Software Rental Models = Wallet-Siphoning Poor Value – The ‘Book Mystique

I haven’t yet upgraded to iOS 8.4 on my iPad Air 2. I’ll get around to it eventually, but the fourth version 8 update’s marquee feature — support for Apple Music — is of only academic interest to me, since there’s no way I’m going to sign up to pay 10 bucks a month to stream music.

I don’t rent software either, at least not if I can help it. I have too many meters running already with household utilities, Internet service, telephone, car payments, insurance, and a few subscriptions to hard copy publications. Then there’s home heating and property taxes. With all of those siphoning my wallet at monthly, bi-monthly, twice-yearly, or yearly intervals, the last thing I need is being regularly hosed for software application access and/or streamed music access. All those periodic charges add up.

It’s partly philosophy and temperament. I prefer to pay up front and have no further obligations. As the late Canadian pianist and aficionado of motels for accommodation when on tour Glenn Gould, explained: “You pay your debt to society in advance, and leave in the morning without checking out.”

It’s also partly value for money. I don’t mind paying a fair and reasonable price for software I use on a regular or at least frequent basis. For example, I think Photoshop Elements at $79.95 represents a decent value for those of us who like the Adobe way of doing image editing, and it has plenty of power for everything I’ve ever wanted to do with it. However I bridle at coughing up a monthly fee to rent applications I will only use once in a blue moon. Unhappily, rental software vendors typically make no pricing concessions based on frequency of use.

Adobe does offer a bundle of a stripped down version of Photoshop CC and its companion Lightroom app for $9.99 a month, but even that is $120 per year, and you’ll play a lot more than that for the full Photoshop CC feature set. Exactly how much is elusive, since Adobe’s pricing schedule is arcane and complex, with the actual fees you pay determined by a concatenation of variables.

But whatever the fee, it will just go on and on and on month after month, year after year, until you unsubscribe, at which point you’ll no longer be able to edit your images with Photoshop.

By comparison, if you buy Photoshop Elements every two years — a reasonable upgrade interval — you’ll be paying the equivalent of $40 bucks per year. Pixelmator, which many users have found to be a workable alternative to the Adobe apps, is just $29.95, and frequently available discounted to half that.

And if Pixelmator doesn’t have quite the power and feature set you need for advanced/professional editing tasks, there’s a new kid on the block, Affinity Photo from UK based developer Serif, a program designed from a clean slate for OS X (ie: not a port of an existing Windows app), and that sells for an affordable, non-subscription, $45.99 on the Apple Mac App Store.

Affinity Photo, which has been garnering rave reviews, supports Camera RAW image, has full CMYK support, edits Photoshop files and supports Photoshop plugins — a feature set that should satisfy even even demanding professional users.

And speaking of professional editing power for not a lot of money — indeed in these cases no money — there’s the GIMP, an Open Source professional grade image editing program, and the even more Photoshopified GIMPShop — likewise free.

The other major player (so far) in the subscription software game is Microsoft, with its paradigmatic Office family of productivity apps. Many Mac users are evidently convinced that they can’t get along without Office — or at least MS Word.

As a reformed Word user, I have not found myself seriously inconvenienced by shunning Word, but concededly I’m not obliged to deal on a routine basis with Word files created by others and obliged to keep document formatting intact. For the occasional Word document that crosses over my desktop, there are a gaggle of different workarounds, including Open Source LibreOffice, Apple’s bundled Text Edit and Pages, online Google Docs, and many more.

Actually I get along fine for 95 percent plus of my text crunching using inexpensive or free text editors. Working in plain text also facilitates the convenience of keeping projects synchronized across OS X and iOS platforms.

In OS X I use primarily Tom Bender’s excellent little $15 shareware styled text editor Tex Edit Plus, Bare Bones Software’s free TextWrangler, and recent newcomer CotEditor (also free).

On the iOS, its the text editors Plain Text 2 (free), Yumi Itoh’s iWriters (ad-supported), Textkraft ($5.95), Nebulous Notes Lite (free version), Just Type (free), Scriptus (99 cents), and for word processing Apple Pages ($9.95 – came bundled with my iPad Air 2), and Microsoft’s miraculously free basic Word for iOS.

Another advantage of using simple universal file formats is that they eliminate the risk of getting your stuff orphaned in somebody’s proprietary format should the creating app go off the market, gets left behind by an operating system upgrade, or you stop paying a rental fee.

If you really need software that is only available on a subscription/rental basis and it’s associated with a business or profession, you can at least probably claim rental fees as a business expense on your income tax and mitigate some of the cost. However, if possible using applications with a one-time, up-front licensing fee and periodically upgrading versions — to say nothing of free or Open Source software, is almost certainly the mre economical solution.

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