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April Fool’s Day: Ten simple Mac pranks—part 2 of 2

As promised, this collection of five more April Fool’s Day pranks completes the set of 10 that began with these five pranks. As with the first group of pranks, this is still applicable…

Note: None of these pranks are destructive in any way, but please make sure you’re close by to “solve the problem” before your target’s frustration boils over.

And now, on to the second five pranks…

6 – Create strange keyboard shortcuts

Again in System Preferences, you can have a lot of fun with the Text tab on the Keyboard panel. Set up replacements that do all sorts of weird stuff:

  • Make them think they’re just missing their keys, i.e. replace the with tje (you must use at least two keys in the original).
  • Mess with their grammar thoughts by replacing to with too, their with they’re, etc.
  • Screw up letter case; replace the with tHe, she with shE, etc.
  • Completely change words, for instance, replace weight with w-you sure it’s e before i?-ght or me with me, the brilliant one.
  • If you have some time, add the words from a full pirate talk dictionary. Hello becomes Ahoy there!, etc.
  • Change l to 1, o to 0, etc.

You get the idea.

7 – Run the screen saver in the background

Did you know you can run the screen saver in the background? I explain how in this tip. I’m not sure this has much practical value, but it’s certainly fitting for April Fool’s Day. Here’s how it looks in action, from the original post:

After executing the command, press ⌃L in Terminal (to clear the screen). Then, because you have to leave Terminal running to make this work, minimize the Terminal window to the Dock, then hide the app via ⌘H. Even if your victim finds the Terminal window, they won’t know how to stop the screensaver unless they’re familiar with background tasks in Unix. (Or until they quit Terminal, which will terminate the screen saver.)

8 – Change Siri’s language

Open System Preferences > Siri, and set the language to something that you know your victim doesn’t speak or understand—Turkish, perhaps. Then watch their expression the first time they try using Siri after the change.

This is probably only a one-time joke, as most users probably know where Siri’s control panel resides, and will quickly switch it back. It might still be worth a quick laugh, though.

9 – Change Siri’s activation keystroke

Closely related to the prior prank, Siri’s Keyboard Shortcut can be customized—to any key combo you want to use. Assuming you haven’t implemented the “disable all modifier keys” prank, change Siri’s activation keys to something common. If you’re really cruel, set it to ⌘Q, or more reasonably, maybe ⌘C.

I’m really surprised the macOS lets you specify common keyboard shortcuts here, but given it does, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity—Siri popping up every time your victim tries to quit an app (or copy something) will probably prove quite frustrating.

10 – Make the keyboard randomly drop keystrokes

I’ve saved the most-devious prank for last. It’s still not malicious, but it will be frustrating for your target, so make sure you’re very close by if you implement this one. This will also work best with fast touch typists; skip it if your target is a hunt-and-peck typist.

As with many other pranks, the setup begins in System Preferences, in the Accessibility panel on the Keyboard tab. Put a check in the Enable slow keys box, then click Options. At this point, you can choose a less-devious or more-devious path…

Less-devious path Check the Use click key sounds box, but leave the Acceptance Delay slider as-is, then click OK. Now every single keypress will generate an “analog typewriter” sound effect. It’s really a quite-annoying sound effect, and your target will probably have no idea at all how to disable it.

More-devious path The more-devious path does not add click sounds (so don’t click the Use click key sounds box). Instead, it will simulate a keyboard that’s randomly dropping keys, but not all the time.

The Acceptance Delay slider specifies the time required for a key to be held down before it’s recognized by the system. At the far right of the slider, you’ll have to hold a key down for over a second before you see it appear onscreen. That wouldn’t make a good prank, so don’t do that. Instead, move it just a tiny bit to the right, like this:

You may want to experiment with the amount you move the slider—the faster the typist, the less distance you should move the slider. Once set, click OK and close System Preferences. When your target returns and begins typing, they may or may not notice a problem.

If they’re typing slowly, like while thoughtfully composing an email reply, things may seem completely normal. But as their typing speeds up, characters will start to vanish (because the keys aren’t being held down long enough to register).

This movie tries to demonstrate the effect of typing speed—I start off typing at a moderate but deliberate pace, and no characters are lost. As I speed up, though, more and more characters go missing.

This prank will be tricky for your target to diagnose—they’re most likely to think they’ve got a dirty keyboard, or a failing keyboard, or (if wireless) maybe a spotty Bluetooth connection. Even if they suspect a prank, figuring out where to go to undo the change isn’t trivial, as it’s fairly well buried.

Prank with care!

If you’re going to try these pranks, please do so in good fun—stay close by, and don’t let your target get so frustrated that they do something like a full restore from backup. Pranks done well can be good fun for everyone; pranks done wrong can cause lasting friendship damage.

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  1. My favorite is to attach a second mouse and have it disagree with the first mouse about where to go. You don’t even need access to the account if there’s a spare usb port and you have a USB extension cable that can be hidden well enough, though bluetooth is nice when available since you can use it while standing next to the victim.

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