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Over the company’s decades of existence, Microsoft has developed, and perhaps cultivated, a reputation for producing software with a multitude of features—some would argue too many features. But that does not mean there are no hidden or undocumented features left to find if you know where to look.

Microsoft Edge, Windows 10, Word and Excel each have at least one undocumented feature or fun Easter egg for users to discover. Some of these hidden features are whimsical diversions from productivity while others can be extremely useful under the right conditions. This how-to tutorial will reveal how to activate these hidden and undocumented features.

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Four hidden and undocumented features of Microsoft apps

Our first two hidden features are considered to be Easter Eggs.

1. Surfing

The first comes from the latest version of Microsoft Edge. Starting with build 83.0.478.37, Edge users can play a simple, arcade-style surfing game, as shown in Figure A, by typing this URL into the navigation bar:


Figure A

The game has been available for Insiders since late February 2020 but now it is available for everyone to play in the latest release.

The rules of the game are simple—pick a surfer avatar, press the spacebar to start, use the left and right arrow keys to navigate, and then don’t run into anything. A few minutes of this basic diversion before the start of a meeting may be just what you need to make it through.

SEE: Windows 10: Lists of vocal commands for speech recognition and dictation (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

2. Star Wars

This next hidden feature is in an obscure part of Microsoft Windows 10. Telnet is a hold over from the days of mainframes where two computers communicate using nothing but text. The Windows 10 version of this application is not installed by default, so we need to add it.

In the Windows 10 desktop search box type “turn windows features on or off.” Click the result to reveal the configuration screen shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Scroll down to find Telnet in the list and click the box to add the app and click OK. Use the keyboard combination Windows Key + R and type or paste this command into the run dialog box:


Assuming the server is up, you will see an ASCII rendering of “Star Wars: A New Hope” complete with animated characters and text-based action.

Note: This hidden feature has been around for years and relies on the availability of an old server. If you cannot get a connection, wait a few hours, and try again.

3. Word placeholder text

This undocumented feature of Word may come in handy when you are planning a report or white paper that needs to be a certain length. Some placeholder text may help visualize just how much work you have left to do.

Type “=lorem()” onto a blank line in Word and press enter to insert Lorem Ipsum placeholder text. Or, if you prefer, you can type “=rand(#P,#S)” onto a blank line and press enter. The #P variable represents paragraphs and #S represents sentences. For example, “=rand(2,5)” will insert two paragraphs of five sentences, as shown below in italics.

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Video provides a powerful way to help you prove your point. When you click Online Video, you can paste in the embed code for the video you want to add. You can also type a keyword to search online for the video that best fits your document. To make your document look professionally produced, Word provides header, footer, cover page and text box designs that complement each other. For example, you can add a matching cover page, header and sidebar.

Click Insert and then choose the elements you want from the different galleries. Themes and styles also help keep your document coordinated. When you click Design and choose a new Theme, the pictures, charts, and SmartArt graphics change to match your new theme. When you apply styles, your headings change to match the new theme. Save time in Word with new buttons that show up where you need them.

4. Excel date differences

There are thousands of formulas, functions and commands available in Microsoft Excel but not all of them are documented. Cell C1, shown in Figure C, shows the results of subtracting one date from another date—the number of total days. Cell C2 shows the undocumented function DATEDIF, which can be used to make the same calculation.

Figure C

However, the DATEDIF function is more flexible than straight days between dates. If we change the “D” parameter to “M,” the function will return the number months that passed between our entered dates. The DATEDIF function can also show years (Y) as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

The interesting thing about DATEDIF is that it is completely undocumented. If you search available functions in Excel, it is not listed, and there is no helping text to support you as you enter its parameters. But its functionality can be extremely helpful in certain situations.