5 Classic Computer Pranks

Last Updated May 30, 2008 11:45 AM EDT

Last Friday's "Top 5" post -- about the best office pranks -- got folks talking about shenanigans at work. One poster offered a gem about using the shimmer effect in Word, which got me thinking about a whole new class of goofs: mucking about with a co-worker's computer.

Don't get me wrong. For the most part, I think someone else's laptop or desktop should be sacrosanct. I'd never condone deleting files, sabotaging a co-worker's project, snooping, or other dastardly deeds. Messing with someone's machine may be more likely to incite the prankee to violence than to prompt laughter.

But then again... some of the stunts I've turned up are frankly too good not to share. So if you're in a virtuous mood, wait until April Fool's Day to trot them out. But if you're feeling just ever-so-slightly evil, perhaps some of these pranks have your cubicle-mate's (or boss's) name written all over them.

Just don't say I didn't warn you.

5) Edit Microsoft Word settings. In addition to defaulting all text to "shimmer" or "ants marching" (Format > Font > Text Effects), you can customize the autocorrect options to mock your hapless victim. Perhaps seeing each usage of "I" or his name replaced with "Mr. Poopy Pants" would be good for a chuckle. (Tools > Autocorrect Options > check "Replace Text as You Type" > insert desired words in "Replace" and "With" boxes.)
4) Make an optical mouse go haywire. This one's easy but oh-so-rewarding: Just tape a small piece of tape (color the nonstick side with a Sharpie) over the laser sensor. Presto!

3) Change the language settings. You can do this on Google, in Windows Vista, or in Microsoft Office, among other programs. Hilarity ensues as your coworker struggles to translate Turkish.

2) Fake a crash with a screensaver. Microsoft, in a funny bit of self-mockery, offers a Blue Screen of Death screensaver that is sure to sprout some gray hairs on your victim's head.

And speaking of sprouting...

1) Go green with someone's keyboard. Literally. As in, grow grass or a Chia pet in their computer keyboard -- or, if you're smart, a reasonable facsimile thereof. (The real keyboard may never recover, unlike the victim.)

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for AnchorDesk.com and writes regularly for Law.com and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.