configurations...

cosmica34
cosmica34

Very cool, very cool. Love it and thanks much!!!

iddawg
iddawg

Mr. Shultz, Thank you so much for all your work. Just download the "Screen Saver Configuration". It's AWESOME!!!!!

mstevenson
mstevenson

Very nice, thanks for this. However when I press preview I get the code in notepad and not a preview. Settings do work however and if I preview under the Windows Screen saver control panel it previews just fine. Running Win7 x64.

Dzmitry Z
Dzmitry Z

Great job on bringing new life to something ordinary! I don't get why MS wouldn't let us adjust these settings by default either. The tiny and huge bubbles really did it for me.

ralph.bacon
ralph.bacon

I'm sure I'll download and play with these soon. But is there really a problem? I try and get my laptop to dim the display to save power, not display yet more on the screen. Ideally, instead of a screensaver I'd like the screen to dim even further than Windows 7 lets me without actually blanking the screen as it takes too long to come back (yes, a couple of seconds isn't long but when you want to do something *right now* it can be frustrating). And if you could knock these together so quickly I'm sure MS could do the same - officially!

jfuller05
jfuller05

as my screensaver. I search for pictures that I want, create the theme, and then I have the screensaver that I want. Ubuntu has a cool screensaver I like though. It's an ant walking around in the dark, it has a light on it's head so you can see what the ant sees as it scurries around.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I am not a big screensaver kind of guy, but I know many people enjoy them. Do you? What is your favorite? How often to you change your screensaver? When you try the utilities described in this blog post, let us know how well they worked for you.

Amnezia
Amnezia

I'd forgotten about those - they were good!

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

... simply executes a command that runs the screen saver. For example, the line that Mystify screen saver looks like this: WshShell.Run "C:\Windows\System32\Mystify.scr" Not sure why on your system it launches the code. Do you know what is the SCR file extension associated with?

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

I think MS would just as soon not hear from "old school" users, or wish we would just forget the flexibilty we used to get.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

This is off-topic but the Fireworks Screen Saver in Ubuntu/Gnome is probably the most fascinating I've ever seen! I wish it was availible for *any* windows version (or is it?).

Trojan Horse
Trojan Horse

I just tried these and they work great. Thank you Greg & Mark, for your efforts in providing us with tools like these.

kristain
kristain

The Screen Saver settings window enables you to control and configure screen saver settings in Windows 7. You can also set a screensaver password that demands a password before it allows you to go back to the desktop. The Power management section of the screen saver window gives you access to change the power management settings of your computer. Living 3D Dolphins Screensaver is my favorite one.

N4AOF
N4AOF

The article was intersting -- mostly as a demonstration of the kinds of obvious stuff that the boys in Redmond just left out -- but I have to wonder why TechRepublic insists on linking to the PDF version (instead of to this blog entry) AND ESPECIALLY why they have the pdf version burried in a Zip file instead of downloading directly as a pdf file.

leen2
leen2

I prefer the photo screen saver in Vista to the one in Windows 7. In Vista I could tag my photos with a specific word and then set the photo screensaver to display only photos tagged with that word. This was great as I could manipulate which photos were displayed by adding or removing the tag to individual photos anywhere on my computer. In Windows 7's photo screensaver, I can only pick a folder and get all photos in that folder displayed. This is simpler, but not as good as you have to create separate folders with just the photos you want copied into them. I have looked, by no-one seems to have found a way to restore the Vista photo screensaver options to Windows 7.

Technous285
Technous285

I usually set the screen saver (~IF~ any) to show the current time on the computer and have it bounce around the screen. Problem with it: In 2000 Pro, the text block/time would bounce around ALL the screen and do fancy things like wobble or instead of bounce, run from side to side and move up/down the screen on a different row to the one it came off. Under XP, all the text block/time does is slide across the one section (right in the middle of the screen) and simply bounce off as it hits the side. ~WHY?!?~ Why mess around with a perfectly good screen saver then disable the ability to make it act like back in 2000?! 'Course, not every one of my machines gets a screen saver set on it, some of them are left showing whatever is on the screen (usually the locked login screen) which helps with trying to navigate your way around darkened rooms of stuff late at night if needed. When I do get around to installing W7 Pro after doing a few system upgrades, I'll try the utilities mentioned in the blog.

TheChas
TheChas

The nature pictures that Second Nature has in their slide show collections are just awesome. Plus, part of the profits from purchasing collections goes to the Nature Conservancy. There are others I like as well. The Windows XP Christmas saver and the Real Networks Snow Globe are still cool if your system supports them. Chas

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

I have lots of pictures of the kids over the years, and they just slide across the screen. Beats the heck out of bubbles or gears... ;-)

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Well, you need the HTA files to make it work so for the sake of convenience we put the HTA and PDF in a single Zip file.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

But seriously, the purpose of quasi-random motion in a screen saver was just that - to save the CRT from burn-in. Any pattern (including the *text/clock* pattern I use) that just moves back and forth like that defeats the purpose. Admittedly most people are using LCDs instead of CRTs, but even LCDs have a limited tendency to burn in. So why would the geniuses at MS limit the parameters of what is actually a useful screen saver? I thought Win7 was supposed to be a *super* OS!

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