Tired of manually installing and updating Mac apps? Check out these alternatives to the Mac App Store, offering downloads and updates the App Store can’t.
Browse our list of the best Mac apps and you’ll notice a divide. Some of the apps there are available on the Mac App Store, but some aren’t.
One of the nice things about the Mac App Store is it’s automatic update system, which keeps you up to date in just a couple of clicks. Apps you download from the web don’t work this way, which can get annoying: updates can mean a trip to a website to download, extract and install the latest version.
Happily there are alternatives to the App Store, giving you a way to quickly update software regardless of where you downloaded it. Here are a few worth checking out.
Mac Informer (Free)
Start up Mac Informer and it will scan your current apps. Soon you’ll see a list of which ones need updates:
Just click “Update”. The new version is downloaded and installed, all without your intervention. For apps like Calibre, with no built-in update function, this can save you a lot of time.
A surprising number of apps are supported, and while a few failed to update (Android Utility, I’m looking at you) I was surprised by how easy everything was. Updating apps seems to be the core purpose of Mac Informer – there are no categories of apps to browse. You can look at recommendations, however.
There’s also a decent search function, so if you know which app you want to install you can use Mac Informer to do so in a just a couple of clicks.
I recommend giving Mac Informer a go. You’ll quickly discover which of your apps need updates, and be able to install them in no time.
AppFresh ($14.99, free trial)
Want a simpler interface? It’s worth checking out AppFresh. This one focuses entirely on updates, meaning it’s not really an App Store alternative and it doesn’t recommend new software at all, but it’s still a solid way to keep all of your apps up to date. You can browse your entire software collection, or just see which apps need updates.
The update process is seamless: just set it and forget it.
The main advantage AppFresh has over Mac Informer is the interface, which feels Mac native and polished. The app database seemed comparable to me, but your mileage may vary. Give the trial version a spin if you’re curious or use any hard-to-find software.
My colleague Jackson wrote about Bodega in 2009, and it doesn’t seem like it’s changed much since then.
The app stands out visually, with it’s unnecessary window-shade, but what does it do? Well, you can explore apps from a variety of different categories – some free, some not. The selection feels a little limited, but there’s some good stuff here. User reviews are offered, as is recent press. It’s a great way to find some apps you might have missed, or that aren’t welcome on Apple’s store.
Bodega isn’t perfect, though. The selection is limited, and some of the listed apps don’t exist anymore or have broken links. I tried installing Vox, a music player, and got this message:
Bodega also offers updates, but it missed a lot of new versions the other apps here caught. Maybe the app database isn’t kept up as well as it used to be, which is disappointing. Bodega is worth looking into for the curious, if only because it provides categories you can browse. Still, most users can skip it.
Not an app store, per se, but definitely worth mentioning. GetMacApps.com is a website that provides a quick way to install your favorite Mac apps all at once. Just choose which apps you want, then copy a single command into your terminal:
Sure, the selection is limited, but most of the apps you absolutely need are here – and you won’t find a faster way to install them all at once.
So what’s the best solution? Personally, I think Mac Informer is absolutely worth installing on your Mac. You can search for and install just about any free software you can think of, and get updates easily.
Which tool do you think is best? Let me know in the comments below, okay? I’d also love to hear about any alternative app stores I’ve missed.