With the bevy of software available for the Mac, it can sometimes be difficult to remember to update all of the applications you may have installed. After all, that software is meant to be used, not just updated constantly. But in reality, many Mac apps require care and feeding, so we’ll show you the best, most efficient path to getting that chore done without squandering any of your precious free time.
Software Update keeps your Apple applications up to date, but don't forget about your third-party software, too.
Difficulty Level: Easy
What You Need:
>> EAppFresh (free, metaquark.de/appfresh)
Make Software Update behave the way you want.
Apple includes its own updater (appropriately called Software Update) on every Mac. This utility periodically checks to see if your Apple software--Mac OS X, iWork, iLife, and so on--is up to date. If it finds there’s an update available, it will open and prompt you to install the new update. You can fine-tune how often it checks in System Preferences > Software Update. And you can ignore an update you don’t need by selecting it and choosing Update > Ignore Updates from the menu bar.
Microsoft's updater works just like Software Update, but for the Office Suite.
To check for updates in any of the Microsoft Office applications, go to Help > Check for Updates. This launches the Microsoft AutoUpdate utility, which has a drop-down to let you specify how often it should run: Daily, Weekly, or Monthly. Clicking Help launches a page of additional info in your default browser.
It's best to have Adobe Updater update all your Adobe apps, but you can exclude some if you like.
Adobe’s aptly named Adobe Updater works just like Microsoft’s. It can check weekly or monthly for updates to your Adobe Creative Suite apps, and you can even manually exclude CS apps you never use (hi, Fireworks!) in the preferences. To force a check outside the regular schedule, select Help > Updates from any Adobe application.
Applications using Sparkle present users with three update options: Skip This Version, Remind Me Later, and Install Update.
Other Mac developers use a framework called Sparkle in their applications to help users keep those applications up to date. When developers push out an update for an application with the Sparkle framework, you, the end user, see a pop-up window, letting you know the update is available and offering to install it for you. But this all happens when you launch the app, so now you’re stuck waiting for an update at the exact moment you wanted to use that application--the main problem with checking for updates on startup rather than automatically.
The main screen of AppFresh can be a little daunting at first, but it becomes friendlier the more you use it.
Luckily, several software-updating utilities can watch for updates to any of your applications without waiting for you to launch the applications. Free utility AppFresh is an excellent choice--it uses the app database at osx.iusethis.com to check for newly released updates, but also checks with Apple Software Update, Microsoft AutoUpdate, Adobe Updater, and your Sparkle-enabled applications. It can even update widgets, preference panes, and some plug-ins.
The download queue shows the download and install process for each application you're updating.
When you first launch AppFresh, it scans your Applications folder. When it’s done, look under the Status section in the left pane for an item called Update Available. Click that to see all of the applications on your system that have an update. To download updates one at a time, simply right-click the application and select Install. Or hold down the Command key while selecting multiple applications, then right-click and choose Install to update several at once.
Because everybody loves to have options!
MacUpdate.com is a go-to website for finding new Mac apps, and the handy MacUpdate Desktop application can check your system for software updates as well. The app has a nice simple UI, and it found six more updates for us than AppFresh did; however, you’ll pay $20 a year for this application and service. And unlike AppFresh, it can’t update your Apple apps.
CNET TechTracker (free, cnet.com/techtracker) requires a free CNET account to use. Even though CNET has a large database of applications, TechTracker found fewer updates than AppFresh or MacUpdate Desktop. But it doesn’t check for Apple updates, screensavers, plug-ins, or widgets, which likely accounts for the discrepancy.
LogicielMacUpdate (free, eagle-of-liberty.com/logicielmacupdate) sits in your menu bar and provides one-click access to app updates. But unfortunately, its smaller application database means that it comes up with fewer updates than the other options here, and it doesn’t check for Apple updates.