Setapp’s Mac software service confirms app subscriptions are here to stay

Similar to other software subscriptions, Setapp offers a variety of applications. But a few features set Setapp apart. Is this subscription service right for your business?

Laptop with flying application icons. Vector 3D illustration

Image: Novi Elysa/Shutterstock

Software developers are increasingly turning to subscription models. The trend includes Mac offices, which have a few decisions to make when it comes to determining how their businesses should license the applications and programs powering their operations.

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The software-as-a-subscription trend initially found traction within enterprise firms needing to continually purchase, maintain and upgrade complex applications. Subscription models made sense for organizations dependent on mammoth CRM, ERP and other large-scale software solutions. Soon, though, the model crept into Microsoft Office licensing—the practice used to secure rights to such common productivity programs as Microsoft Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word—and spread to illustration, image-editing and production software provided offered by Adobe within its Creative Cloud suite.

I believe the trend is here to stay. In addition to Adobe’s and Microsoft’s subscription services, Mac firms can also select Setapp, the software subscription service that provides Mac users with access to 230-plus Mac-specific programs and even some iOS counterparts. Around for several years, the service is proving its staying power, while continuing to add and maintain compelling apps within its offering.

For $9.99 per month for a single Mac, $12.49 a month for a single Mac and iOS devices or $14.99 a month for four Macs and iOS devices, organizations receive the rights to download and use a variety of applications from different manufacturers that would otherwise have to be purchased independently. 

As is common with software licensing, Setapp discounts are available for teams purchasing bulk licenses and licenses on an annual basis. With Setapp, one device per member per month is just $8.99 when purchased on an annual basis, with additional devices running an extra $2.49 per month. If you’re curious whether the subscription model and Setapp software selections might work well for your business, a no-risk free trial is available.

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While other subscription services typically include applications within a single provider’s catalog—think Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook and PowerPoint with Microsoft 365 subscriptions or the Acrobat Pro, InDesign, Illustrator, Lightroom, Photoshop and Premiere Pro offerings within Adobe’s Creative Cloud—the tools included within Setapp are produced and maintained by many different software developers.

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From utilities to productivity tools to task management and security solutions, a Setapp subscription provides access to a sweeping array of software programs. With an account in place, subscribers can download the Setapp program (as shown in Figure A) that assists managing a subscription and downloading applications, both to their Mac and even iOS and iPad devices if they’ve chosen a subscription plan that includes the iOS option.

Figure A


The Setapp app assists with managing the software subscription service on a Mac.

Note, iPadOS is technically a different OS than iOS, but Setapp lumps iPads and iPhones within its iOS license references. Regardless, the subscription service enables downloading corresponding iPhone and iPad apps to those devices using a QR code delivered via the Mac Setapp application. Users can then manage active devices from within the Setapp console (as shown in Figure B), which itself is accessible from within the Mac’s Setapp program.

Figure B


The Setapp console permits managing subscription payments and active devices, among other options.

Subscribers can download as many apps as they want. Once installed, application updates can be downloaded and installed directly to the subscriber’s Mac, iPhone or iPad. Programs can even be shared with coworkers and colleagues using Setapp’s Team licensing option. Removing applications is straightforward and requires only a few clicks to uninstall (by right-clicking the app from within the Setapp program and selecting Uninstall).

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Here is just a small sampling of Setapp’s offerings:

  • 2Do—a task management app for the Mac and iPhone
  • CleanShot X—a screenshot program that provides more features and functionality than the Mac’s built-in Screenshot utility
  • CleanMyMac—a software program that helps clean and fine-tune a Mac’s operation
  • ClearVPN—a VPN tool for securing network communications
  • Commander One—a file management solution that provides greater flexibility than Mac’s built-in Finder
  • Flow—an app for designing user experience animations
  • Gemini—a duplicate-file finding program
  • Hype—A Mac app for creating Web animations
  • iStat Menus—a helpful system app for monitoring Mac health and performance
  • Luminar—a potent AI-powered photo-editing program
  • NetSpot—a wireless site survey tool
  • Paste—a smart clipboard app
  • SQLPro Studio—a program for managing Postgres and MySQL databases
  • Ulysses—a popular Markdown language note-taking program
  • Workspaces—an innovative app for launching a variety of resources associated with a single project   

One immediate concern with traditional one-time purchase programs is the developer will convert to a subscription model. Thus, your business could purchase licenses outright for a productivity program only to find later that, should the firm seek to continue downloading and installing performance enhancements, application updates and security refinements, not to mention receive support, a subscription will be required. Notability is just one example of a Mac program that’s switched to subscription from a one-time purchase model.

Over the long haul, I believe it’s only fair anyway to regularly compensate software manufacturers for the work they perform researching, fine-tuning, improving and supporting their products, especially as Apple’s operating system landscapes continually change and evolve. It’s difficult to understand how any compelling  argument could be made against that case, as no reasonable person should expect an organization to publish an application one year and continue maintaining and supporting the solution even as iOS, iPadOS and macOS continue evolving.

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Literature & Latte is one developer proving open and honest about the issue. Producer of the popular Scrivener authoring, editing and publishing application, notes on its website that its license doesn’t cover more than one operating system, nor does the license include major version updates. Although the firm offers discounts to users of previous editions seeking to upgrade to major new releases, new licenses are required.

The real question Mac offices should be asking is how many of the programs included within an application subscription service such as Setapp would they use, or would they use were they available? The math is easy to calculate. The purchase price for three or four standalone apps will quickly approach or exceed the expense of a Setapp subscription, at which point far less administrative time, not to mention accounting and IT department approvals, will be required to keep everyone working and focused on fulfilling the organization’s mission, rather than navigating the nuances of licensing, paying for, downloading, installing, tracking and updating software.

The subscription model is not the future; the model has arrived. Setapp offers a compelling package Mac offices should consider, especially seeing software subscriptions are here to stay.

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