Au­to­mat­i­cally up­date your Mac apps

Keir Thomas re­veals how to up­date the soft­ware on your Mac, even the apps you didn’t down­load from the Mac App Store

Macworld - - CON­TENTS -

With the rise of Mac mal­ware it’s never been more im­por­tant to en­sure all your Mac apps are up to date and, there­fore, as free as pos­si­ble of po­ten­tial se­cu­rity holes.

The good news is that most apps have built-in up­date rou­tines. The bad news is that they usu­ally

only work once the app is started. Start­ing-up and then quit­ting each and ev­ery app to up­date your sys­tem is pretty im­prac­ti­cal. There are some ways to mit­i­gate the agony, though.

1. Use the App Store

The Mac App Store pro­vides macOS’ built-in up­dater. It can be set to pe­ri­od­i­cally check for newer soft­ware in the back­ground. While its main func­tion is to keep the op­er­at­ing sys­tem and Ap­ple’s var­i­ous apps up to date, it will also au­to­mat­i­cally and in­vis­i­bly keep up to date any apps that you’ve bought (or down­loaded for free) through the App Store.

There­fore, the moral of the story is sim­ple: Given a choice of buy­ing or down­load­ing an app from the

de­vel­oper’s web­site, or through the App Store, then the App Store makes a lot more sense be­cause of this au­to­mated up­dat­ing sys­tem.

In fact, if you’ve al­ready bought an app in­de­pen­dently, and spot that it’s also avail­able through the App Store, then you might even drop the de­vel­oper a line to ask if they’ll give you a free code so you can switch to the App Store ver­sion. All you need do then is start the App Store and click the Re­deem link un­der the Quick Links head­ing at the right. You can set the App Store to au­to­mat­i­cally down­load and ap­ply up­dates by open­ing Sys­tem Pref­er­ences, click­ing the App Store icon, and then en­sur­ing there’s a tick in the box that reads Au­to­mat­i­cally Check For Up­dates, and the box that reads In­stall App Up­dates.

It’s a good idea to tick the other boxes listed there too, in our opin­ion, so that you’ll en­sure sys­tem up­dates are ap­plied au­to­mat­i­cally too. 2. Scan for up­dates Many apps have their own up­date rou­tines that usu­ally scan for newer ver­sions as soon as the app is started-up, while some apps – chiefly those from heavy­weights Mi­crosoft, Drop­box, Adobe and Google – in­stall in­vis­i­ble back­ground apps that pe­ri­od­i­cally scan for up­dates and ap­ply them au­to­mat­i­cally in the back­ground.

In an ideal world a handy app would ex­ist that some­how trig­gered EV­ERY app’s built-in up­date rou­tines in the back­ground but if it ex­ists then we’re not aware of it. Ap­pver­sion (free trial scans 12

ap­pli­ca­tions in al­pha­bet­i­cal order) is the next best thing, how­ever. It scans through the sys­tem to find the ver­sion num­bers of ap­pli­ca­tions and – if you tick the Check On­linebox – will even look on­line to see if a newer ver­sion is avail­able.

The re­sults are shown in a nice list, and those up­dated are in­di­cated in the sta­tus col­umn. Fol­low­ing this, how­ever, up­dat­ing is a man­ual task: If an up­date is avail­able then you can ei­ther startup the app to trig­ger its au­to­matic up­date rou­tine, or just go to the de­vel­oper’s web­site to grab the up­date. For what it’s worth, you can view the ver­sion num­ber of an app with­out the need to start it by se­lect­ing it within the Ap­pli­ca­tions list of Fin­der, and tap­ping Com­mand+I (that’s I as in info, not the num­ber 1 or the let­ter L). This will open an in­spec­tor win­dow, and you an look un­der the Ver­sion head­ing near the top. Of course, once an app is up and run­ning you can dis­cover the ver­sion num­ber by click­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion menu, and then About.

3. Get tech­ni­cal

Be­ing clever fel­lows here at Mac­world, we’ve fig­ured out a way to up­date apps in one fell swoop. How­ever, there are a hand­ful of un­for­tu­nate caveats. Firstly, our method doesn’t cover all apps. It mostly cov­ers soft­ware that’s free and also freely avail­able, like browsers, or an­ti­mal­ware soft­ware.

Se­condly, the trick uses the Brew and Brew Cask sys­tem, which are a third-party way of in­stalling apps. They work ex­clu­sively via the com­mand-line, which means you’ll need to work in a Ter­mi­nal win­dow. The com­mands re­quired are pretty straight­for­ward, though, and once you’ve got the ini­tial hard work taken care of then you can pretty much sit back.

In­stalling brew and brew cask

1. Start by open­ing Ter­mi­nal, which is an ap­pli­ca­tion you’ll find in the Util­i­ties folder of Fin­der (or use Spot­light to search for it by press­ing Com­mandS­pace bar and typ­ing Util­i­ties).

2. Then visit in your web browser and copy the en­tire line of code be­neath the In­stall Home­brew head­ing.

3. Switch to your Ter­mi­nal win­dow, paste it in and hit en­ter. Brew will grind away for a lit­tle while, and you may be prompted to type your lo­gin pass­word.

4. Once it’s fin­ished – and it’ll take a few min­utes – paste in the fol­low­ing, which might ap­pear in your

browser as more than one line but is ac­tu­ally just a sin­gle line of code (top tip: triple-click it to se­lect all of it, then hit Com­mand-C to copy it):

brew tap phinze/home­brew-cask;brew tap buo/ cask-up­grade

Search­ing for and in­stalling apps

To in­stall a new app type the fol­low­ing into Ter­mi­nal:

brew cask search

Next, type a key­word from the name of the app in ques­tion. For ex­am­ple, to search for Mal­ware­bytes Anti-Mal­ware, I might type the fol­low­ing:

brew cask search mal­ware­bytes

In my tests this re­turned the fol­low­ing:

==> Par­tial Matches mal­ware­bytes-anti-mal­ware

Apps are in­stalled by typ­ing brew cask in­stall and then the full name of the app as quoted when you searched, so to in­stall Mal­ware­bytes Anti-Mal­ware I would type the fol­low­ing:

brew cask in­stall mal­ware­bytes-anti-mal­ware

You might once again have to en­ter your lo­gin pass­word here. How­ever, fol­low­ing this the app will be avail­able within your Ap­pli­ca­tions list within Fin­der, just like any other app.

As I’ll dis­cuss in a mo­ment, the ben­e­fit of the brew cask sys­tem is that apps it in­stalls can all be up­dated with one sin­gle com­mand. There­fore it makes sense to use brew cask to in­stall apps wher­ever pos­si­ble, and per­haps even to use it to re­in­stall apps you might al­ready have in­stalled.

To do so, start by search­ing to see if the brew cask sys­tem has the app in ques­tion, us­ing the in­struc­tions pro­vided above.

If it does you’ll first need to unin­stall the app in the usual way by drag­ging it from the Ap­pli­ca­tions list to the Trash. In most in­stances this should leave your per­sonal set­tings where they are, but that’s not al­ways the case – and there’s no real way of know­ing other than to search via Google to find out other peo­ple’s ex­pe­ri­ences. Once the app has been

dragged to the Trash, use brew cask to in­stall it us­ing the in­struc­tions pro­vided above.

If in fu­ture you want to see what apps you’ve in­stalled us­ing brew cask, use the fol­low­ing:

brew cask list

Up­grad­ing brew cask apps You can pe­ri­od­i­cally open a Ter­mi­nal win­dow to up­date ev­ery app you in­stalled via brew cask us­ing the fol­low­ing com­mand:

brew up­date;brew cu

You might want to do this, say, ev­ery month, or per­haps more fre­quently de­pend­ing on your level of para­noia. You’ll be shown any apps that are out of date and asked if you want to up­date. Tap­ping Y will do so. If you don’t get asked up up­date then, well, none of the apps you’ve in­stalled via brew cask are out of date.

Note that this com­mand won’t up­date some apps that have their own back­ground au­to­matic up­daters, such as Google Chrome, be­cause that could cause prob­lems. In any event it’s usu­ally bet­ter to rely upon the built-in autoup­dater any­way.

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