High-Tech Tricks to Vex Your Office-Mates
Seriousness is overrated. Sure, there's a time to be focused and professional. But there's also a time to be silly and immature -- yes, even when you have an impressive 10-word title that no one but you understands. (Sorry, Senior Supervisor of Quality Control and Other Specific Duties. I'm sure your job is very important.)
So that's where these geek-friendly pranks come in. Every workplace needs its resident prankster, and this is your chance to step into those shoes with style. A few words of warning: Some of these pranks will require you to edit advanced settings within your operating system's configuration. If you aren't familiar with those settings and make a mistake, you could really screw stuff up. And, equally important, if you cross the line between good clean fun and mean-spirited antics, you could really make someone mad.
The Sound of Amusement
The Prank: Let's start things off with a bang -- or, to be more accurate, a baa. For our first prank, you'll catch your cubicle neighbor off-guard by toying with his system sound files. Changing the sounds altogether is too obvious; instead, edit the existing sound files to add unexpected noises at the end.
The Process: Using a simple WAV editor like Audacity, open a commonly used system sound file such as the e-mail notification alert (typically found in the Media folder within the Windows directory). First, add 15 to 30 seconds of silence to the end of the file. Then, after the silence, tack on the sound of a sheep baaing, a fly buzzing, or whatever else tickles your funny bone. (You can find plenty of free sound effects on sites such as WavSource.com and SoundAmerica.com.)
Drop the finished file into your co-worker's Media folder, using the same filename as the original. Make sure to back up the old file first so you can restore it later.
The Final Product: The next time your co-worker gets an incoming e-mail, your strange sound will follow -- and, thanks to the built-in silence, it'll be distanced enough from the normal sound that he won't know what hit him. How baaaad is that?
The Prank: Imagine if tiny sticky notes were constantly flying onto your desk and filling it with clutter. Now imagine the same effect happening on your computer's desktop. It'd drive you crazy -- which makes it the perfect premise for our second prank.
The Process: Sneak into your work buddy's system settings and edit the location where temporary files are stored. Enter the Windows System Properties menu (right-click on My Computer, then select Properties). Select the Advanced tab, then click the Environment Variables box. Make sure the line that says TEMP is highlighted, and click Edit. Change the Variable Value to the desktop path (commonly C:Documents and SettingsAll UsersDesktop).
Tip: You probably want to make a careful note of the original path (commonly %USERPROFILE%Local SettingsTemp) so you can change it back later.
The Final Product: Once you save out of that menu, various temporary system files -- things with weird names like ~DF57F4.tmp -- will start littering your pal's desktop in no time. He'll go bonkers trying to figure out what's going on.
The Prank: Some might say anyone opening Internet Explorer deserves to have his PC shut down (or worse). If you're one of those people, why not make your dream come true on your co-worker's computer? The majority of offices are still forcing everyone to use IE, so work's the perfect place to pull off the prank.
The Process: This one couldn't be easier. Simply right-click the Internet Explorer icon on your victim's desktop. Edit the properties and change the target to "%windir%system32shutdown.exe -r -t 00" -- then sit back and watch.
The Final Product: The next time your mark makes his way to Microsoft's browser, his system will restart. In the name of humanity, though, you probably shouldn't let this happen more than once or twice before fessing up and fixing the link.
The Prank: Create some serious confusion by causing your office friends' Google pages to show up in gibberish. Feewing wucky?
The Process: All you've gotta do is click over to the Google Preferences page and check a new native tongue on the "Interface Language" option. You can pick from dozens of real dialects or go with one of the more entertaining options such as "Bork bork bork!" -- the peculiar language of the Muppets' Swedish Chef -- or "Elmer Fudd," the wucky wanguage we were tawking about eawier. There's also "Hacker," sure to confuse any n00b not keen on l33tsp33k.
The Final Product: uR phr13Ndz r 901N' 70 83 r3allY PHr3ak1N' K0nFU53D.
The Phantom of the Office
The Prank: If you don't mind dropping a few bucks, you can grab some gadgets that'll take your intraoffice pranking to completely new levels. We're talking random beeping, buzzing, and keystroke magic -- things that, in my mind, are well worth 10 bucks.
The Final Product: The Annoy-a-tron is a tiny and almost unnoticeable magnetized chip that makes obnoxious beeping noises at random intervals. You set the frequency of the beep (higher pitch = higher annoyance potential), then hide it anywhere you want -- under someone's desk, on the back of a computer, you name it. The Annoy-a-tron 2.0 adds an optional IM doorbell noise or super-high-pitched tone that only teens can hear.
The Phantom Keystroker puts a different twist on gadget-induced insanity: The device, which looks like a USB thumb drive, sends random commands when plugged into a computer. You can set it to make mouse movements, type random letters, or even just toggle the caps-lock from time to time.
The Prank: No cash in your pranking budget? No problem. Put a more organic edge on the phantom concept by messing with your cubicle mate's mouse the old-fashioned way.
The Process: Plug an extra mouse into an open USB slot on the back of your buddy's PC. If you have a wireless USB mouse, that's even better. When your colleague sits down, casually move your secret controller around from time to time. Remember, subtlety's the key.
The Final Product: The jumping mouse pointer, if performed well, will be just enough to make your victim wonder if he's seeing things -- or if his computer has developed a mind of its own.
More Mousing Around
The Prank: While the mouse is on your mind, here are two other easy ways to make someone squeak with confusion. Each involves only a couple of quick clicks on your behalf, but the results will keep you chuckling for hours.
The Process: Head over to the Windows Control Panel and open up the Mouse settings. For the first gag, click the option to switch primary and secondary mouse settings. For the second, shift over to the Pointers tab and change the Normal Select mouse icon from the standard pointer to the hourglass.
The Final Product: With prank No. 1, your fellow office dweller will be lost as to why his mouse button functionality is suddenly reversed. With No.2, it'll feel like an eternity as he tries to figure out why his system appears to be busy all the time. In both cases, your inevitable snickering will eventually give it away.
The Prank: All right, gang, time to disable your immaturity filters and turn the dial back to junior high for a moment. This next set of hijinks brings the fun back to the phone with a high-tech twist to old-school pranking.
The Process: Surf over to Conversators tab. There, you can send realistic-sounding computer calls to your cubicle mates for free -- up to three a day from any given IP address. Simply select the call of your choice, type in your pal's phone number, and within seconds, his phone will be a-ringin'.
The Final Product: The calls themselves vary based on which option you select, but each has a preprogrammed speech with built-in pauses to allow the recipient to respond. The Cable Company call, for example, uses an annoying robotic voice to ask increasingly personal questions under the guise of your local cable provider. The Escort call comes from a woman convinced you signed up for her services. And the Gay Telemarketer call -- well, I'll let you figure out that one for yourself.
The Process: Bring a Bluetooth earpiece with you to work. When you spot an unattended cell phone, sneak over and pair your earpiece to the phone, making sure the device's Bluetooth functionality is activated.
The Final Product: The next time your friend's phone rings, intercept the call and start chatting away, hands-free-style. Confusion and hilarity will ensue.
The Prank: An oldie but a goodie, the Disappearing Desktop still packs plenty of humor-inducing punch. And, lucky for us, it doesn't take much to turn someone's desktop into a nonfunctioning image of itself.
The Process: Start by minimizing all the windows and hitting the Print Screen key to create a snapshot of the desktop. Paste the captured image into any graphic editing program, save the file, and set it as the desktop background. Then, hide all of the actual icons -- either move them into a folder, or just right-click anywhere on the desktop and unselect "Show Desktop Icons" within the "Arrange Icons By" menu -- and voila: Your work is done.
The Final Product: With your new spitting image of the desktop in place and the real icons nowhere to be found, the computer's user will click endlessly on the screen trying to get programs to open. Of course, all the icons will actually just be part of the background image, so nothing will happen. Except, that is, for him screaming profanities until you mosey over and kindly inform him he's been punked.
The Ol’ Switcheroo
The Prank: How perplexed would you be if every time you clicked on Excel, Powerpoint opened instead? With 30 seconds of your time, you can find out -- via someone else, of course.
The Process: Open up the folder where Microsoft Office is located. Then, swap out the names of the EXE files for the programs you want to switch (using the "Rename" command on the right-click menu). Once the actual Excel program is named POWERPNT.EXE and the actual Powerpoint program is named EXCEL.EXE, it's time to sit back and watch.
The Final Product: Since the desktop shortcuts will still appear to be accurate -- they're opening the right filenames, after all -- even the most advanced computer user will be baffled by this one. Just don't let him suffer for too long before coming clean.
The Prank: The vast majority of us may be familiar with the QWERTY-style keyboard setup, but it isn't the only configuration out there. A guy named August Dvorak created an alternate keyboard layout that, while not widely used, is still available within Windows' settings.
The Process: Head over to the Control Panel, click "Regional and Language Options," then go into the "Languages" tab. Click "Details," then "Add," and you'll find the option to change the default input language.
The Final Product: N.y-o hgoy oaf yflcbi ,rb-y mat. Mgjd o.bo. ann ru a ogee.bv (Non-Dvorak translation: Let’s just say typing won’t make sense all of a sudden.) Hint: For a less extreme alternative, try the Romanian language setting. It'll change only a handful of keys from the traditional U.S. QWERTY layout.
The Prank: As a general rule, Outlook rules make for fantastic practical joking. You can cause all sorts of odd and amusing things to happen based on your own sets of specific conditions.
The Process: While on an unsuspecting friend's PC, open the "Rules and Alerts" setup under the Outlook "Tools" menu. Create a new rule and get creative -- the results are up to you.
The Final Product: Try starting with strange behaviors set to occur every time an e-mail from you comes in. Maybe a cheerful tune automatically starts playing or a hard copy of the message is instantly printed. Heck, you could even have the e-mail forward itself back to your friend a second time for extra emphasis. The options are all there.
The Modern-Day Poltergeist
The Prank: A haunted spirit will seemingly take over your victim's computer, spooking him in all sorts of strange ways. This one may be best suited for a friend or significant other outside of the office, as the nature of the installation could violate some corporate IT policies.
The Process: Install the VNC-like Office Poltergeist utility, available as a Firefox extension or a standalone Windows program. Look in the setup menus to select your options, and that's it -- you're all set.
The Final Product: The Poltergeist will let you play annoying sounds, shake windows around, and even send pop-up messages on someone else's system. Another option allows you to replace every instance of a word on the Web with a different word of your choosing -- "Apple" could become "pomegranate," for example, or "Internet" could become "intercourse."
The Prank: With the help of a handy little program called AutoHotKey, you can wreak all sorts of havoc on your office mates' mental health. The program -- which, by the way, is actually quite useful for legitimate purposes, too -- lets you assign custom-programmed macros to any key combinations you choose.
The Process: Install the AutoHotKey program on your own system and take a few minutes to learn its scripting configuration. (It's not terribly difficult -- I promise. There are detailed documentation files and even sample scripts you can use to get started.) Decide what action you want mapped to what hotkey, and build your script. Then, use the program's conversion tool to save the script as an EXE file. Throw it onto your pal's computer, double-click it, and you're good to go.
The Final Product: AutoHotKey is one powerful program, so the possibilities here are practically endless. You could create a script that'll automatically replace a certain string of text with something else, regardless of what program the person is in. Or you could remap a common hotkey like CTRL-P to do anything you want, like open Outlook and send a mass e-mail praising your suave appearance.