Version 3.0.1

Ephemeral is a screen saver that draws animated IFS fractals, giving an ever–changing display of complex, natural shapes. The fractals evoke the structure of many objects found in nature such as plants, crystals, fire, and clouds.

The fractals are drawn as a swarm of hundreds of thousands of dots, with each one following a unique path. The relationship between these paths brings the dots together to reveal the structure inherent in the mathematical rules that define the fractal.

Try running Ephemeral a few times to get an idea of the variety it’s capable of producing: there’s always something new to see!

This screen saver is an evolution of my Windows–only Ephemera screen saver that I first released way back in 1997.


  • macOS 10.13 or later.


Some legacy versions of Ephemeral are still available for download, but are no longer supported. However, if your Mac is running a version of macOS older than 10.13, or if your Mac is having problems with its Metal drivers, then these versions may work for you:

Release Notes

  • Version 3.0.1 — 25th September 2021
    • Fixed an issue that could potentially affect the drawing process (read/write texture access), though I’m not aware of it actually causing any problems.
    • The Ephemeral screen saver is now signed and notarized by Apple, meaning it will run without trouble on recent versions of macOS.
  • Version 3.0.0 — 3rd August 2020
    • Drawing has been improved so that when different parts of the image overlap they blend together, giving a colourful, translucent appearance.
    • Animation is even smoother with Ephemeral now running at the same rate as the screen. Previously it was limited to 30 frames per second.
    • The Metal kernel used for drawing has been rewritten for much improved efficiency.
    • Metal is now a requirement as OpenGL/OpenCL support has been removed. Ephemeral 2.0.0 and 2.3.0 are still available for older Macs.
  • Version 2.3.0 — 21st March 2020
    • Fixed a bug that had the potential to cause instability.
    • Changed the defaults to give a more mellow style: slower motion with longer trails.
  • Version 2.2.1 — 1st October 2019
    • Fixed a bug where the mini–preview was blanked out in the System Preferences when the screen saver options was opened.
    • The screen saver options are now more legible in Dark Mode.
    • A few other small fixes and improvements.
  • Version 2.2.0 — 23rd November 2018
    • Rendering will use Metal on macOS 10.13 or later, falling back to OpenGL/OpenCL.
    • The dot size is scaled to suit the screen (Metal only). This means, for example, that the mini–preview in System Preferences will draw with smaller dots on Retina displays. And when running as a screen saver on on a large high–resolution screen it will draw with larger dots.
    • Drawing is smoother due to the animation being locked to the refresh rate of each screen.
  • Version 2.1.0 (Felix Feles) — 25th September 2016
    • Significant improvements to the rendering engine have resulted in it running about 15% faster.
    • Improved smoothness of the animation.
    • There have been a large number of improvements made to the code resulting in improved efficiency and robustness.
    • All persisted defaults are removed when the Option key is held when the “Reset to Defaults” button is pressed.
  • Version 2.0.0 — 28th August 2016
    • Greatly improved appearance: the images now fade out with a gentle blur effect. Note that if your GPU doesn’t allow Ephemeral to access the graphics system, it falls back to simpler drawing with the CPU.
    • Ephemeral now draws on all screens, instead of just the primary screen. This can be changed in the screen saver options.
    • Fully rewritten rendering engine for greater efficiency.
    • Now requires OS X 10.8 or later.
  • Version 1.1.2 — 12th August 2012
    • Fixed a crash on exit problem when running on OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion).
  • Version 1.1.1 — 1st August 2011
    • Ephemeral now regenerates the OpenCL kernels each time OS X is updated. This ensures that Ephemeral picks up any updates to OpenCL, and helps to retain compatibility with new versions of OS X.
  • Version 1.1.0 — 1st May 2011
    • Added a CPU mode to allow Ephemeral to run with GPUs that don’t provide the OpenCL features required.
    • Fixed a drawing glitch (occasional frame tearing).
    • Fade in over 2 seconds on start up.
  • Version 1.0.4 — 17th January 2010
    • If your Mac doesn’t support everything required by Ephemeral you will see an orange screen with a message that describes the incompatibility.
    • If any other error occurs then you will see a red screen with a message stating the nature of the problem, along with an invitation to send an error report. This is now as easy as clicking on a “Send Error Report” link in Ephemeral’s configuration options.
  • Version 1.0.1 — 19th December 2009
    • Initial public release.