Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Panic Launches Nova

I know that today in the Apple technology landscape is overwhelmingly about the new versions of mobile and television operating systems, but I would like to direct your attention to Nova from Panic. It is the successor to Coda and, in my limited use today, it seems like all of the things a good Mac app from Panic ought to be. It is fast, entirely native, has a great user interface, and will quickly nestle itself into my day-to-day work.

There are many major differences from Coda, most of which I expect my ancient web development workflow will fail to uncover. However, there are two obvious ones. First, Nova is a Mac-only app, at least for now. You can still get the “Code Editor” on your iOS and iPadOS devices until Panic releases an iOS companion app that it says will “balance […] Nova-like functionality, and Transmit-like functionality”.

The second big difference is how much it costs. Panic is switching to a blended subscription model similar to the one Sketch uses:

Nova will be $99, or $79 if you own Coda. When you buy it, you own it. Plus, your purchase includes one year of new features and fixes, released the moment they’re ready. After that, you can get another year of updates at any point — even much later — for $49/year. That’s it!

This strikes me as an agreeable balance between an outright purchase and a full subscription. I bought Coda 2 a little more than eight years ago for $49. I am not sure if that was the discounted price for upgrading from Coda 1 or if it was a student rate but, in any case, I have somehow paid just $6 per year to use Coda.

In a sense, this is how good things are supposed to work. My favourite records are, on a per-listen basis, the least-expensive albums I’ve bought; I would have a different relationship with them if I had to pay for every listen. But software is not like that. It needs constant work, and it can be difficult to patch bugs in free updates while trying to build a worthy major new version. That is especially true for a company as fastidious as Panic. And, since the App Store and Apple’s software, more generally, have eschewed the very concept of paid updates, we’re now stuck with subscriptions as a way to finance ongoing work.

Here’s the problem: a user may not have an ongoing need for a piece of software. I certainly have several Mac apps that I use only occasionally, and could never justify paying monthly or even annually. However, most of these apps have worked without updates across several MacOS versions, and I would have no problem with paying for an update if needed.

As version numbers become increasingly irrelevant in an era of ongoing patches, bug fixes, and feature updates, this pricing model seems like a fair compromise for users and for Panic.