Nyan Cat brings childish wonderment to Windows progress bars

If this is your first time on the internet, here’s what you have missed: Nyan Cat is an insanely popular internet meme where an adorable half-Pop-Tart cat runs through the night sky emitting an 8-bit rainbow in its wake. Almost as memorable as the animation is the accompanying soundtrack, which I’ll give you an opportunity to listen to below.

If the video isn’t enough for you (did I mention there’s a 10-hour version?), Windows users can now add Nyan Cat to their progress bars. I previously wrote how progress bars use optical illusions to appear faster, so why not make them appear faster and deliciously entertaining?

To get Nyan Cat in your progress bars, download the Nyan Cat .zip file and extract the files to your computer. Make sure to extract all of the files (not just the .exe) – they’re all needed to make this magic happen. Then all you have to do is open NyanCatProgressBar.exe and you’re set, no installation necessary!

The developer notes that Nyan Cat works best with Windows 7; Windows XP users might experience animation problems.

To use Nyan Cat Progress Bar, simply do anything in Windows that requires the use of a standard progress bar. In my case, I copied a 4 GB folder full of video files, which gave me a solid minute of Nyan goodness.

Nyan Cat Progress Bar includes a surprisingly useful amount of settings which you can access by right clicking the kitty icon in your system tray. Nyan Cat plays music by default, but you can set it to automatically mute if you’re playing music in iTunes or Winamp. In the settings window, you’ll also see a timer of how long Nyan Cat has danced across your screen, and you can disable the custom progress bars in specific applications in the Ignore List tab.

Nyan Cat Progress Bar isn’t perfect – it works by literally covering up the standard progress bar with our feline friend. If you drag a progress bar around your screen quickly, you’ll notice that Nyan Cat has a hard time keeping up. But hey, this is the price you pay to be unique!

If you like Nyan Cat Progress Bar, check out the developer’s other application Instant Elevator Music. It’s the same idea as Nyan Cat Progress Bar, but instead plays relaxing elevator music whenever you’re waiting on Windows to finish its business.

Progress Bars use Optical Illusions to Appear Faster

I’d rather not think about how many hours I’ve spent staring at progress bars in my life. They’re a lot faster than the used to be because of better processors and internet connections, but we still have to wait patiently while transferring large files, downloading video games on Steam, or streaming videos online.

Have you ever wondered why modern progress bars have become so much more animated than they were in the “old days”? Part of it might be that user interfaces are more aesthetically pleasing than they used to be, but the biggest reason is because they want to deceive you.

That’s right, your harmless little progress bar is lying to you.

Studies have shown that the animations used in progress bars can make them seem to go up to 11% faster, as shown in the New Scientist video below. Using tricks like ripples and pulses of light are a simple way to make you feel like things are happening quicker than they really are.

The next time you’re waiting for your computer to transfer a large file to your USB flash drive, I expect you to point an accusing finger and yell “LIES!”.

Image courtesy: D’Arcy Norman