Advice Needed-Subscription or Single Developer App?

I have a dilemma. Like many others in this forum, I keep my app subscriptions to a minimum. I don’t begrudge developers profit but I also don’t want to spend more money than necessary to get my work done.

Consistent with the above, and following my nuke and pave work this weekend, I moved from MindNode, which I prefer, to iThoughts for mind mapping. With the new version of MindNode 7 coming with a subscription I decided to make the switch.

After reflecting on this decision, I’m not sure it is the right one longterm. My concern is that iThoughts is the work of one developer. When the developer decides to stop developing and supporting the app, or is no longer able to do so, there is a good chance it becomes abandonware unless purchased. MindNode on the other hand is a seven person team, which should result in long term stability and development.

Any thoughts on advice on this?

Size of development shop is a red herring.

I don’t think it matters, whether there is one developer or 7 or more or fewer. Nothing is guaranteed. Large development shops discontinue software, or sell it, or stop upgrading it for new OS releases. The only software in my dock that has any significant longevity is Tinderbox. What I use today is not what I used 10 years ago and probably won’t be what I use 10 years from now. I have almost no need to open a document made more than 2 years ago.

Make your decisions based on price, perceived value, the stability of the product, and ability to export your data to other formats. Even when Circus Ponies went out of business, the product worked long enough to get data out, or print PDFs. Very rarely does software suddenly stop working the day the developer closes shop.


Maybe you can justify the subscription by declaring that part of your new minimalism will be to minimize training, and you will use the thing that works and you are already trained in – MindNode.


Or maybe, since I have saved significant money by not subscribing/cancelling subscriptions, I can treat myself to a good app subscription. I just have to avoid the slippery slope. :slight_smile:

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For me, it would depend on how exportable iThoughts files (or the contents of those files) are to other systems, and whether I was using mind mapping as a muse/to get unstuck or whether I was maintaining important documents long term.

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Despite being the work of only one developer, iThoughts almost looks like it’s handled by a larger team.

I’ve used it for several years and it’s been continually maintained, upgraded and optimized.

Based on my experience and unless the developer radically changes its ways, it should be a good investment (unless a new iThoughts is released soon).


Hmm. Apple has 137,000 employees. Since I bought my first Mac in 2004 they abandoned Aperture, Dashboard, Server, iWeb, iDVD, iSync, Front Row, Sherlock, Quicktime, and AppleWorks, Rosetta, and probably more I can’t remember.


That is a good point. Google has also abandoned its fair share of services/apps. While any app can be dropped by anyone or any organization, I guess I’m hoping that the odds are more likely that a multi- person shop will keep a well selling app or service going whereas when a single developer closes shop, unless someone buys the app/service, the app will be abandonware. That said, my concern may well be overblown. :slight_smile:

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I always think of the Zune in these discussions.


Both MindNode 7 and iThoughts are a part of Setapp, so I’m guessing either option will be stable. If you’re going to get a subscription, Setapp is not a bad one to get.

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The list of apps abandoned by Apple, above, is instructive. Many of them have been dropped while Toketaware kept on with iThoughts. So, perhaps the odds are against Apple and in favor of the one-person-shop?

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If it’s an app that I use every week, I can consider a subscription as a business expense. I make enough money from my work products to cover the cost of the various subscriptions I have. However, if I only use it occasionally, I’d consider doing a one month subscription to get the job done and get paid for the job. I don’t need a jackhammer every day but I can rent it from my local Home Depot.

I consider my one-time app purchases as an upfront fee for using the software that can be amortized over time. I’m paying ahead of time for the license to use an app and will gladly pay the upgrade fee when a new version comes out.

I do like the subscription model because a developer can push out a feature as it rolls off the assembly line. They no longer have to shelve a major feature update to justify a big version jump. If an app has a 3 year lifespan, I’d have to wait that long to get major new features. The subscription model allows us to get new features as soon as its done.

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I think this is wisdom. Avoid zealotry about subscriptions (or anything else, for that matter).

Moderation in all things – including subscriptions and avoiding subscriptions.

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Yes I agree with @tjluoma. There isn’t, as far as I can see a general rule. Just isn’t. For example Keyboard Maestro has, as far as I know, only Peter Lewis and is well maintained and supported and has been for years and is better than ever. My favorite app in fact.

On the other hand I thought Launchbar was here for the duration but I feel it is now being neglected. In fact I just replaced it with Alfred due to what I see as glitches and ‘breaks’ in Catalina. I don’t want a negelected and broken app in my disk permissions for a start off. I am quite disappointed. Again there are always reasons, including illness, unforseen financial problems etc etc

I already like Alfred way better. All the advice on this suggested I should stay with Launchbar… . Could just be me I know but goes to shoe.

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Love iThoughts. Many options to export (including the standard OPML):

MS Word (.docx)
MS PowerPoint (.pptx)
PDF (.pdf)
Image (.png)
Website (.zip)
Freemind (.mm)
Mindmanager (.mmap)
iMindmap (mix)
XMind (.xmind)
Novamind (.nm5)
ConceptDraw (.cdmz)
MindView-Win (.mvdx)
MindView-OSX (.mvd)
Standard CSV (.csv)
MS Project (.xml)
OPML (.opml)

Don’t have my MacBook handy, but those are what are listed on the iPad version.

So suppose you decide to stop a subscription? Then you have no app to use and your data may be locked away from you. If a developer stops it or you delay and upgrade, you probably can still use the app for quite a while.

I don’t get people’s allergy to subscriptions. The app costs $1.66/month, yet that is not enough value? But hey, I’ll take a Nitro Cold Brew for $4.95.

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For most, I don’t think there is an allergy to subscriptions per se, at least for me that is true. The issue is that as more and more developers move to subscriptions, one is adding constantly to monthly/annual expenses whereas under the older model one could choose to delay a year or so before upgrading. The subscription model is motivating many of us to cut down on the apps we use because although we can afford to pay the subscriptions, we may decide there are better uses of the money. Any money spent for anything also bears an opportunity cost associated with it beyond the actual cost itself. For example, investing or saving the money instead of spending it. This is why I choose to spend $1.60 at McDonald’s for my coffee rather than $5 at Starbucks. It adds up quickly overtime. The time value of money is not something to be ignored for any purchase, including apps. Finally, subscriptions is a form of “renting” the app. This means when you stop paying, you lose functionality whereas if you buy it outright you still have full functionality–at least until an OS upgrade breaks it. :slight_smile:

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I think it is a bit disingenuous to to talk about monthly subscription costs when I suspect most subscriptions are billed yearly. Are there any subscriptions where you can only pay for a few days here or there ?

I look at subscriptions as any other expense. What is the total cost of ownership. I also do not buy coffee or tea on a regular basis - small costs over time add up. I do not buy things that I consider too expensive for the value given (personal judgement).

As more apps move to subscription, I have to ask myself, what value do I receive from them ? Can I replace this functionality with anything else ? For example I have been playing with Org mode for replacing outlining( free, but steepish learning curve).

I like to know my fixed costs.Tinderbox is neither cheap to buy or renew. But, it’s unique set of features are difficult to replicate for the few times I need it. It is created by single app developer with an excellent track record. If I don’t choose to upgrade in a specific year - the app keeps working. I suppose this is kind of a subscription as there is a new version every year, but I get to choose when I spend my money and if I am spending it on something compelling.

While many app subscriptions offer an annual option, I expect it would be difficult to find an app that didn’t also have a monthly subscription rate.