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Top 10 SuperSite Articles of 2011, Part 1: #10, #9, #8, #7, #6

As a final wrap-up to my 2011 retrospectives, I thought it would be fun to list the top 10 SuperSite for Windows articles from 2011. So here's the first batch, covering #6-#10 in reverse order, with some additional commentary.

Date: April 4, 2011
Category: Windows 8
Original tagline: Microsoft's first built-in PDF reader for Windows also comes with a nice other surprise: It's also the first AppX application package we've seen, providing a peek at the future of Windows and Windows Phone apps.

I've had to make a couple of ethical decisions this year, and one involved Windows 8. With my Windows Secrets co-author Rafael Rivera breaking into leaked, pre-release versions of Windows 8 in March/April 2011, we had a choice. We could sit and what we found and wait for some random Russian hacker to expose these secrets or we could break the news ourselves. We chose the latter, but only after agreeing that we would cease and desist the second that Microsoft contacted us. And contact us they did: We heard from three separate groups from Microsoft, all on the same day, and the message was consistent: Please stop. So we did. But before Microsoft did contact us, we got off a few exclusives, including this one about a Metro-style PDF reader called Modern Reader. it's not available in the Windows 8 Developer Preview, which means this was a programming exercise, was not in a good enough state for the DP, or simply was never intended to be in the final product.

Fun fact: Microsoft couldn't believe that Rafael got Metro-style apps to run without Metro, and my understanding is that they believed it wouldn't be possible. And he did it twice, with this app and with Internet Explorer 10.

Date: April 1, 2011
Category: Windows 8
Original tagline: In the first of what will be a long series of co-posts unveiling specific new Windows 8 features, Rafael Rivera and I present the new Windows 8 Welcome screen.

This was a big one, since it was the first concrete evidence that Windows 8 would adopt a Windows Phone-style user interface. The Windows 8 lock screen as described in this article continues forward almost unchanged in the Developer Preview, though the layout is a bit different. But it has all the basics, including the Windows Phone-style fonts (which are based on the Segoe WP fonts used in Windows Phone) and a touchable, full-screen interface.

Fun fact: Because we published this first "Windows Secrets" article on April 1, many--including some Microsoft "insiders," embarrassingly--assumed it was a hoax. Nope.

Date: April 23, 2011
Category: Windows 7
Original tagline: Here's what I've learned from installing Windows 7 on a modern Mac: The promises, the pitfalls, and the reality of combining Apple's wonderful hardware with Microsoft's superior OS.

In early 2011, dissatisfied with the state of thin and light Windows laptops, I purchased a MacBook Air, which, let's face it, is the laptop everyone really wants. I had used (tried to use) Windows on many Macs for many years, so I figured I knew what I was getting into and I documented the experience in two articles, the aforementioned top-ten one and MacBook Air + Windows 7, Part One: The Best Of Both Worlds?. It's interesting to me that part two made the list but part one didn't. And I originally intended a third part to this series (in fact, I still have all the notes), but I grew tired of the compromises and returned the MacBook Air (a 13-inch Core 2 Duo version with 128 GB SSD) to Apple on one of the last possible days.

Fun fact: Later in the year I purchased a used 2010 MacBook Air from a friend; this one is an 11-inch version, also with a 128 GB SSD, and I use it primarily to keep up on Mac OS X, generally, and on iOS software development. I don't run Windows on it. And yes, I prefer the 13-inch version by far.

Category: News
Original tagline: According to a source within or close to Microsoft, the software giant is developing a new tile-based user interface, app model, and app store for Windows 8. But the question remains: Is it true?

This was one of my two most explosive exclusives of 2011 (the other being Exclusive: Microsoft's LTE Plans for Windows Phone), and contrary to the "rumor" part in the title, I knew my source well enough to know it was happening. This article, from January 5, 2011, was the first to include information about the following Windows 8 features, all of which were later corroborated by Microsoft: 

- A tiles-based UI code-named Mosh (the Metro-style Start Screen), with the note that it would be "an alternative UI, and not a full replacement, or will appear only on low-end tablet-like devices aimed at the iPad." 

- A new app model codenamed Jupiter. This is, of course, WinRT, the new Windows Runtime. "These apps can be written in C#, Visual Basic, and even C++," I wrote correctly. They can also be written in HTML!

- A new Windows Marketplace app store. This is called Windows Store.

Fun fact: This was a big one for me, and it came ahead of Microsoft's CES 2011 announcements and well ahead of Microsoft's Start Screen announcement. Just saying.

Category: Windows 7Alt
Original tagline: This week, Apple released a developer preview of Mac OS X 10.7 ("Lion"), the next evolutionary update to the company's desktop OS. Lion takes many design cues from iOS, and Microsoft should examine these changes to see how Windows would most benefit from some of the designs Apple is now pursuing.

People misunderstand my relationship with Apple generally and with Mac OS X in particular, and I think they do so for two reasons. One, they are far too used to seeing nothing but over-the-top positive news about both. And two, I tend to speak/write about each in perhaps overly-aggressive ways, mostly because of the situation described in reason one. But the truth is, if I can look past the Apple bravado/hubris stuff, and I sometimes can, there are some good ideas there. And certainly Apple makes nothing but high quality products; as a friend of mine notes, "products that are certainly good enough to criticize."

In any event, in the days leading up to Microsoft's Metro/Start Screen revelation, those of us concerned with technology were gnashing our teeth, so to speak, about what Microsoft would do to counter the iPad. (We still are, even though we now know a lot more.) And this article was written in that context, with only a half-realized understanding of what Microsoft would be doing. I like it: There's some good, pragmatic advice in there, much of which I knew Microsoft would never take me up on. But it's worth going on record, I think.

Fun fact: Always ready to toss out a well-deserved dig at Apple, I referred to Lion in the tagline as "the next evolutionary update to the company's desktop OS." Months later, as noted in my Mac OS X Lion review, I came around on this release, which I now believe to be the first truly major update to OS X since the first version. "This isn't just a collection of minor updates and refinishes," I wrote. "It's a step away from the norm, finally, after a decade of steady and largely boring minor revisions. I'm excited to see where they take OS X next." And it's true, I can't. I love this stuff.

I'll publish the top five tomorrow.
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