The internet has changed how we buy and try software on our Macs. No more buy and then try.
The latest updates are minutes away thanks to internet connections, rapid reviews, quick updates, the Apple Store, and MacUpdate. What did I miss?
Apple sends us updates for Mac OS X automatically via Software Updates in our Mac’s System Preferences. I set mine to check each week and auto download in the background.
Admittedly, I’ll usually find and download an update even before the Software Update notification. In this age of instant gratification, patience may be virtue but it’s not as much fun.
Some software requires a physical purchase, particularly Apple’s iLife and iWork suites, Mac OS X, and other packages. Full versions of Microsoft Office and Adobe’s suites are better in CD/DVD form.
For almost everything else, it’s try before you buy. The catch, of course, is figuring out what to try. Shareware has evolved to become full-featured commercial-ware with a corresponding price tag.
So how does a Mac user find good applications and utilities? In a word, the internet. OK, that’s two words.
Try this: online. One word that sounds like two words. Online is where we find Mac software.
One of my favorite locations is MacUpdate, one of two major Mac sites which list the latest software releases and updates, the other being VersionTracker. Both are similar, yet different, each with strengths to appeal to different users, and a few weaknesses.
My focus in this review is MacUpdate, a quick loading, daily updated compendium of Mac applications, utililties, and tools.
MacUpdate gets used multiple times daily. Though I’ve added the RSS link to my reader, I still check the site manually through the day. Generally, MacUpdate loads a bit quicker than VersionTracker, and doesn’t appear as “advertising heavy” but that’s a nit, not a serious issue.
What I find truly valuable is the fact that software versions can be tracked via MacUpdate, and the newer filter and search functions make it easier to check on specific Mac sofware.
For example, if you want to search for just free Mac applications select the appropriate filter on the MacUpdate home page and click the Filter button.
If you have an idea of what you’re looking for but not sure of the category, enter search terms in the search box at the top of the home page (the search term box color needs to change from light gray to orange to match the rating stars).
The MacUpdate rating system of zero to five stars is helpful, though not always accurate, especially on newer releases where there have been fewer user reviews. There’s no icon or link which tells you where to download. You just have to know that clicking the file size will begin the download process.
User reviews span the spectrum of responses. Some are detail oriented and thorough. Others are rants over some specific issue where an apparent bug bugged a user.
If there are 27 bad reviews with an average of two stars, that’s a good enough trend for me.
The same holds true for 27 positive reviews and four or five stars. That says something positive while the former is a sign which says, “avoid this bugger.”
In recent years, MacUpdate’s software descriptions have improved, probably because Mac software developers have figured out that a link on MacUpdate is good for business, and a detailed description is even better.
Still, there’s nothing better than downloading and trying a new Mac application, utility, or tool, and MacUpdate is a good place for Mac users to explore new software titles.
I have a problem with categories on search sites. Mac software these days covers many different categories. Is software created for Education also in Multimedia and Design? Is a Utility also listed in Home and Personal. Categories are sufficiently confusing as to be worthless in the filter and search process.
The MacUpdate desktop is a Mac utility (or, is it an ‘application’ or a ‘tool’?) which checks the software on your Mac, then checks the updates on MacUpdate and compares the two. That will cost you $40 but may come in very handy to keep all your Macs up to date (handy in a school or business).
Some days there are dozens of new Mac software titles that get published and distributed. Who has time to check them all and report back to Mac users? That’s where Mac360 and other Mac web sites come to help.
As a general rule, with a few exceptions, Mac360’s policy is to review Mac software we’d use or purchase with our own money. If you haven’t read about it on Mac360 it’s because we haven’t gotten to it yet, or we didn’t like it when we did.
Sorting and filtering and searching through thousands of Mac software titles is a daunting, time consuming, laborious task. We pick and choose so you don’t have to. We do appreciate your input and have been turned on to many Mac software packages from alert readers doing a little soft evangelizing.
MacUpdate helps the process of finding good software, though it may suffer a bit from the success of grabbing and categorizing thousands of titles. It’s a messy job, but someone has to do it.
What about you? How do you find those special Mac applications, utililties, and tools that you use regularly? Which sites help you the most? What could we do to improve the process? Share your perspective in the Comments section below.