Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Price Increases for Developer Tools


We’re writing to let you know that we’re introducing a modest increase to the cost of license renewals from $99 to $120. The new price will come into effect the next time you renew your license, on or after 19 May 2023.


We don’t take decisions like these lightly but, like everyone else, our running costs are increasing. Doing this helps us remain sustainable and deliver more new features and improvements. Even with these increases, you’ll find our pricing is still favorable compared to our competitors.

Florian Albrecht (tweet):

Very soon, we will be announcing Kaleidoscope 4 with many exciting new features. But before we share details about the new version, we want to outline our subscription pricing and upgrade options for existing customers.

The new subscription price will be $14.99/month or $99/year ($8.25/month). All existing customers will get the first year for half the price.


We grew the company in order to work on features requests that require more engineering resources. And we have a roadmap that will make Kaleidoscope even more powerful.

Transitioning from paid upgrades to subscription will allow us to follow through on this roadmap.


Kaleidoscope 1.0, 2010: ~$36 ($49.67 in 2023 dollars)

Kaleidoscope 2.0, 2013: $69.99 ($90.38)

Kaleidoscope 3.0, 2021: $149.99 ($166.52)

Kaleidoscope 4.0, 2023: $99/yr

Feels like a big ask. OTOH, how do you sustain a business around such a niche tool?

It feels weird because, say, BBEdit is only $49.99 for a perpetual license and about 2 years of feature updates. It does way more than Kaleidoscope, and I spend more than 100x as much time in it. Or, put another way, Kaleidoscope is an expanded version of one of BBEdit’s features, for roughly 4x the price. Plus, there are free alternatives such as FileMerge. Yet that’s not a very useful way of looking at the situation. Kaleidoscope is really good at what it does. For some people the alternatives would suffice, but for others this may be a niche, but it’s a very important one. If a niche product can’t get a lot more customers, the only option seems to be to charge more than the more mass-market products. That can work for a product that when you need it you really need it. As a fan of Kaleidoscope but a light user of it—I do most of my diffing in Tower, BBEdit, and Word—I’m not yet sure which group I’m in.

The main choice, as I see it, is how much development to do. Perhaps one could charge less with fewer new features, built by fewer developers, who are maybe dividing their time among multiple apps. How many new features does the app need, anyway? It already does what I (think I) want; I mainly want it to keep working. But they have lots of ideas and are going in the opposite direction: charging more to support more development. They presumably have reason to expect that they can win over customers who already have perpetual licenses for Kaleidoscope 3.

Another developer tool is Hopper, which has gone from $19 to $45 per major update, to $45 and then $99 per year of updates. To me, it’s similar to Sketch and Kaleidoscope in that I don’t really need a lot of new features, and sometimes I go weeks between uses, but I wouldn’t want to be without it. Hopper is a bit different, though, in that it seems to require regular updates to keep working with Apple’s OS and compiler changes. Those are probably best thought of as new features. Whereas, with Sketch I would expect less breakage due to Apple. The main reason I keep upgrading it is that my designer saves files using the latest version, and then the app scares me into thinking that they won’t work properly if I’m using an older one.


Update (2023-04-22): See also: Twitter, Hacker News, Christian Tietze.

12 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Recognizing and respecting all the challenges of indie software development in 2023, $100 a year for a diffchecker is insane.

I am selling my tool FAF since 2011, usually at for $8. I make constant improvements, and still do not charge anyone extra. Pay once, use forever. Yet, I still make a constant income (which doesn't sustain me by itself, but I also don't have to work on it all the time) that's good enough to keep going. Customers even ask me why I don't ask for extra money for new features. Maybe I would if the App Store would support that. But I don't want to sell feature via IAP, so I keep going steady as I do.

I had experimented with different pricing. The conclusion: If I double the price, I sell half as much. So, I rather keep it low, so that I get more overall exposure. Not the best strategy for niche products, though, I admit. Mine has kind of become a broad "alternative" to Spotlight, and users spread the word, apparently. I'm very lucky that this rather small product keeps giving me a decent income for 12 years now.

I am thinking about selling other products, such as an Excel diff tool, but can't even make my mind up about the positioning and its price. Is that something for lots of people (low price) or only for special cases (high price)?

It's a difficult game to play. I take the fact that Kaleidoscope has now reduced their price that they're thinking similarly.

In the end, I think, the lower price and higher exposure is always the smarter way in the long run. As long as you don't get overwhelmed by the support requests, of course :)


Sketch *really* needs to offer a lower-priced Mac-only subscription.

And I like Kaleidoscope, but if I have to choose a subscription-based app, I'll take Araxis Merge at $49/yr instead.

This is where I step off. I’ve bought every version of Kaleidoscope, but I can’t put it on my work computer where I’d actually use it. Can’t justify a subscription for something I’d barely use.

I know they gotta do what they gotta do…

Count me as another Kaleidoscope user who won’t hop onto the pay-forever bandwagon.

I like Kaleidoscope but not enough to now pay a subscription for it. BeyondCompare is a superior tool for $35/$70 for Standard/Pro. No, it's not a Mac native tool but I don't just use it on Mac so a better fit for me. Wish the best to the Kaleidoscope team.

My Hopper update plan expires tomorrow and I don’t think I’m going to renew it for a while. What I need Hopper to improve at is decoding Objective-C and Swift metadata and I’ve seen no progress and substantial degradation there for a long while now. I know this is in part because of Apple changing things, but it’s hard to justify paying for a tool when I have no idea if that money is even going toward the improvements I need.

Harald Striepe

I do not use Kaleidoscope every day as I use BBedit. But when I use it I need to find things quickly and it's great at what it does. Worth it for me.

I generally like Kaleidoscope, but that feels like quite an ask, especially for a plain subscription instead of the "12 months of updates" type of deal.

I'm curious to see what the future plans are that they've decided that this is the optimal path forward.

At worst, fingers crossed for v3 remaining stable-enough for a long time. 🤞

Indie tools are one thing. But who else thinks that the Apple developer program needs to be $0 and not $99 a year?

I would have no problem with Apple's security theatre if it were $0.

I wrote my first Mac program when I was 12. Freaking 12! I wrote it on a Power Mac 6500, that we used in 2001 still. Actually my mom used that until 2005 I think!

I sold my first (and only, sadly) shareware (a partnership with another developer) in ~2003. So I was ~15 at the time.

We did not have a lot of money. We did get an iMac G4 but I think my mom used that until 2010 long after I moved out, because I think that's the year I hooked her up with an old iMac G5. I never could have justified $99 a year to her. I used dev tools I got from a book/CD from the used book store. I could not have even entered into the legal contract, really. But before all that bullshit all you had to do was upload a .sit file and you have published Mac software. I'd upload stuff to AOL and my own website, bam, I was a developer and that was cool as hell.

The $99 a year is bullshit. How many idealistic young developers have had that boot stamped in their face???

Surely it is not any kind of a real profit center for Apple. All it does is piss on potential new Mac developers (which are few and far between it seems), and disproportionally folks from developing countries.


I quite agree. But I can also anticipate the mainstream Apple pundit response you’d hear if they considered this question:

Apple developer accounts are overwhelmingly for iOS development and releasing apps on the iPhone’s App Store. There’s already, supposedly, a never-ending tsunami of scams and malware submitted to App Review, and the ability for bad actors to throw far more there, cost-free, with burner Apple dev accounts is entirely unacceptable. End of discussion.

I’m less willing to swallow everything Apple says about App Review, however, given the scale of the App Store’s existing scam infestation. Apple should curate. They don’t. They collect taxes and let the monopoly sort it out.

While some of the examples do seem excessive, isn't there also a bit of good news here: that people are apparently willing to pay for developer tools again?

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