1. An IPS alternative for those patches which exclusively use other formats. (This option will not happen because the creators are as stubborn as I am and are not including IPS for the sole purpose of wanting to phase it out sooner.)
As said before, the patch size is definitively a concern. With some data patterns, using IPS causes the patch to just include whole intact chunks of the ROM and that's a big no-no and many patches have been taken down because of this (they might have as well distributed the ROM intact), so people try avoiding the IPS format for such data patterns.
Each single format of those has its usefulness. Think of it like file formats - you wouldn't want to store a scan of a book page in gif/jpg format, would you?
2. An all-in-one patching program that will accept all of the common patching formats (IPS, UPS, BPS, Xdelta). That way, I don't have to have 8 different patching programs and look up how to patch some other format every single time I want to patch something.
Hint: look at the file extension.
As for an all-in-one solution... There's Floating IPS
which associates IPS and BPS file formats with it. The "Open" Shell command in Windows then loads the tool and asks for the ROM to be patched. It's just missing the UPS format (which is just an extension to the IPS format, just without the 16MB limit), Xdelta and PPF, otherwise it would be perfect.
You guys want me to do one option:
1. Just learn the new formats and accept that IPS is going away, and stop complaining. (I will not do this option until I can work with other patching formats with just as much ease as I can with IPS.)
Learn the new formats... what's there to learn even? It's just utilities.
IPS is going away because of its format limitations.
More and more emulator devs are supporting other formats than IPS for on-the-fly patching. Even with those who don't, nothing stopping you from pre-patching it yourself with a few mouse clicks (assuming the interface is clean).
I understand that these new formats were partially developed as a "solution" to the headered/unheadered dilemma, but if you ask me, this "solution" could have been done better. Basically, you just transferred the headache of choosing the ROM type onto the patches themselves. Now every time someone wants to patch a ROM, they have to do even more effort than it would've taken to find the correctly headered/unheadered ROM with IPS patches before. Now we not only have to find the exact ROM with the exact checksum and (usually) unheadered version, we now also have to have a separate patching program for each and every format. I now have to choose whether or not a hack is worth all that effort to play, and most hacks simply don't look interesting/useful enough to be worth it, whereas they would have been worth it with the IPS format.
For SNES games, the ones concerned with the header problem, you can actually ADD or REMOVE the header as you see fit. Whatever ROM you have can be made to be the "correct" one.
Tools to add/remove headers exist, like tush, but they could solve these problems better if their functionality is included in the ideal all-in-one patching utility you want. Even a dirty fix like patching the SNES rom twice and generating two ROMs, one headered and the other not, and then the user testing both to see which one works (the wrong one will probably corrupt pointers and/or programming).
With IPS and UPS, checking the ROM to see if it's the correct one isn't that important. That's why one could superimpose graphical hacks intended for a specific base rom in no particular order using those formats.
With xdelta and beat there's some data shifting going around and these checks become necessary, lest the patching tool ends up shifting the wrong data around the ROM and tearing down with it a trail of utter chaos.
Considering patching tools started adding such checks and that it's also a very useful feature to have, UPS, being the extension of the set-in-stone IPS format, can afford to add a integrity check section the same way. It's often optional for that format (some tasteless UPS patchers don't offer the choice though).