Scrivener should become subscription

I think there are, somewhat simplified, two kinds of users: those who, like me, just use the software without spending time thinking about what might have been possible had the software been different or had other features, and those who do spend time on this.

I test new apps every now and then just to see if they might be better in some way than the ones I use. When I come to a situation where I observe that something I tried to do isn’t possible or didn’t function the way I expected, I don’t pursue this observation in any way. I basically accept that apps are the way they are. I adapt to their inner quirks and very, very seldom wish for additional features. There are loads of things in Scrivener I don’t use, partly because I’m not very organised in the way I work. All this stuff with linking and bookmarks and stuff requires that I remember how I was thinking when I set them up, and I seldom do. I don’t have specific workflows, repetitively doing certain things, like others seem to do.

So, where does that put me in relation to one-time-purchase and subscription? Well, it doesn’t really matter as long as the total cost is acceptable. Would I buy Scrivener 4 if it was released in, let’s say two years? Probably not. Scrivener 3 already has more than I need. Would I pay for a Subscription if the business model was changed? Yes, if it was reasonable, like 5-10 USD per year.

A new but interesting model is the one chosen by the team behind the Agenda app. When you pay, you get the app in its current shape, plus any new features added within the next 12 months. When the 12 months have passed, you keep your current version, but you don’t get any new features until you decide to pay again. The only problem is that this requires lots of users that want new features, and the more feature-rich the app becomes, the trickier it will be to come up with new features that a lot of users would want to pay for.

I have two other apps I really like: 2Do (task manager) and BusyCal (calendar). They are one-time-purchase, but this means that no matter how much I like them, the creator won’t get any money from me unless he releases a new version, which isn’t very likely (because they are already so damn good). I would gladly pay a small annual fee to support this developer to make sure the apps keep existing.

Alfred is an app where I, as an original power user, have free future updates. But when I update, I am asked if I might consider supporting further development by paying a small fee, which I have so far gladly done.

Thanks for these insights Keith, much appreciated. I’ll keep an eye out for the survey if it’s intended for public posting, and will happily contribute. Earlier this year I published the third academic monograph I’ve written entirely in Scrivener, so you can count me as another extremely satisfied customer/user. And I’m managing just fine without deeper reference software integration :smiley:

Hi Keith

I think that the cracks are starting to show in Scrivener’s current development methodology. This is leading to larger, more complex, but longer releases, instead of the more agile sprints and quick releases that modern users expect. But the problem is the majority of your user base are legacy users who don’t want frequent changes made to their well-loved and nurtured software tools every month or quarter (Despite having worked in IT for 25 years, I’m one of them!). Yet your future revenue streams will increasingly depend on the ‘quick to create/consume’ brigade, not the latter - older writers don’t write (or live) for ever…

But there’s a paradox I know you already are aware of : The disconnect between Scrivener’s traditional desktop GUI hooks and backend textual data structures with modern cloud service APIs is becoming obvious. The bug fix list speaks of a tangled web of externally forced interdependencies. But Scrivener is good at what it does because of the former! Writers don’t want or need event based message queues and REStful data services. Our content is not designed to be shared on-the-fly. The book publishing industry is still a dinosaur in terms of modern process workflows and data transfers. Printed paper is still valued more than screen-based presentations.

So Scrivener has to balance itself on this wobbling, flexible divide between the old and new, the traditional and the modern, the quick hit of an expresso feature vs. the maturing of a fine product. It’s not about cloud, or subscription models or even the greater, still unrealised threat, of AI tools becoming part of a writers’ toolset and audio becoming mainstream for curation, production and publishing. It’s instead fundamentally about management of change for Scrivener to successfully adapt to incorporate these new creativity and publishing paradigms. It’s always been about this, for as long as the technology bandwagon has been on the road. Candlemakers and light bulbs, livery stables and internal combustion engines, Scrivener and more automated processes for creating written content?

But, luckily, you have built the best asset of all : your user base. Build an ark, be Noah and take us with you on whatever journey it takes. Losing us will kill your product and your reputation faster than any product cycle delay.

This is all I can say in this medium without getting too technical or long-winded about future architectural decisions

(btw, no prob with taking down the accounting links I posted. I’m really pleased you’re successful - all my writing eggs are in your basket!)

Best, J

Hi, @KB. Dang. I keep starting drafts of this post, and they keep coming out as rants that will ignite a flame war. :neutral_face: Not my intention.

For me, Scrivener could change in the following ways and still be my go-to writing software. I will say that the corkboard / synopses are core to how I use Scrivener; the Outliner, less so but still important. I would be disappointed if stacked corkboards disappeared!

  • I don’t use Scrivener as a research repository, so don’t feel that users have to be able to dump everything into Scrivener in order to keep me as a user.
  • There are many similar sets of features that enable users to do almost the same thing: for one example, the term “notes” can mean about seven different features – and has in various forum posts. Please feel free to delete near-duplicates. I will cope somehow. :wink:

Regarding ease of sync: have you looked at how Ulysses handles its external folders feature? It’s a different sync paradigm that might be a better fit for Scrivener projects. It can be used with any cloud service that’s accessible via the iOS Files app, including but not limited to iCloud, Dropbox, et al. It might be easier on Windows users. It would involve changes to the Scrivener project structure, but what wouldn’t? :wink:

Finally, some suggestions about UI. You are right that users seem less and less inclined to read doc – and the same can be said for developers wanting to provide it! The problem I see with Scrivener is that when I start an empty project, I get a document pane that looks very similar to a document pane in Word, or Pages, or even TextEdit. The Tutorial looks like a polished Word doc. The temptation is to assume that that I already know 90% of how to use this software, when in fact I probably know about 10%.

My suggestions: make it obvious from the start that there is a learning curve. Don’t call styles “styles” unless they’re to be used the way styles are in Word – think up another name. Put those “outline boxes” around them; lose the way to make a style without them. Hide the format bar by default, and bury how to make it visible in the menu system, except possibly for character attributes and a “styles” pulldown. And somehow apply changes to the default formatting automatically to all extant documents in a project. Do it to different projects as they’re opened.

And make “as-is” a hard-to-access compiling option.

In short, I suggest you make Scrivener look and act more like a markup-based writing app. No one expects to send what they see in the Ulysses editor to their audience, be that audience readers, a professor, or a judge. I suggest it be the same with Scrivener. I know that this is contrary to how you envisioned Scrivener in the beginning – I’ve butted heads with you on this before! – but I believe it would help new users have realistic expectations.

:smiley: Of course, you will do exactly as you decide, and I will likely remain your customer and loyal user.

WOW! I don’t agree with a word of what you’re saying. There are hundreds of apps out there that do exactly what you are proposing Scrivener to become. Another markup editor? Really? And how is Ulysses syncing related to the cross-platform Scrivener requires?

One of the main reasons I use Scrivener is its ability to store all research related to a project in one place. The other is the outline. Cut those out and Scrivener becomes just another text editor.

Thank you for your prompt response, krastev!

The Ulysses external folder sync doesn’t use iCloud sync for the whole freaking library. Rather, it syncs the individual files (read: Scrivener docs) in the folder and all the folder’s sub-folders. It maintains that folder structure in its presentation to the user. I believe that much of the sort of information that is stored in the .scrivx file is maintained in hidden files distributed throughout the folders and sub-folders.

In short, it maintains the outline. It’s a less complex outline, to be sure, (we are talking Ulysses here) but the outline is maintained. In addition, each file within the structure is edited “in-place” so syncing “to” the cloud happens continuously in the background. (I haven’t tried it offline so I don’t know what happens then. Presumably something reasonable.) I assume those distributed outline info files are continuously updated as well. It will do this for any folder structure that iOS Files app supports, including iCloud Drive, Dropbox, and Google Drive to my certain knowledge. The ability to use anything besides iCloud has to help out Windows users. :smiley:

So no, I am NOT advocating losing the outline. Or the metadata. (Ulysses has less extensive metadata than Scrivener but it still has a good deal. Keywords, attachments, and document notes for sure. Somehow that is maintained in its external folder system.)

Nor do I suggest that full rich text not be available, merely that it be hidden by default. Mac Scrivener 3 can already hide the formatting bar; I suggest that be the default. I suggest, not that named styles be eliminated, but that they be called something else (so that it’s less tempting for former Word users to style everything in sight) :wink: . I suggest styles have a visible outline, as they already may in Mac Scrivener 3.; I suggest that be standard.

In short, I don’t think I’ve suggested the removal of a single feature from Mac Scrivener except unmarked style spans. Rather, I’ve suggested a different appearance and presentation so that it’s obvious from the start that Scrivener isn’t intended as a WYSIWYG system.

As for research, it’s unimportant to me as an individual. I know there are many like yourself to whom it’s core. One thing about Ulysses ’ external folder approach is that, like Scrivener’s current Dropbox sync, nothing gets downloaded to my iOS device unless it’s changed. I can confirm this for sure – I’ve used Ulysses external folders with Dropbox for years to manage my blog.

Don’t confuse my Ulysses suggestion with Scrivener’s external folder sync, which as you say flattens the outline and loses any non-text research. My suggestion is merely that KB have a look (if he hasn’t already!) at how Ulysses maintains its outline and metadata in Ulysses’ external folder system and consider whether such an approach might work for full-up Scrivener projects.

I almost never use the cork board, seldom the outliner, sometimes synopsis, do use the format bar, keep a limited amount of research in each project, have fairly small projects, and hate markdown!

But I agree on the part about not having a GUI that resembles Word or other wysiwyg word processors. Don’t initially display margins, a ruler, page view, and use a font that people don’t automatically connect with printing i.e avoid Times New Roman and all those and use something weird like Menlo. And I agree about hiding any formatting except bold, underline and italics.

About formatting at the Compile stage, there is one detail which creates confusion. You decide on font size and a lot of stuff in the formatting pane, but then you suddenly have to use the Format menu commands for paragraph spacing and a few other things? That’s not logical. You should either have all formatting options in the compile window, or none. Display the window but let the user use the usual menu or formatting bar options. Either or, not both.

Hi, Lunk. I don’t hate Markdown, but I get that many Scrivener users may. :smiley: As you observed, my point was not to advocate a markup editing environment as such, but to co-opt some of those characteristics to make Scrivener more obviously Not Like Word. Or Pages. And look like something that will require some effort to master, or at least some effort to figure out how to format output.

(Menlo isn’t weird. Try Recursive Casual Mono sometime—it’s like Menlo and Comic Sans had a baby… )

I totally agree with you that all the formatting commands should be available from the compile format dialog. It just doesn’t make sense to have to go to the menu system while in a modal dialog. OTOH, the dialog is pretty crowded already; where would you put them?

A pull-down menu in the dialog window, like a menu in the window itself? :smiley:

It’s also not accurate. The line spacing dropdown in the Section Layout → Formatting pane has all the same options that the Format menu does. (Click “other” down at the bottom for things like paragraph spacing.)


Hi, @kewms! What about the Tabs and Indents dialog? I haven’t figured out how to get to that via the compile dialog. I know you’ll say I should just use the ruler, but I can’t be precise enough with the ruler to meet my ridiculously high standards. :wink:

Oaky, I learned something new today. But how do you expect me to think that line spacing would lead me to any other kind of formatting? When I click on that to change line spacing I assume that “other” is something more about lines, not completely other stuff.

Keith, thank you very much for the detailed reply. Hopefully, you have some time to consider my comments.

The push to subscription services and SaaS is because investors value “recurring” or “subscription” revenue more highly than organic revenue growth. It is discounted less because the impression (not without reason) is that “subscribers” are to some degree locked in. Buried beneath that logic is the stick: stop paying and you lose access to your content or the ability to edit it. Developers are incentivised to put in hooks to lock users in even more to maximise “retention,” to lower subscriber “churn.” Even if a given provider can hold their own against the temptation to wall the garden off, overall that’s not a great incentive tradeoff long-term if you worry about customers.

I’m not sure you care much about the philosophical end of the argument (nor is there any particular reason you must) but it is fairly important to me. I am obsessive about my writing. I slave away at my content. I pour my heart into what I create along with blood (once: injury sustained while typing), sweat (especially during the summer) and tears (sometimes in the final act), Even putting my work in progress on someone else’s hardware (Dropbox, iCloud, etc.) rubs me the wrong way. I don’t want to have to read a set of Terms and Conditions to figure out how much of my prose I still own after I upload it and what real responsibility the recipient has to keep it safe (not to mention private… ahem… Apple, I’m looking at you). To suggest that my prose is not entirely mine (de facto and de jure) just seems so backwards to me.

This movement to make you buy something and then act as if you are only renting it, and in renting it anything you create with it is only kinda-sorta yours (and can be subject to an effective digital lien if you miss a payment) is anathema to me. I am aware that this is not the future one envisions when one “merely” wonders about Scrivener “going subscription” but it is the future your upstream providers envision for you as developers of their SaaS offerings. Apple is not discounting developer fees on subscription model priced software 50% because they make more money that way now. They are discounting it because their investors like “locked in” customers, and from those customers they expect to make it all back later and then some (because of the time value of money, of course, they have to pull in more later than they sacrificed today).

This realisation should give one pause. Really.

Contrary to some suggestions in the replies, there is actually good reason to believe that subscription models for software actually delay and blunt development (particularly for small to medium development shops). To the extent a subscription model locks in users or at least removes some incentives to switch, the costs to a developer of delayed updates is reduced. The pressure to focus on the product from the customer’s perspective tends to me dulled when the customer base is locked in (even “just a little”).

Adobe lost me forever when they spawned (from whence we shall not inquire) Creative Cloud. Microsoft 365 is a nightmare.

I might add, nothing about a given software package may bother the upstream SaaS provider today, but someday it might. Maybe a logo offends users in the Chinese online store. Maybe Canadian liability rules are violated by content sharing among users. Who knows. There is a big world out there filled with all sorts of value systems. Not all of them overlap perfectly. And because your user-base is locked in what power do you as a developer have to resist the upstream’s wishes if they change next year… next month? In my view that’s way too much control to give to a large multinational that looks at your users just as a stream of credit card approvals. Your mileage may vary.

Still, as I mentioned, those are essentially philosophical complaints. I feel better now that I vented them. Thanks for your indulgence. I have concrete concerns as well…

While I appreciate the generalisation, I cannot wholeheartedly agree. As there have always been, there many different kinds of users. I’ve never been a “read the manual” girl. I always tinker my way into learning software, and I always have. Scrivener is no exception, and I’ve done the same with more complex packages with steeper learning curves as well. If you just want to sit and write a first draft on tap straight from Melete, Mneme and Aoide, even Microsoft Word is overly complex. Personally, given what I write (literary/historical fiction) and the way I write it, I need Scrivener’s complexity.

Literature and Latte seems to have been so comfortable carving out a niche, and doing it better than anyone. Serving as an alternative to Ulysses (even just compared to the payment paradigm) is ground I hope you do not cede.

To the extent Literature and Latte’s paradigm resulted in the current version of Scrivener it was responsible for the most fundamental and positive life-changing shift any piece of software has managed to cause for me. If what I have to eventually do is stick the current version of macOS and Scrivener in a virtual machine and sandbox it off from the internet and the world for the rest of my life I will do it. But that would be most unfortunate.

Whatever happens, I’m eager to see (and participate in) the survey.


I don’t understand this statement. You appear to be suggesting that Apple has failed to keep information private?

There has not been a single Apple caused leak of customer data. The iCloud leak a while back was caused by several high profile people using the same password on multiple platforms and the passwords being compromised from one of those other platforms. Apple has stared down government agencies in maintaining customer data privacy. Internally within Apple staff are regularly trained on customer privacy and data security with consequences for any breach of policy. If you forget your AppleID password and don’t have the appropriate 2FA device and/or phone number you can’t get your data back, and not even Apple can recover your data.

Apple’s allowing/moving to subscriptions in the app store began as a direct response to some developers requesting that feature. I don’t dispute Apple see a benefit in that lock in. I dumped Adobe over CS and refuse to have anything to do with 365.

Let’s try to keep the thread focused on Scrivener.

All very well said @isagirl, I agree with most, if not all of it. One key point is that Scrivener has created a niche for itself that is clearly much envied - witness all the look alike software in development or already offered. I hope that future development maintains that distinctive Identity.

How do you know that? I would have thought that only extensive research could tell you that for certain.

Well, the relevant commands on the Format menu are in the Line and Paragraph Spacing sub-menu. The idea that line spacing and paragraph spacing belong together doesn’t seem radical to me.


There’s no menu, but you can make the Compile pane as big as necessary to make the ruler gradations visible.


This is an absolute ridiculous statement. Apple works with the Chinese government. There is no need for more evidence that they are not your friend when comes to privacy.

Not the problem. The smallest movement possible is .03". If I’m going to fiddle with tabs etc. I want the precision available in the dialog of .01". Also, setting stuff en masse via the dialog is just easier and faster than dragging things one at a time in the ruler.