VersionTracker is located at and its’ basic function is to provide a central resource of all the updates to Macintosh Software.
The site is updated hourly, has an extensive and searchable database, provides daily and weekly newsletters and reviews of new products.
VersionTracker has been rated as the second most popular Macintosh sites in the world. The most popular is the most obvious – The Apple US site itself. In fact Apple themselves provides links to VersionTracker from many of its’ pages. MacCentral, MacBuy, MacFixIt and MacSurfer, and over 6,000 other sites also provide links back to VersionTracker.
The design of the site is quite simple. First decide if you want to find information on “Classic” MacOS software or for MacOS X. By default you start at the “Classic” MacOS page with the updates release over the last couple of days.
Then there are three columns of data. The first contains the title of software package. If this title is in Blue, then it is either a product from a sponsor or a “must-have” update to popular packages. The title also links to a “More Info” page (see further on for details). The version number is next, followed by a short one line description of the product.
The next column is the Size, which advises how large file is to download. It also provides a direct link to the download – no more hunting through pages on suppliers web site trying to find the update yourself. If the product is avilable in a couple of different formats like a PPC version and a 68k version or a “full package” vs an “updater”, then the size link points to the PPC version and/or the Updater. Links to the other versions can be found on the “More Info” Pages.
The final column is the License type which explains the type of software – Commercial indicates that it is a demo or major upgrade to commercial software while an Update indicates a free minor update or bug fix to commercial software. Shareware is low cost software that you can download for a trial period before paying a fee. Freeware is free and can be downloaded and used at no cost. Beta software are “works in progress” and the developer wants people to test it for them. The Licence also links to directly to the actual web page for that product on the suppliers web site.
More Info pages
The More Info pages are where VersionTracker really shines in my opinion.
They provide a more detailed description of the actual product and a brief summary of what is new in this version is included along with the product requirements.
The best feature though is the opportunity for general users to review the product. These reviews can be very informative and highlight the strengths and/or weakness of a product, making it easier to decide if you want that particular version after all. A User Rating of up to five stars is displayed.
The number of times this particular release has been downloaded is included, along with the total number of downloads for the product as a whole.
You can also subscribe to have an email automatically sent to you when the product is updated or you can email a friend about the product.
Apart from providing a daily listing the latest software updates, VersionTracker also has a number of excellent System Pages and Other sections.
In the System pages, you have a section that shows all the required Apple Upgrades required for a particular release of the MacOS, as well as what updates you need for most major applications and utilities. So if you want to know the latest version of Netscape that will run of System 7.5 and what the correct version of OpenTransport is for that as well, this section will tell you and point to you to the correct place to download it.
There are sections dedicated to MacOS 9 and MacOS X and a link to the WindowsTracker site.
Then there is a Top Downloads page, that lists the most “popular” software based on the number of times it has been downloaded via the VersionTracker site. The Editor’s Picks are those the site managers like or products from sponsers.
Commerical applications are then broken up in to Updates and Upgrades. Updates are normally bug fixes and minor changes and mostly free of charge and can be downloaded off the internet. Upgrades are normally major changes and include new features and typically cost money. The links here often point to a form on the companies web site that either allows to order over the internet or provide proof of purchase (normally with a serial number or customer number) and download.
Freeware, Shareware and Beta software all have there own pages as well.
Finally, we have different Categories, so if you are looking for a free word processor to put on that LC575 you just bought your Grandmother, your best bet would be look here.
The simplest search appears at the top of all VersionTracker pages – Just type in the name of the software package you are looking for and click Go and it will then display a list of all the matches it finds and you can select which you want to download. The Advanced Search allows you to search only certain criteria based on categories or where the phrase you are searching for appears. You can even specify the period it was released in.
VersionTracker provides a number of mailing options. The primary one is an email each day that lists all the updates released that day. While I subscribe to this, I still prefer to manually check the site my self a number of times each day.
The most useful email feature they offer is to be informed of updates to individual applications. These emails supply the name of the application, the version number and release date, followed by a one line description the URL of the VersionTracker “More Info” page for that package.
Other TechTracker sites
Recently, VersionTracker announced that they had formed a new group called The TechTracker Support Network. This group consists of the original VersionTracker site, WindowsTracker, which provides a similar service to Windows users and MacFixIT – Troubleshooting Solutions for the Macintosh. Coming shortly is a PalmTracker site for Palm users.
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