Google’s New Update-Engine Shifts Into High Gear

I sometimes wonder if the folks over in the Googleplex ever sleep. It seems like we have a new product or service update every other day some weeks. Google is now getting even closer to Mac desktops with the release of Update-Engine, a Mac OS X framework designed to help Apple developers keep their applications up-to-date.

Most Mac users now expect to have their applications notify them if there is a new version awaiting download and installation. There is almost a de-facto way this works thanks to the incorporation of the Sparkle framework into a whole host of applications. From a user’s perspective and from the perspective of most developers, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way Sparkle behaves. Greg Miller, one of the developers of Update Engine, agrees that Sparkle rocks, but says there is definitely a place for Update Engine.

I would say that unless you’re having problems with Sparkle, you probably wouldn’t want to move away from it. We did not build Update Engine to steal Sparkle users—we really like Sparkle! We built Update Engine to do a few things that Sparkle doesn’t do (or at least didn’t do at the time we designed Update Engine). We needed something that could update non-bundle-based apps in addition to regular Cocoa apps. We needed something that could update root-owned products and things with, for example, kernel extensions. And we needed something that could update multiple products all at once. We also needed something that was flexible and could be extended in a number of different ways to support future products.

Our intent was not to build competition for Sparkle. We focused on different problems than those that Sparkle solves. Update Engine is a lower-level solution than Sparkle. For updating an ordinary Cocoa application, I don’t see anything wrong with using Sparkle.

The Google engineers have taken security pretty seriously and provide extensive documentation to help get even the least experienced developers up to speed pretty quickly.

There are some helpful videos/tutorials over at the Official Google Mac Blog which should make a good starting point for any developers interested in migrating to, or incorporating the functionality of Google’s open source gift into their own programs.

If you are a developer, share your thoughts about Update Engine with TAB readers in the comments. If you are “just a user,” drop a note with how you’d like to see the third-party update process improved in general.