I was trying to figure out difference between

gnome-screensaver-command -a


gnome-screensaver-command -l

According to the gnome-screensaver-command man page...

-l, --lock                 Tells the running screensaver process to lock the screen immediately
-a, --activate             Turn the screensaver on (blank the screen)

For me in both the cases it generated the login screen.Can some one outline the difference in the two things??

2 Answers 2


I think that depends on the gnome-screensaver settings.

  • If you set your gnome screensaver not to lock the screen, than the -a option will not lock the screen.
  • If you set your gnome screensaver to lock the screen, then -a will lock it; this is the default setting in Ubuntu as far as I remember.
  • Option -l, however, will always lock it.

The help is accurate. It describes what they're supposed to do.

Your scenario suggests X is crashing and I would suggest filing a bug (via ubuntu-bug gnome-screensaver) and seeing where that takes you. It could be something as silly as the particular screensaver you have selected (try another).

  • 1
    I think that OP means that both commands lock the screen.
    – January
    Sep 17, 2012 at 14:34

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