Setapp is a new service from MacPaw which takes the subscription model touted by media vendors like Spotify and Netflix, and applies it to Mac software. For a set fee of $9.99 per month you’ll get access to an arsenal of apps with a broad range of applications.
This software can be used for as long as you’re a subscriber, including updates and the promise of new apps being added as the service matures. So is Setapp really worth it, or are you better off buying each individual app outright?
The answer to that most likely depends on your needs and habits as a Mac user.
What is Setapp?
Like many similar services, Setapp comes with a free 30-day trial which I’m using for this review. Once your 30-days are up you’ll need to pay $9.99 per month to continue using the software. There are no limits on how much of the included software you can use, being able to try out premium software in just a few clicks is all part of the package.
The service uses its own middleware to provide access to apps, which also keeps them up to date and makes new additions available for download as they’re added. You can only use your Setapp account on two Macs at any time.
Once you’ve installed the Setapp client and signed in, you have several options for accessing the included software. You can opt to have a folder added to your dock, you can visit the Setapp folder via the new shortcut in your Finder Favorites bar, and you can use Spotlight to search for the client or any apps you want to run.
These apps aren’t installed to your usual Applications folder, which means if you’ve already purchased any of the included apps you won’t get any conflicts or problems. Interestingly, the included apps still show up in Spotlight search even if you haven’t yet installed them. Fortunately this doesn’t add a huge delay to workflow, though that will ultimately depend on the speed of your internet connection.
While browsing apps you can hit spacebar to use your Mac’s Quick Look feature to get all the information you need: a description of the app’s purpose, the developer, screenshots, and disk space requirements. You can then launch the app to reveal a new window, and click Open to initialize the download.
Any software you download is then yours for the duration of your subscription. There are no limitations, no dumbed-down versions, and nothing more to pay. You can set these apps as the default handlers for certain filetypes, add them to your startup items, and drag them to the Trash to uninstall them.
All About The Apps
As this is a subscription-based service, it’s possible that the included apps will change (with new ones added, and old ones possibly disappearing). At present the apps are of generally high quality with a few standout inclusions, like Ulysses for Mac. This markdown-focused writing app is widely accepted as one of the platform’s best tools for the job, with a price tag of $45 on the Mac App Store.
Another standout piece of included software is Realmac’s RapidWeaver. Now in its seventh version, RapidWeaver paints itself as the best tools for designing websites on your Mac and retails for $99. It’s also apt that it’s easy to use and pick up, satisfying the needs of experts, hobbyists and complete beginners.
In total there are 65 included applications, tackling a range of common and not-so-common tasks. This includes system utilities like Archiver, BetterZip, MacPaw’s own CleanMyMac, data recovery tool Disk Drill, duplicate-finder Gemini, Renamer, PDF Squeezer, and clipboard management tool Paste.
Setapp is also big on organization tools, with two mind mapping solutions iThoughtsX and Xmind, and note-taking and research tools like TaskPaper, Findings, Cloud Outliner, and My Wonderful Days. Tools like weather app Forecast Bar, distraction-buster HazeOver, and pomodoro timer Be Focused enhance both your desktop and your productivity.
There is also a good number of imaging and media-related tools. Polarr is a photo editor with RAW support, while Pixa is an alternative to Photos for organization. Squash is Realmac’s excellent image compressor, Gifox lets you record and export GIFs from your desktop, Image2icon does exactly what you think it does, while Capto lets you make sophisticated screencasts.
Some of the more specialised tools are aimed at developers and admins: Base and SQLPro Studio are database managers, CodeRunner is a language-agnostic programming tool, while Hype is purpose-built for creating beautiful HTML5 animations. There are also two handy local networking troubleshooters in the form of NetSpot and Wi-Fi Explorer.
Get a handle on finances with MoneyWiz and Chronicle, get to grips with markdown using Marked and Focused, and prepare for the worst with backup apps ChronoSync Express and Get Backup Pro. Lastly there are a few apps that will appeal to users who use other services like Alternote, a beautiful alternative Evernote client.
There’s also App for WhatsApp, blogging client Blogo, and Flume which brings Instagram to the desktop in a beautiful native Mac app. This is just some of the included apps, and how much use you will get out of the full package ultimately depends on what you use your Mac for on a day-to-day basis.
So is Setapp Right For You?
Setapp’s subscription-model isn’t for everyone, and many users prefer to buy everything they need on a per-app, per-album, or per-movie basis. For others the convenience of choice far outweighs the monthly fee, so ultimately there’s no right answer.
The service is made all the more enticing by the inclusion of some really strong software, notably Ulysses and RapidWeaver, but also the ability to trial and adopt other software that you likely wouldn’t buy outright. But if you don’t have much use for the majority of included apps, you might not see your $10 worth of value every month.
There are some clear benefits to this business model, though. You’ll get every new apps release for free, which includes paid upgrades and major versions. You get to try out random apps that you may really like, and make your workflow that little bit sweeter with some handy organization and system tools.
There’s also an app for just about everything, whether you need to throw a manuscript together, compress a video, connect to your work machine via VNC, or simply put the weather in your menu bar. I’d love to see a few more killer apps — something like Affinity Photo for image editing or a vector editor like Sketch would be nice.
On the flip side, you may be better off just buying the apps you want if your interest in the catalogue is limited. I’m a little concerned that apps may disappear at some stage, but that’s a gamble you take with just about any service that uses a subscription model.
Try Setapp for Free
Setapp represents the next logical step for software, but whether it works for everyone is up for debate. If you’re going to make heavy use of the included apps, and appreciate the convenience of a small fee each month for access to useful software, then the service might be just what you’re looking for.
If you’re not convinced, then your first month is free so you’ve little to lose by signing up and trying it out. Head to Setapp to start your trial, all you need is an email address to get started.