Find hidden hilarity and otherwise odd stuff, built right into the operating system you’re using. They’re hiding in plain site, in software you use every day, and when you find operating system easter eggs you’ll be delighted – it’s no wonder these hidden gems are called Easter Eggs.
From a full version of Tetris hidden in the Mac version of emacs to a mysterious cow dwelling in Ubuntu’s default package manager, hidden in-jokes can be found in most major operating systems today – desktop and mobile. You just need to know where to look.
I’ll run down a few examples of Easter Eggs from every major operating system: Windows, OS X, Linux, Android and iOS. Then we’ll work together in the comments to find even more. Sound like a plan?
Windows Operating System Easter Eggs
These days it’s Microsoft policy to not allow Easter eggs – it’s part of their Trustworthy Computing initiative. Historically however, Microsoft included all sorts of hidden awesome in its software. Excel 97 had a flight simulator built-in, Word 97 had a pinball game, and Access 97 and 2000 had a hidden magic 8 ball.
Today’s hidden features are more practical. For example, the now-famous God Mode. All you need to do is name an empty folder the right string of characters and you have a one-stop shop for most major Windows settings, right from Explorer. We showed you how to do this in Windows Vista and Windows 7. I just tested it in Windows 8 and it still works:
It’s boring, sure, but it is useful. Still, I’d prefer a hidden pinball game.
Tina dug up 5 weird Windows bugs and Easter Eggs, which I recommend you check out. My favorite – typing rand (5,10) in Microsoft word will create five ten-sentence paragraphs of random text (adjust the numbers as you like). Sure, it’s not as random as I’d like, but it’s still surprising.
Do you want to learn about Microsoft operating system Easter Eggs? Check Wikipedia for a complete list, or scroll to the comments below – I’m sure people will speak up there.
Mac Easter Eggs
More than a few icons on your Mac have a second meaning. The default icon for iCal/Calendar, for example, says “July 27” – the day Steve Jobs introduced the program to Mac users in 2002. The Mac Mail icon has a postmark saying “Hello from Cupertino, California” – referring to Apple’s headquarters.
But perhaps the most obvious Mac Easter Egg – which you probably haven’t noticed – is the message written in the TextEdit icon.
Longtime Mac fans will no doubt recognize this from one of Apple’s famous ads.
And, of course, there’s some mocking of Microsoft baked into the OS – the icon used for all Windows computers on your network is a CRT monitor, complete with a blue screen of death:
I bet you didn’t know this. Command line versions of classic games like Tetris, Snake and Pong are baked into OS X – you just need to know where to look.
Open your Terminal, then open the Emacs text editor by typing emacs and hitting “enter”. Quickly press “Esc” and “X” at the same time and you’ll be able to type a command. Type tetris and you’ll be playing in no time:
Type snake or pong to play those classics, or psychoanalyze-pinhead to see your Mac talk itself through its own issues (occasionally hilarious). There are other games supported – check out this MacLife article to discover them all.
This is an Emacs Easter egg, so it should work on any system with Emacs installed – not just Macs.
Do you want more? Check out voice mode, which allows you to use your Mac by talking to it. Intended for use by the blind, these feature also lets you ask your Mac to tell you a joke. They’re not great, but whatever – they’re there.
Ubuntu/Linux Easter Eggs
I could really spend all day on this, so I’ll try my best to keep it short – there are probably millions of Easter eggs to be found in the open source projects that make up most Linux distros.
So let’s start simple – on Ubuntu or Debian, try typing apt-get moo at the terminal.
Awesome, right? And while you’re at it, install cowsay. This program allows you to make a cow say anything you want, from the command line. “Fortune” is similarly useless – it gives you a random quote. For best results, combine the two commands (fortune | cowsay).
There are many, many more tricks like this – share your favorites in the comments below.
Android Easter Eggs
Head to your Android’s settings, then click “About“. Tap the version of Android multiple times – seriously, just keep tapping it – and you’ll eventually see a surprise. Android 4.0, for example, brings you Nyandroid:
Different versions of Android offer different things, but the trigger is always the same – tap the version number multiple times. In 4.1 (Jellybean), for example, you’ll see a surprising number of Jellybeans:
Try this out on your Android device and see what you find! Works for Android 2.0 and later, but of course some stupid hardware vendors might remove it.
iPhone Easter Eggs
The best Easter eggs to be found in iOS are probably part of Siri – the virtual assistant responds to a number of unexpected questions. Ask Siri to open the pod doors, for example, and Siri will pick up the reference – and respond. Check out this gallery from The Verge for a complete collection.
Even More Easter Eggs
ASCII Star Wars
Okay, so this isn’t an operating system Easter Egg – it’s publicly offered over telnet. Still, with this simple command, you can watch an entirely text-based version of Star Wars from the terminal/command line. Works anywhere you can type a command – Linux, Mac and Windows. Type telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl and enjoy the show.
Robots In Firefox
Are you a Firefox user? Good. Type about:robots in the address bar to learn about humanity’s best friends – robots.
How many of the references do you get? “And they have a plan” is my favorite.
What are your favorite Easter Eggs? Let me know below.