Easter eggs hidden in computer software

Updated July 11, 2018

Easter eggs – not the chocolate kind, unfortunately – are fun little jokes or even hidden features you commonly find in computer games or by performing awkward commands on DVD menu screens, but they’re also surprisingly common in computer programs and online. They aren’t (ordinarily) of any use whatsoever, but if you’re bored, investigating the little secrets hidden in everyday computer programs and popular websites can be an entertaining addition to your day’s procrastinations.

\#1 – Firefox’s “about:robots”

There are several Easter eggs tucked away in the Firefox browser, many of which are accessed through typing “about:” (without quotations) followed by a word into your browser. Type “about:about” to see a list. The “about:robots” page is a favourite, offering insights into automatons such as “robots have seen things you people wouldn’t believe” and even a Futurama reference thrown in for good measure. There are actually useful ones too, such as “about:config” – which lets you change otherwise hidden settings.

\#2 – Suck effect for minimising Mac windows

You’re openly allowed to choose “scale” or “genie” as page-minimising options on your Mac, but there’s another option that “sucks” the window down which requires a secret command. Type the command “defaults write mineffect -string suck” into Terminal, and then type “killall Dock” to activate it. If anybody points out how completely useless it is, ask if their Mac does it and when he says "no," laugh triumphantly. He's just jealous.

Related: OS X Daily: Change the minimise effect in Mac OS X

\#3 – Macs tell jokes

Mac owners can also enjoy a collection of pre-programmed jokes (and eventually be told to get back to work) thanks to an Easter egg. In the “Speech” pane of “System Preferences,” ensure “Speakable Items” and “Speak Back Text” are switched on, then simply ask your Mac (with your actual voice) to tell you a joke and it will. There are quite a few different ones too. This Easter egg would undoubtedly be funnier if you stumbled across it by chance, though.

Related: Mac Life: How to use speech recognition to control your Mac

\#4 – Hidden music and sounds in Vista

If you have a computer running Windows Vista, there’s a whole hidden folder of sounds and midi files you can check out. To find it, press the Windows key and R to open the “Run” dialogue box and type “Media.” Why Microsoft chose to hide it is anybody’s guess, but it’s a nice little extra if you like your Easter eggs in musical form.

\#5 – Windows “God Mode”

For a slightly more impressive Windows-based Easter egg, Windows 7, 8 and 32-bit Vista users can create a “God Mode” folder which allows access to a storehouse of control-panel-like options. Maybe claiming this is god-like power is a little extreme (“behold, my ability to access a vast array of settings from one single folder!”), but it’s definitely more use than many Easter eggs. Just create a new folder on your desktop, entitled “GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}” (without quotations) and it’s ready to go. On Windows 8, you have to ensure “File name extension” and “Hidden Items” are checked from the View tab of File Explorer first.

Related: Tech Republic: Quick Tip: Invoke god mode to take control of settings in Windows 8

\#6 – Pirate Facebook

Websites get in on the Easter egg action too, and Facebook added a little Easter egg through their languages options. Select “English (Pirate)” from the language options, under the general tab of the Settings page. Your “Like” becomes “Arr!,” there is liberal use of the term “scallywags” and your friends become “Me Hearties.”

\#7 – Secret conversation robot on Google Earth

If you go to Mars mode in Google Earth and type “Meliza” in the search box, you’re taken to a secret “robot” hanging out on the surface. There’s not much to it, but you can have one of those awkward and occasionally funny conversations you attempt with computer programs that don’t quite understand anything you try to say. Albeit, the fact that you lie and mock them at all opportunities probably doesn’t help. Meliza will tell you some facts about Mars too, though.

\#8 – Do a barrel roll, Google

Another website Easter egg is Google’s famous “Do a barrel roll” search, which when entered causes your search results to literally do a barrel roll: that is, spin around 360 degrees. You can also type in “askew,” “recursion” and “the answer to life, the universe and everything” for other little Easter eggs. If you can do a voice search, say "Beam me up, Scotty" for an appropriate response.

\#9 – μTorrent Tetris

When you’re waiting for a download to finish with μTorrent, you can play a simple game of Tetris. Click on “About μTorrent” from the “Help” menu and then press “t” to play Tetris. Rotate your piece with the “up” arrow, use the left and right arrows to position your piece and press “down” to speed up the descent.

Related: How to Geek: Stupid geek tricks: How to play Tetris in uTorrent

\#10 – YouTube Snake

The classic mobile game Snake is available on every single YouTube video: just hold your “up” and “left” arrows while one is playing or paused to start it. It can get hard to see, though, so some people with bizarre senses of priority have created blank YouTube videos for the specific purpose of playing Snake.

Related: YouTube: Longest "black screen" for Snake

\#11 – Firefox in Firefox... in Firefox

A bizarre Easter egg in Firefox gives you the ability to nest another browser within your current browser. Type the code “chrome://browser/content/browser.xul” (without quotations) into your address bar, hit “Enter” and repeat until you achieve the desired state of Firefoxception. No, there is no discernible benefit to doing this whatsoever, apart from to blow the minds of unsuspecting workmates, perhaps.

\#12 –Windows “pipes” screensaver in Chrome

Type “about:internets” (no quotations) into Google’s Chrome browser and you’ll be treated to a rendition of the classic Windows “pipes” screensaver. In the already pointless domain of software and web Easter eggs, this still manages to stand out as pretty pointless, but it still raises a nostalgic smile. Until you think just how long ago it was used – from 1995 until the Millennium Edition – and come to the crushing realisation that you’re getting old, that is.

\#13 – Ubuntu Linux Cow

If you type “apt-get help” (without quotations) into the Terminal, the last line of the text you see will tell you whether or not your apt has “Super Cow Powers.” If it does, type in “apt-get moo” to see the cow. There’s a related joke for Aptitude, if you type in “aptitude moo,” “aptitude –v moo,” “aptitude –vv moo” and so on in that fashion until it gives up telling you there are no Easter eggs and shows you a puzzling picture. Add one more “v” (by this point “aptitude –vvvvvv moo”) and it explains that it’s an elephant being eaten by a snake. Obviously.

Related: Digital Ocean: Top 10 Linux Easter eggs

\#14 – Star Wars in ASCII art through Windows

Although it might not technically be an Easter egg, the use of an old protocol still available on modern editions of Windows can give you access to an ASCII-based version of Star Wars: A New Hope. Open your Control Panel and go to “Programs and Features.” Click “Turn Windows features on or off,” and then scroll down the list which appears to find “Telnet client,” checking the box beside it. Click OK, then press the Windows key and “r” to open “Run,” type “telnet://” into the window and press “OK.”

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About the Author

Lee Johnson has written for various publications and websites since 2005, covering science, music and a wide range of topics. He studies physics at the Open University, with a particular interest in quantum physics and cosmology. He's based in the UK and drinks too much tea.