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Mac OS X Pranks

joker cardNo, it’s not April Fool’s Day, but here are a few good Mac pranks that are fun anytime! Whether you have only a few moments or unlimited access to your friend’s Mac, just continue reading and discover how to invert screen colors, command the computer to speak, and even fake a kernel panic. After torturing your friends and enemies just be sure to lock your own screens because payback isn’t pretty.

Zoom in using the mouse

If your friend/enemy uses a mouse with a scroll wheel one easy prank is to zoom in on their screen and walk away. This prank is both quick and easy; just hold Control while scrolling in the upward direction. Most of the time your friend won’t know that he or she needs to hold the Control while scrolling down in order to get out of the zoom mode. What? Your friend has a laptop with a trackpad? You’re in luck, the zoom prank can be achieved in a similar way by holding down the Control key and using the two-finger scroll.

Invert screen colors

One simple Mac prank can be achieved even if your friend only steps away from the computer for a few moments. Simultaneously press/hold Control-Option-Command-8 and suddenly the screen switches to white-on-black! This can be incredibly annoying–the Zaphu guys love to torture me with this one–and because switching back to black-on-white view implies knowing the correct four-key combination, your “prey” will undoubtedly struggle for a while before figuring it out. Trust me, searching for Mac keyboard shortcuts when your screen looks like the negative of a photograph can be completely frustrating!

“Freeze” the computer using screencaptures

If you have a bit more time before your friend returns to the computer, try this oldie-but-goodie. Use Command-Shift-3 to take a screencapture of whatever is currently on the Desktop. In System Preferences change the Desktop background to the picture you just took so the screen will look the same as when your friend left his or her desk, but everything will appear frozen when they return to the computer. Be sure to re-position and hide the Dock to make the effect all the more real.

Make the computer speak

Another fun idea is available via Remote Say will drive your friends (or enemies) crazy as you command their computers to speak. For full effect make sure the volume is turned up! Check out Brian Stucki’s Blog for more info. As an alternative, try ssh-ing to your friend’s computer via the and type, for example,

say Help! I am stuck in your computer! Let me out!

Turn a screensaver into the Desktop background

Have any embarrassing photos that can be used in a slideshow? Using you can change your buddy’s Desktop background into Screensaver mode just by typing:

Contents/MacOS/ScreenSaverEngine -background

If you are copying/pasting make sure you remove any linebreaks.

Fake a kernel panic

If you really want to send someone into cardiac arrest download this kernel panic screensaver! For those of you who don’t know, this kernel panic indicator is like the “blue screen of death” for Windows users!

Know of more Mac Pranks that aren’t detailed here? Or are you a Windows user who wants to get in on the fun? Leave me a note in the comment section and I’ll add your ideas to the list!

Update – September 6, 2007

Here’s a really simple trick to pull on someone who has his work station set up like I do with a laptop, Cinema display, and an Apple keyboard. I connect my mouse to my keyboard and the keyboard to my display so if one of the Zaphu guys simply unplugs the keyboard cable from the back of my monitor I go nuts for a few minutes thinking that somehow both my mouse and my keyboard have become faulty! This prank is especially nice if you can’t get access to your friend’s terminal to pull the other tricks listed above.

Update-Reader Suggestions

Debbie suggests this fun prank: “Hold shift and repeatedly press F11.” The number of times you press the F11 key will dictate how many times you slowly hide all open windows, which as Debbie notes below, is really annoying since you can’t stop the process but instead have to let it play out on its own. Enjoy!

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