It may seem unusual writing an article about Easter eggs as we embark on the run up to Christmas but I am not talking about those chocolate goodies given out in the spring. The Easter eggs I refer to are little surprises that lie hidden within various computer programmes, including Microsoft Office. I assume they get their name from the Easter pastime of egg hunting, where pleasant surprises are to be found if searched for. There are many Easter eggs out there, from erratic computer responses to complete games, including a flight simulator and pinball, although as this is a training website, my lips are sealed as to where they are hidden.

Due to the mysterious nature of Easter eggs, many myths have evolved around them. For example one was said to work when the sinister words 'Bush hid the facts' were typed in. However, this particular trick was shown to work with any string of words that had a sequence of 4-3-3-5 letters, such as the completely non-sinister 'Fred ate his beans'. Similarly a widely reported unusual characteristic of Office can be seen if you create a document in any programme and save it using the name 'CON'. It won't let you do it and it has been said that the people at Microsoft themselves don't know why this is. However, this appears to be another Easter egg myth as 'CON' is a reserved DOS device name along with several others, including PRN, AUX, COM1, LPT1, and NUL.

Finding Easter eggs will not add greatly to your competence in the use of Microsoft Office, but they are fun, occasionally useful and they do show that there is a hidden world in there to be explored. The first oddity is actually not an Easter egg at all, but a recognised feature of Microsoft Word. As it is hidden, however, it is often mistaken for an Easter egg and so it is included here.

In pre 2007 versions of Word a random word generator can be found by typing =rand( ) into a blank document. This will bring up a block of text (the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dogs, repeated), and you can add extra blocks by inserting numbers separated by a comma into the brackets. The first digit will determine the number of paragraphs and the second the number of sentences. So if you want your text to consist of four paragraphs of twelve sentences each, you should type in =rand(4,12) and it will comply. A more impressive generator is hiding in Word 2007, one that uses the so-called lorem ipsum Latin filler text, as used by Desk Top Publishers up and down the land. To get this, type =lorem( ) for one block, with the same rules applying for paragraphs and sentences as before. These blocks of text can be pasted into documents during layout to see how the page will look with text inserted.

On the fun side a simple eight ball predictor can be found in Microsoft Access 2000. To get it open Access and either open an existing database or create a new one. Then create a new Macro and save it as Magic Eight Ball (this is not case sensitive). Close the Macro and drag it onto your toolbar where a magic eight ball icon will appear. You are now ready to ask if you will ever get a date with that person you fancy from the office next door. Simply ask the question and click on the eight ball icon for the answer - but beware, it is never wrong.