15. Pre-Installed Web Server
Available in: Mac, Linux, PC-BSD
Not everyone needs to host a Web site on their own PC. But some people do, whether it be their personal blog or just a few pages they wish to share on their internal network. And when people do set up a Web page on their computer, they usually choose Linux or Mac OS X for the job, because some versions of Windows don't come with a built-in Web server.
In Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate, you can install Microsoft's Internet Information Services. From the Control Panel, click Programs and Features, then choose "Turn Windows features on and off" from the left pane. In the Features list, check Internet Information Services and make sure Web Management Tools and World Wide Web Services are also checked.
If you're running Windows XP Home or Vista Home Basic, however, you'll have to download and install Apache HTTP Server. Once installed, Apache lets you host Web pages, complete with SSL encryption, from a folder on your Windows PC.
16. POSIX Compliance
Available on: BeOS, Mac, Linux, PC-BSD
Outside of the Windows desktop, much of the world's software is written to conform to a Unix-based standard called POSIX. And any operating system that complies with the POSIX standard can run most software written for Unix, including the dizzying array of free, open-source software written for Linux. Linux and PC-BSD are inherently POSIX-compliant. The Mac is, too, because it's built on BSD. Even the defunct BeOS supported POSIX standards. But Windows does not.
While users of Vista Enterprise and Ultimate editions can in theory add a Microsoft version of POSIX compliance known as "Subsystem for Unix-based Applications" to their PCs, our experiences with this feature yielded more frustration than fruit. A better way to add POSIX to any XP or Vista installation is to run Cygwin. This free Linux emulator installs in seconds, and it supports a variety of popular Linux-based programs that have been rebuilt specifically to run with Cygwin. It also functions as a Linux command prompt, allowing you to run Linux command-line utilities in Windows. Though Cygwin won't give you full support for all Linux software on your Windows PC, it will open the door to some basic Linux features.
17. Standardized Menu Ribbon
Available on: Mac
Navigating through application menus in Windows can be a crapshoot, because Windows lacks a unified menu ribbon for all its applications. In Mac OS X, application menus are completely standardized. Nearly all Mac programs have the same ribbon of menus running across the top of the screen, consisting of the Apple menu (which is roughly equivalent to the Windows Start menu) followed by the Application menu options. Because this interface is standard across all major Mac applications, users always know where to look for certain important controls.
Since Mac programs are designed with such a menu ribbon in mind and Windows programs aren't, there's no perfect way to add this feature to Windows. But with Stardock's ObjectBar you can come pretty close. ObjectBar is a skinning utility for the Windows Start menu and Taskbar. Once installed, ObjectBar's MacPC skin will turn your Windows Taskbar into a Mac-style menu ribbon. It even duplicates the menus of most Windows applications, so you can control them from the top of the screen as you would in Mac OS X. (The menus will still be available within your apps, too, however.) ObjectBar currently works only for XP, but a Vista version of it is expected soon.
18. Single-File Applications
Available on: Mac
Nowhere is Microsoft's reputation for bloat more visible than in the Add/Remove Programs control panel. The very existence of this tool is a sure sign that Windows applications have become too large and unwieldy for many users. On the Mac, however, few programs consist of more than one file. And removing a Mac application usually consists of nothing more than dragging that program to the trash.
To attain the same level of simplicity on a Windows PC, you'd have to try running portable applications (see Scott Dunn's article "Carry a PC in Your Pocket"). Of course, doing so would force you to sacrifice some of the robust features you might prefer in your favorite Windows programs, so we don't recommend it. Unless Microsoft takes a radical turn in designing the next version of Windows, you can expect Windows software to become more complicated, not less.