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First, as you already know, screensavers are launched automatically by operating system.
TIP: Be careful if you use CD-Burning devices regularly and your system is configured to launch screensaver after some period of inactivity. Some screensavers produce very sophisticated effects but for price of intensive CPU load. If you leave your computer while CD-Burning software is working, screensaver will be launched. This can sometimes lead to CD-RW disks burned improperly.
During their installation process screensavers are copied to system directory (years ago users had even to copy screensavers by themselves). Once they are there, Windows finds them and puts in list of available screensavers. You can see this list in Display Properties dialog. But how does system know that program in its system directory is a screensaver? The answer is simple. Any screensaver program has a name ending with ".SCR" extension, while a typical program has an ".EXE" extension at end. This is first difference.
Second, almost every screensaver has a bunch of settings allowing you to change its appearance in many ways. This isn't a much difference because many typical programs have options and settings too. The difference lies in way user invokes configuration dialogs. Windows provides only way to do it. It's Display Properties dialog mentioned above. Other programs usually have their own buttons or menus to do that. Why are we talking about it? It's simple. The whole process means that system has a way to communicate with screensavers: to launch them, preview and configure on your demand while other typical programs don't have it. Usually they are simply launched and that's all. This is second difference.
So what? How can we use it to our own advantage? Imagine yourself downloading a new screensaver, running it and finding it rather amazing. The screensaver can be so amazing and entertaining, that you would like to show it running on your screen to friend of yours. But wait. How do you do that? What if your system is configured to launch screensaver after 5 minutes of inactivity only? Or after 10 minutes or even more? Will you wait for this eternity? You can say that there is always a way to launch screensaver from Dialog Properties. But in order to do that you should launch dialog, find Screen Savers tab and click Preview button. Quite a lot of things to do. And if you are willing to demonstrate two or even more screensavers things get complicated even more. And what if screensaver you've found looks best when whole desktop wallpaper is seen on screen? The Display Properties dialog will simply destroy this unique beauty you were willing to share.
Now imagine that double-clicking an icon on your desktop could do all this. Simple action, no unnecessary dialogs. Sure, some preparation steps are needed. But they are done once. After that you can enjoy launching screensavers using icons as many times as you wish. Is it worth doing? Try it, result can be very effective. Once you manage process, you can proudly call yourself a "Professional Screensavers User". If you like idea then there's way to achieve it:
1) Use Windows explorer to navigate to your system directory. Usually it is C:Windows or C:WindowsSystem if you are using Windows 95/98/Me. If you are using Windows NT/2000/XP, then you should look in C:WINNT or C:WINNTSystem32.
2) Look through list of programs there. It can be quite large, but you can easily find name of screensaver you are looking for. Alternatively you can use "Find Files or Folders" facility.
3) Once you've found it, use right mouse button to drag file onto desktop. After releasing mouse select "Create Shortcut Here" from popup menu. The icon for screensaver should appear on your desktop.
Now you can launch screensaver at any time. Simply double-click created icon. Enjoy! I will be glad if you feel a bit more control over system.
About the author. Roman Kramar Roman Kramar is a software developer who enjoys writing screensavers as his time permits. Visit his site at http://www.elasticsystems.com/index.html?rid=a01 to find out more about screensavers and his work.