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Summary:

Last week, we discussed the evolution, rhyme and reason behind some of Apple’s icons since the public release of OS X in 2001. This week, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the “Easter eggs” that are hidden in these icons. Hidden Detail […]

A Closer Look At Apple's Icons

Last week, we discussed the evolution, rhyme and reason behind some of Apple’s icons since the public release of OS X in 2001. This week, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the “Easter eggs” that are hidden in these icons.

Hidden Detail

An easy way to one up the competition when you release a new OS is to release your OS with bigger icons. Before Mac OS X, icons were limited to a paltry 32×32 pixels. It got the job done, but there wasn’t anything exactly spectacular about it. With newer versions of operating systems, Leopard brought about a new maximum size of 512×512 pixels and Windows Vista settled on a maximum size of 256×256 pixels. In the Windows world, that just meant your screen could be cluttered by large icons. But in the Mac world, larger icons meant they could take on a whole new meaning.

In a lot of these large icons, Apple has given extra detail, such as the flecks in folders, in an attempt to make them more photorealistic. (Cool tidbit: In Snow Leopard, a generic folder icon appears to open as you drag files into it.)

Here are a few examples where Apple has added Easter eggs to their icons.

TextEdit Icon

The most recognized is the inclusion of Apple’s infamous Think Different poem on the TextEdit icon.

Keynote Icon

The Keynote icon from iWork ’09 references Q4 2009. Q4 stands for fourth quarter, the final quarter of a company’s fiscal year; results from both it and the full-year period are reported simultaneously. The writing depicted on the icon, quoted below, is actually lyrics from Spring Awakening. Thanks to Ken Drake for decoding it.

Dictionary Icon

Hidden inside the Dictionary app icon is a reference to the Latin-esque placeholder text displaying “Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet Etiam.”

Disk Utility Icon

A closer inspection of the Disk Utility icon shows in tiny print, “Handle the hard drive carefully to avoid damaging the circuit board. Make sure you are properly grounded.”

iTunes Icon

Looking close at the iTunes icon, you can see “iTunes 7” and “Apple 2006” inscribed on the inside of the disc. (The file is a transparent PNG, so if you have issues seeing it, save it out to your computer and view it with a colored background).

FontBook Icon

The icon for Font Book features a book with an “F” and two type blocks for “A” and “K.” Was it intentional for them to read as “AFK,” or the abbreviation for internet slang “away from keyboard?”

Mail Icon

The Mail icon is also “postmarked” with the phase “Hello from Cupertino, CA.”

PC Icon

Of course, even Apple’s own icon for Windows computers on a network takes on a very familiar sight.

Dashcode Icon

Apple’s Dashcode icon features actual CSS code on the icon.

Interface Builder Icon

Interface Builder, Apple’s developer tool for creating user interfaces, also features extra detail, labeling its contents.

JarLauncher Icon

Jar Launcher, an application for loading Java JAR files, features code written on the napkin.

Aperture Icon

Apple’s icon for Aperture also features a familiar “Designed by Apple in California” line, seen on other Apple products. The other markings, 55mm and 1:1.4 indicate the lens has a large maximum aperture. Kinda fitting, don’t you think?

The Fun Goes On

Even other third party developers have been creative with messages hidden in their icons. For users of CSS Edit, look closely to find “ie sucks” on the icon. There are likely many other icons that feature these types of Easter eggs, so please use the comments below in case I might have missed some!

P.S. All of these icons were pulled from the original applications. If you’d like to explore and dig out your own, right click on an application and pick “Show Package Contents.” Inside the Resources folder you will find lots of glyphs and other images as well as a .icns file which contains the 512×512 version of the icon.

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  1. Been going through a few programs you haven’t mentioned and I’m noticing that while they don’t all have easter eggs, they are beautiful and detailed.

  2. Check out the Stickies icon, pretty easy but what”s the phone number there?? we can call Mr Stickies? or Steve Jobs? lol

  3. Another one : the Final Cut Express 4 icon.. The name of the producer is C. Stack and the Director is M. Abbink! Never heard of these people! working with Apple?

  4. DC, the phone number on the Stickies icon is “555.7361” for a Lou. Maybe thats Mr. Stickies first name.

  5. CSS Edit by macrabbit has the best, it says “ie sucks” on it.

  6. The 555 prefix is generally a fictitious prefix in the US and is used by Film and TV productions when a telephone number is needed in context. This is to avoid using actual working phone numbers that the curious among us might dial just to see who answers.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/555_(telephone_number)

  7. Even easier to view the large versions of icons by setting your Finder window for Coverflow, and then dragging the top half down so it fills most the window. For any file that isn’t previewable (such as app packages) you see a high resolution version of the icon. Of course, Leopard is a prerequisite – sorry Tiger folks.

  8. Good article.

    Just to let you know, the cool opening folder effect when dragging files onto a generic folder is nothing new in Snow Leopard. It’s been in Leopard all along.

  9. » Ultimos programas Canal Apple Monday, July 27, 2009

    [...] tiene hoy un buen artículo que revela los mensajes ocultos en varios de los iconos de tu programa favorito. [...]

  10. “A quick letter to Friends of Magnetism everywhere in the world” begins the letter shown on the FileMagnet icon. The letter–appropriately shown in an inbox–goes on to extol the virtues of this latest version of the iPhone to Desktop file transfer application. Very cool indeed!

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