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I've looked around but can't seem to find any good answers. Would appreciate any pointers.

12 Answers 12

17

I don't believe there is a built-in, system wide Keyboard Shortcut. The quickest way to activating the screensaver via the keyboard is either via a "Start Screensaver" command using a launching applications such as Quicksilver, Alfred, or Launchbar.

The quickest way of starting the screensaver using your mouse is via Hot Corners. Open System Preferences, click "Desktop & Screen Saver", click over to the "Screen Saver" tab and click the "Hot Corners" button in the bottom left. There you can specify a corner to roll over in order to start the screensaver.

If you want to start the screensaver quickly, because you want an easy way to lock your computer, a possible answer is located in the high-view "Mac OS X Hidden Features Tips & Tricks" question that remains active.

And specifically, this answer.

shift + control + eject send display only to sleep (great for locking your computer instantly)

15

Use Automator. Simply open automator and drag in the "start screen saver" action, select "no input" under the "services received" menu, and hit file > save as "Start Screen Saver". automator This will now appear under System preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services > General, where you can assign it any hotkey you desire, just as you would any other system action. system preferences

from http://osxdaily.com/2014/07/10/set-screen-saver-keyboard-shortcut-mac/

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  • Most definitely the desired solution, here. Thanks for sharing!
    – Volte
    Dec 15, 2017 at 0:03
  • 1
    brilliant, thank you this is the solution
    – Merlin
    Aug 17, 2019 at 19:59
  • Unfortunately this Automator step does not work for me in BigSur 11.5.2 - it does nothing. Might be related to the same not working in apple script since Catalina anymore and Apple not fixing the bug: forum.keyboardmaestro.com/t/… Sep 15, 2021 at 20:04
  • 1
    Works like a charm in Monterey 12.3 (M1) Mar 23 at 21:08
12

Many moons later, I wanted the same thing and I found a solution. I use BetterTouchTool to manage all of my keyboard/mouse/trackpad shortcuts and configurations. So I created a keyboard shortcut that runs a terminal command when pressed. To launch the screen saver from the terminal, use this command:

open -a /System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Versions/A/Resources/ScreenSaverEngine.app

Now you can launch the screen saver with any keyboard shortcut (I use F19).

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  • This was exactly my scenario too. LOVE BTT!!! Oct 19, 2016 at 20:14
  • Starting the screensaver is now also an option in the BTT shortcuts menu, i.e. no terminal command required anymore.
    – n1000
    Mar 22, 2019 at 11:29
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I agree with Jason's answer - the only built in way to lock the screen (which sleeps the display but does not engage the screensaver animation) is the shiftcontrolmedia eject shortcut.

A free solution would be to use RedSweater's product FastScripts to map your choice of keyboard shortcut to call one of the AppleScripts that are floating around the net to toggle the screen saver engine rather than just let the display sleep. I'd try making a simpler script just to open the engine at the hard coded path if you only wanted to engage the saver.

I am a very happy user of LaunchBar which allows a quick keyboard only method to start the Screen Saver. It's not really a keyboard shortcut in the strictest sense (first you activate Launchbar with it's own shortcut - then key in sss or whatever you chose/taught lanchbar to use for the built in Start Screen Saver action.) Any other commercial "launcher" product should work as well to activate the ScreenSaverEngine app that is hidden deep inside /System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/......

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Not enough rep to comment 😭

As another answer says, the path of ScreenSaverEngine.app changed in Mojave. Instead of chasing a moving path, you can target your shortcut to the bundle ID:

open -b com.apple.ScreenSaver.Engine
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Drag the app ScreenSaverEngine.app (located in /System/Library/CoreServices/) into your dock bar, click it and it takes you into screensaver. Thats the latest location as of macOS Monterey 12.1.

On older Macs уоu may find it in: /System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Versions/A/Resources/.

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Though, I cannot comment to a specific answer...

The path where the ScreenSaverEngine app is located has changed on Mojave: /System/Library/CoreServices/ScreenSaverEngine.app

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  • Works for macOS Monterey
    – GoingMyWay
    Oct 31, 2021 at 12:16
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In addition to MaxPRafferty's answer, starting with macOS Monterey, you can create a hotkey that activates the screensaver using the new Shortcuts app.

Open the Shortcuts app and click the +, which is on the top right of the window, to create a new shortcut.

enter image description here

Search for the "Start Screen Saver" action and simply drag it to the left pane.

enter image description here

Now in order to set a hotkey, move to the Shortcut Details tab and click the Add Keyboard Shortcut button, set the hotkey you wish (I use ++S in contrast to ++Q, which locks the screen), this will create a global hotkey.

enter image description here

Now just give the shortcut a name and an icon (on the top left of the window) and you are done!

Same as with MaxPRafferty's answer, you will find the hotkey under System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services > Shortcuts

enter image description here

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Here's a bit of a hack involving the Keychain Access utility that allows you to define a shortcut to lock the screen -- it's five years old and I haven't been able to verify if it still works, though.

http://www.macworld.com/article/49080/2006/01/lockscreen.html

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On some computers it is CTRL-SHIFT-POWERBUTTON.

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  • ctrl-shift-power button puts the display to sleep, not activate the screensaver. Still I'd be willing to bet that putting the display to sleep also achieves the OP's goal. support.apple.com/en-us/HT201236 Apr 29, 2021 at 14:27
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Someone else mentioned using BetterTouchTool to assign an shortcut to running a terminal command. I thought I would pitch in that as of my writing this answer, BTT has a native "Start Screen Saver" action which will do exactly what you are looking for.

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  • yeah but you can't mix two buttons because when you release it will prompt login screen
    – confiq
    Jun 25, 2018 at 12:32
  • For me it works fine, unless I delay releasing the buttons by nearly a second – as, at least on my Mac, it takes ~1 second for the screen saver engine to start listening for key presses. However, if that isn't your case, on the latest version of BTT there's an option to disable the "On Down" of any keyboard action, so the action is only triggered upon the release the main key (although not the modifier key!). This might be a problem depending on the screen saver – some don't listen to modifier keys. Due to my aforementioned screen saver behavior none of this has been a problem though for me
    – Oion Akif
    Jun 26, 2018 at 2:15
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If your Mac has Touch ID, you can click the physical Touch ID button down and it will start the screensaver.

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