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Tracking Changes on Web Pages

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Often a small change to a web page is a clue that something big has happened or will happen, and automated tracking tools alert you the moment something has changed.

My friend and librarian colleague, Phil Bradley, points to a blog post by Marshall Kirkpatrick that looks at tools and services that alert you to page changes.

First and by far the best (nothing comes even close), is client software called WebSite-Watcher (WSW).

I've been using WSW for years and it's an essential tool. I couldn't work without it. Why do I like it? Here are a few of the many reasons.

  • You buy it, you own it. No monthly charges.
  • Stable, rarely crashes.
  • Updated versions on a very regular basis.
  • Can monitor pages up to once every minute. So, Phil's request for a service that monitors pages once an hour is not a problem.
  • Pages are highlighted to show where changes (new content has been added, old content removed) have occurred.
  • Keywords: only show a page has a changed page if certain keywords are included on it.
  • Works on pages that require a login.
  • Also will handle RSS and ATOM feeds
  • Notification of changed pages via email, with changed page attached.
  • Easy to add new pages, one-click and you're done.
  • Archiving of pages not a problem with this free add-on tool

A two week free trial is available, for Windows only.

The other service I'm currently testing is a web-based alerting service from noted web-developer, Marc Fest, of
QuickBrowse fame. It's called Trackle. While it's not nearly as powerful as Website-Watcher but Fest always creates useful tools. Trackle can also monitor pages on an hourly basis. So far, I'm very impressed. Trackle also has a free trial; it's web based so works with any operating system.

WatchThatPage.com is not a bad service though it can be a bit tricky to get it all working right, but the price is right (free). However, the fact that it's donation-ware site scares me a bit. If I'm going to invest the time and effort to import and organize lots of sites for tracking, I want to know it's going to be around for a while. That said, it has been online for several years but as we all know, things can change rapidly.

Kirkpatrick also writes about TrackEngine. This is a service that I haven't used but several colleagues tell me it's quite impressive. The biggest downside is that tracking many pages can get expensive.

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