3 Useful Applications to Easily Lock Your Screen in OS X

If you work in a collaborative or public computer environment or share your computer with family members and want to keep individual user data separate, it’s handy to know how to lock your screen and keep your work away from prying eyes.  While the solution is simple, it’s not immediately clear to the new user how to activate.

Locking your screen can take a couple of different forms, but the one I’m going to focus on is fast user switching.  This allows multiple accounts to be “logged in” to your machine with processes running on each account.

To activate fast user switching, you’ll need to be logged into the administrator account on your machine.  Head to System Preferences -> Accounts. At the bottom of the accounts list, you’ll see a “Login Options” button you should press. Check the box that says “Enable fast user switching”. A menu bar item will pop up next to your Spotlight icon that presents a list of accounts you can log into, with your own name greyed out. To switch users just select the account you want from the list and you’ll be taken to the login screen and password prompt.

The Login Options button under Accounts is where you activate fast user switching.

This is certainly a nice feature to have, but for some of us our menu bars are getting quite crowded.  If you have a long account name, it’s nice to have something more compact.

Enter third-party solutions. Note that all of these do the above steps for you- fast user switching does not have to be enabled for these applications to work.

1. MacLoc

MacLoc, from ourapples software, comes in two flavors; a simple, standard-sized menu (MacLoc ME- for “Menu Edition”) or the traditional MacLoc app you can put in your Dock or on the Desktop.  Free.

2. ScreenLock

Available for download from HandyMacApps, ScreenLock is more or less the same as the standard version of MacLoc.

3. Lock Desktop (Automator)

This is an Automator action available for download on Apple’s Software website. What it does is to lock your desktop by running a simple script. This will keep all applications running, eliminating the hassles of logging out.

Do you have any screen lock options that I left out?  I purposely didn’t include the password prompt when waking from sleep/screensaver because Sleep (obviously) affects system processes.  Leave a note in the comments!