Type "screensaver" into a Web search box - go ahead, I dare you. What you'll come across is a number of scamming, ad-filled, useless sites that care more about lining their own pockets with revenue than actually delivering you the goodies you want for sprucing up the look of your system's display. I can't help you much there. The appeal of a particular screensaver is, after all, in the eyes of its beholder. You might like flying toasters; I might like ports of OSX screensavers. There's little point in me trying to push my tastes on you via some freeware roundup.
That said, there are a number of interesting applications that can help you better manage your display. Regardless of whichever screensaver you choose to use--including none--the freeware tools listed below will let you best manipulate your screen to your liking. Enhance your daily computer use with increased energy-savings or prevent annoying interruptions to your media-watching, amongst other tricks.
If you've noticed that your system is the perfect brightness during the day, yet looks like you're staring into the sun come the evening, then f.lux is a perfect utility for you. This freeware app doesn't alter your display's actual brightness, rather, it adjusts the color temperature to better match the current time of day. You'll obviously want to make sure that your actual PC is in a room that can best make use of the adjustments-no sense in matching sunlight to your system's colors if there's no sun streaming into your office to begin with.
I don't often lock my system at home--that's really more of an office-type activity. However, the small freeware application MonitorES has made me start slapping the Windows Key + L shortcut whenever I know I'm going to be away from my system for an extended period of time. Why's that? MonitorES will automatically set your display into standby mode whenever you lock your system. As well, the helpful utility pauses any running media programs and sets your IM status to a preconfigured away message. Why wait for your screensaver to kick in when you can manually take charge of your display?
This one has nothing to do with your display. However, if you just finished reading over MonitorES and felt like giving it a try, you'll want to grab Mute on Lock as well. As the name implies, this little utility works alongside MonitorES to reduce your system's volume to a crisp zero whenever you lock your down. Spare your coworkers from having to hear your rocking out (or, worse, the dings and whoos of system notifications) whenever you head away for lunch. But don't fret-as soon as you jump back on your PC, your volume will go right back to where it was previously.
Tired of having your system's screensaver launch whenever you're trying to watch an extended video or movie? It's not that big of a deal if you're sitting at your desk--just flick the mouse--but it can be a source of frustration if you're trying to view some sort of media from all the way across the room. Instead of hitting up the control panel and editing the time-delay for your screensaver's activation whenever you're about to sit down and watch a film, you should instead consider grabbing the freeware utility Caffeine. This little freeware app sits in your system tray and allows you to turn your screensaver on and off with the click of a mouse. It's as simple as that.
Need to kick your screensaver on at a moment's notice? Use the freeware application NirCmd to create command-line shortcuts for a variety of system functions, including the ability to turn your screensaver on without having to navigate to your system's control panel. Don't just stop there, however. NirCmd can handle a host of applications, including muting and un-muting your system's volume (or changing your volume to a set level), closing all your open windows, and emptying your recycle bin.
David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!