When you notice that a port is out of date compared to the latest version from the original authors, you should first ensure that you have the latest port. You can find them in the ports/ports-current directory of the FreeBSD FTP mirror sites. However, if you are working with more than a few ports, you will probably find it easier to use CVSup to keep your whole ports collection up-to-date, as described in the Handbook. This will have the added benefit of tracking all the ports' dependencies.
The next step is to see if there is an update already pending. To do this, you have two options. There is a searchable interface to the FreeBSD Problem Report (PR) database (also known as GNATS). Select ports in the dropdown, and enter the name of the port.
However, sometimes people forget to put the name of the port into the Synopsis field in an unambiguous fashion. In that case, you can try the FreeBSD Ports Monitoring System (also known as portsmon). This system attempts to classify port PRs by portname. To search for PRs about a particular port, use the Overview of One Port.
If there is no pending PR, the next step is to send an email to the port's maintainer, as shown by make maintainer. That person may already be working on an upgrade, or have a reason to not upgrade the port right now (because of, for example, stability problems of the new version); you would not want to duplicate their work. Note that unmaintained ports are listed with a maintainer of ports@FreeBSD.org, which is just the general ports mailing list, so sending mail there probably will not help in this case.
If the maintainer asks you to do the upgrade or there is no maintainer, then you have a chance to help out FreeBSD by preparing the update yourself! Please make the changes and save the result of the recursive diff output of the new and old ports directories (e.g., if your modified port directory is called superedit and the original is in our tree as superedit.bak, then save the result of diff -ruN superedit.bak superedit). Either unified or context diff is fine, but port committers generally prefer unified diffs. Note the use of the -N option--this is the accepted way to force diff to properly deal with the case of new files being added or old files being deleted. Before sending us the diff, please examine the output to make sure all the changes make sense. To simplify common operations with patch files, you can use /usr/ports/Tools/scripts/patchtool.py. Before using it, please read /usr/ports/Tools/scripts/README.patchtool.
If the port is unmaintained, and you are actively using it yourself, please consider volunteering to become its maintainer. FreeBSD has over 2000 ports without maintainers, and this is an area where more volunteers are always needed. (For a detailed description of the responsibilities of maintainers, refer to the section in the Developer's Handbook.)
The best way to send us the diff is by including it via send-pr(1) (category ports). If you are maintaining the port, be sure to put [maintainer update] at the beginning of your synopsis line and set the ``Class'' of your PR to maintainer-update. Otherwise, the ``Class'' of your PR should be change-request. Please mention any added or deleted files in the message, as they have to be explicitly specified to cvs(1) when doing a commit. If the diff is more than about 20KB, please compress and uuencode it; otherwise, just include it in the PR as is.
Important: If your upgrade is motivated by security concerns or a serious fault in the currently committed port, please notify the Ports Management Team
<portmgr@FreeBSD.org>to request immediate rebuilding and redistribution of your port's package. Unsuspecting users of pkg_add(1) will otherwise continue to install the old version via pkg_add -r for several weeks.
Now that you have done all that, you will want to read about how to keep up-to-date in Chapter 14.