No, that isn’t the computerized cry of a Cyberman coming to get you, it’s me trying to figure out which apps to hold on to, update or upgrade. A while back (in time and space), I blogged about an app that tracks your installed software for updates, allows you to browse new shareware, freeware and commercial apps, as well as download and install them. This of course, was Bodega.
Since then, in Apple’s latest OS release, a new player has come to town, the App Store. It’s modeled after the App Store on the iPod and iPad. My purpose for this article is to compare the two as well as TechTracker from CNET and MacUpdate from of course, MacUpdate.
Interface – You’ve heard it from me before, the interface is the thing. Who couldn’t love the wonderful roll-up security door on what looks like the corner store? It manages to covey a sense of uniqueness and fun without overwhelming your desktop.

Features – Shades of iTunes, just enough to make it easy to navigate. Vertical panel on the left, products displayed on “shelves” on the right. Reviews and current news feeds on the bottom. Double-click to view a product in detail, get options for download and/or purchase, read reviews.

Pros & Cons – It’s free! No user account required. Easily track your installed software regardless of how it was purchased, receive notifications of updates even if the app is closed, allows you to purchase, install and update right within the app. Unfortunately, if the developer hasn’t registered with them, their updates may not be available. Major commercial software unavailable. Doesn’t track plugins, Preference Panes, or Dashboard widgets. Also, they don’t differentiate all the time between updates and new versions. Should be an option to ignore version upgrades for an app after one notification or separate the version upgrades into a separate pane. Might be nice to have an “exclude” option as well to help with the versioning issue. No release notes.

App Store
Interface – Familiar iOS/iTunes interface.

Features – Browse categories, top-free, top-paid, review, purchase, download, auto-install. Programs appear on your Dock.

Pros & Cons – Can install apps on any computer that you use your account on. Tracks your App Store installs only (no other software), notifies you of updates (only when open), easy removal process. No license keys. Requires account. Locks you into App Store. Since this is an Apple product, it would be cool if it used the Software Update feature to track your downloaded software or at least Growl-ed a notifcation to you. Familiar iOS/iTunes interface. Yes, a downside, since it feels like the typical push promoted products in your face, rather than the nice browsing experience of Bodega.

Interface – A Preference Pane which automatically checks for updates at a time you specify.

Features – Accesses the TechTracker website to display the results, though I’m not sure that could be considered a feature.

Pros & Cons – Tracks all software on multiple systems. Uses acombined app/web interface. Doesn’t list your current app version. Doesn’t distinguish between updates and upgrades. No release notes. Can ignore apps. Tech Tracker Plus is $19.99 for the first year, $29.99 after that. However, the paid desktop app apparently is coy, because I couldn’t find a way to access it on their site, I just kept getting the free version.

MacUpdate Desktop
Interface – What a shock, looks like iTunes. Still, though, very clean and functional with commonly used filters as buttons at the top.

Features – Tracks everything. Shows release notes. Maybe overkill. Do I really need my ScreenSavers updated? lol

Pros & Cons – Requires $20/year fee. Requires free MacUpdate account. Apps takes time to “prepare” prior to downloading, but downloads quickly after that. Crashed a couple of times on download of multiple items. Sometimes the upgrades require user intervention, but a result of the installing app rather than MacUpdate.

Conclusion. It’s better to have at least one app that tracks your software and let’s you know when there is an upgrade or update. Any apps bought in the App Store pretty much take care of themselves and while I like everything about Bodega, it simply doesn’t track everything I would like. However, if I want to save some moola, that’s the one to go with. Otherwise, I think I will give the nod to MacUpdate Desktop. Even with installation quirks, this keeps track of everything. Have you had any experiences with these apps? Tell me what you think.

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