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Ulysses App Switches to Subscription Model

The recent emailed news from the Ulysses team came as a shock, as it apparently did to many others.

TL;DR I was disappointed with the move to subscription, I understand and sympathise with their justifications (though I don’t entirely agree with them all, I respect their choice). This has been badly handled. I hope to see Ulysses remain and be able to continue to use it, to that end I have subscribed.

Rather than join the outcry immediately, since I had conflicting feelings about the change I attempted to let the air clear a bit and then work out what I was going to do.

My immediate feelings were of disappointment and loss, I am reluctant to add another subscription, yet I feel forced into it should I wish to continue to use the app without issue.

The Old Versions Should Continue to Work

The team behind Ulysses are quick to point out the old version of the apps will remain usable and they have already updated them for the forthcoming versions of macOS and iOS. There is however no guarantee that those versions of the app (downloadable through the purchases section in the App Store) will work without issue under the new OS. As noted by the Ulysses team, further updates cannot be applied to the old versions as they have been removed from sale. No more bug fixes from the developer for these versions.

Having purchased both apps awhile ago I am happy to give the developer further money to including bug fixes on functionality developed since I last purchased, as well as stability and performance improvements.

As of right now, the app currently has (more than?) enough features for my use.

Uncertainty

I can understand why a lot of app developers are reluctant to produce roadmaps.

As outlined in their post on Medium it’s not hard to understand, and sympathise with, the need of Developers to find different and more suitable revenue streams to support and grow their applications. For a great app crafted with love, attention to detail and long hours working to build and maintain an app (like Ulysses), they absolutely deserve that.

Customers deserve software that is fit for purpose, reasonably free of bugs, and is supported (read maintained not necessarily extended functionally), for a reasonable period of time.

I wrestled with wanting to support the developers, against the feeling that the software I previously purchased had been abandoned and the additional price of re-admission may personally not be worth it. Particularly as it is recurring cost, I don’t write for a living, and nor do I use the application every day, though I do intend to use it more. You know what they say about good intentions though.

The subscription model Day One recently incorporated would, in my opinion, be better suited here (note they did not handle the change well either). Paid applications where subscribers are given access to additional functionality and future features. Non-subscribers (and those whose subscriptions elapse) retain all of their content within a functioning, but less enhanced, version of the application. Under the new Ulysses model the functionality to create or edit content is removed when a subscription expires. You can still access you content but are basically left with an application stripped of it’s most basic purpose.

I was also put off by the lifetime discount only remaining valid if the subscription is continuous. The price of subscription is high, though so is the quality of the app and my willingness to support it.

Moving Forward (and likely elsewhere)

I purchased a subscription as I want to keep using Ulysses for now, spending time writing and not trying other apps or being frustrated by potential issues following upcoming OS updates. I don’t want to have to worry about this right now so I’m paying to make the problem go away (for me) until a later date.

The downside to this subscription is that if I decide not to re-subscribe after a year, I will not be left with what I would consider to be a working application. In that scenario Ulysses won’t be made obsolete by an OS update or be stuck with a bug that may or may not affect me. It will be immediately and intentionally rendered next to useless. That feels really shitty to me.

Uncertainty

Supporting the app by subscription does not ensure nor guarantee it’s future, as some have argued. It hopefully helps it become more financially stable and viable, yes.

My main fear is that based on the largely negative reactions of customers via Twitter, the change has burnt a lot of trust in, and goodwill to, the company behind the app. I am concerned that they won’t get the numbers of supporters they need.

Mostly I’m concerned that this app is not the best choice for me anymore (or won’t be in the long run), mainly from a cost perspective and lack of ownership. This also free’s me, from what I would consider to be a loyal customer, I now feel less tied to Ulysses and free, even encouraged, to look at alternative options.

I will be playing attention to potential replacements for Ulysses during the next year. Something that wouldn’t be the case if I’d been offered a paid upgrade.

What’s Best for You Isn’t Always Best for Me

I hope this is what’s best for the future of Ulysses and for the team of people behind the app (and their families).

Ultimately it’s likely we will part ways in the near future, until then thanks for the ride and thanks for making a great app that I enjoy writing in.