Is there a way to make xscreensaver run a single screen saver across the whole X display, ignoring Xinerama/XRANDR geometry?

I have three monitors appearing as a single X screen on one X display. XRANDR provides information about where each physical monitor starts and ends on the single X screen. xscreensaver uses this to either run a different screen saver on each monitor, or to run the same screen saver three times, once for each monitor.

I would like to change this so that only one screen saver is run, and it spans all three monitors (i.e. it takes up the entire X screen.) This way animations in the screen saver will be free to roam from one monitor to the next.

Is this possible?


I contacted Jamie Zawinski, author of xscreensaver, to ask whether it can span one screen saver across multiple monitor, and he gave me this response:

No, it doesn't do that by design because I've tried it and with 99% of the savers it looks like shit. For the ones where it doesn't look like shit, One Saver Mode looks the same.

I guess he's referring to the bezel gap between monitors making the image look odd as it transitions between monitors.

  • +1 for contacting Jamie directly, if that's not authoritative then I don't know what is. – KlaymenDK Aug 24 '16 at 7:47
  • I do wonder, though, if there are any savers made specifically to run on separate displays (that is, taking into account or otherwise making use of the bezel and offset placement/geometry)... – KlaymenDK Aug 24 '16 at 7:49
  • If there are then they aren't part of xscreensaver by the sounds of it. Multimonitor gaming can be configured to leave gaps between screens as if the pixels were obscured by the monitor bezels as this apparently makes things look much better, but I don't think X11 supports anything like this so it would be tricky to build in to xscreensaver I think. The alternative - custom xrandr geometry with gaps between viewports - may be annoying as the mouse cursor disappears for a while as it moves between monitors. – Malvineous Aug 24 '16 at 8:28

I'm a few years late with this, but its something we've wanted for a very long time. I've written a poor quality patch against xscreensaver 5.40 to force one hack over multiple monitors. Details here.

In my opinion about 95% of the hacks look excellent across a triple monitor setup. Some needed their settings tweaked slightly to enable more sprites/objects rendered, as there are significantly more pixels to fill.

I'll also contact Jamie to see if he has any interest in properly adding "One screensaver over all monitors" to the mode list. It should be reasonably simple, but is beyond my skill level.

Update 20181101 - Jamie replied with some suggestions to remove xinerama and vidinfo support attempting to achieve same result. He still objects to a bezelgapped 2-monitor solution, but understands that 3 might look ok.

  • I hope you will consider submitting the patch upstream to make it into the official xscreensaver distribution! – Malvineous Sep 21 '18 at 2:11
  • 1
    unfortunately the quality of my patch is very poor so it would need to be done "properly". I'll make contact with Jamie the author and see if he is open to the idea. – stackwok Sep 21 '18 at 12:08

I find it hard to believe that the need for this has not become obvious to the developers. Most people I know have more than 1 monitor on their desktop and have for quite some time. Even MY wife has 2. Most run Windows where this is not an issue though.

I suppose Jamie thinks that a completely different screensaver on each of my three monitors looks more appealing than 1 big one with bezel gaps. If he does I suspect he is in the minority, but he is entitled to his opinion, as am i that it looks quite stupid to have 3 different screensavers running right next to each other. I am quite surprised to learn that it basically is impossible to do one big one. (May be really difficult to do properly, I certainly do not know how to). Probably will require that somebody spend way to many hours making xscreensaver do this instead of time with their family(s) and other more productive things. And this is NOT more important. It's a wish list item.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.