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Utility Lock
Freeware Menubar Utility Provides Screen Locking with a Keystroke

Reviewed Aug 15, 2012Home Page

Originally downloaded April 21, 2007. How ironic! Just this morning, I had followed a link in my referrer logs to a post on about Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts (the referral was someone following a posted link to my xCuts widget, which is a keyboard shortcuts reference for Dashboard). One of the complaints I was investigating was a user who bemoaned Mac OS X's lack of a keyboard shortcut equivalent to Ctrl-L on Windows (which I gather locks the screen with a login prompt). Sure enough, I couldn't find any native shortcut that did quite the same thing. I always just lock my screen with a screensaver, using a screen corner shortcut. But I can understand the yearning for a keystroke fix. So I whipped one up for myself using Quicksilver!

Apple does provide the function users would like... just not the keyboard equivalent. If you have enabled Fast User Switching, you probably have the "Users" menu extra in your system menubar. That item has a menu selection called "Login Window...", which will get you there. Now, there are several ways to get a keyboard shortcut attached to that item. One is to use Quicksilver, which is what I did.

Quicksilver comes with a built-in script called "Fast Logout," and it's basically the same as a call to the Mac OS X login screen. To get my Ctrl-L shortcut, I just created a trigger for it in Quicksilver.

Another easy way is to get rid of Apple's "Users" menu extra and install the free, open-source menu extra WinSwitch instead. Open WinSwitch's preferences and you'll discover you can set a keyboard shortcut to open the login window!

Still, there's always room for a better idea if you're a Mac user, so I was delighted to discover Utility Lock today. I haven't tried it yet, but from the looks of it, Utility Lock is a specialized tool that goes to the heart of what users want in screen locking. It sits in your menubar and provides a quick means to lock up your screen at a keystroke. It doesn't use the Fast User Switching function at all, but instead is more like DeskShade, which has a screen-locking mechanism that puts a big padlock on your screen. (But unlike Utility Lock, DeskShade ain't free.)

Version as tested: 1.0.1.

Update 8/16/12.

After finally testing this out, I find that it does precisely what it promises: Makes it simple and quick to lock your screen in various ways. You can set a keyboard shortcut for it, or you can have the screen lock on some defined schedule. You can also, of course, lock it using the menubar app. While I won't be using Utility Lock, since I have no need for it, I can imagine that others do, and it can be particularly important in an office environment. My only caution is that it's not really necessary to deploy something like Utility Lock. Mac OS X does have the necessary built-in features to enforce desktop security.

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