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Before Dawn

Before Dawn is a an open-source, cross-platform screensaver application using web-based technologies. You can generate screensavers with it using HTML/CSS, javascript, canvas, and any tools that rely on those technologies. In theory, generating a Before Dawn screensaver is as simple as writing an HTML page.

The project developed out of a personal project to explore the history of early screensavers. I decided that I wanted to write a framework that I could use to actually run screensavers on my computer. I wanted it to be cross-platform and easily accessible to artists and developers.

Before Dawn is definitely a bit of a experiment -- to actually use it, you need to run it as a separate application on your computer and disable whatever screensaver you have running in your OS, but it is fun and definitely works.

The core of the app is built on Electron, a system that allows you to build desktop applications that run on node.js and are rendered via Chrome.

There's about a dozen screensavers right now, with more on the way. Here's the Flying Emoji screensaver:

flying emoji

You can get a quick preview of the other screensavers via this preview page.

The first time you open the application, the preferences window will open. You can preview and pick screensavers there:

preferences window

There's an 'Advanced Settings' section where you can specify certain options for how the application should run.

settings window


Installers are available from the releases page.


Right now the application itself is pretty stable. This repo includes the main code for running the actual screensaver, a simple app for picking your screensaver and setting some options, and a bunch of modules to pull it all together.

The actual code for the screensavers is in a separate repo. If you want to write a screensaver, please add it to the project via a PR!

Running It

The easiest way to use the tool is to install it to your computer. You can grab an installer from the releases page. Binaries are available for OSX and Windows, and there's an experimental release for Ubuntu/Debian.

Once it's running, there will be a sunrise icon in your system tray, with a few different options. If you click 'Preferences,' you can preview the different screensavers, set how much idle time is required before the screensaver starts to run, specify custom paths, etc.

Once you've set all of that up, Before Dawn will happily run in the background, and when it detects that you have been idle, it will engage your screensaver. That's all there is to it!

Building It

Steps for generating your own build Before Dawn are listed in the wiki

Hacking It

If you would like to hack on Before Dawn, there's some instructions on the Development page in the wiki. It's pretty straightforward once you have a basic setup in place.

How to Write a Screensaver

A Before Dawn screensaver is basically just a web page running in fullscreen mode. That said, there's a few twists to make it run as smoothly as possible. There's a bunch of specific implementation details in the wiki.

There's also a very basic editor mode built into Before Dawn, which will generate some basic code for you to work from, and will make it easier to add some configurable options to your work.

The editor has a simple preview, a form to describe the screensaver, and a section where you can add custom options for your screensaver:

editor window


Contributions and suggestions are eagerly accepted. Please check out the code of conduct before contributing.

If you find a bug or have a suggestion, you can open an issue or a pull request here.

If you would like to add a screensaver to the program, you can submit a PR to the before-dawn-screensavers repo.

I will accept pretty much any pull request to the repository given that the content you are posting is legal and appropriate. If you need help or have a suggestion, please feel free to open an issue here.


Unless otherwise stated, Copyright (c) 2022 Colin Mitchell.

Before Dawn is is distributed under the MIT licence -- Please see LICENSE.txt for further details.