Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 146 / NOVEMBER 1992 / PAGE 52

Windows Workshop - Blank Your Windows 3.1 Screens Anytime
by Clifton Karnes

Screen savers have always been hot items with Windows users, as the sales figures for programs like After Dark and Intermission attest. Why are screen savers so popular? Three reasons. They protect your monitor from burn-in, they provide security from prying eyes, and they're fun. Microsoft must have realized not only that screen savers have a practical side but that users like them too, because it included screen savers as part of Windows 3.1.

If you've never experimented with the Windows 3.1 screen savers, run Control Panel and double-click on Desktop. You'll find the screen saver section is near the middle of the Desktop dialog box.

You can choose the screen saver you want to use by name, you can select the delay (or interval of inactivity) before the screen blanks, and you can set up the screen saver. In Setup, you can often control the number of objects the saver displays and their speed, among other things.

After everything is set, if you leave your computer idle by not typing on the keyboard and not moving the mouse for the number of minutes specified in the saver's configuration, your screen will blank, and you'll be treated to an animated display (unless you've chosen Blank Screen, which, as the name suggests, displays a completely blank screen).

Savers shipped with Windows 3.1 include Blank Screen, Flying Windows, Lissajous Figures, Marquee, Mystify, and Starfield Simulation. These are pretty neat, but they can't compete with the screens in After Dark and Intermission. On the up side, they're free, and they don't use much in the way of additional resources.

There are still two essential things missing in the Windows 3.1 screen saver system, however. First, you should be able to run a screen blanker on demand. In other words, if someone comes into your office and you have sensitive material on your screen, you should be able to blank your screen immediately. Second, you should be able to cycle through all your screen savers instead of having to choose just one to use.

Here are the solutions.

Blanking a screen on demand becomes easy once you realize one secret about screen savers: They are executable files. They all have scr extensions, I hear you say. That's true, but for an experiment, make a copy of one of your savers as an executable file. Let's experiment with the Lissajous Figures saver. Simply copy sslissju.scr to sslissju.exe (screen savers begin with ss by convention).

Now run sslissju.exe. As you'll see, it's a runnable program. The only problem is that you'll get the setup screen and not the saver screen. That problem is easy to solve. Run sslissju.exe again, but this time add the /s parameter. When you type sslissju.exe /s, your screen will blank and fill with the Lissajous swirls.

Now, to blank your screen on demand, you can simply install sslissju.exe as a program on your desktop, in your favorite menu program, or both. You could make copies of all your screen saver files so they have exe extensions, and run them at will. There's a simpler way to do this, however, that doesn't involve cluttering up your disk with duplicate files. You simply tell Windows to treat the extension scr as a program. To do this, load WIN.INI in your favorite editor, and find the line that begins with Programs=. It will probably say Programs=com exe bat pif. Simply add scr to the end of this line, so it reads Programs=com exe bat pif scr, and reboot Windows.

Now you're ready to install any blanker on your desktop or your favorite launcher and run it. To run Lissajous, you'd use the command line sslissjou.scr/s. If you use Back-Menu, installing a menu option for your saver is an excellent choice.

As for the second problem--that you can't cycle through savers--that has been solved by programmer Gordon Harris. He's written a program that allows you to cycle through all your installed screen savers. The package also comes with a number of excellent savers, including a large analog clock that floats across your screen. You can find Harris's Cycle Screen Saver on CompuServe and most other online services, or you can contact Data Arts, 3349 Humboldt Avenue, South Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408, (612) 825-5436. Cycle Screen Saver is shareware with a $5 registration fee.