One of the quickest ways to check a website for new updates is to add the site to your favorite RSS reader and let the tool notify you of any new content. However, an RSS reader can only check for updates within the confines of RSS-formatted code.
This limitation means RSS readers won’t work on any static webpages or dynamic websites without RSS components. Fortunately, you can use third-party tools to monitor website changes and receive notifications for any new changes.
Possible Use Cases of a Website Monitor
A website monitor can be an automated solution to regularly checking a product listing for price changes. If you are monitoring an Amazon product, you can use these extensions instead, but thanks to website monitors, you won’t have to wait for a developer to make an extension for a specific online marketplace just for price tracking.
Website monitors may also eliminate the need for subscribing to email newsletters. For instance, if you want to figure out whether an updated version of a software or game is out, you can set the monitor to track changes in the version number of the change log.
Different Types of Website Monitoring
The solutions we’ve compiled below each have at least one method to monitor websites for changes. Knowing how each method works is key to picking the best solution or combination for your needs and Windows configuration.
- Cloud services – use these services for website tracking if you require timely checks even if your computer isn’t connected to the Internet.
- Browser extension – this approach lets you reliably check more types of websites, including backend pages linked to your browser’s cookies.
- Standalone applications – they can serve as decent alternatives to cloud services if you want to keep your info private, as you don’t have to make an online account.
1. WebSite-Watcher Free
This is a standalone Windows app and stripped-down version of its paid product. WebSite-Watcher is the oldest, actively developed website monitor in the list that boasts a large and polished feature set.
- Click the “New” button on the toolbar to launch the “New Bookmark” wizard.
- Enter the website you want to monitor in the “URL” text box.
- Click the “Next” button if you are monitoring an ordinary website or choose the “RSS/Atom-Feed” first if you pasted an RSS link.
- Select the “Properties” button if you want to customize other options of the bookmark, such as the automatic check interval, or click “Finish” to save the bookmark.
- Press “Check” on the toolbar in the WebSite-Watcher window to scan all websites in the active folder for changes.
- Websites with detected changes appear in bold red text. Double-click the website and click the “Changes” tab on the bottom part of the lower frame to see what changed.
The second solution on our list is WebChangeMonitor: a free, portable and open-source Windows application that lets you add as many websites as you would like and checks them for changes.
- Click the green bookmark icon on the toolbar to open the “Add/Modify item” window.
- Enter the website’s address in the “Item’s address” text box.
- Click the green arrow icon on the toolbar to let WebChangeMonitor download the websites in the list. By default, WebChangeMonitor will automatically check a website 24 hours after the latest check, provided you keep the app running.
- To manually check the websites for updates, click the green arrow icon on the toolbar again. Wait for the status bar to show “Jobs completed” and see how many websites updated. An updated website has a globe icon with a small yellow circle.
- Right-click the website and click “Info” to see more details about the change. Double-click the website to open the website on your browser so that you can find out what changed.
Check the Differences
To discover which specific areas of the website have changed compared to the previous check, you must download WinMerge and install it on your PC.
- Once installed, click the “Tools” menu in WebChangeMonitor and go to “Configuration … ” to display the “Setup application configuration” window.
- Go to the “Files/Folders” section on the left sidebar.
- Fill out the “ID” field and enter the following text in the “Tool” text box:
"C:\Program Files\WinMerge\WinMergeU.exe" "%old" "%new".
- Right-click any website with detected updates and click “Compare” to launch WinMerge.
- WinMerge’s left pane displays the source code of the old page, while the right pane shows the new page. Differences are highlighted in yellow.
3. Distill Web Monitor
Distill Web Monitor is a browser extension for Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox and Opera. In addition to using your browser to check for websites, you may configure up to five of these websites to use Distill’s cloud services instead.
Note: you do not need to create a free Distill account to check websites for updates unless you wish to synchronize your Distill website catalog and settings across browsers on different computers or take advantage of the paid features.
- Go to the website you want to monitor and activate Distill via the browser’s toolbar.
- Click “Monitor parts of page” to bring up Distill’s Visual Selector panel. Older Distill versions, such as the Firefox and Opera versions, list the button as “Select parts of page.”
- Hover your mouse cursor over the area you want Distill to monitor. Distill will draw a rectangle outlining the code block it will check for changes. Click within the box to mark the area for monitoring.
- Examine the preview section on the right side of the bottom pane to see the exact text Distill will monitor for changes. Repeat this step if you need to monitor other areas of the webpage.
- If you wish to exclude a certain portion within a monitoring area you selected, hover your cursor inside any of your selection boxes until you see a red rectangle outlining the text. Click within that red rectangle to exclude Distill from checking the outlined text.
- Press on the “Save selection” button to open the “Options” page of your freshly added website.
Add Your Preferences
- By default, the extension will automatically check for changes on a website every three hours if you leave your web browser running. If you are happy with this behavior, click “Save” at the bottom.
- Otherwise, adjust the options to your liking. You can also disable “Schedule checks” altogether by dragging the slider to “Never.”
- Go to the Distill Web Monitor icon on your browser’s toolbar, then the white downward arrow.
- Click “Check for all changes” to initiate the action on all websites.
- Go back to the Distill Web Monitor icon on your browser toolbar and click “Go to Watchlist” to see Distill Web Monitor’s main hub, which lists all the websites you’ve added.
- Tick the checkboxes next to the websites you want to check manually, then click the “Check for changes” button.
- Right-click the area of the webpage you want PageProbe to monitor and select “Track Content.”
- In the parameters box, click the “Add Action” button to reveal a drop-down menu.
- Change the drop-down menu option to “Save Previous Value for Comparison (diff)” to instruct PageProbe to show what changed as soon as it detects a change in the assigned area on the website.
- To manually check all saved websites for updates, open the PageProbe extension from the browser’s extension menu or toolbar and click the rotating arrows icon on the left sidebar.
- If PageProbe detects a change on the website, click the file icon next to the colored numerical value in the “Change” column to find out what has changed since the previous check.
Wachete is a cloud-based website monitor that has been active since 2014. The service lets you create individual website trackers called “Wachets.” Each has its own unique URL so that you can share it with other people.
- After, signing up for a free account, click the “Create new wachet” button to start the process of adding a website.
- In the “New wachet” section, enter the website address in the URL address text box.
- Hover your mouse cursor over the area in the frame to see the gray outline covering the area for monitoring and click it.
- Adjust the rest of the settings to your liking and click “Next” to reveal the notification options.
- Click “Add wachet” to save the entry to your account. Wachete will record the data and automatically perform another check either 24 hours or one week from now, depending on the option you set in the previous step. You need a paid subscription if you require automatic checks multiple times a day.
- To force Wachete to manually conduct a website check, go to your “My wachets” section and click any website title you added.
- Click the “Edit wachet” button followed by the “Update wachet” button.
- Once you see the “The task has been updated” message, click “Back to wachet.”
- If Wachete detected a change, you should also see the “seconds ago” text next to the clock icon along with the updated text below.
- To compare the last value with previous values, click on any of the links under the “Change time” column or go to the “List” tab.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the advantage of monitoring part of a website?
Several websites have dynamic page elements, such as advertisements that change every time you load the page. Configuring the tool to monitor the important parts of the website can help exclude these dynamic elements, effectively reducing the number of unnecessary website change notifications.
My computer occasionally slows down when a website monitor is running. How do I fix this?
If you configured some websites to automatically check for updates multiple times a day, consider offloading them to a cloud monitor like Distill or Wachete so that you can let their servers do their handy work. If you still have plenty of websites to monitor on your standalone apps and browser extensions, configure them to automatically check less frequently or assign different frequencies to different groups of sites. If your web browser feels sluggish with the website monitor browser extensions loaded, you can also try to disable the scheduled checking on all sites since manual checks are a couple of clicks away.
What should I do if the monitoring tool cannot access the website but my Internet works fine?
Check whether the website is experiencing any downtime. If the site is online and you set the site’s “schedule check” interval to a very low value, the website might think you are a bot frequently trying to harvest data. Websites with these anti-scraping capabilities normally ban the local IP address to prevent traffic strain caused by the frequent automated checks. Consider increasing the interval to at least 10 minutes or more to prevent the trigger. The IP address ban is usually temporary, and you may still access the website via workarounds if you cannot wait for the ban to lift.
Image credit: Kreatikar via Pixabay. All screenshots by John Ruiz.
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