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Setapp: A new approach to app subscriptions


As Apple users, we‘re blessed with an abundance of great software. This was true even before 2007 brought the launch of the iPhone and the eventual rise of iOS. The Mac had great tools like NetNewsWire, MarsEdit, and Yojimbo back in the first half of the aughties.

Now as 2017 comes to a close, the abundance is greater and we have to pick and choose the apps in which we‘ll invest our money. With this greater abundance has come a new way for developers to earn a living offering their products: the subscription model.

Some people are happy with this change; it means their favorite apps will continue to improve and not die a slow death. Other people hate it, especially when a developer switches from a traditional pay-once model to subscriptions (Ulysses was a great example of this).

But one thing is true for most of us: we can only take on a certain number of app subscriptions each year.

I‘m a regular guy. I have a family (a good sized one) and all the regular expenses that come with it. This means my annual/monthly budget only has so much room for app subscriptions. I have to pick and choose which apps bring me the most value and are most vital to what I do each day.
But there is a new option that opens things up for us Mac users.

Enter Setapp

The team at MacPaw launched Setapp in late 2016. What is it? They describe the service this way:

The first subscription service for Mac apps.

Rather than subscribe to your apps one at a time, Setapp is designed to allow you to pay one subscription price that gives you access to many different apps. Like Netflix, Apple Music, or Spotify, but for Mac apps.

As a long time user of CleanMyMac, I was on the MacPaw marketing list. So I checked out the service when it first launched. However, I already owned a lot of the better apps in the package. The rest of the apps were less than enticing.

It felt like more of a gimmick to me at first — way for less well known or lower quality indie developers to get their apps in front of a wider audience.

Constant Improvements

However, I recently gave this service another look and was pleasantly surprised by a lot of the options. There are a few heavy hitters, some very nice niche utilities, and a bunch of products that are an alternative to apps you already use.


Here are a few that caught my attention when I gave Setapp a fresh look.

  • Be Focused: the top choice for Pomodoro timers here at The Sweet Setup.
  • Chronicle: a decent looking app for tracking your bills and spending.
  • Dropshare: an alternative to CloudApp or Droplr and one that allows you to host the files yourself. I‘ve been considering this one for a while…
  • Focus: a tool to help you be disciplined with your time. I really like Focus. It blocks apps and websites and has a nice scheduling feature. You can set a daily routine, while also allowing yourself a certain number of breaks in a given period of time (example: 30 minutes every 24 hours)
  • MoneyWiz: similar to Chronicle, MoneyWiz is a personal finance manager that is the nicest looking of all the options we reviewed here.
  • Numi: a beautiful desktop calculator that does so much more than just crunch numbers. It‘s a great alternative to Calcbot.
  • Pixa: the Realmac team has toyed with Ember on and off for years (and it‘s apparently on again), but Pixa is a similar tool that is alive and well
  • Sip: there‘s always a need for a good color picker.
  • Squash: I‘m a long time user of ImagOptim, but Squash is a great alternative (from the aforementioned RealMac).
  • Timing: I‘ve been looking for an alternative to RescueTime (it‘s not the most well-designed service) and Timing might be the best option.
  • WiFi Explorer: I‘ve had too many spots where the WiFi was terrible. This app can help you figure out why

This is just a sample. There are over 100 apps now in Setapp and I didn‘t even mention some of the bigger ones like Ulysses or CleanMyMac (apps that I already own and pay for).

Why The Model Works

There are several advantages to this concept. For developers, they can spend more time improving and polishing their product rather than focusing on marketing, support, and some administrative tasks.

For us, the end user, the most obvious benefit is cost. It‘s cheaper for us to pay one price and get multiple apps. If there are a couple of flagship apps that you already use, Setapp will allow you to use apps that we would never have shelled out for.


For me, Ulysses is a key tool that I‘m already subscribed to. Apps like Ulysses will always get my money. Since it‘s included in Setapp, I almost get the rest of the apps for nothing.

Obviously, we care a lot about the tools available for our Apple devices here at The Sweet Setup. Getting access to over 100 apps for $10 a month is something worth considering at the very least — especially if you’re already paying for some of them.

Check it out!

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