- Human curated apps
- Apps selected and categorized by functionality
- Full access to all apps even during the trial
- Up to seven months free use through referral program
- Apps don't occupy space on your Mac until you install them
- Option to cancel subscription anytime
- Fixed monthly rental fee
- Limited number of apps
- Quitting the Setapp app stops all running Setapp apps
- VPN apps need a separate subscription
With the many thousands of apps in the Mac App Store you often end up spending quite a bit of time trying to pick the right app, only to remove it right away because the app is outdated or doesn’t work as you expected. For some apps you may have even already paid money or committed to a subscription. Ukraine-based MacPaw, the developer behind the optimization app CleanMyMac, has launched Setapp, software as a service that aims to fill a gap by providing human curated Mac applications on demand. This service offers a variety of handpicked apps in various categories, and any of them are ready to use in just a few seconds, whenever you need to complete a task. And you can remove them with the same ease. This ‘Netflix of Mac apps’ – filled with software tested and handpicked by developers based on a set of criteria – costs $9.99 per month, but you can test the service risk free thanks to the 30-day free trial period MacPaw offers.
Video Introduction to Setapp
How It Works
What makes Setapp rather attractive is that, for the monthly cost, it gives you full access to applications in various categories ranging from lifestyle to writing and blogging. All software included in Setapp’s offerings has been tested by MacPaw's Review team, which checks them against the company’s quality, functionality, safety and privacy guidelines. MacPaw's developers screen and eliminate apps that include paid features or app components, built-in stores, in-app purchases, ads and more.
Getting started is quick and easy: simply register with an email address and download the Setapp installer. That will place the utility in the Applications directory, where it will create a Setapp folder that will be accessible from the Finder window's sidebar under the favorites tab. This folder contains all the apps downloaded on your Mac.
While Setapp currently provides access to only 77 apps (and counting) due to MacPaw’s prioritization of quality not quantity, the software won’t install all the apps on your Mac. Instead, Setapp will present you with a catalog of apps grouped into different categories visible on the left side pane of the app’s interface. The first category you'll see is “All Apps“, which contains the entire set of software available.
When selecting an application, a preview appears in the right-side area of the Setapp window. Here you'll find screenshots, a brief description of the app, a link to the developer's or the app's official website, its size and other details. To see all the screenshots, just scroll horizontally.
The apps that are not installed on your Mac have an arrow button next to their name, and clicking on that will install the app and change the icon to a ‘Play’ button. The apps downloaded through Setapp will only appear in the specific Setapp folder, but will be accessible through Launchpad as well.
Maintenance and Optimization Apps
There are ten categories: developer tools, education and research, lifestyle, Mac hacks, personal finance, productivity, maintenance, task management, and writing and blogging. Each includes a variety of apps available the moment the subscription-based service has been installed. Of course, you don't need to download everything, because while they might seem to be lightweight apps you likely won't need all of them. The list of software contains a number of apps you might not be familiar with, but it also includes apps from well-known developers such as RealMacSoftware and even some MacPaw apps – included in the Mac maintenance category, as you would expect.
The maintenance category includes two MacPaw-developed apps: CleanMyMac and Gemini. Probably the most popular is CleanMyMac, the optimization app for Mac that scans your computer for system, photo, iTunes, and third party app junk data in addition to large and old files. It will help you identify a series of items that can be removed safely without any loss to your system or private data. CleanMyMac features a neat user interface that focuses on visually guiding the user through the task with nicely designed elements that shorten the learning curve. It also features a set of maintenance scripts to optimize your Mac’s performance, resolve various app errors and more.
Setapp will know whether you have the same app on your Mac already: since we had Gemini on our testing machine, a prompt appeared asking us whether we wanted to migrate the previous app's settings onto this copy of the app. Otherwise, it is up to you to decide which to use – the one that you're renting or the one you have already purchased, the app itself is the same. Gemini is a well-designed, simple yet powerful duplicate finder that will scour your Mac for duplicate files, photos and videos and, if you allow it, scan your Photos and iTunes libraries, too. When it comes to photos, it is even able to identify similar images, helping you free up your photo library from photos that are just occupying space. But what we loved the most about this app is that it is possible to scan your external drive or network volumes for duplicates as well.
Just like the macOS Utilities folder, the Mac maintenance category of Setapp includes apps that can be helpful in optimizing the computer's performance. Along with the cleaning software CleanMyMac and duplicate finder Gemini, you'll find apps covering functions such as backups, system monitoring, wireless network analysis and file recovery. Disk Drill, an app developed by 508 Software, covers the last option. Using Disk Drill will help to recover deleted files in macOS (think business documents, music, photos, videos) or access data from external USB drives or camera cards. With Setapp you’ll have access to the latest professional version of the software, with updates automatically installed.
Your Mac includes a neat feature for backing up your data called Time Machine. That's really an essential tool for keeping a copy of your files on an external drive. But this doesn’t enable more complex tasks or secure backups. For that there is Get Backup Pro or the more complex ChronoSync Express, both of which are included in Setapp. Put simply, ChronoSync Express allows you to create a new ‘synchronizer document’, which essentially means you can pick two folders and sync them. But this only scratches the surface of this tool. There is a lot more to explore when using the app, such as selecting how individual files are handled, customizing error handling and notifications.
Compared to the iOS App Store – which accounts for more than 1.7 million apps – Setapp's simplicity is appreciated since it offers a variety of apps that can help you complete a number of tasks. The Mac maintenance section, for example, also includes two handy apps for wireless network monitoring: NetSpot and WiFi Explorer. But if you are looking to monitor your system, the Bjango-developed iStat Menus app is the one you should use. It gives you a cleanly organized and detailed view of the Mac’s CPU and memory usage, battery, sensors, and much more.
Of course, this selection of apps can be too thin or too wide depending on the job you want done. Setapp includes a photo editing tool called Polarr, a ZIP management tool named BetterZip, and many apps that may not be familiar to you. In fact there are a couple of apps designed to help you manage your projects, boost productivity or simply stop your mind from wandering. One example is Focused, an app that helps you focus on your writing task with a clean and easy-to-use interface, or the Pomodoro timer app Be Focused that counts down short deadlines.
Setapp works with developers who create quality apps, and all apps included in the offering can be purchased separately from the Mac App Store or from the developer's websites. With Setapp, however, you don't need to buy every single app, since they’re all included in the fixed monthly fee of $9.99 (plus taxes).
When you sign up for Setapp you’ll get a full month's free trial, so you can test and use every app that this ‘Netflix for Mac apps’ includes before you start paying for the service. But that's not all: it’s possible to earn up to six months of free usage by making use of the friend referral program. Invite your friends to Setapp, and each time someone signs up on another Mac with your invite link you'll be credited a free month of Setapp. That means there’s a saving of up to $70 in the first year to be gained through a combination of the referral program and the free trial.
While getting started with Setapp is easy thanks to the clean and simple user interface, questions may still arise while using the service. To address this need, Setapp's ‘Help Center’ will guide you to the support section of the service's website. Here there are two options: either search through the FAQ or the knowledge base – the latter of which details step-by-step instructions on how to use Setapp – or submit a request using a web form.
This web form can be used if you don't find an answer to your question in the FAQ or knowledge base. Since you'll need to share your email address as part of this, you'll receive a confirmation email from MacPaw's support team that promises to get back to you within 24 hours on business days or 48 hours during the weekend.
For a monthly fee of $9.99 you’ll gain access to apps in a variety of categories, ranging from creative-based software through to maintenance or writing and blogging, all handpicked by MacPaw's review team, which screens the apps for unwanted features based on a specific guideline. This makes that Setapp is also about a high level of convenience: whichever need for an app you may have, there is a suitable app in Setapp’s catalog that you know you can trust without having to worry about its safety or price. That said, Setapp has a lot of room for growth as the number of apps is a little too limited and is therefore unable to cover all potential needs.
The 77 apps (as of writing this review) present a good start for an on-demand software service, and all the categories include at least one or two apps – even if they might be created by an unfamiliar developer – that you can use to get the most out of your Mac. The subscription model is set to function well in the short term, but then again you might wonder if spending $120 each year on just renting software rather than owning it is the best value for your money. Still, as Setapp continues to add more apps across the different categories we see it saving us money on app subscriptions and making us forget about Apple’s own Mac App Store.