Mastering The Mac App Store, And Its Alternatives

Along with Mac OS X 10.6.6 update, Apple released the Mac version of App Store. The concept of finding, downloading, and updating applications from one place has been proven to be very successful with mobile applications, so Apple wanted to try this also on desktop apps.

Despite the controversy, Mac App is also a huge hit. If you are a Mac user but haven’t tried this app, let’s see how App Store can help you in finding great Mac apps and keeping them updated. We’ll also see on some of the alternatives.

The App Store

After updating your Mac OS X to 10.6.6, you will see a new application popping up on your dock – the App Store. Aside from the icon, you’ll also see a little red number attached to it. This number represents how many updates are available for your downloaded apps.

App Store w Updt.jpg

Unfortunately, there’s been an inconsistency on how App Store manages the updates. I found that App Store will only check and display updates for applications downloaded using App Store. Other installed applications should rely on manual method.

The interface of Mac App Store itself is similar to iOS App Store. So if you used App Store from your iTunes before, you should have no difficulties using this one. By default, “Featured” will be open every time you launch App Store.

App Store - Featured.jpg

Next to it is the “Top Chart” both for paid and free apps.

App Store - Top Chart.jpg

If you prefer to browse by “Categories“, go to the next menu.

App Store - Categories.jpg

And if you want to see the list of all your downloaded apps, they reside under “Purchases“. You can quickly see which apps have updates by looking at the different color in status on the right.

App Store - Purchases.jpg

For those who prefer to see only the available updates, go straight to the last menu on the right. Just like in iOS App Store, you can update the apps one by one or all of them at once using “Update All” button.

App Store - Updates.jpg

Downloading individual apps is also a snap. Just click the download button (the one with the word “Free” – or the price – written on it).

App Store - Install App.jpg

You need to provide App Store with your Apple ID and password before you can download the apps.

App Store - Apple ID.jpg

The downloaded app(s) will appear on the dock along with the progress bar to indicate the remaining download time.

App Store - Downloading.jpg

The Alternatives

The concept of providing one stop place for downloading and updating applications is not new. Even though App Store is currently the one with the most number of applications in its collection, there several applications with similar function long before App Store.

One of them is Bodega. This app is decorated similar to newspaper stand, but instead of newspapers and magazines, you’ll see a list of apps. You can browse by categories like “New Releases” and “Top Free Apps“.

AppStore - Bodega - Main.jpg

Other than providing you with app downloads, Bodega also scans your hard drive for installed apps and compare their version with the latest version available. Then Bodega will list all the installed apps plus the “get” button next to the ones with available updates.

AppStore - Bodega - Download.jpg

The updating process is as simple as clicking the “Get” button, waiting for the download to finish, and clicking the “Install” button.

Another alternative that you can try is AllMyMacApps. This is more like Web app instead of desktop app. The desktop app that they provide is actually a site-specific browser created by Fluid.

AppStore - AllMyMacApps.jpg

AllMyMacApps lets you search for applications and filter them by categories and by license (Free, Paid, or both).

AppStore - AllMyMacApps - Download.jpg

So far I’m unable to find the update feature in AllMyMacApps, if there’s any. But if your need is only to update your installed apps (and more), you can try AppFresh. This is an all in one update center for everything inside your hard drive: Applications, Plugins, Widgets, Preference Panes, and even System Updates.

AppStore - AppFresh.jpg

And then the question is: which one should you use? Given the vast collection of apps, Mac App Store should be the number one choice. But with all the limitations in App Stores update department, I guess there’s nothing wrong about using all of them simultaneously.

So, which one(s) that you prefer – and why? Share your thoughts using the comment below.