VersionTracker Plus, by TechTracker
Posted: 19-Mar-2005

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: TechTracker Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Jim Melton Class: SERVICE
     
$24.95 per year    

Overview
If you have ever wanted to find a particular software title, or find the latest version of some software title you already own, chances are that you have been to
VersionTracker's web site. It is the first (and usually only) place I go to find software. The problem with maintaining software is keeping track of new releases. VersionTracker Plus is a subscription service through the VersionTracker web site that will notify you when software you select is updated.

How it Works
VersionTracker (VT) provides a variety of services. To see a comparison of the different services at different subscription levels, they provide a
comparison page. The basic web site is free, and provides a powerful search engine and a comprehensive listing of nearly every Mac software title available (I have no experience with the "dark side", but VT also does Windows). You can freely search and download through the web site.

By creating a free account, you can receive daily or weekly e-mail summaries of all the new releases posted to the site. I find this useful just to see what titles are out there. On the other hand, the sheer volume of information can be overwhelming. Looking for a specific title can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

VersionTracker Plus is a paid upgrade that extends the features of the web site. You can customize your VersionTracker home page and set up e-mail alerts when your favorite titles are updated. There is a download cart, one-click download, and advanced search capabilities. These features are described in the following paragraphs.

Customized Home Page
This feature is kind of neat, although I wouldn't use it much. Subscribers get access to a customizable home page that includes a nice history section that shows the titles you are monitoring (see below) and recent searches you have done.


Customizable Home Page

E-mail Alerts
This is the major feature of the Plus service. From any product's web page, you can click on a link and add the software title to your custom watch list.


Add to Alert List Function


Whenever the product is updated (or other events including new reviews, troubleshooting or usage tips, developer notes or commentary), an e-mail can be sent to you informing you of the new release.


Setting up an Alert

To me, receiving notification of version updates is the main reason why one would consider paying for this service. It is a bit tedious to have to search VersionTracker for each software title on your computer and click the link to add it to your watch list. To change or stop monitoring a particular title, you must go to the product page again. For those that want to go one step further and have all of the searching done for you, there is VersionTracker Pro (but that's another review).

Download Cart
The download cart lets you defer download of software you are interested in until some later time. Rather than clicking the download link, another link adds the title to the download cart.


Download Cart

Because of the one-click download (see below), I don't see much to be gained by deferring download, although this might be of more interest to bandwidth-limited users (aka, dial-up). The download cart suffers from no "select all" button. After an item is downloaded, it is not automatically removed from the cart.

One-Click Download
This is kind of a "stealth" feature that subscribers might not even notice. Free subscription users of the VersionTracker web site can download software from a product information page, but clicking on the link sends you to another page that then automatically redirects to the download. One-click download removes the intermediate page. You click, it downloads. No fuss, no muss.

Advanced Search
The most common way to use the VersionTracker web site is to search for something. You may be looking for a specific title, or you may be browsing to see what is available. Free subscription users are limited in their search options to a simple string match. Plus subscribers have access to advanced search capabilities, such as multiple platforms, specific categories, release dates, etc..


VersionTracker Plus Advanced Search

Filters
From the premium home page, subscribers have access to the list of recent updates and the VersionTracker editors' picks. This list can be further refined by taking advantage of the filter options provided.


Filter updates by Category



Filter updates by Ratings, Platforms, and License Types

Whether you subscribe to the weekly e-mail listing (receiving updated titles for the past week), or you prefer to browse the web site, these filters can help sift through items that are not of interest to you.

Summary
VersionTracker provides an immensely useful software update service to the Mac community for free. The Plus subscription service extends that service to make it even more useful. The best part is being able to get e-mail alerts whenever a title of interest is updated. It is tedious to set this feature up, but it is worth the effort. Other features include a customized home page, download cart, one-click download, advanced search, and filters. All the Plus features are reasonably thought out and enhance the VersionTracker experience. The value of these Plus features is dependent upon your needs, preferences and how often you frequent the VerstionTracker web site. For some, especially those with few software updates to track, the free VersionTracker service is more than adequate. For those who visit VersionTracker's web site frequently, or those who have a lot of software titles and want to save time in hunting down the updates, the yearly subscription fee is worth the price of admission.

Pros

  • E-mail notification of updated titles
  • One-click download
  • Advanced Search features


Cons

  • Tedious to set up watch-list
  • Awkward interface to download cart
  • Paid service not practical for those with few updates to maintain


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice