iMac System Preferences: The Desktop & Screen Saver Pane

By Mark L. Chambers

Who doesn’t want to choose their own background for their iMac? And what about that nifty screen saver you just downloaded from that movie website? You can change both the background and screen saver on your iMac by using these options in the Desktop & Screen Saver pane, found in System Preferences.

Show The Man who’s boss and pick your own Desktop background.
Show The Man who’s boss and pick your own Desktop background.

The settings on the Desktop tab (as shown in the following figure) include

  • Current Desktop picture: To change your Desktop background, click a thumbnail. You can also drag a picture from a Finder window or the desktop and drop it into the well (the fancy technical name for the square box with the sunken look). Mavericks automatically updates your Desktop so that you can see the results.

    To open another collection of images from Apple, click the desired collection folder from the list on the left of the pane. If you want to open a different folder with your own images, click the Add button (which bears a plus sign) at the lower left of the pane and then navigate to that folder. Click Choose to select a folder and display the images it contains.

  • Layout: You can automatically fit an image to your screen, tile your background image (repeat it across the Desktop), center it, and stretch it to fill the screen. Because the images from Apple are all sized correctly already, the Layout pop-up menu appears only when you’re using your own pictures (so it’s not visible in this figure).

  • Change Picture: If you like a bit of automatic variety on your Desktop, select the Change Picture check box. You can click the pop-up menu to set the delay period. The images in the current collection or folder are then displayed in the sequence in which they appear in the thumbnail list.

  • Random Order: Select this check box to throw caution utterly to the wind and display random screens from the current collection or folder!

  • Translucent Menu Bar: When enabled, this feature turns your Finder and application menu bars semi-opaque, allowing them to blend in somewhat with your Desktop background. If you’d rather have a solid-color menu bar, deselect this check box.

The settings on the Screen Saver tab include

  • Screen Savers: From the Screen Savers list at the left, click any screen saver to preview it (on the right). To try out the screen saver in full-screen mode, click the Test button. (You can end the test by moving your cursor.) If the screen saver module that you select has any configurable settings, you can set them from the pane on the right (or, depending on the screen saver, you can also click the Screen Saver Options button to display them). Choose the Random screen saver to display a different screen saver module each time the screen saver is activated.

  • Start After: Drag this slider to choose the period of inactivity that triggers the screen saver. Choose Never if you want to disable the screen saver entirely.

    The Start After delay you set should be less time than the Display Sleep delay you set in the System Preferences Energy Saver pane, or you won’t see the great screen saver at all.

  • Show with Clock: Select this check box, and Mavericks adds a clock display to your screen saver (a great help for those of us who spend many minutes on the phone).

  • Hot Corners: Click this button to display a drop-down sheet and then click any of the four pop-up menus at the four corners of the screen to select that corner as an activating hot corner. (Moving your mouse pointer to a hot corner immediately activates the screen saver.) You can also specify a corner as a disabling hot corner; that is, as long as the mouse pointer stays in that corner, the screen saver is disabled. Note that you can also set the Dashboard and Mission Control activation corners from here.

    For additional security, check out the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences. On the General pane, you’ll find the Require Password After Sleep or Screen Saver Begins check box. Select the check box and choose the desired delay.