Good-bye to Setapp

I held off on Setapp for quite a while, despite all the recommendations it got from people I trust. I already owned several of the apps in its inventory, and the great majority of those I didn’t own weren’t all that appealing to me. But last year, when Setapp was doing a Black Friday sale on a year’s subscription, I succumbed.

Over the course of the year, I installed maybe 15–20 of its apps. They fell into five categories:

  1. Those that had interesting descriptions but were just wrong for me. These were usually uninstalled after a quick trial. The exception was Better Touch Tool, which I really wanted to like and kept installed for at least a month. But it never clicked1 for me.
  2. Those that worked well, often an improvement over some command-line utility, but not used often. Downie is probably the best example. It’s basically youtube-dl with a GUI. I kept it installed for the entire year, but didn’t use it more than 2–3 times. Returning to youtube-dl won’t be a hardship.
  3. Those that replaced an app I use reasonably often, but which weren’t that much better than what I’d been using before. Renamer is the exemplar in this category. I usually rename files at the command line, but sometimes I want a nice GUI preview before going ahead with the renaming. Renamer was good for that, but I already own a copy of Better File Rename, and I’m perfectly comfortable returning to it.
  4. Those that were updated versions of apps I already owned, like BusyCal and PDFpen. I installed BusyCal because I prefer its look to that of Apple’s Calendar app, particularly the weather and moon phase data. Ultimately, though, it’s not really a replacement for Calendar because it doesn’t have an AppleScript dictionary,2 which is why I hadn’t updated the version I bought several years ago. Moving back to Calendar has been just fine, possibly because I see the weather and moon phase regularly on my phone.

    Similarly, I hadn’t updated PDFpen for a while, so I installed the Setapp version (v. 12). I’m not sure what’s changed between over the past few years, but I found myself using the Setapp PDFpen quite a lot, so I’ll be updating my purchased version. That’ll cost me $30.

  5. Finally, there was one app that I didn’t own before and that I used regularly over the year: Base, the SQLite frontend from Menial. I’ve written several scripts that interact with SQLite databases, but those are for standard operations that do the same thing over and over. One-off changes—like when a client’s email address changes—are easier to do through a GUI. Setapp includes a handful of database frontends, and I tried them all before settling on Base. Its layout is simple, and it’s easy to search without building an SQL query from scratch. When my Setapp subscription ran out last week, I bought it from the Mac App Store for $20.

If I didn’t already own apps like PDFpen, Bartender, Marked, and Default Folder X, Setapp would make a lot of sense for me. But I do, so it doesn’t. Still, I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t given it a try. I’m walking away perfectly happy with the year I spent with it.

  1. No, I have no shame. 

  2. You may be surprised to hear this—I certainly was. BusyMac positions its apps as pro-level versions of the standard Mac apps, but to my way of thinking, scriptability is the pro feature.