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Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: 2010s: The Decade in Review

DIY-IT: Top 10 how-to articles of 2017

We publish a lot of how-to articles here on ZDNet, especially in the DIY-IT column hosted by David Gewirtz. To wrap up our year, David takes you through ten of the most popular how-tos from 2017. Happy New Year, folks!

Recycle your old tower PCs into media-ripping monsters

Video: Recycle your old tower PCs into media-ripping monsters

2017 has been a busy year. We did a deep dive into network attached storage, continued our ever-popular 3D Printing Discovery Series, and even premiered our first article in the Drone and Robotics Discovery Series. On top of all that, my wife, puppy, and I evacuated Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma and moved to the Pacific Northwest. I'm still unpacking.

While the DIY-IT project articles are always a favorite, when you folks need help, you turn to our how-to articles. In this quick column, I'll take you through ten of the most popular DIY-IT how-to articles from 2017.

#1 - The 2017 ultimate guide to Gmail backup

This article was originally published in 2015, was the most popular DIY-IT how-to article of 2016, and the updated 2017 issue once again tops the charts. If you want to make sure you have a local or backup copy of all that mission-critical business and personal history in your Gmail archives, this article guides you through an array of options.

#2 - A dozen helpful Amazon Echo how-to tips and tricks

As of this most recent Cyber Monday, my family now consists of me, my wife, our little dog -- and six Alexas. Judging from how popular this article was in 2017, my family isn't the only one who's welcomed Alexa into our home.

If you want some very cool tricks (and helpful tips) for getting the most out of your Amazon Echo, you're in the right place. This is another popular article that has been updated year-after-year and is still going strong.

#3 - Linux survival guide: These 21 applications let you move easily between Linux and Windows

Speaking of evergreen, this is our third (and last) DIY-IT how-to article from previous years that was so popular, it was updated for 2017. If you need to navigate regularly between Linux and the Windows world, there are many applications that can make your job easier. We spotlight 21 quality applications that will pave the way.

#4 - Five secret tricks only serious Gmail ninjas need to know

With great power comes great responsibility. If you click into this article, be sure to pay attention to the warnings. This article lets you tap into some serious Gmail mojo, but because you are taking action on lots of messages at once, only the truly brave and careful should try out the very powerful magic contained in this column.

#5 - Gmail quick tip: How to search in your inbox Primary category only

Gmail is clearly the most popular how-to category in DIY-IT, and is it any wonder? If you're like me, you live in your Gmail. Here's a quick and easy Gmail search tip that will help you narrow down your search to one tab only.

#6 - Gmail quick tip: Use color-coded labels to organize your inbox

I can't tell you how often this trick has helped me, especially when looking at my email in the morning before coffee. It's a great way to see which messages are from folks I absolutely have to pay attention to, first thing. Read this article for an easy organizing tip that will help you quickly identify certain sets of messages at a glance.

#7 - How to convert a standard PowerPoint deck to widescreen in 30 minutes or less

How many old PowerPoint decks do you have? I lost track well into the hundreds. But sometimes, you need to repurpose or reformat a deck from a standard (4:3) PowerPoint presentation to widescreen (16:9) format. That could be because you're reusing old content, or because a partner sent you a deck in 4:3 and you need to merge it into a 16:9 deck. In any case, we have a simple, five-step guide that can save you a lot of time.

#8 - How to recycle old tower PCs into CD and cassette ripping monsters

Want to see a couple of media-ripping towers? In this article, we showcase two boxes I built for bulk ripping CDs and, believe it or not, cassette tapes. This was a fun piece to produce. It's actually about taking some old PCs out of service and donating them, but before I got rid of them, I was able to share some video of how they were built, as well as some tips.

#9 - Back to school: Alexa in your dorm room

While our audience is primarily aimed at business and enterprise, we do reach a lot of students as well. I was happy to see how popular our Alexa-in-school article was this year.

You may be on break now, but January's coming soon and for some college students, that means it's time to equip a dorm room. If you have an Alexa device, we have some helpful tips for getting the most out of dorm room-living with the help of your favorite AI buddy.

#10 - How to develop a practice of lifelong learning

There's just about nothing that will keep you competitive more than ongoing learning. In the last of my top ten list, I'm sharing a look into what it takes to keep up in our changing world. The good news is it's doable. You just have to be willing to learn. All the time, forever.

Looking to 2018

So that's it for my how-to articles. I have a lot more queued up for 2018, along with a bunch of great project articles and videos, including more desktop manufacturing, drones, robotics hands-on, and even some video production tips and techniques. Plus, stay tuned for more DIY Data Center, and even more.

From everyone at ZDNet, and my family here in Oregon, have a happy holiday season and a great new year.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.