So Long, Ulysses! Hello Pages? Maybe?

Originally published at on August 11th, 2017.
Added to on October 31st, 2017.
Updated November 20th, 2017, to add that I’m back to using Ulysses, with a year-long subscription, despite my reluctance to go that route.

Yesterday, my favorite writing app converted to a subscription model. The announcement post on the official Ulysses blog was accompanied by an explanatory post on Max Seelemann’s Medium. And I spent most of the day—when I wasn’t doing housework or feeding my growing Tales to Terrify addiction—reading reactions to Ulysses’ new direction, wondering when Scrivener 3 will be released, and moving my copious collection of incomplete texts from Ulysses to Apple’s own Pages.

I’m not a fan of the software as a service model (SaaS). I loved AutoDesk’s Sketchbook Pro. I still have Sketchbook Pro 6 installed on my Mac. But I didn’t, haven’t, and probably won’t ever sign up for the subscription version of Sketchbook.

That said, Sketchbook at least offers regular brush downloads for the subscription version of their software.

As someone who purchased both the Mac and iOS versions of Ulysses, the only thing I would get out of converting to Ulysses’ subscription model is… drum roll, please… the chance to pay more for software I already own? As I understand it, there are no changes to the software’s functionality, other than the conversion to a subscription model and a redesigned icon, so I’m having a really hard time seeing what my motivation might be to make the switch.

(For those of you who’ve only purchased the Mac version, or no version at all, there is a potential benefit: The subscription version of Ulysses includes both the Mac and iOS versions. The cost of a year’s subscription is less than I paid to buy both versions of the non-subscription software.)

(Yay, you.)

So, while I’m waiting for the release of Scrivener 3 (because who wants to buy an app that’s soon to see a major update), I’m feeling my way around Pages. And I’m finding that, despite my reluctance, there are some benefits to actually using my Mac’s built-in word processing software:

  1. It’s built-in. Done paid for. Came with the system.
  2. It doesn’t feel as heavy and awkward as it used to. I don’t remember why it used to feel that way. Maybe it’s just a difference between using it on my wife’s ancient MacBook Pro and our aging-but-beefy iMac. Truly, I don’t care why.
  3. I can work on the same files on my iMac, my iPad, my iPhone, or any computer or device that will give me access to iCloud via browser.
  4. One of my favorite features of Ulysses was the ability to password protect the app. Pages allows me to password protect, or not, each document. I think I prefer this path to security, since not every bit of text is password-worthy.
  5. The odds are slim that Apple will convert Pages to a subscription model.
  6. Pages handles comments in a manner that is more useful, in a visual sense, than Ulysses handles notes. I was surprised by this. It made me wish I’d played around with Pages more than I have.

The real downside of Ulysses changing horses mid-stream isn’t that I’m abandoning my favorite writing software—actually, one of my favorite pieces of software, ever, regardless of purpose. I’ve found myself with a new enthusiasm for certain pieces of my own unfinished work. I found myself willing to miss a bit of sleep, last night, just to re-read and make small edits to story bits I haven’t looked at in months.

So the change, itself, appears to be a positive.

But, despite the breath I’m holding for Scrivener 3, I’m also casting a bit of side eye toward its developers, Literature and Latte; not because of anything they’ve done, yet, but because I’m wondering when/if the subscription model will come for them, too.

And I’m feeling a whole lot more reluctant to pay more than a few bucks for software when it’s becoming more and more likely that those bucks will multiply in perpetuity.