Windows-L for the Mac.
Coming to Mac OS X from Windows (XP and Vista), I missed being able to lock my session using a simple key-chord. I work in a shared office so it’s sensible to lock the session every time I walk away — something I do regularly.
In Windows, you simply press Windows-L and that’s it — time to go. Mac OS X Leopard doesn’t provide anything as succinct as standard, but there are ways.
Firstly, there are a couple of solutions that are accepted as standard ways of doing this — but unfortunately both have problems. I’ll cover these methods first in case they work for you, and then I’ll cover a solution that really is as quick and easy to use as the Windows’ lock screen key chord.
Partial solution number one: use a hot corner
A hot corner allows you to drop into the screen saver by moving the cursor to a chosen corner of the screen. To do this, first go to System Preferences->Desktop & Screen Saver and click on Hot Corners… Then select Start Screen Saver for one of the corners:
Of course, this doesn’t help unless your system is configured to require a password when woken from the screen saver. You can set that in System Preferences->Security:
And that’s it. Now, before you walk away from your Mac, just drop the cursor into the bottom-left corner of the screen.
However, there is a problem with this method — at least for me — as I don’t want the system to prompt for a password on wakeup. I end up typing my password far too often — every time I’ve left the machine alone long enough for the screen saver to start.
What I want is the Mac to remain unlocked until I explicitly lock it. So, on to solution two…
Partial solution number two: select a pull-down from the menu bar
Here’s another way of locking the machine, and this one doesn’t require that you tick Require password to wake up this computer from sleep or screen saver.
The trick is to enable fast user switching in System Preferences->Accounts->Login Options:
which will then place your user name in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
When you want to lock the session, just click on your user name:and select Login Window… and you’re done. (You can also achieve a similar result by ticking Show Status in Menu Bar in Keychain‘s preferences if you prefer.)
What’s my beef with this solution? The problem is that it’s still rather slow and fiddly — and it’s something I do regularly, so I want to just press and go, just as I did with Windows.
A full solution
First, download and install Dockables from cocoaapp.com. This gives you a bunch of useful applications in a sub-folder of your Applications folder:
and the one we’re interested in is Lock Screen.
Next, download and install Blacktree’s Quicksilver and run it to configure a new Lock Screen key-chord. Quicksilver will present you with its main window — just quit that and instead move to Quicksilver’s menu bar at the top of the screen and select Triggers… from the drop-down menu.
In the Triggers window that appears, click on the + at the bottom and select HotKey.
A new window will appear. Click on the first field and start to type lock screen. Quicksilver will rapidly find the Lock Screen dockable you installed earlier. Click Save.
You now have a new command, but with no trigger. So click on the None in your new command,
click in the input field labelled Hot Key: and press the key combination you wish to use to lock your session from now on. (I chose alt+cmd+L because the obvious choice – cmd+L — is already used by Thunderbird — my email client.)
I suggest you don’t use the ctrl key as part of your hot key-chord. If you do then quicksilver presents this dialog every time you type the chord:
Now, having typed a key-chord (which doesn’t include ctrl), exit the Triggers window and you have yourself a new Lock Screen hot key-chord: alt+cmd+L in the example above.
And finally, tweak some settings
You need quicksilver to run at all times, so bring up Quicksilver’s preferences (available from the Quicksilver menu in the menu bar at the top of the screen):
and walk away…