A Closer Look At Apple’s Icons: Secret Messages & Easter Eggs

A Closer Look At Apple's Icons

Last week, we discussed the evolution, rhyme and reason behind some of Apple’s (s aapl) 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.