With the Mac, there are several ways to get software. There's
the Mac App Store, or you can also get apps directly from
developers through the internet, or you can get software through a
third party. Then you can buy licenses with a relatively high
upfront, one-time-only fee, or you can subscribe and pay a lower
fee on a regular basis.
The Setapp subscription bundle seems to offer the best of all
worlds for app users and software developers alike. The collection
of over 200 Mac apps provides unlimited, ad-free access to a
subscriber for as long as they're paying the relatively modest
recurring fee. The real question with Setapp is whether the
included apps that you choose to use total more than the
$9.99-per-month ($107.88-per-year) subscription price. You should
also factor in the utility of having so many apps at your
fingertips while never having to manage or pay for upgrades with an
active Setapp subscription.
Setapp provides access
to over 200 macOS apps through a simple search-and-browse
What you get with
a Setapp subscription
It wasn't clear at Setapp's launch in early 2017 whether
developers would want to bundle software they could sell for more
on their own and whether users would adopt the system. While the
company doesn't disclose subscribers or financials, it continues to
grow the numbers of apps in its collection, and fewer than 30 apps
have dropped out. Setapp seems to have proven its viability.
Setapp includes a broad variety of apps. While I've never heard
of a good portion, others are old standards, and many are highly
recommended workhorses. Some apps, notably BusyCal and
BusyContacts, nearly cover the subscription cost. Those two Busy
Apps software packages are $49.99 each when purchased separately or
$79.98 in a bundle. (Busy Apps includes 18 months of updates and
perpetual use of a given version in its standalone licenses.)
Setapp is a division of software firm MacPaw, and all MacPaw apps
are also included, like CleanMyMac X, the Unarchiver, and Wallpaper
You can subscribe to Setapp and proceed to install and use all
of those macOS apps above and every one of the 200-odd others
without paying an extra cent above the subscription price. This
includes Bartender (menu-bar organization), Default Folder (improved file dialog
management), Luminar (AI-powered photo editing), Hype (animated web content creator), Disk Drill (data recovery), NetSpotand WiFi Explorer (wireless network planning,
deployment, and monitoring), and MarsEdit (blog-post writing software that works
with most blog platforms). Many Setapp programs have received high
marks in Macworld reviews or were recommended in articles like
those linked in this paragraph.
Setapp comes in app form, naturally, with an interface that lets
you search for apps, find suggested collections—such as for
productivity or browser security—and install them with a click.
Once installed, apps work just as they would if purchased directly
from a developer. The Setapp app bumps you to its website for
Collections in Setapp
group together a set of apps that could provide a workflow for
tasks or categories, allowing you to install them all at once with
What it's worth to you
You can figure out if Setapp is a good choice for you by
creating a quick spreadsheet. What apps do you already use? What
apps have you considered purchasing? What updates haven't you
purchased due to cost? And what gaps in your software needs do you
Search and browse the list of apps in Setapp's catalog and take
a quick moment to visit the developers' websites to estimate the
purchase cost, annual price, or update price for each. If you
exceed $100 to $120 a year, you probably have your answer.
Because you can pay monthly or annually for just as long as you
want, you can exit their approach without paying a penalty. Apps
you installed via Setapp stop working after your subscription
expires, and you may need to reinstall apps you already owned
What of developers that decide to remove apps—would you be left
high and dry? Credit Setapp for having a support document that provides two
pieces of insight. First, installed apps remain working
indefinitely, even when the app is no longer available to new
users. You won't get updates, and you can't install on a new
computer, but you will be able to keep using it as you have.
Second, Setapp lists all the apps that were part of Setapp and are
no longer. That's excellent transparency.
Though it has a simple all-you-can-install model, Setapp offers
a few plans based on devices you want to use with a subscription,
which I list by the company's name for each tier:
- Mac: Use Mac apps on a single computer, $9.99
per month or $107.88 per year.
- Mac + iOS: In addition to a single Mac, you
gain access to about two dozen iOS/iPadOS apps on up to four
iPhones or iPads. $12.49 per month.
- Power User: Allows up to four Macs and four
iOS/iPadOS devices for $14.99 per month or $161.88 per year.
Additional Macs can be added to plans at $2.49 per month ($2.25
requires just a click, after which the app remains available for as
long as your subscription is active—even if the app's developer
later decides to remove it from the Setapp subscription.
A middle course
for users and developers
Setapp was launched in 2017 within the pincers of pricing tumult
and purchaser discomfort rampant at the time. Developers could once
price apps for consumers in the tens of dollars and for
professional users in the hundreds—even thousands. That led to an
annual dash to push out major updates to reap upgrade revenue,
often producing buggy software with dubious improvements that took
months to fix or even a full additional release.
A number of factors constrain what developers can charge,
particularly for productivity and utility software. It's in that
framework that Setapp has found an interesting path. You should
enjoy the diverse array of software available. If you routinely use
a lot of different software, you will likely find the roughly $10
per month cost neither offensively high or oppressively
budget-busting. It might even offer significant savings.
While users don't need to care about developers' bottom lines
per se, most of us want our favorite and most useful software to
persist—and not accumulate 50 different yearly subscriptions.
Setapp's middle path provides recurring revenue to developers and
offers a consistent price and far less hassle to its
It's hard to find win-win solutions in commercial situations,
but Setapp appears to have done so. For many users, Setapp is a
bargain that also helps ensure continued development for apps we