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Posted on May 17, 2010 in PC Maintenance, Update Windows | 0 comments

TWT Benchtests – Software Informer

Note – Software Informer, as reviewed here, has now been discontinued.

Keeping your system up-to-date can be a challenge, especially for those of you who use lots of different programs. While Windows itself will update automatically if correctly configured, there are lots of components and programs that do not. In other articles we showed you how to check for driver updates and DirectX updates, but this time we are looking at a handy tool that can help you keep other software up-to-date.

Introducing Software Informer

Software Informer is a program which checks software on your system against an online database. The program checks the version number of the software installed and then informs you of any software that appears to be outdated. Using the program is really easy. After a simple installation you can start the program and scan your system. Software Informer will do this automatically. Obviously there are some privacy concerns about uploading detailed information about your system across the internet, but we appreciated how Software Informer let us inspect the information it was sending before we gave it the go-ahead.

Once you send the information, Software Informer will offer to send you to an automatically generated web page. This page will provide download links for the software that appears to be outdated on your PC. Let’s look at a screen-shot of one such page, generated by our Windows 7 machine:-

Software informer program list

From a first glance, we can see that there appears to be a high number of outdated applications on this system. The page even insists that some of the updates are “Verified” which supposedly means they are confirmed as being out of date. However, after closer inspection we could find no update for OpenOffice, Windowblinds, Zoom Player or Uniblue DriverScanner, even after visiting the publisher/developers website. Look again at the screen-shot, according to the report, the installed version of Zoom Player is 1.2.2. This is false, our Zoom Player is up-to-date, but it’s likely that Zoom Player incorrectly reported its version number when being installed.

Before we write off Software Informer, let’s look at what it did get right. Windows Live, Mozilla Thunderbird, Wireshark and the Second Life Beta Viewer all had updates available. In the case of Thunderbird, this was a genuine surprise. Thunderbird is supposed to update itself automatically, but for some reason it had not been doing so. Any software which connects to the internet should be kept up-to-date, so well done to Software Informer for spotting this.

One final criticism of the web interface. Below the program description is a small wrench/spanner icon. Clicking this is supposed to change a setting, but it did not work in Firefox, a popup box appeared but it was not big enough to see the text inside it. Hopefully this fault will be fixed soon.

If you’re not keen on using the web based interface, you can use the programs user interface instead. Below is a screen-shot of the programs main window:-

Software informer main window

From here, we can quickly see the outdated programs on our system highlighted in red. Clicking on any program in the list allows you to visit that programs homepage, as well as access the community features of Software Informer, such as comments and questions. Although it is possible to use the software without registering an account, doing so allows you to participate in the Software Informer community, so if you want to tell the world how great your installed applications are, be sure to register an account. You can also search the Software Informer database for a specific application by entering its name into the search box at the top and clicking “Go”.

Notable by their absence

Software Informer found 78 programs on our computer, including some more obscure software. There were several applications it didn’t detect however, including the popular 7-Zip file archiver and the Eset Smart Security suite. Both of these programs appeared to be in the online database, so why the program failed to detect them is something of a mystery.

Final thoughts

Software Informer is a genuinely useful application to have around. While not perfect, as long as the user is competent enough to spot when the software is reporting a false positive, it can be a very powerful tool for keeping your computer up-to-date. While false positives are easy to spot, the question still remains as to why several of our programs were not detected. Hopefully future improvements to the software will remedy this problem. In spite of the shortcomings, we are still confident to recommend Software Informer to our readers, a great program for making computer maintenance that little bit easier.

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