IT Employment

App Update helps keep your Mac software current

Mac OS has a built-in utility to make sure any installed Apple software is patched. App Update can help you take care of the third-party programs on your machine.

Mac OS has a built-in utility to make sure any installed Apple software is patched. App Update can help you take care of the third-party programs on your machine.

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Using up-to-date software is one of the best ways to make sure that your computers stay secure and stable. Apple has built in their Software Update utility to make sure that the operating system and any Apple-developed software on a system stay current, but Software Update has limits. It does not offer any information on the third-party programs installed on the machine. I have always found it a chore to keep current those applications that are not supported by Software Update. For a long time, my only recourse was to regularly check the developers’ Web sites or to launch specific programs to see if they would try to update themselves. Since I maintain a Mac software build that uses quite a few non-Apple programs, this ritual can get pretty tedious.

A streamlined method of determining when third-party software updates are released can save support pros some legwork and help ensure that new machines are not ever deployed with out-of-date applications installed. I don’t think that a perfect software update management system exists, but I have found a utility that does an admirable job. It is a Dashboard widget called App Update. App Update scans the Applications directories on your local Mac and compares the results of its scan against a few prominent software repositories. Thus, App Update can let you know when releases have been published for some of the programs not supported by the OS X Software Update tool.

My tips for getting the most out of App Update…

Make sure to enable recursive searches in your Path Settings. A lot of the programs in my Applications folder are installed in subdirectories, and App Update won’t scan them without recursion turned on. Enable auto-checking and Growl notifications. If you don’t have the Growl engine installed on your Mac, you’re missing out on a great way to receive status updates from your software. Use all the update sources App Update supports. VersionTracker is a comprehensive resource for software, but Apple and MacUpdate maintain good repositories of Apple-compatible software, too.

App Update does not do everything; it only alerts you to version discrepancies. It does not install new packages, and it does not download them for you. That’s perfect for me, though. I want to be the one who decides to install new software on my machines. App Update just does me the favor of letting me know when there are new versions out there.

App Update is developed by Georg Kaindl and requires Mac OS 10.4 or later. The widget is free, but if you find it useful, please consider offering a donation to the author.

P.S. --

Windows users interested in application update scanners might consider looking into Appupdater or FileHippo Update Scanner.

11 comments
JCitizen
JCitizen

They listen to their free subscribers; if they get enough response for a Mac version of their software inspector, I'd bet they'd respond to the demand. I'm surprised the folks at free software informer haven't come up with a Mac version as they seem to be keen on open source freeware.

chad
chad

MacUpdate is about to release a completely new version of MacUpdate Desktop, which will scan all of your software and list any and all updates available to you, and then will help you download and install them. The App Update widget works OK, but fails to match about 50% of my available updates.

franklinharbin
franklinharbin

I did my taxes three times this year. Twice using a well know web site. Same info, same app. Got two different results. Did it manually.

williamjones
williamjones

In my post for this week I write about App Update, a utility that provides notifications when new versions of your 3rd-party Mac applications are released. I like App Update because it's free and non-partisan--that is, it checks several repositories, rather than being restricted to one download site. How do you keep track of 3rd-party software releases?

williamjones
williamjones

... security vendors would put more effort into validating Apple products. A lot of open source and *nix security folks stand by Apple's software, but there's so few Macs in the enterprise that I don't think many vendors think it's worth tailoring solutions for Apple users. If you're interested in Mac-specific security issues, I highly recommend SecureMac.com. SANS.org has also published a number of articles on running Macs securely. I don't know much about Informer Technologies, the people behind Software.Informer. It bothers me that their properties don't disclose any corporate information that I would call "concrete". I would recommend that anyone looking for any kind of software to install on their machine evaluate each product and hold off unless you are confident of the motives of the developer. Lots of malware comes onto systems by pretending to be useful utilities...like update scanners, for instance. Remember, most of the malware that can affect Macs have been demonstrated to be trojan horses, pretending to be something else and requiring user input to penetrate the system. Whether provided by obviously for-profit companies or one-person operations sharing with the community, I always like to know where my tools come from. Thanks for the feedback, JCitizen.

ridalski
ridalski

I was very interested in this article and would love the ability to monitor and update 3rd party apps as well, but we disable dashboard on most of our macs. Aside from MacUpdate (which isn't free) is anyone familiar with free non-dashboard programs that do this?

williamjones
williamjones

Thanks for pointing out MacUpdate's for-pay desktop application, chad, but I can't recommend it over App Update. The MacUpdate desktop app is available only after agreeing to an annual subscription fee. There's not even a trial mode (like VersionTracker offers with their app) so you can see how well the software works on your machine. A trial is important since all of the application update scanners will produce different results. A lot of their success depends on the particular applications you have installed. One reason I like App Update is that it can be configured to check several sites for updates, including MacUpdate.com. It also allows the user to specify a custom update location. That's a great feature for older or less popular applications. Some people may want to pay for an update scanner, but I'll save my money if there is a more effective tool available for free.

darpoke
darpoke

or just a mucho-subtle commentary on the inability of apps to reliably manipulate numbers? Genuinely confused here :-s

JCitizen
JCitizen

for the article. I have to tell my Machead brother about that site, and I regularly visit SANS.org. I'm pretty sure software informer makes their money as an advertiser. At least a third of the links to updates are simply vendors wanting to get you to buy the paid version. However, like the freedowload manager that comes with the informer; there is also a community of users that rate and report on bad or suspicious software. This helps one determine if that nice free/shareware app is safe or not. I all looks very legit to me and is well rated over at CNET. Secunia rides shotgun over both to tell you when either version is discovered to have a vulnerability. The active community feature has saved my bacon quite a few times, and kept shady crapware off my machine. I've investigated the recommendations independantly and found them to be accurate - so far.

williamjones
williamjones

http://metaquark.de/appfresh/ It's in Beta right now, and will continue to be free during development. The developer is making noises about trying to keep the software free for personal use. AppFresh checks for updates against the database maintained at iusethis.com. That's not as diverse as checking 3 sites, and AppFresh doesn't allow the declaration of custom update targets. It can be set to download and install updates, if that's desirable. VersionTracker also has a proprietary 3rd-party software update app, but they at least offer a free trial.

williamjones
williamjones

...I'll look into them next time I'm updating my Windows machine. Later