Keeping applications up-to-date on my Macbook is definitely one of my weaker areas. I tend to delay installing the Apple updates for as long as possible, especially if it requires a restart of the computer, and will then do a bulk install every couple of weeks.
Updating my applications, plugins and widgets often doesn’t even figure in my mind, unless prompted on launching said piece of software. But the problem with that is that a lot of OS X software doesn’t include an update checker.
From a security point of view this could possibly leave my Mac open to being infected or hacked through a loophole in one of the programs, which would have been fixed had I installed the update that I didn’t even know about.
AppFresh from MetaQuark aims to help solve that problem by providing a one-stop-shop for updating applications, widgets, preference panes and application plugins without having to even go looking for the updates yourself.
If the software is listed on osx.iusethis.com, then AppFresh will be able to look for an update, download and install it to your Mac and remove any old version if necessary….all with just the click of a couple of buttons. It can even grab official Apple updates. Keeping your software up-to-date needn’t be a hassle anymore!
Upon launching AppFresh, you are presented with a lovely Mac OS X style interface split into three columns. The left column holds the categories which you can filter your software by, for example you can show only the plugins installed on your computer, or software from Microsoft.
The centre column is empty, but will list all apps installed on your computer, along with whether an update is available, after a quick system scan.
The right-hand column is also empty, but after clicking on a piece of software it gives you some really useful information, including a description of what it is and the release notes for the update.
I found this particularly informative as there were a number of Apps installed that I had completely forgotten about and needed reminding of what they were!
Scanning Your System
A quick system scan finds all of the software installed on your computer and lets you know whether there is an update available. I was expecting there to be a few updates required, however AppFresh found 74 in the space of a couple of minutes, surprisingly including some updates that were released before I even owned the software.
Somewhat stunned, I set about the simple process of updating the apps I care about the most and also realised that there were a number of applications that I really had no need for any longer!
Thankfully, AppFresh makes it easy to delete apps, you simply click on those you no longer want and click the Trash button on the toolbar.
When it comes to actually choosing the apps you want to update, you can ‘Cmd+Click’ to select multiple applications, ‘Cmd+A’ to select them all, or just pick individual ones that you feel are the most important.
AppFresh can download up to five concurrent applications and instantly attempts to install them as soon as they have downloaded, negating the need to enter an administrator password.
In a way, this could be seen as a drawback, as the administrator password is seen as frontline security against changes being made to installations on your Mac. However, it does make the process quicker and sometimes you need to sacrifice security for performance. If in doubt, you can always disable the automatic installation anyway, to ensure that only the updates you specifically want to update are installed.
Once downloaded and installed, AppFresh deletes the old application files and the installer, ensuring you do not take up more space than you need. Your updated software is then ready to use as normal.
One of my favourite things about AppFresh is the ability to tie into IUseThis, the website that holds all the data for current releases on Mac OS X. Registering a profile on the website is quick and easy and it allows you to upload a profile of all the apps you use on a regular basis.
You can then rate and review applications and get recommendations based upon those apps that you use. You can even share your profile with friends, allowing them to see exactly what you use and give them advice on what they should purchase in order to meet a certain requirement.
But what’s brilliant about IUseThis, is that if you need to format your computer, your entire software profile is saved on the website, allowing you to automatically reinstall all the applications you own with just the click of a button! This really does save the hassle of stressful reinstalls and gets you back up and running in next to no time.
It’s hard to find any drawbacks to a free piece of software that saves so much time in installing updates, however if I were to list one, it would be that AppFresh is not a finished product.
The current release, 0.8.5, is still a Development Preview and, as with any Preview/Beta, there are going to be a few bugs. That’s not to say you shouldn’t download it, just be wary that there may be a problem installing a particular update.
AppFresh states that there is no warranty on their software, and that you should keep a backup of your applications. For those of you with Time Machine, this shouldn’t be a problem. Those of you who don’t regularly backup, I would recommend that you proceed with some caution, however I am yet to encounter any problems myself.
AppFresh also doesn’t always manage to find or install applications that it says there are updates available for. Sometimes you are required to find the download link on the developer’s website, other times the installation fails and must be processed manually (and there are also times when the download fails completely).
Out of the ten apps I tried to update, half were successful, four downloaded successfully but failed to install and the final one returned an error. I guess this is not too bad, as manual installation is not too difficult and a 10% total fail rate on a beta release is pretty impressive! Hopefully we shall see these problems fixed before the full release.
Searching manually for updates to all of my applications would have taken days rather than minutes, and would have certainly not been a pleasant process! Thankfully with AppFresh, this process is simplified and condensed into a few button clicks.
From a security point of view, there is nothing better than keeping applications up to date and ensuring you have all the latest security releases installed, and with AppFresh you can do just that.
Sure, there are a few drawbacks, but you must remember it is still in beta. This is definitely an application to keep an eye on!