I couldn’t be more excited to see that there’s a new version of Aerial out, because it really is the greatest screensaver for macOS that you can get—with ScreenMazer a close second. That’s because Aerial allows you to turn your Mac or MacBook into an Apple TV of sorts by displaying the gorgeous videos that Apple’s streaming box uses as its screensaver.
And with Apple just having released 11 more lovely videos themed around the sea, now’s as good a time as any to grab the new version of Aerial and enjoy the new content. But that’s not the only major change you’ll find in Aerial’s 1.7.0 release.
Before we dig in, know that you should absolutely download this latest version of Aerial if you’ve upgraded to macOS Catalina. Not only does running Aerial 1.6.0+ unlock HDR playback, but it’s also the only way you’ll be able to get tvOS 13 videos. Most importantly, earlier versions of Aerial don’t work in macOS Catalina, period.
It’s also important to know that macOS Catalina also messes up some of Aerial’s more useful features—like its auto-updater tool. Until a workaround is found, you’ll have to keep manually updating Aerial whenever a new release drops. Similarly, Catalina users can’t skip through various videos using their keyboard’s right-arrow key.
Once you’ve installed Aerial, unzip the archive and double-click on the Aerial.saver file. This will install the screensaver to your system and automatically pull up your “Desktop & Screen Saver” settings window. Click on Aerial to select it, and you should then be able to click “Screen Saver Options” to adjust those. If that box is grayed out, like it was for me at first, close the “Desktop & Screen Saver” window and reinstall Aerial by double-clicking on the file again.
On the first screen, you’ll get a list of all the different tvOS videos you can watch as part of your screensaver. Uncheck any you don’t want to see or click on the icon of a plus sign inside of a circle to download your favourites to your system. Clicking on the gear icon in the lower-left corner allows you to quickly modify your playlist to only include videos you have downloaded or just Apple’s 4K offerings. (You can also use that same menu to download everything with one click.)
You can also set what video format you’d like to use—with some handy suggestions available if you click the “?” to the right of the drop-down—as well as whether you’d like the screensaver to automatically disable itself if you’re on battery (or running out of battery).
If you have multiple displays connected to your Mac, the similarly named Displays tab will allow you to synchronise your playing videos between all of them. Over on the Info tab, you can set custom messages to appear when your screensaver kicks on (or simply a clock / your location / your battery life). Speaking of, use the Time tab if you want Aerial to only display certain videos during the daytime or nighttime—or based on whether you’re using your Mac’s Light or Dark modes.
You can use the Brightness tab to automatically fade your Mac’s brightness once your screensaver starts. And if you have custom videos you’d like to integrate into Aerial, you’ll find out where to put them on the Cache tab (if you didn’t already use the Videos tab > Gear icon > Custom Videos setting to point to a specific folder on your drive)). Yes, this is a ton of options for a screensaver, but that’s partly why Aerial is one of the best (free) ones you can drop on your Mac.