Computing with Bifocals - Six Mac Software Download Sites
- March 31st, 2006
There are a number of Internet sites that offer information about, and the ability to download, software and/or software updates. They are very useful to Mac users. I personally get about 90 percent of my software through these sources. The various download sites each differ in how and what they make available to the reader. It has been a year or more since I last reviewed them so I decided it was time to take another look.
I trust that readers will chime in if they disagree with my assessments or have other suggestions to offer.
This 10 year old site is not as well known as some of the others that follow in this list, but it is the one I recommend the highest. The home page gives a list of recent application updates as well as a categorical list of downloads (chat/talk, classics, connectivity, email, file transfer, helper, network, older protocols, other, RSS*, server, sharing, terminal, usenet and Web browsers). There are a number of forum topics, all monitored by the site's owner, Drew Saur. You must register to use the forums. The site also includes a search option. The MacOrchard is very beginner friendly.
This is a popular and well respected site. In addition to offering software downloads, TuCows is well known as a provider of Internet domain name registration and management, Web site publishing tools, and more. The Macintosh home page offers a categorical list of downloads (audio/video, business, design tools, desktop enhancements, development and web, games, home/education, IS/IT, internet, Security). It also lists new and popular downloads, and has a column of free downloads.
Forums are available for both software and the site's daily articles; however, I had to scroll through 33 articles the day I checked before I found anything that was Mac-specific (most of the articles seemed to be about Windows or the Web). The forums that are devoted exclusively to feedback on applications do not have much traffic, but there is a platform-specific search option. TuCows is beginner friendly.
Version Tracker, which has also been around for 10 years, is great. It even opens up to the appropriate page based on the operating system in place on your computer. Searching gives results based on the description and/or name of the application, allowing for somewhat detailed searches.
Newly released software is listed for you on the opening page along with file size and license requirements, and you can get an RSS feed that will tell you what new software has been released daily. It is very valuable for that reason alone as you can quickly scan the RSS feed results to see what has been released.
There is a platform-specific search option, and you can choose between Mac OS X, Mac OS OS 8, and Mac OS 9. There is a menu that allows you to view updates by subject. There are two others that allow you to view top downloads and editors picks, but to access them you must be a registered user.
Version Tracker offers a pro version (US$49.95). Information about this service is available on the Web site. Primarily it notifies you about updates for the software you have on your personal machine. The fee covers up to 3 computers. Version Tracker is moderately beginner friendly.
Pure Mac divides software into categories within categories. The primary categories are education, games, Internet, multimedia, system, utilities, and Web. Within each of those categories are another 12 - 14 subcategories that should make it very easy to find specific kinds of software if that is your goal. For instance, under the general topic of System you can click on Widgets. That will link you to a new page that provides an alphabetical list of new widgets available. Below the list is a brief summary of each application along with information about the license, author/publisher, modification date, OS requirements, file size, and a download link. In the case of the Widgets listing, there is a link back to the Apple site that explains Dashboard. The site also includes an alphabetical listing of all the software it has previously listed. Pure Mac is a very beginner friendly site.
MacUpdate opens to a page specific to the Mac operating system on your computer. There are tabs for OS X, OS 8 and 9, Members, and Developers. Newly released software updates are listed by name, and include a very brief description, the file size, and license requirements. Across the top of the page are a set of filters that allow the user to eliminate categories in which there is no interest. Approximately 30 days of updates are quickly accessible. This site offers paid memberships of $20 that offer perks. The perks include e-mail updates, a watch list, no ads, etc. MacUpdate is moderately beginner friendly.
This site has been around for a long time and it has undergone a number of revisions to its format. In its current iteration it offers a categorical list of downloads (audio/video, business, design and photo, desktop enhancements, developer, drivers, home and education, Internet, IT, utilities, security, digital photo, home entertainment, mobile, Mac software, and VoIP). It also identifies the current most popular downloads and a list of free downloads. There are other sections on Music, Games and Videos. The biggest problem for Download.com is that while there is some separation between Mac and PC software, it is sometimes hard to find. Download.com is the least beginner friendly of all those included in my list.
*For a quick definition of an RSS feed visit Wikipedia. I'll cover this specific topic in a future column as well.
Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping. To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.
|Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!
Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.
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