What makes good software portal

After recent review of Acme Files I had exchanged few more emails with its owner. It is very young resource, eager to get feedback on what visitors would like to see.

Got me thinking - what do we really want and need from software portals?

Rare breed

Software portal is somewhat rare kind of site:

  • unlike blogs it has little personal appeal;
  • tracking software releases can become plenty of work (unless very automated);
  • hosting downloads can consume a LOT of bandwidth;
  • there are few giant established portals towards which most of users naturally gravitate.


Core idea of behind software portals is simplifying. Software is available from developer’s site anyway. To make people come portal must be better and simpler in some way .



Photo by Krikit

I think there are at least three tasks that software portals simplify (or should to if they don’t):

  1. downloading software;
  2. choosing software;
  3. keeping software updated.


There are two ways to handle this:
1. Provide links to developer sites:

  • more credible (unless portal has long history);
  • harder to control if links are working;
  • when developer site is gone software is gone;

2. Host downloads:

  • complete control over links;
  • can provide more ways to download (like BitTorrent );
  • can keep archive of old versions;
  • can check files for malware;
  • can provide hashes for checking file integrity;
  • and more things that can be developed with access to files.

Overall download must be simple and bulletproof . Over that - the more the better.


There is a lot of software. A lot of software that does same things. A lot of good software. And a lot of bad. Helping visitor choose means he spends less effort and increases value of portal.

Following things make choosing harder :

  • giant number of software titles;
  • bad descriptions;
  • outdated versions;
  • mixing freeware with shareware.

Following things make choosing easier :

  • hand-picked selection of software;
  • thorough information (size, framework, OS compatibility, etc);
  • editorial and/or visitor-submitted reviews;
  • visual clues (ratings, badges, download counts);
  • specific and highly focused categories (portable for example).


Keeping software updated is important. Bugs are getting fixed, security holes covered and there are even occasional updates of functions. As far as I know there is no coined common way to provide this. So it’s one of the areas open for innovation.

RSS is a must . Due to nature of updates one feed would be too much – so numerous options for precise control what and how much are you getting are needed.

Rest is open field:

  • Custom updater software?
  • Widgets for bloggers?
  • Personalized email notifications?
  • Many more things I can’t even imagine waiting for someone to invent and implement them.


So how do real and successful software download portals implement these? What makes them tick?


  • giant number of software titles;
  • links to developers, hosting when unavailable;
  • precise information;
  • tests for malware;
  • editorial reviews and picks for popular apps.

Softpedia works on quantity . It may be pain to navigate and search but assortment of software is excellent – it’s very easy too look up set of similar apps for comparing. Extensive editorial reviews help evaluate without leaving site.


  • moderate amount of software titles;
  • links to developers;
  • editorial articles and ratings;
  • clear separation of freeware and shareware;
  • multiply RSS feeds and separate updates page.

SnapFiles strikes the balance . Plenty to choose from without getting lost, editorial opinion without much text and various subscription options.


  • hand-picked software titles;
  • hosts files including archive of old versions;
  • minimalistic and informative design;
  • main RSS feed and per-application feeds;
  • custom software updater.

FileHippo is focused and complete solution. You are covered from the choosing to downloading and helped keeping up after.

What do you need from those?

  • Do you visit software portals?
  • Which one is your favorite?
  • What features do you like most?

Leave your suggestions in the comments and maybe Acme Files will be shaped by them into software portal you will adore. ;)

Related Posts


  • Asgaro #

    http://www.filehippo.com and http://tweakers.net/meuktracker/ are my favorites! (Notice: the last one is in Dutch)
  • Rarst #

    @Asgaro Second one lists firmwares on home page, interesting twist on software downloads.What about features? What made you choose these two as favorites? Welcome to blog and thanks for your comment by the way. :)
  • Asgaro #

    Filehippo: - It seems the software published on that site has been carefully chosen. Nearly every product available there is rather well known by any experienced user. (Instead of Softpedia where there are a lot of unknown software) - The Filehippo Update Checker is a very useful tool to get things done really fast. - Clean interface, categories are well chosen. - Changelog provided if possible. - Knowledge of version number, supported OSes, size, licence type. Tweakers.net (for software in particular: http://tweakers.net/meuktracker/?CatID=77 ) - You can sort on a large variaty of operating systems. - Every program has it's thorough description, which also includes the changes in the specific release. - Able to post comments (there's a good administrators rating system so there aren't any shitty comments xD ) - Knowledge of version number, release status (final, beta, alpha, etc), supported OSes, size, licence type (freeware, shareware, etc) - A lot of and all kinds of software are being tracked, but not as extreme as Softpedia. Example: Windows 7 beta: http://tweakers.net/meuktracker/19289/microsoft-windows-7-beta-customer-preview.html : about 216 comments of which 22 are moderated as very interesting/useful/etc.
  • Rarst #

    @Asgaro So for you it's good set of software, useful descriptions and good input from visitors. Last one is hard to achieve even for blogs, harder for software portals probably. Thanks for your input. :)
  • Jonathan #

    If looking for software I usually use http://www.techsupportalert.com/ as Gizmo on there aswell as other contributers give excellent roundups of tons of different catagories and pick software thats usually spot on for my needs. I do use the filehippo update checker though aswell as sumo: http://www.kcsoftwares.com/?sumo
  • Rarst #

    @Jonathan Thanks for sharing, will check it out. :) Need to try that sumo as well. I rarely use such updater apps because I see updates in RSS anyway. Additional software for that is bit excessive for me.
  • Flash Content Creators #

    I've used filehippo and hence I trust it. Otherwise one needs to be wary while going to a new site to get software.
  • Rarst #

    @Flash Do you mean wary about what you download (like in possible malware) or wary about how portal presents and describes software?
  • software developers #

    Nice post, these are plagued by malicious software and malware.. be careful Thanks
  • Rarst #

    @software developers Well, decent ones aren't. Actually it would be quite hard to encounter malware on most large portals.
  • Custom Name Badges #

    Softpedia is my favourite choice, but FileHippo is good too