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AppFresh - Helps keeps programs up to date Pick of the Week
The macosxhints Rating:

[Score: 7 out of 10]
[This is the Pick of the Week for the week of October 15th]

It's not often I write about pre-beta software, but AppFresh was so useful to me, I felt it worthy of a PotW selection. AppFresh is a program to help you keep your other applications up to date. Both VersionTracker and MacUpdate have similar apps, though you'll need to register with MacUpdate for their app to work, and VersionTracker's requires a paid subscription. AppFresh, on the other hand, just works out of the box. It uses data from osx.iusethis.com, as well as being ablt to see some applications' built-in updaters to check for updates.

Before we go any further, the biggest downside to AppFresh right now is that it won't work for all your apps. I've got about 900 apps installed on the Mac Pro (I test a lot of stuff), and AppFresh only sees about 500 of those. MacUpdate lists all of my apps, but it won't update all of them (as not all are in its database). For the 500 AppFresh does see, however, it works quite well. AppFresh also checks for updates to widgets, preference panels, and even Apple's own software. You'll have to use its preferences to add in non-standard application locations -- I keep most of my apps on another hard drive, and it didn't see them until I did this.

When you run the app for the first time, it scans for programs, and then lists them in categories: All, Updates, Up to Date, and Unknown. It also sorts your programs by type: Applications, Plugins, Widgets, and Preference Panes. In any of those areas, you can choose one or more programs and then download updates. Updates are available in two ways: there are certain apps that can be automatically downloaded via a progress dialog, and others that you have to do some manual work to get. When I first ran the program, it showed 125 apps that needed updating, and 85 of those had the automatic updates available. Since I'm a chicken about anything automatic, I set AppFresh's preferences to download, but not install, these updates. It then set to work, and some time later, I had a folder with 85 subfolders, each containing an update to one of the apps.

The manual updates use an in-app simple browser to display the web page for each app that needs an update. When you click the app's download link, the web page vanishes and AppFresh's own progress dialog takes over. You can also mark a given app as the most current version, so the program won't list an update that you don't need. I did this with Audacity, for example, because AppFresh saw version 1.2.6, but version 1.2.5 is the latest version for Intel Macs.

The other promising feature in AppFresh is snapshots. For any app, you can create multiple snapshots that let you easily revert to an older version of the program. So if you're not really sure that the changes in an app are going to be worth having, just make a snapshot of the current version before you upgrade. If you don't like the new version, you can then roll back to the prior version with a couple clicks. At this point, though, I couldn't get the feature working: while I could create snapshots, I wasn't able to restore them, nor delete them from the list. I'm also not sure how well this might work with large, complex apps that have parts in many places. But it's something I'll be keeping an eye on, as it could be very useful.

There are other issues that you might expect with a not-yet-even-beta app -- it downloaded the wrong app for me a couple times, based on similar names (a good reason not to use the auto-install option). I also had to trash the prefs once to make downloads start working again. If you plan on testing this, just remember it's not done yet, so you may have similar issues. Still, I find AppFresh intriguing and plan to keep an eye on its progress.
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AppFresh - Helps keeps programs up to date
Authored by: tommyw on Oct 16, '07 07:33:30AM

I've used it too. I was initially very cautious given the havoc updating could do to my installed software base, including some tricky film production software authorisations but it's worked great.



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AppFresh - Helps keeps programs up to date
Authored by: j-beda on Oct 16, '07 08:02:05AM
Appupdate is a little widget that tells you about updates, though it does not do it.

http://blog.gkaindl.com/downloads/app-update/



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AppFresh - Helps keeps programs up to date
Authored by: chrischram on Oct 16, '07 11:30:36AM

Another vote here for the App Update widget. I've been using it for months, along with its companion, Widget Update. They're both great!



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AppFresh - Helps keeps programs up to date
Authored by: Fac33 on Oct 16, '07 08:10:59AM

I've been impressed with the way this has developed. The first beta was, to be frank, pants, but the most recent release performs admirably. Good to see it get the MaxOSXhints seal of approval.



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Pants?
Authored by: jecwobble on Oct 17, '07 12:29:50PM

I've never heard this expression before...



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Pants?
Authored by: hamarkus on Oct 17, '07 01:41:52PM

But you immediately understood it, I would guess. That's how new expressions are coined. The (potentially accidental) usage of a word in a context that makes it obvious what the speaker wants to say.



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AppFresh - Helps keeps programs up to date
Authored by: wgscott on Oct 16, '07 06:02:23PM

Although not without glitches, this thing does really well. I was amazed so many of my apps were out of date, considering how much time I waste on version tracker and other such sites.

Great pick.



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AppFresh - Helps keeps programs up to date
Authored by: RussellK on Oct 17, '07 07:10:15AM

Certainly an interesting concept...I've always wished Software Update could take a wider look at updates available for my installed apps.

But results with this app on my machine were somewhat strange:

1) Many of the apps reported as outdated were not actually outdated. I don't know what made AppFresh think I was running older versions of some apps. Maybe outdated pref files hanging around from old versions? Whatever the reason, blindly following AppFresh's advice would have meant lots of unnecessary downloading etc.

2) I was very surprised that some of my major apps (MS Office 2004, several Adobe apps including GoLive) were not listed in the iusethis.com database. I realize this is not a fault of AppFresh per se, but relying on such an incomplete database is a shortcoming from my perspective. Perhaps I'm supposed to take the initiative now to update the iusethis.com database myself? Now that would be philanthropic of me...but I'm not in the mood.

I think for now I'll just continue to do my manual update searches once in a while...and to rely on the "Check for updates" feature in all my apps whose developers were wise enough to include such a feature...



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AppFresh - Helps keeps programs up to date
Authored by: hamarkus on Oct 17, '07 07:44:44AM

I agree with the main findings of yours. But to me the glass is half full, not half empty.
All apps (about five out of 250 apps) that it listed as needing an update when in fact they did not need one were easily identified by me.

One has to see this as an additional way of identifying apps having an update available. Most biggish apps you will hear about in the news (websites), this together with the widget mentioned earlier just catch a large number of those which don't make it into the news.



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There's hope for Software Update
Authored by: asmeurer on Oct 22, '07 04:40:17PM

The Leopard website claims that Software Update will update printer drivers, so maybe by 10.6, Apple will open it up to all apps.



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AppFresh - Helps keeps programs up to date
Authored by: Felix on Oct 20, '07 02:12:43PM

Well this is just ducky, I signed up at iUseThis as suggested when I ran the app the first time and within one minute I had an unsolicited e-mail asking me to participate in a survey for cash.

Coincidence?

Don't know. Hope so.

Anyway, after running AppFresh, I've got over 200 apps and widgets (mostly apps) listed as Unknown--update version empty. Most are widely used apps which are in the VersionTracker and MacUpdate databases and I believe they are all current.

Am I doing something wrong here? Shouldn't be that many I wouldn't think. The app has extremely limited utility for me if it can't properly categorize over 200 applications on my computer.




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It's no wonder the snapshot didn't work for you
Authored by: asmeurer on Oct 22, '07 08:00:42PM
From the AppFresh website (http://metaquark.de/appfresh/):
Time Machine Included Already
AppFresh can capture the installed version of an application along with your preferences and application data and store it in a safe place. This way, you're covered in case you decide you liked the last version of an application better. Create as many snapshots as you want to make sure you don't lose anything.
No wonder snapshot didn't work for you: it uses time machine!

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