Tracking Web Page Updates

 In Blog, Partners & People Like You

Every Friday, the friendly neighborhood Intuit developers meet up.

We talk about struggles we’ve had during the week, our software progress, and ways we can improve the general Intuit third-party dev experience.

One important topic that came up recently was how to tell when APIs are updated and what exactly was changed.

With this in mind, I set out on a magical Google journey to find the best tools for tracking web page updates.

The first tool I found is called Page Monitor. This handy little Google Chrome extension does page differencing, Chrome alerts, and even desktop alerts.

After installing Page Monitor, there are a few different steps to take. First navigate to the page you wish to monitor. Click the page monitor icon in the top right and choose “Monitor this Page.”

Afterwards, right-click the page monitor icon and choose “Options.” A page will show up in Chrome allowing you to adjust various options.

As you can see, there are several different options for each web page. You can adjust how frequently the web page is checked for updates. You can also choose whether or not desktop notifications are shown for the update, and how long those notifications last. Make sure to click “Advanced” to see all options.

Page Monitor has trouble with JavaScript when showing the differences in versions of a website. For example, on many Intuit pages, you end up with a stuck loading symbol over everything.

When this happens, you need to click the “Text Mode” button at the bottom right of the window. This will remove CSS and JavaScript from the difference view and show just the raw differences in the text. Green is text that has been added, and red text is text which has been removed from the page.

Although Page Monitor does a great job differencing web pages, it has one glaring issue. This shortcoming is that you need Chrome running to determine when a page has been updated. is a Firefox extension that handles this by providing cloud tracking (a few web pages for free), as well as emailing when a web page is updated.

Distill did a great job with the many different features available to you. You can even be so granular as to choose which parts of a page you actually want to track, rather than just the whole page. You can use this to make sure you can avoid getting updates when, for example, a comment is added to a page.

Unfortunately, struggled at the one thing I needed it most for – determining what was updated so I can update my code to match the API. It did fine on differencing plain text, but struggled on pages with any CSS and JavaScript. I attempted to difference Intuit’s QuickBooks Online Account API after an update and it still hadn’t completed after 10 minutes.

I checked out a few other Firefox extensions, such as Check4Change and UpdateScanner. However, they lacked telling me what had changed. Update Scanner did a successfully told me what was added, but not what had been removed.

Since we can’t get everything we want in a single package, I recommend a hybrid approach. Start by signing up for a free account on Distill (you don’t need Firefox to do this) and tracking the web pages you want to get emails for on there. Then you should head over and install Page Monitor for Chrome so you can go look up what has changed after you receive the Intuit API Update email from Distill.

Happy tracking!

Matthew Gritters

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