Gnome Screensaver Inhibit and UnInhibit

Gnome Screensaver turns on the screensaver after the machine has been idle for a certain time. This allows the machine to prevent screen-burn when it is not in use.

The difficulty is that a lack of mouse or keyboard activity does not necessarily equate to "session not in use" and the machine may turn on the screensaver when performing an activity requiring no input from the user (e.g. playing a movie).

Gnome Screensaver allows applications to call Inhibit and UnInhibit DBUS methods. This allows the applications to tell G-S that the screen is in use even if there is no user input.

Information on these methods can be found in /usr/share/doc/gnome-screensaver/gnome-screensaver.html

This page aims to be a central place for information on, and implementation of, this feature. It may be useful to include a link to this page when requesting the feature.

Inhibiting Gnome Screensaver vs. Inhibiting Gnome-Power-Manager

It is possible to inhibit both Gnome Screensaver and Gnome-Power-Manager. The occasions on which each should be used are different.

Inhibiting Gnome Screensaver indirectly inhibits GPM as well. It should be used when the user will be using the screen without the mouse or keyboard (e.g. a video call or playing a movie). This method tells the screensaver that, even though there is no mouse movement or keyboard presses, the user is actively using the screen. That is the subject of this page.

Inhibiting GPM is for situations when the screensaver coming on (or the screen turning off) will not affect the operation of the application. It is targeted at longer tasks that the user is likely to leave the computer working at for a while. Ideal situations are things that could run for longer than 5 minutes unattended and do not need the screen to remain on. Some examples are copying files or downloading, as the user is not using the screen but does not want the machine to suspend in the middle of the task. This is the subject of GnomePowerManagerInactiveSleep.

Occasions in Ubuntu when Inhibit should be used

This is a list to track the implementation of this feature in Ubuntu. Please add the situations in which you believe the feature should be invoked. Ideal situations are things that could run for longer than 5 minutes unattended and want the screen to remain on without the screensaver starting. Please try to keep this list in alphabetical order.

When Inhibit should be used




Bug # (Launchpad)


When playing movie files/DVDs



When playing movie files/DVDs



When in a video call (ONLY - Audio calls should inhibit GPM)



Example Bug Report / Feature Request

Title: Inhibit Gnome Screensaver from coming on while []


"All [application] has to do is call a simple dbus method when [] starts and a simple dbus method when it's finished. This way Gnome-Screensaver doesn't come on while [].

See for more information."


InhibitingGnomeScreensaver (last edited 2010-06-16 18:52:34 by toobaz)