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Looking back at Microsoft Outlook Easter Eggs

Microsoft’s developers hid some interesting Easter Eggs in Outlook 97 and 2000
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By Greg Shultz on
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1 of 21 Greg Shultz/ZDNet
If you’ve been using computers for a long time, you know that an Easter Egg is a small program that is hidden deep inside of an application and is designed by the application’s developers as a way of displaying their names—very similar to the credits that you see at the end of a movie. However, uncovering the Easter Egg is tricky as it almost always involves performing a series of very intricate and non-intuitive steps.
Because of the increase in malware, Microsoft now officially bans the practice embedding Easter Eggs in their software as part of their Trustworthy Computing initiative. However, in their heyday, Microsoft’s developers created some really elaborate Easter Eggs. In this gallery, I’ll show you the Easter Eggs that they embedded into the Office versions of Outlook 97 and Outlook 2000.
In case you may be wondering, Office 95 did not include a version of Outlook since Windows 95 already came with an email client called Microsoft Exchange, which did not have an Easter Egg. Now, there was an Outlook 98 that was released as a free download upgrade for Outlook 97 but it was completely impendent of Microsoft Office and I no longer have a copy. However, from what I remember, its Easter Egg was identical to the one in Outlook 97.
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To access the Easter Egg in Outlook 97, you launch Outlook as you normally do and select Contacts from the Outlook Bar. You then click the New Contact button and type Ren Hoek in the Full Name text box. Then click the Save and Close button.
Now, if you are a fan of the old Nickelodeon cartoon The Ren and Stimpy Show, then you recognize Ren Hoek as the full name of the Chihuahua character whose counterpart was a cat named Stimpson J. Cat (a.k.a. Stimpy).
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On the Contacts page select Ren Hoek, pull down the Help menu, and choose the About Microsoft Outlook command.

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When the About Microsoft Outlook dialog box appears, you hold down the [Ctrl] [Shift] [Alt] keys and click OK.

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When you do, the About Microsoft Outlook dialog box changes its background pattern and the names of the developers begin scrolling up from the bottom on the screen.

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If you continue to watch the credits scroll by, you’ll see the names Ren Hoek and Stimpson J. Katt under the Special Thanks heading. One can only assume that the members of the Outlook 97 team wound down after a hard day of programming by watching the Ren and Stimpy cartoons.

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As you may have noticed, at the bottom of the credits dialog box is the prompt Want more? Click here. When you clicked this link you were connected to the Microsoft Outlook Team Web site at www.creditsite.com/outlook, where you could see pictures of the folks on the Microsoft Outlook Team. However, that site is long gone. Fortunately, it is still available in the archive on the ""="" href="http://www.archive.org/index.php" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">Wayback Machine site.

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Ren Hoek, from the Ren and Stimpy cartoon, was still the key to the Easter Egg in Outlook 2000. To access the Easter Egg, you launch Outlook as you normally would and select Outlook Today from the Outlook Bar. You then type Ren Hoek in the Find a Contact box in the toolbar and press [Enter]. Of course nothing happens because Ren Hoek isn’t in your Contacts list.

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You then immediately pull down the Tools menu, open the Macros submenu, and then select the Macros command. When you see the Macros dialog box, you type OL2KRocks in the Macro Name box. You then click the Create button.

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As soon as you click the Create button, the About Microsoft Outlook dialog appears. You then hold down the [Ctrl] [Shift] [Alt] keys and click OK.

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When you do so, the Outlook Today page is replaced by a game in which envelopes with the names of the folks on the Outlook 2000 team come flying across the screen. Using the arrow keys, you move the mailbox up and down and try to catch the envelopes.

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When you catch an envelope, the lid slams shut and the flag goes up as the mailbox absorbs the impact. As you play, the number of envelopes that you’ve caught shows up side of the mailbox.

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When you’ve caught 50 envelopes, no more come flying across the screen and the mailbox begins shooting out blank envelopes one at a time, which hit the bottom of the screen and then bounce off the screen just like the cards do when you win a game of Solitaire. If you keep playing, this repeats at every multiple of 50.

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Once the special thanks screen appears, you’ll see envelopes for Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

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When you’re done playing, you could click the “would you like more?” link. When you did so, you were connected to the Microsoft Outlook Team Web site at www.creditsite.com/outlook, where you could see pictures of the folks on the Microsoft Outlook Team. However, that site is long gone. Fortunately, it is still available in the archive on the ""="" href="http://www.archive.org/index.php" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">Wayback Machine site.

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Not to be outdone by the Outlook team, the Outlook Express team also go into the Easter Egg business and embedded their credits in Outlook Express 4.0. However, they were the only Outlook Express team to create an Easter Egg—none existed in Outlook Express 5 and Outlook Express 6 came out after the no Easter Egg mandate from Microsoft’s higher ups. To access the Outlook Express 4.0 Easter Egg, you launch Outlook Express as you normally would. You then click on the Compose Message button

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When you see the New Message window, pull down the Format menu and enable the Rich Text (HTML) option—if it isn’t enabled already

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Now, you click anywhere in the body of the message to activate the Formatting toolbar. You then select the Font box, type the word athena and press [Enter]. You then close the New Message window.
Athena was the secret code name for Outlook Express 4.0 during the early development days.
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When you return to the main Outlook Express window, select Outlook Express in the Outlook Bar. When you see the Outlook Express splash screen, position your mouse in the middle of the window in between the icons, and click on any empty white space. Then type the word about.

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When you do, the Outlook Express splash screen will turn black and the names of the team members will begin flying in and landing under the headings.

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When all the names are in place, the screen will reorient to the top and begin scrolling down and then up again so that you can see all the names.

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