Software

Look back at Microsoft Excel Easter Eggs

By Greg Shultz

If you've been using computers for a long time, you know what the term Easter Egg means when related to software. An Easter Egg is a small program, usually a game, that is hidden deep inside of an application and is designed by the application’s developers as a way of displaying their names-very similar to the credits that you see at the end of a movie. However, uncovering the Easter Egg is tricky as it almost always involves performing a series of very intricate and non-intuitive steps.

In the past, Microsoft's developers used to go to great lengths when it came to secretly embedding Easter Eggs into their products. I stress the word past, because Microsoft now officially bans the practice for security reasons as part of their Trustworthy Computing initiative.

The increase in the prevalence of malware led to the notion that undocumented code embedded into a major application could be used to compromise sensitive or confidential data. In fact, many companies and government offices forbid the use of software containing Easter Eggs for security reasons.

However, in their heyday, Microsoft's developers created some really elaborate Easter Eggs. In this gallery, I'll show you the awesome Easter Eggs that they embedded into Excel 95, 97, and 2000.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

100 comments
AllGeek2Me
AllGeek2Me

Hi, I remember a small trick in EXCEL (97?). If you created a macro called magic eight ball, the ICON of the eight-ball was popped onto your toolbar. Activating it would result in the classic answers from the paper weight we all know and love! Geek

mimiproof
mimiproof

is there an easter egg in ms-excel 2007?

mgk2600
mgk2600

Does anyone remember how to send a message through Word 97? I remember doing this in High School, where you could broadcast a "Hello World" pop-up message in almost the same way as this. I also remember using this wey to access games someone had stored on their network drive and playing them during class

bobat2320bama
bobat2320bama

There was Also an easter egg in windows 3.1 It played a little skit that intoduced the progammers and staff members it was funny.

krchuck2
krchuck2

Sometimes in order to test a theory, you do things that may not seem productive. Embedding a program (easter egg game) within a business product (excel) may have been just a learning process. Without training (playing) would we have the light bulb, the internet or "web services"?

gpaulgar
gpaulgar

This and other such endeavors could explain some of the buggy behavior in MS products (assume it was not limited to Excel?). We had enough to do without playing with other people's food!

shanthar
shanthar

exciting tech republic web, dhotographic shots and video

bobjorg
bobjorg

Did people actually get paid for doing this nonsense? A certain amount of exploring is necessary to really learn a language but I'm glad that I didn't have to foot the bill for the salaries for the geniuses that had enough time on their hands to figure this out.

seanryan52
seanryan52

The 'Dev hunter' Egg doesn't seem to work for me in excell 2000. Did they remove the egg in any of the updates? Followed instr. to the T.

szovegek
szovegek

Looking back is not a helpfull and constructive think. Just look forrward :-) Sam - Message was edited by: beth.blakely@...

soursoles
soursoles

i find easter eggs all the time at work. hehe i love life and i love software. I want an old copy of excel for the flight similator. Oh yeah.

TDWay
TDWay

The Last Program by Microsoft that had an Easter Egg was Excell 2000, that was removed by one of the the many updates. which one I have no idea.

Krusher
Krusher

Anybody remember theses Easter Eggs? Windows NT 4 3D Text Screen Saver Easter Egg 1. Go to Screen Saver and select "3D Text" as your screen saver. 2. Click on "Settings" and change the text to be displayed to: A) I love NT - displays the word 'good?' B) Volcano - displays different volcano names. C) not evil - displays a list of developers. Windows NT 3.51 Workstation 3D Text Screen Saver Easter Egg 1. Go to Screen Saver and select "3D Text" as your screen saver. 2. Click on "Settings" and change the text to be displayed: A) I love NT - displays a list of developers. B) BEER - displays a list of beers. C) Rock - displays a list of rock bands. 3D Pipes Screen Saver Easter Egg 1. Choose 3D Pipes as your screen saver. 2. Click "Settings" and choose Mixed Joint Styles. 3. When the screen saver runs, teapots will appear randomly as joints in the pipes.

dawgit
dawgit

People used to do things... Because they enjoyed showing others the lighter side of live. It was called "Fun". A common practice before the World got so up-tite about everything. (and, in the old days of innocense, safe to do so.) .d

frenches
frenches

It doesn't work for me either. I just tried it after performing a MS Office install, w/o updates, but it already had SR-1 viewing the doc in IE 6.0

markinct
markinct

I suspect it was removed/changed... My version of Excel2k is 9.0.6926 SP-3. And I seem to remember a flight simulator in one of the earliest versions of Excel.... and playing it on a "portable" Osborn computer...

Dr. Tarr
Dr. Tarr

Is that as part of the trusted computing initiave, Microsoft no longer allows Easter eggs.

Shaun.G
Shaun.G

History is a valuable source of information

drdosus
drdosus

Looking back is just as important as looking ahead. Those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it.

nawski
nawski

I mean really what else dont we even know about? how many viruses lay out there dormant , lying, waiting, or even future encrypted easter bunnies for that matter. I mean hell why is norton antivirus so god damn resource intensive and why is AVG free? with world wide distribution. Dont tell osama or hell probably figure out a way to cause another crash! Seriously arent we just blind to potential catastrophe of global proportions? Cellpohones everyone has one ... As for Microsoft . . . hmmm well vista need i say more i mean what does it really do that xp couldnt? and what have they hidden deep in the littlest corner of some new funky doodang progamming language that only thay can encrypt? Trust? TRUST NOBODY!!! except your grandmother. Risk? ya gotta take risks but just be prepared to say no when risk could effect what really counts . . . your life.

Zydeco Blue
Zydeco Blue

Even though I was never one who discovered easter eggs, I have always been fascinated by them and the people with the knowledge and skill to incorporate them into programs. I agree that all the fun little things seem to be taken away as society becomes more paranoid and over-sensitive. Even the little ego-massaging easter eggs were fun. It's recognition that took some work to see, kind of like Kevin Smith adding all the names of the thousands of people who "friended" Clerks 2 on myspace to the end of the movie. Ok, maybe not quite like that, but sort of.

Buglady
Buglady

It doesn't work for me either. I have Excel2k 9.0.2720; a black screen flashs and then it returns to the browser.

pbrownrmn
pbrownrmn

I have Excel 2000 version 9.0.0.6621 sp3 and I cannot get the easter egg to work all I get is "About Microsoft Office Web Components"

jk2001
jk2001

What about all that DRM and quasi-spyware that comes whenever you install any "media" software? Does that qualify as a rotten Easter Egg?

TDWay
TDWay

Those in DC looking across the pond wanting to follow there lead must be wearing blindfolds.

ProfTech
ProfTech

If you are looking back and trying to get ahead does that mean you are walking backward? I prefer to look forward and remember the past. I bump into fewer things that way. Life is good!

Wrathlon
Wrathlon

Good Lord man do you live in a perpetual state of paranoia? While it would be unwise to take precautions beyond what would have seemed normal just 6 years ago, I can't imagine living in such a state of mind that you portray in your post . Hopefully your being sarcastic or busting on those who actually live in such a state of paranoia . Get outside some and breathe some fresh air , see the sun, trees, plants . Interact with other individuals beyond the internet including blogs, forums, and the such . Good Day Wrath

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

Tinfoil hat sale this weekend!

Shaun.G
Shaun.G

Conspiracy Theories re-visited :)

Shaun.G
Shaun.G

I agree, I think most learn the hard way :) You were never rude, sir :) I hope you are well over your heart attack, they are never easy to get past.

dawgit
dawgit

I base my "Slow Down" on Not having done so when I was younger, and having a hard heart attack at 39. I learned the cold, hard way. (I seem to useually do that) You are also right in that ther is never a good reason to be rude. (Blunt, some times when necessary, but not rude.) But the point is those were different times, and one can't use todays standards for, what was yesterdays progress. No disrepect to you, just a mater of a different perspective. -d

Shaun.G
Shaun.G

The "Slow down, chill-out just a little bit" attitudes or better known as laissez-faire policies of yesterdays standards, did not make what was done, to be right. The standards imposed today, should have been put into place then, and the fact that it was not put into place then shows only a distinct lack of foresight, encapsulated by the attitude of HP when Wozniak approached them with his invention, according to contract, and they turned him down. This attitude is the one that prevailed through out those times, and as with any standard, they are always introduced retrospectively, showing that people did not understand what they were doing at all. Yes, I too drove automobiles without seatbelts...and I too lived. The reason we did not wear them, nor had cars equipped with them, was simply because there was no understanding of the immense danger that came with driving a car until people died in them... and so too late... were seatbelts introduced, and then law passed to make it that people wore them. What needs to happen, people need to be more proactive in their approaches with technology and people's ability, and as I previously mentioned, it should have been curtailed before it even started. If these programmers, developers, software engineers or however they want to be known as, want to be recognised for their own work, then they should start their own companies and amrket themselves. It is not about taking it easy nor about being hard on people, it is about the protection of people and such 'easter eggs' was the beginning of things like trojans. In my previous response, the author I responded to (tonyackerman@...) was out of line to reply in the way he did, and that type of response was uncalled for...and totally unnecessary. Respond by all means, air your views by all means, but to start as he did was ad hominem, and it got my back up instantly. The author made assumptions about me. I was reminded of a time where I was in an open air restaurant, and I was at a table about to sit and two older ladies pushed past and sat at the table I was at...I told them that they were rude and inconsiderate. They responded to me by saying that they are old war veterans and that todays youth has no respect for them. I responded, "Ma'am, I too am a war veteran, and have seen active service, the problem with your generation is that you have no time for people younger than you, and think that the world owes you a living and it does not!" This attitude is wrong, yes, they did do a great job, and I very much appreciate it. It does not mean that it gives them or anyone licence to be impolite.

dawgit
dawgit

Slow down, chill-out just a little bit. That is the point Shaun, it was Not "Always" Wrong to be up to such things. In fact Fun itself used to be just that, fun. You are useing todays standards, different standards, than existed in those times. We used to drive automobiles with-out useing seatbelts too. Wrong? Maybe, but cars didn't used to come equipted with them either, and it wasn't against the law. And guess what, some of us actually lived. (despite it being Wrong .) So, how about taking it easy on us oldfarts. -d

Shaun.G
Shaun.G

More to the point, "who the hell are you"? Quite frankly, Tony, I do not care who you are, it is totally irrelevant to me. Whether I was there or not, again, is an irrelevant fact. By the by, I suppose you were there? Somehow I doubt that you were. I do not care how many nights developers laboured, it was their choice to be developers, their choice to work and do those things, they could have stopped doing it and done something different, but they did not. So do not try to put me on an emotional guilt trip, because they worked many nights. It was there choice to work for those companies. And as for working to get the job done, there were many times I worked to past 3am to get the job done. I chose that job, it was my choice, and I am not trying to make someone else feel guilty for my choices. I am responsible for my choices as were those developers. Furthermore, I do not care about how trivial a piece of code is or is not, to inject, the fact is, they work for a company, irrespective of the company, and they signed an agreement, a contract, with that company to produce code for that company. Therefore, the code according to that contract does NOT belong to the coder or developer. Yes, I do understand the desire to sign a name to a piece of code, like a painter does to a painting... but it does not make it right. NOWHERE did I mention Microsoft in my comment, so obviously that idea originates simply from you, and any references (as the piece this forum post is about Microsoft) means simply that Microsoft is being used as an example, and if there was a better understanding of of english and about how people write, then this should have been understood. The people that inject eggs, irrespective of the company, were wrong. And as I have previously mentioned it is the 'fun little things' and the fre for attitude that formed the foundation of some of the crime we have today...by having backdoors into code, which seems to be similar to trojans. The idea of putting such digital signatures may seem good on the surface, but when it comes to security, they are wrong, no matter how they sliced or diced.

tonyackerman
tonyackerman

You weren't there so who the hell are you to speak about what these people should and shouldn't have been able to do? I never saw likes of you in the build lab at 3am. I did see a lot of the developers giving up their nights rest to fix some (*^*%^(^% build/bvt break. The code to create and inject an egg is trivial. The code sequence to reveal the damned thing is somewhat byzantine, which of course was done on purpose. The ability to sign one's work makes a statement of the labor that went into creating it. This was a way by those who labored on these projects to digitally sign their work and proclaim to the world their effort. If you think that Microsoft is the only software company who had eggs embedded in their software, well you have a lot to learn.

Shaun.G
Shaun.G

The society as it was then and the so-called freedom to do "the fun little things" was the foundation for all the problems today where people get away with crime because there was no control exercised at the beginning and the situation arises where the policing bodies are not able to cope. The initial ideas were wrong from the start...and should have been curtailed at the very beginning. They were allowed too much freedom. If they want to develop their own software, they can start their own companies, until then, they are on a payroll and need to abide by company policies.

L-Boogie
L-Boogie

I also tried an SR-3 patched version of Excel 2000. The easter egg has been removed.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

Probably would work if you installed a non-patched original version of Excel but with SR1 - 3 I'm sure it was deleted. Yeah, I tried it as well.

Marty-7
Marty-7

I can't get it to work either - glad I'm not alone.

bigredbird
bigredbird

I get as far as trying to open HTML file in IE 7 and get "your security settings do not allow websites to use ActiveX controls installed on your computer". Probably just as well if egg has been removed in XL SP3. Boo hoo.

Mark_L
Mark_L

I wonder if IE7 might have broken this one?

Shaun.G
Shaun.G

It was all just tongue in cheek :D but beware, there is a new conspiracy starting near you !!! :D

TDWay
TDWay

Hey, I'd be happy to sale you my old Aluminum Hard Hat, it never did anything but attract Lighting for me anyway. LOL

Shaun.G
Shaun.G

I must buy one quickly :)