WebSite-Watcher: A Key Tool for Tracking Web Page Changes

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. I’m planning my own review of a couple of these tools and other alert services in early in 2006 so stay tuned. For now, a few brief comments:

In my upcoming reports I plan to focus on a couple of tools not included in Marshall’s post that are great for tracking web page changes. Often a small change to a web page can detect something big has happened or will happen.

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 essential. I couldn’t work without it. Why do I like it? Here are a few of the MANY reasons. More later.

+ 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
+ I could go on but we’ll stop here for now. A two week trial (free) is available.

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. Can also monitor pages on an hourly basis. So far, I’m very impressed. Free trial.

+ Marshall discusses Not a bad service though it can be a bit tricky to get it all working right and the price is right (free). However, the fact that it’s a 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.

As I said, look for more about alert tools and services soon.

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