Want to know when prices drop at shopping sites? When someone posts a new message on a forum? When your favorite website posts new content that is not offered via its RSS feed?
All of these usage scenarios and many more cry for programs that can monitor website changes. What should a program that monitors website updates come with?
It should obviously check the website in intervals and compare the active state with a previous state of the website. The website updates should then be announced to the computer user if changes are noticed.
Optional nice to have features for website monitoring systems are changes that are highlighted on websites, options to ignore minor website changes (e.g. date and time that are changing every minute) or logging functionality.
The following list highlights five tools for monitoring websites. Three of the tools are Firefox add-ons, one is a online service and the last a software program for the Windows operating system. We encourage readers to add additional tools (should be a free website monitor software, service or add-on) in the comments.
Check 4 Change
Check 4 Change is a Firefox add-on. It is probably the most basic tool to monitor websites that is reviewed in this article. You can select text on a website, right-click to display the context menu and select the Check 4 Change option from it to set one of the available intervals for the monitoring.
Website Updates are displayed in the tab of the website that is being monitored. This outlines one of the biggest weaknesses of this add-on. The website has to be open to be monitored by the Firefox add-on.
A few options are provided by the add-on. It is possible to change the interval and configure several notification options that include playing sounds, popups or bringing the window to the front.
The add-on is best used for monitoring websites that require authentication. It could for example be interesting for monitoring web email accounts.
Update Scanner uses a different approach than Check 4 Change. The program monitors the complete website for changes automatically with options to ignore number and minor changes.
Another benefit of using this website monitor is that the websites that are monitored do not have to be open for it to perform the update checks.
The interval of the checks for website changes is set to once a day by default. This value can be changed to a minimum of every 5 minutes or set to manual scan on the other end of the scale.
The add-on places an icon in a Firefox toolbar upon installation.
A left-click on that icon opens a sidebar that displays all websites that are monitored by the add-on.
This sidebar contains buttons to perform a manual scan, open one of the monitored websites and to access the preferences of the add-on that allows you to configure notification settings.
Available for selection are sound and popup notifications.
Site Delta is the third (and final) Firefox add-on for monitoring websites. The add-on may seem confusing after installation as there is no apparent way to add websites that you want monitored by it.
The add-on begins to monitor websites for changes if you click its icon in the Firefox toolbar. The active url is then added to the list of pages that are monitored by the add-on.
The icon glows green if the active website is monitored by it. A right-click opens a context menu that you can to configure the monitoring in detail.
You can configure the scan options in two tabs. The add-on by default checks for text and image changes. It is furthermore possible to ignore case or numbers and to create a backup copy of the page whenever changes are recognized.
The when to scan tab can be used to configure the intervals of scans. It is possible to set a specific frequency or let the add-on handle it.
It seems to use an algorithm that reduces the checks if the website that is monitored is not updated frequently.
Change Detection is a free online service that can monitor websites for changes. An account is required before websites can be monitored by the service. The website url and an email address are provided in the first step of the process. The service will then try to scan the website. If the scan is successful step 2 is displayed.
The notifications and type of changes to trigger notifications can be configured in the second step. Notifications can either be provided by sending emails to an email account or by offering an RSS feed that is being updated with website changes.
It is possible to configure the online monitoring service to only send out notifications if sizable changes have happened on the monitored websites. It is furthermore possible to define text that should trigger notifications (either if it is added or removed from the page which could be interesting for link building purposes).
WebMon is the only software program included in this review that is capable of monitoring websites.
The website monitoring software has a few advantages over Firefox add-ons. It can be run in the background even if all web browser windows are closed. The Firefox add-ons can only perform checks for updated websites if the web browser is running.
The program comes with an easy to use interface. It always starts by adding an url to the program. Any url that is currently in the Windows clipboard will automatically be pasted into the form right away.
It is then possible to configure the intervals of the checks using minutes, hours and days slider in the interface. The process is complete if you want all contents on the page to be monitored. Users who want to specify certain text or elements on a website can do so by clicking on the "specify content for check" button in the configuration window.
It basically allows you to specify the range of content on a website that should be included in the checks. The website monitoring software notifies you with popup alerts or sounds. It can furthermore run a command if an update is found.
Many additional options are provided that include proxy server support, logging or to import and export the list of monitored websites.
Update: The developer site is no longer available. We have uploaded the latest working version of WebMon to our own server. Click on the following link to download it: webmon.zip
Update: We have reviewed severall website monitoring apps since we have published this guide. Here is a short overview of them:
- Page Monitor is a Chrome extension that enables you to monitor web pages for changes, and get notified when changes are noticed.
- Web Alert is a handy application for Android that provides you with the means to monitor websites for changes.
- Server Monitor is another Chrome extension that you may use for the purpose.
- Website Cop is a Windows program to monitor and repair web pages.
The right website monitoring software, add-on or service depends highly on what you require it for. Users who work with their web browser all the time may prefer the add-on solution to monitor website changes.
The online service on the other hand will monitor websites remotely so that your computer does not need to be on at all to monitor changes.
The website monitoring software on the other hand is the most flexible tool that provides options to execute commands if changes have been detected.
Which do you prefer?