Another app (Ulysses) moves to a subscription based model

Considering the numbers of users of specialized software, is this inevitable for that market segment? Ulysses has switched to a subscription model: … scription/

Currently that link is being hammered(?). Here’s Max Seelemann’s explanation: … f80b07a9cd

After Scrivener for iOS turned out to be so good for writing away from my main machine I’ve used U3 less and less - it’s just not up to extended non-fiction writing (Scrivener OSX is much more fully featured with useful features e.g. internal links and Collections which I find indispensable).

So this move from them means a move away from me. I’ll keep it’s present incarnation on the machines for short-form, but I’m not joining the club.

Helps me with my plan to cut down on `software by other folk’ anyway: my daily regulars are now down to Scrivener, Tinderbox and DTPro which all speak very nicely to each other.

That was an interesting analysis of their business model and the problems with it that made them decide to move forward with subscriptions. I’m not sure it’s 100% correct, but it was certainly thorough and offered a lot of food for thought – and it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback when it’s not my time and effort and living on the line.

Oh I agree - I don’t think that the `subscription = simple greed’ assumption always holds up and so - for example - I’m quite happy to pay what amounts to an annual sub for Tinderbox every year because it is unique and I simply couldn’t work as effectively without it (though if I didn’t renew, unlike the new U3 model Tinderbox remains fully functional). But in this case the introduction of the new cost is a tipping point, and I suspect it will be for quite a few others. Unfortunate timing too perhaps with Scrivener 3 approaching …

EDIT: Actually scratch that: my nostalgia got the better of me. I’ve been using Ulysses one way or another for a long time, since the earliest version, and a couple of quid a month (with the current users lifetime discount) suddenly doesn’t seem too steep to to avoid another divorce …

The problem is that all these subscriptions add up. Individually, they may each cost peanuts, but collectively they can make an insidious but substantial dent in the household budget, especially if you include in the total things like TV/film streaming, Amazon Prime, music streaming, language-learning sites, grocery delivery scheme memberships, reading material, news providers, charity subscriptions, club/society/organisation memberships, data storage/backup, file sharing…

I don’t like subscription software, because of all the software that I own, I use very little of it often enough to merit any continued expense; few and far between are the applications that I use daily or even weekly.

It’s sort of like the difference between buying and leasing a car. A lease is a lower monthly payment, but you don’t have any equity and so the payments never go away. It only makes sense if you plan on replacing the car whenever the lease term expires.

Similarly, I found myself reluctantly upgrading my six-year old copy of Microsoft Office recently. I looked at their subscription pricing, and decided it was a fine deal for a business that wants to install each new version as it comes out. But the crossover point was about three years and, as I said, I’d been using my current copy for six.


Whenever I start thinking, “Hey, look into a car lease,” I am reminded of the fine print on the lease agreement that those low payments are only available for those who can put $X down. And not all lease agreements are created equal. If it includes free or subsidized maintenance, that might actually work depending on your situation. Insurance costs at always having to carry full comp+collision for a newer care factor in, too…

…so far, never leased. Have had several used cars I bought outright, and two used that we paid off and drove/are driving until they die.

The Office 365 for Home $99/year is a no-brainer for my household. I am an IT specialist in a Microsoft product and I have to have the latest and greatest version of Outlook, so just for that purpose, it would be a winner. However, my family is Windows-centric, so the ability to install on up to 5 PCs/Macs (not counting mobile devices, we get up to another 5 there) makes it pretty cost-effective. Add to that the Microsoft account family groupings, and I can send invites to my wife and kids for them to install one of those 5 copies using their Windows Live account. At that point, each account gets the 1TB boost for OneDrive that goes with the Office subscription – not just me.

For us, it makes sense. I get that it doesn’t make sense for a lot of people, though. It’s nice to have lease and purchase options. :slight_smile:

I’m more of a want-to-be writer than an actual writer, forgive my rant. To set context, I’m a long retired aerospace engineer with degree in Math and a wish that in my life I had written something besides technical papers and proposals.

I like Scrivener a lot, and started a bunch of family memoirs with Scrivener. But as my ‘work’ (except for an app I’m writing) went more and more to iPad, and the Scrivener for iPad remained in the future, I bought Ulysses for both Mac and iOS. I moved things I had hanging around (including documentation for my app) into Ulysses.

I am sorry now!

While $30 a year (with discount) isn’t a killer, the need for a subscription poisons it for me. (I don’t lease cars, either.)

As someone else noted, it’s not just the one app. Recently my main credit card was counterfeited by someone. While I didn’t have to pay for their purchases, I did have to remember to change my card in a number of places. I forgot about my Kona Coffee subscription, and had to drink grocery store coffee for a week.

I can’t get over the thought that this move by Ulysses is bait and switch. Surely a sound business plan a few years ago would have revealed the lack of steady income, and suggested the “need” for a subscription model, or some other route forward.

When the journaling app I had been using for several years went subscription I abandoned it and started keeping a journal in a Leuchtturm1917 book with a fountain pen.

I will abandon Ulysses, move what I’ve added to my drafts recently back to Scrivener. I bought the iOS version of Scrivener and am looking forward to using it.

Whatever one thinks about subscriptions, I think it can be agreed that Ulysses’ early transition process provided a learning opportunity for anyone considering (or not) the same.

For those that missed it, today, Scrivener’s KB gave his thoughts about subscriptions:

I pay for version upgrades for software that I use, but I dislike paying for subscriptions. I’m really glad to see that Scrivener’s developer has no plans to move in that direction for version 3. I would have bought a Ulysses 4 as a one-time purchase even though the main draw (for me) was always aesthetics and not functionality. I like to support software developers and help sustain businesses, including Ulysses, but I’m not comfortable using a tool that will disable itself when I stop paying a monthly or yearly fee.

I haven’t used Ulysses for other reasons so I don’t have bias for or against them because of this move, but in fairness, it’s important to note that at the end of the term the app isn’t disabled. According to their FAQs, it becomes read only; a user’s work can still be accessed and exported.

This is a true statement.

I read the Ulysses guy’s blog, where he provided an extended rationale for why they are making the change, and where he offered a reasonable (IMHO) free use period of up to 18 months for existing users.

Then I saw a news item related to the transition on a Mac site, and the comments to that article seemed to be running about 200 to 2, with the 200 essentially saying:

“F##k you! We’re not paying $4.99/month for a f##king text editor!” *

The 2 dissenting opinions were, 1) the poor tech journalist who wrote the piece, who was getting hammered as a fanboy because he defended the transition, and 2) someone pointing out that the market will decide.

Well, the market is definitely deciding!

  • If the day ever comes when L&L decide to move to subscription pricing, they won’t have to worry about any of us saying this, because Scrivener creates RTF, not text. :smiling_imp:

The emotional tides, whether affectations or not, eventually subside. But each occurrence seems to cause further erosion to civilization’s beach. It brings to mind Gustave Le Bon’s The Crowd: A study of the Popular Mind. I wonder what his revision would look like if he could include the WWW’s existence?

If one disagrees with a developer’s revised pricing structure, then one should move on. It might be worthwhile to politely, rationally express that disagreement to try to persuade the developer to change, or expand the options to, the new structure. Berating a developer using non-sequiturs? Not likely to achieve a thing, other than to increase the divide and suspicions that exist between owner/creators and user/customers, and with other social relationships. I’d be suspicious of any developer that reversed their switch because of the eruption of irrational, unjustified claims made against them – if they tacitly accepted the claims by not explicitly refuting them.

I’m not a developer. I’ll likely never know any particular app’s complete financials. It’s in my best interest that quality apps succeed – better still, wildly succeed. I hope they rake in the dough. They should make as much as they can; whatever the market will bear. Whether they make n monies or n+1000 monies, they’ll always be a crowd to bash them for their “greed”. Even if the app fails, they’ll be bashed with the same or similar reason. A developer/creator can expect “heads you lose, tails you lose” from a great many. Developers should ignore them, create and determine where your property fits in the marketplace (if and as long as such a thing exists).

Currently, I don’t have any subscription apps. That’s just the way it’s worked out so I haven’t paid much attention to the trend. When the time comes that I’m faced with such a decision, it’ll be decided by using a cost/benefit analyses. I won’t be irrationally bashing anyone’s business decision – it’s their business, their risk, their property, their creation. Who’s “greedy”? Is it the person(s) who’s created something at their own risk that potentially can make someone’s life better/easier or is it the person(s) who wants to mob control something which they didn’t create and whose only minor risk is a voluntary, short-term exchange?

I’m not accusing anyone here of anything tawdry. I’m not looking for a fight. My post was prompted by the reactions I’ve seen at many sites. I know they don’t represent everyone’s point of view but the clamor gave me a brain-ache. I think I’ll go enjoy a cocktail.

Sorry to go off-topic, but Scrivener iOS has internal links, no? I used them a couple of times, very handy.

To add my voice to the discussion: I hate subscriptions too. I don’t want to rent my tools, and I don’t like the idea of renting everything. There is a lot of stuff I want to own, and software is one of them. I don’t mind paying. I like Scrivener, it’s more then worth it’s price. I bought the iOS version on day one and have been very pleased. I have Scrivener 2, but I will pay full price again to have the Scrivener 3 Mac App Store version.
Anyhow. I am also very happy Scrivener doesn’t seem to have plans to go the way of subscriptions. Subscriptions put all the power in the developer hands, and not in the customers hands. You feel like you are being held ransom.

And I have a Netflix subscription, but I still buy Blu-Rays and DVD’s every month, and still expanding my own collection.
It’s like with the Simpsons: I bought the dvd boxes years ago. I bought them once, and watched them soo much, whenever I want to. They are beautiful boxes. After season 20, Fox went subscription. They didn’t release the Simpsons on DVD anymore, and you have to pay 5 dollars a month to see The Simpsons AND it’s not even available outside the U.S., so I would have to go trough an VPN illegaly to pay for Simpsons, to watch it. I refuse to play that game.
Every one of my (approximately) 1300 movies, I just put in when I want it. With Netflix one day a movie is in there, another day it’s out. This is a nice article about it: … ay-netflix

I know this is personal too. Not everyone wants to own movies. I like Netflix, but not as the only option (which luckily still isn’t the case as of yet). And as a movie lover in Belgium, I see DVD distributors going bankrupt, and in the Blu-Ray Age I have to more and more buy nice editions in other countries because they don’t even get released anymore, or in very mediocre releases. I know I’m in the minority, but I’m proud to have a collection of movies and invite people to come and do a movie night. Let alone if we look at how few classic movies Netflix has in the grand scheme of things.
With software it’s even worse, because these are the tools to make money. Could you imagine asking a carpenter to rent his tools?

I think there’s a pretty big difference between a software subscription and a Netflix subscription. With Netflix, you get a major convenience (no more discs, and you can watch from almost anywhere) and a huge content library you’re unlikely to ever exhaust. With a Ulysses subscription, you get … to use Ulysses.

I bought Ulysses in 2014. Ulysses today is exactly as useful to me as it was three years ago. The only thing I expect or need from the app, since they seem unwilling to add CriticMarkup, is the occasional compatibility patch or bugfix, and neither of those are worth 2/3 the original price of the app.

I used (and loved) Ulysses for certain kinds of text, just as I love and use Scrivener for other kinds.

However, this subscription model puts me off. The moment the permanent version (that I still have installed on my Macs) fails due to incompatibilities with future versions of macOS, I’m off.

No subscriptions for me.

The whole idea of subscriptions simply does not fit to my personal style of software acquisition. I don’t mind paying for software. Heck, I hope I notice in time that Scrivener 3 is out (there will be no update in the AppStore app, right?) that I can purchase it as early as possible. I also buy software from time to time that I like and want to support even though I will not use it heavily straight away. The latest example being Aeon Timeline, by the way. However, I do this from a kind of “virtual software budget”, and if I buy something like Timeline one month, the next month the budget gets “restored”.

With subscriptions, the more I had the bigger the preallocated part of my budget that I can no longer spend freely.

And what happens if the vendor goes out of business? Kind vendors would release a final “free forever for customers” release, but can we count on it?

What is worse in my view (but slightly off-topic) is the fact that some vendors now combine subscriptions with enforced cloud storage on their servers. Infamous examples being 1Password (I still have the non-subscription version and will continue to use it as long as possible, and then switch to EnPass) and Day One, which I looked into to replace the ageing MacJournal, but I will stay with MacJournal for precisely these reasons.

As someone mentioned earlier, those subscriptions add up, and one loses the overview if they are not managed carefully.

Maybe I’m just too old to get this new trend. Although I don’t think so; my employer is currently switching his offerings to subscriptions, because in our market this is desired by the customers. In the market for private customers, however, I doubt it.

Small clarification. Scrivener 3 will be released via the App Store. However, it is unfortunately not possible to offer an upgrade discount to App Store users.


I use MultiMarkdown Composer for this reason. It’s a really underrated app, its reputation perhaps a little tarnished because of its long development cycle. Also, I should note that Editorial on iOS also supports it.

I’m reviewing Ulysses and while I like the spit and polish (a lot), the practical side of my brain is struggling to get over their premium pricing when there are better Markdown and text editors on the market. I accept that Ulysses is nicer to compose and organise text - but then again, Scrivener has it licked there too (especially organisationally)

For a macOS/iOS hybrid workflow you can buy both MMC and Editorial outright for less than $16USD and use Dropbox to keep them in sync. If for whatever reason I had to abandon Scrivener, this would be my fall back. Writing pure (multi-) markdown in appropriate text editors and using an old-fashioned file system for organisation.

Ulysses’ biggest trump cards is iCloud syncing (for those who hate Dropbox) and its (almost) feature parity on iOS (for those who’ve gone iOS-only).

For me, Ulysses excels in how it handles exporting. Once you have it set up the way you like it, I haven’t found anything faster. It also handles sync really well without requiring Dropbox, which is a pretty big deal for me.

Those two things aren’t worth $5/month. Scrivener’s export is easier to set up and make changes on the fly, and Dropbox sync does work, if not as nicely as native iCloud sync would/could.

(That said, I’d be a happy, happy man if Scrivener got some of Ulysses’ editor’s features, such as syntax highlighting on MMD elements.)

Hi Katherine,

that was a misunderstanding. I know that it will be shipped via the App Store. What I meant was that it would be cool to see it in the “Updates” part of the App Store app as soon as it is released. I visit this part about once a day to keep everything up-to-date and save. It would be really cool to see Scrivener 3 if you are a Scrivener 2 customer who bought this in the App Store.

I know, of course, that this will not happen, as Scrivener 3 is a paid upgrade. I am optimistic, however, that it will feature on the “Highlights” part of the App Store app quickly :wink: .

Just tried to point out how much I’m looking forward to it.

(Note to self: put “Apple prepaid card” onto the shopping list for today…)

Kind regards,