Keeping Your Software Up To Date

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If you do a lot of graphic’s work with your computer, like me you can easilly sprinkle your hard drive with dozens of applications and drivers. The recent release of Leopard (Apple’s new opearting system) got me wondering about all the junk on my computer and how much of it is really up to date.

Obviously you want your computer to run as smoothly as possible. Updating your applications and drivers is sort of like changing the oil on your car. It’s a little inconvenient but it will go a long way towards keeping your computer running smoothly.

Many programs now automatically check for new releases and updates , and to save you hassle a few will even download and install the latest updates in the background without you even knowing it. Firefox is excellent at this. But not every application makes it so easy. Some software manufacturers will notify you by email when a new version becomes available, but who wants more email? Some smaller, third-party applications don’t have any way of letting you know if a new version is available. And what about drivers? If you use a wacom tablet, scanner, or other hardware, do you know if new drivers have been released since you purchased it?

Enter VersionTracker.

VersionTracker is a free website that keeps track of new updates and versions of almost any piece of software available. Type in the name and instantly get the scoop on the latest version, and then click on a link to download and install it.

The website is very nice, but it can be tedious to manually check the status on ever piece of software on your computer (the Applications folder on my Mac currently has 125 items!) Managing it all can be overwhelming. So I’ve recently purchased VersionTracker Pro , a subscription service that automatically scans every application and driver on your computer and lets you know if a newer version is available. The first time I ran it, it found over 30 pieces of software on my computer that were out of date. Most I’ve updated. Some require me to purchase full versions, which I may or may not do. And still others I just don’t use anymore, so I’ve dumped them.

One word of caution: New usually means better, but not always. Despite their best efforts, software manufacturers cannot always find and squash every possible bug. Every computer is different, and there are rare occassions when one piece of software is incompatible with something else you may have downloaded and installed onto your computer. There are also times when, due to poor planning on the part of a manufacturer, a new update or version may change a key feature and actually make it worse than its predecessor. As one small example, Apple’s latest version of iCal makes the process of adding a new event into the calendar more cumbersome. Fortunately, VerionTracker lets users rate the quality of new updates (1-5 stars) and add comments so that other users can decide whether or not the update will be worthwhile.

Overall I’ve been happy with VersionTracker Pro, but it is not as smooth as it could be. For a small handful of my applications, the updates won’t install. I’ll probably have to download and install them myself one-by-one. But overall I’m very happy with it.

The free VersionTracker website is here. You can purchase VersionTracker Pro here.

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