Would you like to have the Slide to Unlock of iOS fame on your Mac? Do you have a need to lock your Mac’s display from prying eyes? Perhaps, you simply want a lovely photographic vista with information such as the time, date, and current temperature.
By incorporating Slide To Unlock, Lock Screen Plus may just offer you the solution you have been looking for. That is, if you can forgive a less than fluid transition to and from the lock screen.
One of the nine available themes
- Lock prior to computer entering sleep mode
- Lock via hotkey or keystroke combination
- Zoom in/out animations when launching lock/unlock screen
- Auto lock screen
- Nine different themes included
- Customizable wallpaper, time format, lock and unlock sounds, lock text, and weather location
- Set password for added security
Using Lock Screen Plus
When first launching Lock Screen Plus, you will not be presented with the set of options the app has available. Instead you will notice that a new lock icon appears in the Menu Bar. As a result, I initially thought the application did not work until I noticed the Menu Bar icon.
All control for the application and its associated features is done via this lock icon. Clicking on the icon, and proceeding to Lock, will allow users to activate the lock screen function. From this menu, you will also be able to access the application Preferences and FAQ area, along with About and Quit application options.
Lock Screen Plus in the Menu Bar
The FAQ is very brief but deals with valuable information such as what to do, if you have forgotten your password.
The area you will spend most of your time in when first setting up the application is Preferences. From here there are three areas of options including General, Appearance, and Security. In the top right hand corner, you have the ability to issue feedback to the developer. This is valuable as the developer does not have an official website with contact links or support forums. Instead they have chosen to use a Facebook page for communication. This does little to build consumer confidence regarding the longevity and continued support to the end user.
If you have previously purchased applications via the Mac App Store, you would have noticed that none of them automatically open at login. This is a restriction that is in place by Apple and from a developer standpoint can not be altered if they choose to sell through the Mac App Store.
Without doubt you will want to turn on the Open at Login feature, should you wish to use the application on a regular basis. The second startup option is to Lock Screen at Application Launch. This is useful should you wish to have the application in the Dock or on your Desktop. Launching the application will simply lock the Mac when needed.
Lock Screen Plus - General Preferences
If you have both Open at Login and Lock Screen at Application Launch activated, you will be able to go and make that morning coffee whilst your Mac is starting up. When launched your Mac is protected by the application until you return.
The Computer Sleep option is disabled by default. Activating it will cause the app to lock the screen prior to entering sleep mode. When you resume, you will then need to Swipe to Unlock and enter the password, if you have assigned one to the application.
The default hotkey assignment to lock your Mac is Command + Shift + L. The developer has included the ability to add your own hotkey or keystroke combination if you wish. You can activate the lock screen from within any application on your Mac. It is important to note that if the keystroke is already assigned, Lock Screen Plus will overwrite it until such time as you change it.
By default, when the app is running it will be included in the Menu Bar and visually it will be a colored lock icon. Users do have the option to remove it from the Menu Bar or change the icon to a classic black. If you do decide to remove the Menu Bar icon, you will need to launch the application from your Applications folder or Launch Pad.
Lock animation is turned on by default, and this feature applies to the zoom transition effect when entering and existing the lock and unlock screens. In testing I found it was better to have this feature turned off, as the zoom transition was not smooth and had the appearance of dropping frames.
The auto lock screen option is reminiscent of the Energy Saver preferences for your Mac. Simply select the duration of inactivity between 1 minute and 3 hours. Users can also select to Never have the screen automatically lock.
This is the area where all the customizable fun is. The Theme Store, is somewhat misnamed and may confuse some users as to its true purpose. The assumption would be that you could purchase additional in-app themes. This is not the case. The application currently offers no in-app purchasing, and this area is simply storage space for the included themes.
The nine available themes to choose from
Clicking the Choose Theme button will present the thumbnail view of the nine preinstalled themes. Selecting a new theme will simply make it active when you next launch the lock screen functionality.
It is important to note, there is no full screen preview of the theme prior to selecting. This is a small complaint, but you will need to instigate the process in order to see if you like the theme or not. It is simply a few more steps than I would like to see.
Regardless of your chosen theme the current time, date, and temperature of your region will be presented.
There are variants available, via Advanced Settings, within the application that allow users to further customize the application. Some of the themes allow for custom photographs or backgrounds to be added. This certainly eliminates concerns about the limited amount of available themes.
All themes allow for use of the 24-hour time format and most allow you to customize the lock screen text from Swipe to Unlock, to one of your choosing.
The lock and unlock audible sounds can also be changed to accept any compatible audio file. If you don’t wish to have the audible notifications present, you are able to disable the sound effects.
For current weather updates the app will utilize the location services, if you have that Security and Privacy option selected. If not, you will be able to search for your nearest city or residential area and assign that to present the current weather conditions for your region.
By default, the application does not assign any security preferences for the user. Therefore, one of the first things you will want to do is assign a password for the unlock request.
Lock Screen Plus - Security Preferences
Interestingly, you can also set a password for the application to prevent unauthorized access to your settings. It should be noted that both the unlock and open preferences password is identical. Whilst this is better than nothing, it would be of higher security to have the option to assign separate passwords.
Within the security preferences, users are also given options to decide how to Swipe to Unlock. Users of Apple's Magic Trackpad will easily be able to swipe from left to right as you would be used to if you are an iOS user. Unfortunately, no gesture control exists for users of the Magic Mouse. In-fact, you can’t even click and drag from left to right with the mouse pointer.
Magic Mouse users will need to rely on the keyboard in order to unlock their display. When using the keyboard to unlock the screen, you can either hold down a single key or repeatedly tap a key. Although, the developer has taken a different approach by suggesting you simply swipe your finger across your keyboard to unlock. For instance, swiping from the letter A to H will unlock the display. It is strange to get used to but works remarkably well.
The password unlock screen against the background
When enough keystrokes have been entered to present the unlock command, you will need to enter your password if you have previously assigned one. If you don’t use the password functionality, the application will simply return you to the Mac interface.
What I Did Like
On screen battery meter for Macbook Air and Pro users.
Customizable hotkey or keystroke combination.
Simple and easy to understand preferences.
Worldwide weather and 24-hour clock options.
Adding of your own custom backgrounds.
Password options for unlocking the screen.
What I Didn’t Like
Lack of gesture control for Magic Mouse.
Nine available themes limit the variety to choose from.
Combined password for access to both the application preferences and unlock ability for the display.
Zoom in/out animation suffers from dropped frames.
There is no full screen preview when selecting or changing themes.
No developer website for contact or additional information. Connecting via Facebook is limiting and fails to offer consumer confidence.
Lock Screen Plus presents a solution that many Mac users have been looking for. While it isn’t trailblazing in its approach, or feature set, it does offer a number of unique functions that make you wonder why Apple has not included this functionality directly within the OS.
Unfortunately, the transitions to and from the lock screen are not smooth, giving you a sense of dropped frames.
At US$1.99, the application is sufficiently priced for what it offers. The graphics are rendered beautifully and the clock, weather, and security settings all work without issue. This application will certainly appeal to anyone looking for not only the ability to lock their display, but also to have useful information presented.
OS X 10.7 (Lion) or later.