...making Linux just a little more fun!
Easter Eggs
By Vinayak Hegde

"Easter eggs" are small tricks or "hidden features" that are embedded in software by the developer. They get activated when a certain sequence of keys are pressed or some settings are changed. You may have heard of chip designers embedding graffiti and cartoons onto the chips. Software developers embed easter eggs into software so that users can have fun finding them and playing around with them. Also in most proprietary companies, the software is owned by the company with the software developer getting little or no credit. Many easter eggs contain a scrolling list of the developers who developed the software. Other easter eggs are embedded just for fun, such as a flight simulator in a popular spreadsheet software.

Most programmers find it a creative way of communicating with the users of the software. It can also be seen as a reward for ardent users of a software who obviously take pride in the fact that they know subtle nuances of using the software. The joy comes from the sense of discovery (after you have found a hidden easter egg) and making the program to do what it wasn't intended to do. Another view is that easter eggs can also be used (by small companies) as marketing tool. Users discover easter eggs and ask another to check out the program. The user downloads the software and finds it really useful for doing his daily work. He then ends up buying the program.

Some people are of the view that easter eggs owe their origins to backdoors in software and are harmful for the security of the program. This is also the view taken by most big corporations and software quality assurance departments. They believe that easter eggs waste memory and CPU time. Also avid gamers might find the concept of easter eggs to be similar to cheat-codes in most popular games. Cheat-codes are such a rage that most popular games have backdoors (cheat-codes) to help the user cheat and get an unfair advantage. The amount of easter eggs in open source software is much less as compared to closed source software. In the article that follows I have presented some easter eggs which can be found in open source software.

Easter Egg # 1 (Hidden Quote in Mozilla)

Click here for a surprise if Mozilla (or Galeon) is your browser.
You might get a different effect if you try this out in another popular browser. Mozilla is a strange name you may wonder. Actually Mozilla is a combination of two words Mosaic and GodZilla. Back in the early days of the world wide web, NCSA's Mosaic was the dominant browser. It was at this time, Netscape Inc. came up with the Mozilla browser which competed with Mosaic. Hence it was named as "Mosaic Killer" by it's developers. The above easter egg should work even with a Galeon. Mozilla and Galeon use a common engine called gecko.

If you are not reading this using Mozilla (or Galeon). Select text from here...

And the beast shall be made legion. Its numbers shall be increased a thousand thousand fold. The din of a million keyboards like unto a great storm shall cover the earth, and the followers of Mammon shall tremble.
from The Book of Mozilla, 3:31
(Red Letter Edition)

...till here to see the hidden text

Easter Egg # 2 (ddate command)

use the ddate command to get some wierd information about the date in the calender.

$ ddate 1 4 2003
Sweetmorn, Discord 18, 3169 YOLD 
$ ddate 1 1 0000
Sweetmorn, Chaos 1, 1166 YOLD
$ ddate 13 2 2003
Prickle-Prickle, Chaos 44, 3169 YOLD
$ ddate 14 7 1980
Setting Orange, Confusion 49, 3146 YOLD
$ ddate 18 11 1969
Boomtime, The Aftermath 30, 3135 YOLD
You can have a lot of fun with this command. Also check out your birth date and what it says ;).

Easter Egg # 3 (Credit Listing in VIM)

This is a easter egg I recently discovered in the popular editor VIM. Follow the steps and you are in for a surprise.

  1. On the command line edit a file programmers.txt
  2. Get into insert mode by pressing i
  3. Press enter 11 times
  4. Now that you are on the 12th line, type the name Bram Moolenaar
  5. Open a new buffer using the key sequence CTRL+W followed by N
  6. In the new buffer you will see the names of all the people who have contributed to VIM
If you see nothing probably you are not using the latest version of VIM. You can download it from here

Easter Egg # 4 (Flight Simulator in OpenOffice calc)

This easter egg is embedded in the spreadsheet software Calc (from the OpenOffice suite). In case you don't have it you can download it from here This easter egg is a beautiful flight simulator embedded in the software. To see it follow the steps given below

  1. Start Openoffice calc from the Menu or from the command line by giving the command oocalc
  2. Click on sheet 3 to go to the third sheet.
  3. In the range drop-down box type A2000:L2000. This will select the 2000 th row.
  4. Now while pressing the key combination CTRL+ALT+P click on the background colour icon.
  5. Keep CTRL+ALT+P pressed for about 45 seconds.
After going through all this steps a screen will popup and start a flight simulator game. Follow the instructions and enjoy the game. If nothing has happened after all this time, either you have not followed instructions properly or have missed something. Follow the steps again and you are likely to succeed this time round.

Easter Egg # 5 (Animation in Anjuta IDE)

This Easter Egg is a cartoon animation in the latest version of Anjuta IDE. To get this animation, do the following.

  1. Start a new project using file menu in Anjuta
  2. When prompted to select a project select generic/terminal project
  3. Change the project name to "Animation" and the project author name to "Horse"
  4. In the Description box that follows in the next screen. Type "ShOw Me ThE AnImATiON now" ;). the case is important here.
  5. Don't change the additional options and let Anjuta builds the project for you
  6. When this is finished. Goto the terminal and change to the src directory and type make.
  7. Now run the executable named as animation. You should see a animation of horse running across the screen
This is a really good animation hidden by the programmers of Anjuta IDE.


I am not responsible if after trying out the easter eggs, your dog bites your mother-in-law or your sound card caught fire while trying out the key sequences. What is more likely is that you have got a hand sprain while trying out the key sequences while waiting for something to pop up on screen. By the way these were not supposed to be easter eggs planted by programmers :). The first two easter eggs were real to con you into believing that all the other easter eggs listed in this article existed. So how was it to be sent on a wild goose chase? I know you feel like a complete moron ;). Happy April Fools day!!!


These are for real :) ...


[BIO] Vinayak is currently pursuing the APGDST course at NCST. His areas of interest are networking, parallel computing systems and programming languages. He believes that Linux will do to the software industry what the invention of printing press did to the world of science and literature. In his non-existent free time he likes listening to music and reading books. He is currently working on Project LIberatioN-UX where he makes affordable computing on Linux accessible for academia/corporates by configuring remote boot stations (Thin Clients).

Copyright © 2003, Vinayak Hegde. Copying license
Published in Issue 89 of Linux Gazette, April 2003