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ICSE > ICSE Articles > Computers & Internet > Hidden Secrets of Software

Hidden Secrets of Software

Most people that use computers tend to know the ins and outs of a small number of software applications. Some can even claim to be experts in them. As software progresses, there seems to be more and more options at our disposal.

Do you know your applications inside out?

Have you ever heard of Easter Eggs in Software?

You may now be thinking of a nice big egg shaped piece of chocolate, covered in foil. You'd be wrong. I agree that it would be good if your application spat chocolate at you, but the Easter Egg I'm talking about doesn't contain chocolate.

You may think you know everything there is to know about your software, but there is a time honoured tradition with programmers to throw a little something extra into the applications. Very often it is something that is personal in nature, and sometimes there can be games too. There are some applications that have 1, or maybe 2 Easter Eggs. Some have many.

Let me explain. Easter Eggs are hidden words, pictures or games in software, that can only be accessed by using certain procedures with the keyboard and/or mouse. Don't bother rushing to the manual or help file because you wont find any information about them there. They have been inserted into the software by the programmers during the development process without management knowing.

Here's an example for users of Windows. Most versions of Windows come with the card games 'Solitaire' and 'Freecell'. It is claimed that all Freecell games are possible to win. This is not the case. I'd say there were all but 2 games that you could win. If you click on the 'Game Menu' and then click on 'Select Game', it will allow you to type in a game number to play. However, there are 2 game numbers not mentioned. These are the impossible games. The game numbers are '-1' and '-2'. Try your hardest. You'll never win them. You'll also find a cheat for Minesweeper on my site.

I've come across many Easter Eggs. Here are some of types of Eggs I've found.

Controversial statements.
Developers names.
Pictures of developers, developers girlfriends, developers pets.
Games, such as space invaders etc.
Links to little known web pages.

If you think that Easter Eggs are only likely to appear in small applications by small companies, then you are wide of the mark. They appear in nearly every application on the market. That includes products by Microsoft, Adobe and every other major corporation you can think of.

I've been fascinated with Easter Eggs for several years now, and have built up an enviable collection of over 900 Easter Eggs. They are available to view at htp://hiddensecretsofsoftware.hammocksurvivalguide.com/

Finally, you might ask yourself why the programmers go to the extra lengths to hide these Eggs in software. That's something I could only guess at. I can think of several reasons, and they probably all apply:

Boredom.
Rebellion against the company.
A desire to be famous.
Some kind of Viral Marketing ploy.
Because everybody else is doing it.

Whatever the reasons, I'm glad they are there. Visit http://hiddensecretsofsoftware.hammocksurvivalguide.com/ and discover elements of your software that you never knew existed.

Written by Jeffrey Edwards

About The Author

Jeffrey Edwards is a Director of Gracious Coding Ltd. Feel free to reprint this article in its entirety in your ezine, newsletter or website as long as the article’s content is not modified and all links are included.

Date Posted: May 16, 2007

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