The way software is updated on personal computers, with every company rolling their own solution to a common problem, is archaic. In the same way we look at typewriters as something Fred Flintstone used, future techies will scorn this time period for the disgracefully inadequate way patches are distributed to end users.
I'm reminded of this by the latest update to a popular program, the free Foxit Reader for Adobe Acrobat files. The update, released August 4, 2008, fixes a number of bugs. Had I known about the update last month, I would have installed it. But, I just stumbled across it by accident.
This is not a knock on Foxit, a company that makes a very useful program, one that I use often, and gives it away for free. But, it's unrealistic for any normal computer user to keep up with updates to software when there are so many different delivery schemes.
For learning about software that needs to be updated, I'm a big fan of the online Secunia scanner, but it only goes so far. For one thing, Secunia only tracks the most popular software. Then too, unless you run a their full scan, there is no chance of detecting old versions of portable applications. Finally, it does not warn you about known buggy software for which there isn't yet a patch.
The version number for the Foxit Reader has not changed, it is still 2.3. The latest edition is build 3201. Prior editions of version 2.3 had build numbers of 2923, 2825 and 2822. Prior to that, the software was at version 2.2. As shown below, the standard Help -> About displays the version number and build number.
The company is working on a more automated self-updating system for version 2.4.
The Foxit Reader for Windows supports Windows ME, 2000, XP, Vista and Server 2003. There is also a Foxit Reader for Linux that has been tested on Fedora 4 and SuSE Linux 10, according to the company.
As I, the Foxit Reader for Windows is available as a normally installed application and as a portable application.
The normally installed version is available at CNET's download.com, where the reviewer rated it 5 stars (out of 5). If you have an older copy of the normally installed edition, you can update it with Help -> "Check for Updates Now..." The list of available updates should include "Foxit Reader 2.3.2008.3201 Upgrade".
The portable version is available from Foxit as a 2.92MB zip file. Inside the zip file is a single 6.5MB EXE file. Extract the EXE file and you're done. I suggest renaming it, however, to make the version number more obvious. My naming standard for portable applications is something like:
Firefox 3 users can make Foxit their default PDF viewer with Tools -> Options -> Applications. Look for "PDF File" in the Content Type column, then click on the drop-down in the Action column and select "Use other". If you use the portable edition of the Foxit Reader, you'll have to click the Browse button to point Firefox to your latest portable copy.