I'm currently on elementary OS Freya (Ubuntu 16.04 base). I'd like to run a script when the session is locked and when it is unlocked.

I have asked a similar question here for Ubuntu: https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/28181/run-script-on-screen-lock-unlock

However, none of these solutions appear to catch the lock/unlock of the session manager. I'm basically locking my session using Super+L and then logging back in with my password.

I'm following the dbus main bus via dbus-monitor and the session bus with dbus-monitor --session and grepping for lock/unlock, but I can't seem to find what I'm looking for.

Can one of the elementary developers comment on what DBus event I should be listening for in order to see when the screen has been locked and unlocked?

1 Answer 1


I'm able to capture the lock event with:

dbus-monitor --session "path='/org/gnome/ScreenSaver',interface='org.gnome.ScreenSaver',member='Lock'"

The contents of the lock event looks like:

method call time=1512800651.865886 sender=:1.7 -> destination=:1.33 serial=1326 path=/org/gnome/ScreenSaver; interface=org.gnome.ScreenSaver; member=Lock

The unlock event can be captured using:

dbus-monitor --session "type='signal',path='/org/gnome/SessionManager',interface='org.freedesktop.DBus.Properties',member='PropertiesChanged'"

And looks like:

signal time=1512800661.088861 sender=:1.4 -> destination=(null destination) serial=237 path=/org/gnome/SessionManager; interface=org.freedesktop.DBus.Properties; member=PropertiesChanged
   string "org.gnome.SessionManager"
   array [
      dict entry(
         string "SessionIsActive"
         variant             boolean true
   array [

Of course, you can specify both watch expressions to capture everything:

dbus-monitor "path='/org/gnome/ScreenSaver',interface='org.gnome.ScreenSaver',member='Lock'" "type='signal',path='/org/gnome/SessionManager',interface='org.freedesktop.DBus.Properties',member='PropertiesChanged'"

Here's a perl script that will output locked when the screen is locked, and unlocked when the screen is unlocked.


my $capture = 0;
while (<>) {

    # print "locked" to stdout if we see the 'lock screen' event
    if (/path\=\/org\/gnome\/ScreenSaver\; interface\=org\.gnome\.ScreenSaver\; member\=Lock/) {
        print "locked\n";

    # To detect "unlock screen" events, we need to examine the
    # event data. Event data is indent from the rest of the
    # output, so we just need to collect all the indented lines
    # into a buffer and then examine the buffer contents.

    # stop capturing if the line isn't indented
    if (!/^\s+/) {
        $capture = 0;

    # start capturing event data if we see the unlock event
    if ($capture eq 0) {
        next unless /path\=\/org\/gnome\/SessionManager\; interface\=org\.freedesktop\.DBus\.Properties\; member\=PropertiesChanged/;
        $capture = 1;

    # collect lines into a buffer, stripping the line endings
    $buf .= $_;

    # if the event data indicates the session is now active, then
    # the screen was unlocked and we print "unlocked" to stdout
    if ($buf =~ /org\.gnome\.SessionManager/ && $buf =~ /SessionIsActive/ && $buf =~ /variant\s+boolean true/) {
        print "unlocked\n";
        $capture = 0;
        $buf = "";

Just pipe the output of dbus-monitor into the script.

dbus-monitor "path='/org/gnome/ScreenSaver',interface='org.gnome.ScreenSaver',member='Lock'" "type='signal',path='/org/gnome/SessionManager',interface='org.freedesktop.DBus.Properties',member='PropertiesChanged'" | ./script

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