FoldingText removed from sale, trying to decide what's next


#1

I removed FoldingText from the Mac App Store last week.

The download at www.foldingtext.com is still there, and requires a license, but I’ve changed the license price to $0. I’m in the process of trying to decide what to do next with the project.

The history

  1. I created FoldingText 1 over 2009-2014 time period together with Mutahhir as main other developer. Goal was plain text productivity platform. Over time markdown became a core component and complexity grew and I started to think maybe this wasn’t turning out to be the project that I was originally trying to build.

  2. In 2014 Hog Bay Software sales weren’t enough to sustain all 4 developers and had to shrink back to just me. Soon afterward I wrapped up a bunch of work that we’d done into FoldingText 2. At this point I wanted project to work for existing users, but I wasn’t using it myself. My efforts were redirected to building TaskPaper 3. TaskPaper’s a less ambitious project, but I think simpler and more in line with my own goals.

  3. Mutahhir decide to come back to create FoldingText 2.1 and 2.2 as a side project (he had/has another full-time job because FoldingText’s not been making enough to support a full-time developer). He added a number of features including the outline view and did lots of smaller updates and code cleanup.

  4. Sales still weren’t sustainable. Since the incremental changes Mutahhir was making weren’t helping sales Mutahhir decided to take it in different and riskier direction that he was interested in exploring. I wasn’t terribly excited by the idea, but I was/am grateful that Mutahhir was still willing to put energy into the project, trying to move it forward.

    Mutahhir put a lot of time and effort into this route, but unfortunately this new take on FoldingText was too much of a departure from the original app. After posting the firsts preview release the reaction was that very few existing FoldingText users thought they could make use of FoldingText in this new form. It just wasn’t what they wanted or could use.

    Mutahhir continued to think about fixes and alternative packagings, but at this point I think the project switched from an interesting possibility into a burden for him. After a few tries at this and that he’s made the decision that it’s just not worth the time and effort to try to bring FoldingText to a new sustainable phase. I understand completely.

    I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but I really want to thank Mutahhir for all his work trying to make FoldingText work. It was a lot of time and effort without much reward the last few years. Thank you for the effort!

What’s next

Mutahhir’s transferred responsibility for FoldingText back to me.

Ideally, I’d like to see the project continue to move forward so that existing users can keep using it. But it’s not financially sustainable right now, and I need to put all of my time into WriteRoom and TaskPaper.

The two scenarios that I can imagine are I find someone else to take over the project, or I open source the code and hope for the best. I’m looking for feedback, what would you like to see me do with this project? Does anyone else have skill/interest in taking it over?


FoldingText - What's going on?
pinned #2

#3

I’ve been using FoldingText for a while, and find it to be a valuable tool to have in my toolbox. I’ve also used TaskPaper and lots of other outliners, but find none of them are really a replacement for FoldingText. The ideas behind it, of modes and scriptability and extensibility, are still very promising.

I’d love to see the product continue to evolve, or at a minimum be maintained with its current features. I think releasing it as an open-source project would help ensure it doesn’t die away. So that’s where my vote goes. I don’t think I can commit to running that project, but I would be interesting in contributing.


#4

I too use FoldingText as a daily part of my workflow and would definitely find it a great shame if it were to disappear.

I’d love to see the code open sourced so that the community has a chance to maintain the core functionality across macOS updates, etc.

+1 vote (if I had one for the open source path).

And a big thank you to Jesse for the write up on where this all stands.

Stephen


#5

That was quite an informative post.

I use foldingtext a lot, for all my writing at the computer, and that’s a lot I would say. I need the tag filtering and the section focusing for my writing and I’m not aware of anyone offering the @tag filtering.
I’m quite happy with the feature set it offers, and I don’t see it as missing anything in particular.

The only thing I would really need is for it to keep working across the future (painful) yearly macOS releases.


#6

I use FoldingText much more than WriteRoom app. FT has more power and really need this app in future. My ideas:
Bring the app price from 29.99 USD to 9.99-14.99 USD. I do no think there is any powerful app available at this cost. So many other apps will fall behind FoldingText. Ask someone or even Mutahhir to continue the app from Mac App store version at this price (atleast maintain it for future release of macOS)

Make it open source but make the license tight and do not allow anyone to make clone on App Store. If you are going to make it open source then develop a community and do not allow anyone to release a clone app on App Store or somewhere else.


#7

FT is my favourite markdown compatible app and the power features make it essential for my workflows.

I’m not sure if the technology behind it can be rolled into any of your current projects but it would be great if possible.

Alternatively, if another developer like DEVON technologies took it onboard and integrated it into DEVONthink that would be a great improvement on the native handlind of markdown for example. Sorry if these suggestions are technically naive.

Otherwise I’d like to see it open sourced. In any case best of luck with the future of FT and WR.


#8

I use FoldingText as my default text editor, writing both short texts and long documents. To me, it is the best markdown editor available. I do not need any further features, the folding mechanism plus the outline view are perfect and I even like its simplicity (sometimes, I use todo mode, as well). I also love TaskPaper, but I see FT as a Swiss army knife for all writing tasks. I would highly appreciate its continuation. But as I’m not a developer, I cannot offer any help, sorry.


#9

Many thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Jesse, and to you and Mutahhir for the work on FT so far.
I use TP for my to-do/project list, and FT for structured overviews on specific topics. For the latter purpose, I am also trying the (free version of) the Agenda Notes app, but so far I am not quite getting what it adds, except perhaps for the additional iOs app.

That said, I expect to continue using FT for various writing-related things. Of course I hope that FT will remain alive and will evolve with the Mac updates whenever necessary, but I perfectly understand that it has to make sense from a business perspective.

In any case, whatever you decide, many thanks.
Paul


#10

I too use FT on a daily basis and am rather satisfied with it as it is right now. My baseline hope then is to see it maintained for compatibility with future macOS versions.

I’m no expert at this but the way I see it, going the open-source route would be the best way to assure sustainability with minimal effort ; you could transfer the “ownership” (I’m pretty sure this is not the right term, forgive me) of the open-source project to an enthusiast user who has the skill to maintain it.

I have the intuition that programmatically skilled users among all the FT user base could be enough of a community to keep it alive. Let’s see if other code-savvy users chime-in along with @tsmall.


#11

Thanks for keeping us updated, @jessegrosjean. And @mutahhir, thanks for keeping FT alive for so long. It’s become essential to the way I think and work — no joke.

  1. Will the next version of WriteRoom have Markdown support?

  2. I’d be willing to pay more than a single user license to keep FT alive. @jessegrosjean, I’d absolutely support a crowd-funding project, if you have a financial goal in mind. Maybe us die-hard FT users could help fund the maintenance?


#12

I would hate to see FT go. It’s my everyday thinking/planning app. I’ve been using outliners of various sorts for many, many years all the way back to Acta. Before FT, my goto was CircusPonies notebook, but that died. Guess I’ll take a look at DevonThink again. No fan of markdown, I just like the idea of pure text and the ability to collapse block. Always wished for drag and drop, though.


#13

I also use FoldingText as my primary text editor – essentially all of my writing (and I write for a living) starts on FT. I’ve tried other Markdown editors, they’re fine, but they don’t work as well, as quickly or as cleanly as FT does.

For my part, I’d be willing to pay more, or even pay a subscription, for continued development, whether by @jessegrosjean, @mutahhir and/or someone else. I’d be all for open-sourcing it as well. (If I knew anything about app development, I’d offer to help!)

I’m hugely grateful to both of you for all that you’ve done in creating, improving and maintaining the app. I hope it’ll keep going in some form.


#14

I created an account just to comment on this.

First let me echo everyone here. Folding Text is my daily driver on all my writing/planning projects. It’s so powerful and subtle. I love my Mac more because of it. In fact, the Mac wouldn’t be the same without it!

Now as a product marketer, allow me to take a different cut at this:

  • You have something magical here @jessegrosjean. If this thread is any indication, we’re diehard users who would be sooo disappointed if Folding Text dies. (Even I felt motivated enough to write this post, and I almost never do this kind of thing! I just couldn’t see FT die).

  • I think one problem is that we, diehard users, haven’t been asked about our expectations from Folding Text, its biggest benefits to our daily work, and what more we want to get out of it. Think about it. Where’s the survey that asks daily users like me about FT’s greatest benefit to me, and how it can be even more awesome? I would fill that survey in a heartbeat!
    P.S. If you’re skeptical about surveys or why this works, I hear you. Take a few minutes to read this post by Rahul Vohra of Superhuman. It might change not just your perspective, but how you actively develop ALL your products, let alone Folding Text!

  • If FT is not selling well, maybe what you need is not more features, but better marketing (big shocker from a marketer, but hear me out!). I know all your landing pages are low-key, but Folding Text’s webpage is a massive undersell!
    I don’t mean that you should go overboard with bells and whistles, but think how easy it is to miss FT’s unique features if you just happen on this page (on your quest for a minimal text editor, with 10 other products to compare). I get the simple aesthetic that mirrors what Folding Text is like, but that’s only evident in hindsight for someone already using FT.

TL;DR I honestly think that you shouldn’t dismiss a) talking to users (get more out of us, we’re ready for it) and b) making an effort to market FT more persuasively to highlight its unique features to more people like us diehard users. You’d be surprised how far these two things can take you (Hint: Grab a cup of coffee and read Rahul’s post for more on that).

Finally, a huuuge thank you @jessegrosjean and @mutahhir for bring us Folding Text! It’s here for us every day, and now we’re here for it too!

Do not go gentle into that good night. – Dylan Thomas


#15

If I could only keep one writing app, it would be FoldingText. I tried out every app through the years, and I have to say: this is it. It feels so pure. It is uncluttered. It is intelligent. To me it completes the idea of markdown. Markdown is great, but it is not enough without a good interface, which is FoldingText. The folding and unfolding of text comes so natural. What I like is that it happens right in the text space, which is free of any bells and whistles and distraction. Oh, and those tags! Wonderful.

All other apps are just UIs shouting in my face with controls and complexity. Sure, some apps have a focus mode, but the rest of the app remains complex.

I think I would pay yearly to have this app maintained – just maintained, not needing any new feature – so this is saying a lot. Look, most apps have these version upgrades every year or so, and I actually hate it. These apps already hold my data hostage in their proprietary format that changes with each upgrade. It’s such a hassle. And if I don’t pay, I can’t use the app on the new system, or access my old data. Markdown has changed that for me. But it all comes down to interface. FoldingText is it. If only there was an iPad app too.

Just a bug free FoldingText is what I need, and I don’t need a gazillion features added in the future. I would be happy using the same writing tool for the next ten years.

It’s awful when an app you love disappears. Consistency is what you need in life. And this goes for the tools we use every day too. Creativity and productivity lies in consistency. Losing this app would seriously cripple a lot of people, I think.


#16

Thanks again for all the thoughts.

I also don’t want to see FoldingText disappear.

I am happy and proud of the 2.x version. I don’t use it much, but I do like to just open the user’s guide, scroll around and see how things look… for me the design is standing up well over time. The UI is clean. The menus are clean. I still find it an attractive place to type out a few thoughts from time to time. I’d love to launch it in 30 years and still see the same thing.

My problem is time/focus/money. Hog Bay Software’s sales aren’t great the last few years. I need to focus on my apps that make money and I have future ideas for: TaskPaper and WriteRoom. I’m slow enough updating them without another project to think about.

Even open sourcing FoldingText is problematic. It would require time to cleanup and document to give people a chance: and still there’s a good chance the project would just disappear anyway. Or would turn into something that I’m not really proud of.

The last few (just keep it as it is) comments are appealing to me, thanks! They very much align with my own thoughts for what I would like from the project. I don’t see it as a project that I want to build future features onto, but I would very much like to see it continue working as is long term. If other’s see value in that then maybe there’s a way forward.

I’m not making a final decision now, but unless something changes I think that’s a good goal and one that I can likely accomplish. Keep FoldingText working as is long term. With that in mind I see the project as “good” right now.

The biggest future risk is that it needs to eventually move away from using old and deprecated WebView API.That’s a doable job, but one that I don’t have time for right now, but could likely find time for post WriteRoom 4.

I’ll think about this a bit more, but keeping FoldingText going as is is an attractive option.

Thanks,
Jesse


#17

I‘m a computer science teacher and I love using FoldingText. It’s the perfect tool for organizing my teaching material in Markdown files. So please keep FoldingText working as long as possible. Maybe donations on the FoldingText website could be an idea to compensate for the ongoing work - count me in!


#18

I am a real fan of TaskPaper. I just posted to the TaskPaper forums, asking if lists can be implemented in TaskPaper in the future.

Looking at the movie for FoldingText, I get the clear impression that FoldingText is primarily for those who love writing in markdown. More power to them, nothing personal, but I am not one who uses - or is ever likely to use markdown.

Unless I am missing something, I think that FoldingText cannot replace TaskPaper in my workflow. No less files, focused mainly on using markdown syntax, OK, it folds which is nice but then, so does TaskPaper.

Is there any way to fold any of the features in FoldingText, over to and into TaskPaper? Or, are the two concepts just totally foreign to each other? What if FoldingText could use TaskPaper less files and or TaskPaper could use the smart list feature in FoldingText?

Just my two cents.


#19

I agree with your concerns, open sourcing a project is not easy if you want to publish code in a clean and understandable (to some extent, at least) state. On the other hand, keeping FT in the present version and with no further updates/fixes, will make it unusable quite soon.
It is a hard choice…


#20

Coming late to this I realize but wanted to echo quite a few of the comments above.

FoldingText is, as Merlin Mann described TaskPaper, ‘plain text with magic juju added’. The simplicity of the idea embedded in both apps is the joy of it.

The magic added to FT is key for my productivity. I have an FT window open as my catch-all for notes and tasks and when I need to blast through things, I set up a schedule.

The other use I have is for long form text where I can fold sections and headings down.

I don’t need anything else frankly, I’d keep it as is but ensuring compatibility with upcoming OS’s would be good. Happy to pay for an update, just to say it, even if that update was no more than keeping things running.