Today, I present the top five articles from the SuperSite for Windows in 2011. These were the most-read articles on the site over the course of the year and, interestingly, some of them date back a few years. As with the first batch, covering articles #6 through #10, I've provided addition commentary for each article.
Note: Appropriately, each of the top 5 articles is about Windows.
Original tagline: Ribbon usage is accelerating again in Windows 8, with Microsoft's next major OS including this UI in the most visible of all possible places, Windows Explorer. In early builds of Windows 8, this Ribbon UI is only half-finished, however, and it's unclear at this time how it will eventually look.
Microsoft's ribbon user interface is still semi-controversial for some reason, despite the fact that it actually works really well, especially in instances where the application in question has hundreds of commands that would otherwise overwhelm traditional menu, toolbar, and dialog box interfaces. Does it makes sense for Windows Explorer? I guess so, though I can already point to some annoying issues--like how some view styles are hidden even though there's plenty of room on that ribbon--and I tend to leave it minimized in daily use. Anyway, it appears to be here to stay. And if you compare our early placeholder shots with the version in the Developer Preview, you'll discover that it's evolved quite a bit over time.
Fun fact: I was amused to see a news report in late December 2011 that sought to exclusively reveal that Microsoft would include the ribbon UI from Office in, get this, the Windows 8 version of Windows Explorer. Not only did Rafael and I first reveal this feature, literally, several months earlier, but it was included in the Developer Preview version of the OS ... which was released to the public in September. Unbelievable.
Original tagline: Here's my preliminary slipstreaming guide to slipstreaming Windows XP with SP3!
Despite the fact that this article is over three years old and had been continually updated for at least a year after its original publication, my final slipstreaming guide for Windows XP has stood the test of time, at least from a page view perspective. The trouble is, I don't use Windows XP anymore and can't really support this as a result, and when I do get questions about the process--and yes, I still do--I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. In fact, I just can't help you with this anymore. I really can't.
Original tagline: I've been looking at my various desktop and portable PCs and have begun the process of wiping them out and reinstalling a fresh copy of Windows 7 with SP1. There are different ways to do this, but lately I've opted out of the Setup DVD and have instead been using a USB memory key. Here's how it works.
When you think about it, this kind of article is a logical successor to the Slipstreaming articles or at least something that falls into the same category. It's pragmatic, and even fun, and offers versions of the process for normal people and techier geeks. And in this day of optical-drive-less netbooks and Ultrabooks, installing Windows this way is suddenly necessary to boot.
Fun fact: The Microsoft utility that I use in this article had an interesting little legal issue that required it to be pulled from the web temporarily, impacting the article. My Windows Secrets co-author Rafael Rivera revealed in late 2009 that the tool contained code stolen from a CodePlex-hosted, GPL-licensed ImageMaster project. Microsoft quickly admitted to the theft, fixed the tool, and then re-released it.
Original tagline: Finally, a feature-by-feature comparison of the various Windows 7 product editions...
Every time a new version of Windows is finalized, I start writing a series of articles that laboriously explains what end users can expect once this system hits the streets a few months later. It's just a service I provide. So there are install guides, upgrading guides, feature comparison guides, screenshot galleries, the works. This particular article also fueled a chapter in Windows 7 Secrets, since it offers such a complete, feature-by-feature rundown. That it's still useful and much-read two years later reflects, I think, the ongoing popularity of Windows 7. I'm reasonably sure the similar article I wrote for Windows Vista was gathering dust two years after that was written.
Fun fact: This is the most accurate look at exactly which features are available in each Windows 7 edition, and that includes even Microsoft's own less-detailed tables. Why is that? Because my Windows Secrets co-author Rafael Rivera wrote a software utility that digs into Windows and reports exactly this information. So we ran it against each edition and compiled the list, and did so repeatedly throughout the beta process and with the RTM version of Windows 7. And no, you can't have it. We're using an updated version for Windows 8 Secrets and, of course, for our web sites as well. It's a "competitive advantage."
Original tagline: Microsoft is still making it difficult to clean install Windows 7 with Upgrade media. But fear not, there is some good news. Assuming you know the trick.
After hearing from readers and online forums that Microsoft had made the Windows 7 clean install process much easier for those with Upgrade media, I started investigating whether this was true and was disappointed to quickly prove otherwise. (I recall my first tests occurred on a laptop in a New York hotel; I was there for the product launch.) In fact, things had, if anything, gotten weirder. But after a lot of feedback from readers, I was able to document three ways of getting this to work. The first is to simply try it: As some have noticed, sometimes it just works, though you may have to do a phone activation. (This explains the early reports of success.) Or, you can use the tried-and-true (but weird) "double install" method, which also worked with Vista; this method is fully supported by Microsoft. New to Windows 7, however, is method #2, which involves running a command line utility for activating the product.
Fun fact: I consider this to be among the most important articles I've ever written, and I wrote it knowing that it could cause me some trouble. But I'll say this: It is not possible, in this day and age, that anyone installing Windows 7 does not qualify for an Upgrade version: Virtually everyone owns some previous version of Windows that makes this so. Thus, anyone should be able to legally purchase an Upgrade version of Windows 7 and clean install it on the PC of their choice. And they can, as it turns out. And yes, it's legal. But thanks to this guide, they can now do so without jumping through the silly hoops that Microsoft put in your way. And that's why readers keep coming back to this article again and again. Because it's necessary.