Wednesday, April 6, 2016

TextExpander 6 and

Maia Olson:

Smile, the developer of productivity applications for Mac, iPad and iPhone, has launched, the easy way to share snippets across a team, along with new app versions TextExpander 6 for Mac, TextExpander 4 for iPhone and iPad, and the new TextExpander for Windows beta. TextExpander keeps your snippets current on all your devices and lets you easily share and manage snippets across whole teams.

New sharing options let you share the wealth of knowledge stored in your snippets. For powerful sharing management across a team of users set up a TextExpander Organization

Greg Scown:

The key to making this all work is our new web application with secure, centralized storage. We’ve built a responsive system based on Meteor, and we’re excited to host it on Galaxy. We use the same responsive features in our apps, so your changes are reflected immediately on all of your devices. Add a snippet on one device, and it’s available on all your other devices. Share a group with someone, and it’s available on all of their devices.

Joseph Keller:

You can grab TextExpander for Mac on directly from Smile, while the new iPhone and iPad app is available now on the App Store. While both are free to download, you will need a account in order to use them.

John Voorhees:

Here’s the thing that will make the new pricing model difficult to swallow for some customers – Dropbox and iCloud sync of snippet libraries, which previously didn’t cost anything extra, are being replaced with a subscription-based sync solution with a relatively high price, and if you have a large library of snippets built over many years, they will be inaccessible unless you sign up for a subscription.

Susie Ochs:

That should work for most people, but companies can step up to the “Team” plan. That’s $9.95 per month per user, or $95.52 per year per user. The Team plan adds organizational control over which snippets are shared with whom, managing team members and permissions, and so on. Smile’s new TextExpander site makes a great case for using the service for business—you could keep customer-service responses consistent and current among multiple coworkers, share snippets of code or HTML, make sure everyone has the correct spelling of a particularly tricky name, and so on.

Jordan Merrick:

1Password’s approach to subscriptions is that it’s a value-added service. 1Password works exactly the same before, and after, Teams and Families were launched, though subscribers have access to a range of extra features and functionality.

Smile’s approach with TextExpander, however, appears heavy handed. Instead of trying to entice users with the benefits or features of their new subscription service, the company has issued an ultimatum to their userbase. A subscription is required for any future versions and there is no committment to support of TextExpander 5 and TextExpander Touch 3, should any OS updates affect functionality.

Don McAllister:

I’d have said monetise the Team option with a subscription but leave individual users with current setup for now.

Paul Haddad:

I got a feeling this won’t end well.

Jonathan Wight:

Dropping iCloud or Dropbox sync for your app means reinventing a strong security model. I don’t see Smile or DayOne hiring a security team…

TJ Luoma (via John Gruber, comments):

But is this just another case of “Users are cheap and don’t value developers’ time?” I don’t think so. […] There’s the rub for Smile and TextExpander: I don’t see anything that I really need in TextExpander version 6. I’m not using it with a “team” and my family members probably have no interest in sharing a group of text snippets with me. Yes, I realize that Smile made their own syncing service, but I have used iCloud, Dropbox, and BitTorrent Sync, and they work fine for TextExpander. Creating their own syncing service was solving a problem that I didn’t have.

Joe Cieplinski:

And that’s what makes TextExpander an interesting case. Is it “pro” software? Or is it more like a consumer product? I tend to think of it as somewhere in between.


Because I actually use TextExpander, I find myself in a position of having to evaluate this decision to go subscription-only from two different perspectives: that of a fellow developer, and that of an actual customer of the product.

Kirk McElhearn:

I really do feel bad to have to say this; I think the people at Smile are great, and they make excellent software. But I think they’ve made a big mistake, essentially increasing the price of this app by more than double.


There are a few things that took place several years ago, and it has taken developers a while to adjust to the new model.

The most significant change is that operating system upgrades are now free and they come out every year. OSX upgrades used to cost $50-$100 dollars and they only were released ever few years. This meant that most people would remain on the same OS for 5 years or more. With that model, a developer could develop an app and sell that app for years without too much maintenance work. Aside from that, it was generally understood that you would need to purchase an upgrade for that app if and when you ever did upgrade your OS.


The only problem with the subscription model is … you end up paying the developer before they produce something. With a normal perpetual license, you get to decide if the new version is worthy of investment before you purchase the license.


Whether a subscription works or not really depends on the app. Microsoft and Adobe can force subs on their users because there users will not/can not risk millions of legacy files by moving to something else.

Now, will an app that handles text snippets have the same kind of hold on its user base, or will their customers simply move to something else?

Dr. Drang:

Overall, the balance was in favor of keeping TextExpander. Until today’s announcement of The New TextExpander: Snippets as a Service™. Now I’m being asked to pay more, and continuously, to subscribe to a utility that does less than another utility I already own.


So unless I discover some compelling reason to stick with the new TextExpander, at some point in the near future I’ll start exploring ways to migrate my collection of snippets over to Keyboard Maestro. I understand from Twitter that this makes me a horrible person who doesn’t want software developers to make a decent living. So be it.

David Sparks:

With all of these changes, Smile has switched TextExpander to a subscription model. I know that makes some users nervous but, frankly, I think it is a good idea. As a fan of productivity software, I’d really like the companies that make my favorite tools stay in business. In order for TextExpander to continue to get the love and attention it needs to make my life so much easier, it needs ongoing support. TextExpander is so worth it.

Katie Floyd:

There’s also another important benefit to the new model, Smile has a steady revenue stream with which to continue development of their products. If you take a look at the company’s “About Us” page, you’ll see more than a dozen smiling faces of real people who work at Smile and depend on the revenue their apps and services generate.

Personally, I don’t like subscription models for software and I wish there was a better way. However, as someone who has used Smile’s products daily for years, I want to make sure this team is able to continue developing the products I’ve come to rely on.

Jeff Gamet:

Greg Scown from Smile Software, along with Dave Hamilton and John Martellaro, join Jeff Gamet to look at subscription software models, what benefits they can offer, and why some people oppose them.

Here are the main points, as I see them:

It’s hard to make money selling apps. I sympathize with the desire to have a recurring subscription revenue stream. More developers should probably be experimenting with different pricing models.

You can debate whether the app is worth it, but the bottom line is that the price increase is huge in percentage terms. TextExpander 4 was $35 in 2012, and there was a $20 update for TextExpander 5 in May of 2015, about three years later. Now, after less than a year, the price for a yearly subscription is $47.52. (There is a one-time, one-year 50% discount for previous customers.) So the price for three years has gone from $20 to $142.56. I have paid for a lot of apps recently, and the only ones that are in that price range are Microsoft Office, Adobe Lightroom, and TurboTax. TextExpander is a great app, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s in that league.

With Microsoft and Adobe, it takes multiple years of subscription payments to equal the previous single payment. So it was more a change in payment model than an increase in price. And the subscription offered the benefit of never having to suddenly make a large payment.

On the iOS side, TextExpander touch 2 was $5 in 2013, and version 3 was $5 in 2014, for a total of $10 over the last 3+ years. So if you primarily care about the iOS version, the price increase is even larger.

Unlike with 1Password 6, there is no option to keep using the old Dropbox syncing method. This makes it seem like you’re getting more for your subscription, but as a prior customer I see a feature being taken away.

The new service makes it really easy to share snippets with other people, and it sounds like there are big plans for more team/collaborative features in future versions. This is really cool, but I have no personal interest in using those features. It seems like the product is being refocused for a different audience. There is essentially nothing new aside from the sharing. Some people have said that the app was essentially complete, but there are a lot of new features and refinements that I would have liked to see. Will they be added in future versions? It sure seems like the focus is going to be on the online features.

For me, the new service is actually a regression because it’s less private. I trust the folks at Smile, but as a matter of policy I don’t like to give apps network access without good reason. Before, TextExpander could run without network access, it would sync via Dropbox, and I could see all the data in the Dropbox folder. Now, you need to log into an account just to launch the app, and the app itself uploads all of your snippets to a server, which is not encrypted, even if you don’t want to sync with any other devices. Smile says that no keystroke data is uploaded, however. Furthermore, the app isn’t sandboxed (because Apple does not offer the right entitlement), so in addition to having access to everything I type it can also access every file on the Mac.

There are lots of Mac typing expansion apps. I’m not aware of any good alternatives on iOS, though. Because iOS is locked down, there is no way for a developer to write a utility like this that works in every app. (There is a keyboard extension, but to use it you have to give up Apple’s predictive keyboard as well as 3D Touch cursor movement.) Instead, Smile put a lot of effort into creating an SDK and convincing developers of popular apps to build in support for TextExpander. This is a great barrier to entry.

The subscription plan can be seen as a way to work around App Store issues. The App Store doesn’t offer trials, so the TextExpander app is now free, and you can use the TextExpander account for 30 days before paying. The App Store doesn’t offer upgrades, but the subscription lets you keep paying without the messiness of replacing the app every year, losing the ratings and reviews, and customers not knowing about the new app. Apple takes a 30% cut from apps sold in the store, but Smile handles payments directly from its own site.

It is said that customers don’t like to pay for upgrades. I wonder how much of this is because Apple has conditioned them, through the App Store and its own app and OS updates, to expect all updates to be free.

TextExpander 5 still works, but there is no commitment to offer bug fix updates for it. Long-term, it’s not a good idea to rely on an app that Apple might break with an OS update.

It’s quite possible that TextExpander will lose marketshare but increase its revenue. Smile’s technical support burden could be greatly reduced because they now control the service end-to-end.

Update (2016-04-06): Dan Ridley Hallock:

I bought TextExpander version 1 in 2006 and I’ve purchased every upgrade since then plus the iOS release, and it’s added up to $85, or about $8.50 per year on average.

Greg Scown:

For those who prefer to stay with TextExpander 5 for now, we intend to support it on El Capitan and the next major upgrade of OS X[…]

This contradicts what was reported before but is good news.

Jordan Merrick:

What I do find concerning is that the follow-up makes no mention of continued support of TextExpander touch 3 for iOS. The app has been removed from the App Store, so it seems they’ve completely dropped support for it.


It’s not certain what will happen to apps that make use of TextExpander’s SDK for snippet support, when the SDK is updated. Will snippets continue to work and sync from TextExpander touch 3, or will any updates to the SDK require the new, subscription-based app? If it’s the latter, then every time I update my apps, it could be the last time my snippets will work.

Gabe Weatherhead:

They call it a subscription model but I’m going to call it app renting. I think of a subscription as a recurring fee for ownership. When I rent, I get an access and usage permission but I get nothing to keep.


When it comes down to it, I just don’t trust every developer to be good at securing my data even if I like their apps. I look at their software and the bugs I stumble over then think about what that means for their back-end design. I wonder how they document their security roles and what their schedule is for a pen-test. How is the data treated at rest? Who has access to the database or even the connection details? When was the last time they were audited by a third party? These are things I don’t want to think about when I create a text snippet.

Update (2016-04-07): Rene Ritchie:

Expensive software isn’t a problem in a world where the average person wants or needs six apps a year. But when they want or need 60? 600? More?

Many continue to lament the loss of value in software. Yet, when developers resort to new apps or new business models, there’s a backlash. That highlights the disconnect — how does traditional software thrive in the age of pop apps?


The money issue aside, I look at how I’m being treated as a customer. And that’s the biggest place Smile is changing my opinion of them and their software

Not only did they change the model, but they removed features that competed with their new marquee feature.

Eddie Smith:

I guess what I’m saying is, what if developers are just human beings. Normal people?

John Gruber:

I’ve been loath to pile on here, because I try to be outspoken in favor of sustainable app pricing, especially for utility apps. But TextExpander was already well-priced.

Update (2016-04-08): Accidental Tech Podcast (tweet) hypothesizes that this is an intentional “firing” of the non-pro customers. One of the reasons people are upset is that, if you liked the product and were a loyal paying customer, it doesn’t feel good to essentially be told that you are no longer wanted.

Peter Cohen:

Paying for software in the same way as we pay for electricity may seem odd. Most software isn’t as essential as a cell phone or working lights, but the same rule applies for service - you should expect to pay something for its continued maintenance and development.

That is, of course, predicated on the assumption that you find that service worth paying for to begin with. If you don’t, you can vote with your wallet.

Glenn Fleishman:

This first iteration is overpriced for most users’ needs, and removing the ability to use TextExpander on a standalone basis with a less efficient personal sync doesn’t give existing customers any advantage.


The one significant change in the apps, by the way, involves both improvement and omission. A redesigned snippet editor has dropdown menus with all the special features, like inserting time-based placeholders, system keys, fill-in items, and the rest. This is a far superior interface for both new and experienced users. The editor is identical across the Mac, iOS, and web apps.

However, there’s also a step back. TextExpander for OS X used to have a split-pane view that provided a live preview as you assembled a snippet. This preview now requires a keystrokes (Command-Return), which produces a modal dialog that has to be dismissed.


I believe Smile’s approach is naive given the current security [climate].

Matt Henderson:

Today closes the book on 10 years with @textexpander, as I migrated all my snippets to @keyboardmaestro—which I’ve also used for 10 years!

That’s one of the odd things about this situation: the competing products are multi-purpose, and I already own/use most of them.

Update (2016-04-10): Allison Sheridan interviews Greg Scown (via Katie Floyd).

Dr. Drang:

A few days ago, I wrote about how the new version of TextExpander doesn’t have any compelling features for me and that I’d probably start migrating my snippets from TextExpander to Keyboard Maestro. This post describes a macro I wrote that performs some of that migration.

Peter Maurer (previously):

As hinted at a few days ago, I’m somewhat saddened by the move, as I’m not a fan of subscriptions. But! …

... I don’t know their numbers, so I try not to judge. And finally, it’s been their app much longer than mine. :)

Update (2016-04-12): Guy Ettore (son of TypeIt4Me creator Riccardo):

We don’t want anyone to misread a tight-lipped response, so here goes: our view is that Smile’s new plan constitutes a bold move, albeit not one we would consider making ourselves.


At times, yes, we’ve envied Smile’s larger talent pool and the superior resources that ultimately enabled their dev team to outpace us. All the while, we couldn’t help but doff our caps, because they’re consummate professionals and we are indebted to them for popularising text expansion. Smile cannily leveraged sponsorship and used its affiliate relationships to introduce text expansion to the mainstream at a time when we simply weren’t equipped to do so. Throughout the years they and our other friendly competitors have motivated us to keep raising our game.

Far from rubbing our hands with schadenfreude, we’re mainly a bit spooked by some of the unbridled scorn being poured on a previously well-regarded team that’s successfully marketed a solid, dependable utility for years.

Ben Elijah:

I get the feeling that Smile is trying to straddle both jobs using the same model. This feels like a mistake. I would like to propose a business plan which respects the two jobs that I hire TextExpander to perform, and generate good recurring revenue to Smile in exchange for increasing the value it offers to customers.

I’ve written new post about Smile’s announcement that they are lowering the subscription prices and committing to keep supporting TextExpander 5.

Update (2016-04-13): John Gruber:

I see some amount of risk, and no benefit, with storing my text snippets on Smile’s servers.

Brett Terpstra:

The major mistake in the announcement of the new model was a failure to explain the benefits of it, or to provide any major new features along with it that would be relevant to individual users. The touted benefit of the subscription model was group sharing, which is really an enterprise feature, and it felt like individual users were being forced to pay for something they didn’t require.

Eddie Smith:

Software is a developer’s knowledge; my data are my knowledge. Where should they be allowed to play together? The developer’s house? My house? Or some sandbox in the sky?

60 Comments RSS · Twitter

Smile has said they'll support version 5 through the next major OS X release.

But bottom line, they need to stay in business. People can argue about price increases all they want, but if upfront pricing+upgrades aren't enough they have two options. Either shut down or try something different. They have families to feed - they really only have one choice. If some customers don't like that, then too bad for them. Smile's families are more important than people's "principles".

@Jimmy It seems like everyone likes the product and wants them to stay in business, feed their families, etc. Are switching to subscriptions, and massively raising the price, and ignoring “island” users the way to do that? Are there any other Mac apps that have made such a huge turn? I can’t think of any at the moment. The product has been around for more than 10 years, apparently profitably. The competing products seem to be doing fine—though their companies are smaller. What changed? Is this a last-ditch effort to save a failing product? Or are they swinging for the fences to make it a really big business?

Looks like a perfect opportunity for a developer to come in and steal the business way for smile. I will not be upgrading. I have been a user for several years and had no issue paying for every release that smile has done. I would have liked to see smile do a 20 upgrade fee and then a team subscription.

I think they should have gotten the advise of some of there users before jumping into a new business model.

Jimmy: Of course they need to stay in business, feed their families etc, I do think everyone here is well aware of that. The question is if this big change, both the large increase in price and the move to subscription only, really is the only option to keep Smile in business? And also, what if this move is what actually causes them to shut down because they loose to many customers? No one wants that either.

The people criticizing the subscription model generally say that they are more than willing to pay a fair price for the product and upgrades. I know I am. If I were a user of TextExpander I would look for other products right now, because I want to remain in control of when and if I decide to upgrade. I do pay subscriptions for services (CrashPlan, Dropbox, Pinboard etc), but not products and to me this is a product. I also would like to know what I'm paying for, rather than paying now and finding out later if it's something that I want or not. Of course, that is the kind of customers they are willing to loose with this move.

"They need to stay in business" ... Agreed. And I have no problem with subscription pricing, and find it a much more reasonable than paid upgrades that occur at random.

But that's not a blank check. The price has to match what I get out of it.

If the "old" TextExpander loses support and stops working under some future OS release. I'll look at other options. It's not THAT complicated a thing to do, as there are competitors.

I fear that this new TextExpander and all it's extra group functions and "pro" features, are a solution for problems few people have, or are looking for.

The iOS side of all this will get very interesting. Smile has convinced a lot of iOS app developers to support the TextExpander SDK, how do those developers feel now that those features come with a $45 a year price tag, instead of the $5 app that it used to be. Be prepared to see developer adoption of it drop away.

Maybe Smile's afraid that Apple may improve their own built in text expansion features on the Mac & iOS to where TextExpander gets "Sherlocked".

It's kinda similar to Fantastical 2. I use the lapsed earlier version of Fantastical, a menu utility. With version 2 it became a full iCal replacement app, and was twice the price. It was no longer the elegant little app I originally bought, and therefore haven't upgraded.

I guess "feature bloat" is no longer a just a big developer thing.

I've used TextExpander for years, but the value is just not there for me. I'm not interested in any of their new features. I don't want to share. I don't need an iOS version. I don't need a Windows version and I certainly don't want to use their new sync option.

I feel like I bought a Ford but now they will only sell me a Rolls Royce.

TypeIt4Me is a great alternative. Reasonably priced. Does just what I want.

Single user license: $19.99
Student price: $13.99
Upgrade: $8.99

How to import TextExpander snippets into TypeIt4Me

I think, the problem is the competition. Look at Typinator, for example: it can do the same things for 24$. Look at aText: an exact clone for 5$. There is only limited amount of features people need from a snippet manager, even a good one. TextExpander was overpriced, but Smile did some very good advertising and built an army of fanatical customers over the years. Maybe sells were stagnating so Smile went for business customers. I wish them luck, but as a non-business customer I would never support SaaS. Even though I have no problems with paying for updates and software in general.

I will preface this by saying: I am an aspiring app developer. I fully believe you should pay for great software. I'm not mad at Smile for this, it just seems like a disaster from a business standpoint.

This move seems insane to me. 5$ a month for text expansion? That just seems ridiculously high. I bought AText before I knew about Text Expander, for 5$. It does almost everything I could want from a text expander and I paid once. Is that a fair price? It's debatable but it's what the developer priced it at. So I can buy AText and get all the features I need or pay Smile 5$ for a month of service for a bunch of features I don't need. (Yes some users will need those features but I doubt the vast majority of them do.) I looked into the differences between Text Expander 5 and AText and there were very few things Text Expander did that AText didn't. I'd guess that 90% of users would have all their needs met by AText. This just seems like Smile is banking on the name recognition of Text Expander and hoping people won't look into alternatives.

Text expansion is a utility not a service to me. Maybe I don't see Smiles master plan but they sure haven't demonstrated to me 5$ of value/month.

I hope this works out for them, they are a dynasty, but I fear this isn't going to go well.

"This is really cool, but I have no personal interest in using those features. It seems like the product is being refocused for a different audience."

Only way it makes any sense at all.

If it's a not an enterprise focus, (with an odd willingness to needlessly abandon the current audience), they're just nuts.

I don't like that other people who subscribed to TextExpander is making us sound so horrible just because we don't like the subscription model. Horrible that we don't want the developers to be able to provide for their families. We also are human being that strive to succeed and find ways to feed our families. $5 a month may be small for some but for most people its not. That $5 can feed me lunch today and tomorrow. That amount is no joke to me. For Smile to convinced me to spend my well-earned $5, they have to make a very compelling reason for me to upgrade to a subscription model. I am comfortable with the upgrade mill as they say, and willing to pay for TE6 as an app.

I have paid for every TextExpander upgrade every time they released it and I always get a family license even though I'm using it as a single user because I want to provide Smile with more revenue because I care about the product. So don't use the "look at the About Us page" like they are the only people that matters. We are people too, just like Smile.

Given the timing of the notice that I received, I had thought the announcement to be some sort of April Fool's joke.

In my case, while I've used TE since at least version 2 and had religiously upgraded it, I've just deleted it, since while obviously they've gotten my upgrade fees for years, this is just too weird, and I decided to look around. Discovered that Dash had snippet support that I'd never used and it works just as well for my purposes. Frankly, it's less obtrusive anyway.

I can't imagine what the endgame is here, but this feels like a Twilight Zone episode. I was a solid customer, and had been for what must be at least 8 years. I can't be the only one who just took the exit; whatever the new focus is must be of rockstar quality to want to make such a drastic change.

@Chucky I guess they either really miscalculated the needs of their current audience, or the people talking about this online are not representative of the customer base, or they think it’s better to lose the current audience rather than offer a lower tier product that makes the enterprise version—which is where the real money is—look like a bad deal.

two problems I see: 1) single-users are being asked to subsidize Smile's attempt to cater to enterprise/multi-user customers, and 2) there's no education pricing - as the ProfHacker blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education has pointed out numerous times , TE is a great tool for academic work, teaching, grading, etc. But no grad student is going to adopt it at $60/year when there are much cheaper alternatives.

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The problem with Smile's new software rental model is the value they bring and the features they cut.

Microsoft Office + 1 TB OneDrive Cloud Storage = $99 a year. For HIPAA Compliant Security, Microsoft Office for Business + 1 TB OneDrive Cloud Storage = $150 a year.
Adobe Creative Cloud - including Photoshop = $120 a year.

TextExpander for $45 to $100 a year simply does not give enough value for the user. It is totally overpriced for what it does.

It is further heinous to remove support for DropBox for synchronizing snippets. I have ZERO need for synchronizing via their insecure server. And I don't want to pay for it.

>> This is really cool, but I have no personal interest in using those features. It seems like the product is being refocused for a different audience.

> Only way it makes any sense at all.

Agreed with Michael and Chucky. If that's their goal, then it makes sense. If not, they messed up.

I can see this being very useful in an enterprise context, e.g. for a support department (though they probably use some ticketing system that provides the same kind of feature already).

Personally, though, while I wish Smile the best and hope they do well, it the price just doesn't make sense anymore, given how much I use TextExpander. In fact, I still use version 4, which works perfectly fine for me. And perhaps that's part of Smile's problem: it's quite hard to add features to a snippet expansion tool that are useful enough to get people to feel like they need to upgrade.

For the average consumer user:
aText. $5 one-time purchase. Nuff said.

"And perhaps that's part of Smile's problem: it's quite hard to add features to a snippet expansion tool that are useful enough to get people to feel like they need to upgrade."

Sure. It's a conundrum.

Maybe have things break with every OS update to force folks to upgrade. Maybe just add a few new minor features, and count of a subset of highly loyal customers to upgrade. Maybe just charge higher prices up front. I dunno the best way to address the problem.

All I do know is that what they're doing seems like the worst way to address the problem, unless we accept the 'enterprise shift' theory.

(I know I'd happily pay Michael Tsai an upgrade fee if he changed nothing in EagleFiler and just labelled it v2.0, cuz I like the software so much, appreciate the continuing Snowy support, and haven't given him money in a long time. Hell, I've even briefly thought of buying an unneeded 2nd license just for fun. But I'm obviously a bit of a freak.)

Chucky's on the money. The bottom line is pretty easy:

Smile is charging the consumer market too much for their subscription to TextExpander.

Like Back to Work said, "Whenever it seems like you're moving away from a model that's easy to understand and what you're used to, and when it involves asking for more money, that's naturally going to cause friction." [emphasis mine]

Charge consumers $2 a month, $20 for a year for recurring subscriptions, and you'll see folks signing up and paying with as much laissez-faire as they do their overpriced phone bills. Problems solved.

"Smile is charging the consumer market too much for their subscription to TextExpander."

I actually don't think that's a good description of the problem.

I think the problem is the subscription, not the charging too much. If they just raised their prices, we wouldn't see this level of outrage. Obviously, they'd have to work out if raising prices a lot would cut or increase revenue. But still, that'd be viewed as a reasonable solution. I'm willing to pay very high prices for software I appreciate, because I value my time, productivity, and UX ease. But subscription software really bothers me for a wide variety of reasons I could write multiple paragraphs about...

Only one other person has mentioned the Windows version, but I'm assuming that Smile is betting on new Windows users (who don't have a user-friendly comparable tool) making up for the loss of users on the Apple platform.

The problem is the subscription, the pricing, the syncing, and the deafness to the needs of their existing customers. Not necessarily in that order.

First, I pay for software. And for upgrades. None of this has anything to do with "not wanting developers to be able to feed their families" (which was a ridiculous accusation).

The subscription. I didn't subscribe to Adobe's version for the same reason I won't here — the same capabilities are available elsewhere for far cheaper. I'm not paying someone in advance for what they might do, I pay them for what they have done. I do continue to use Lightroom, and continue to pay for upgrades when those upgrades contain things I consider worth the price of the upgrade (which is, so far, every time).

The pricing. Yes, there would be a level of "outrage" (@Chucky's word, not mine) if they just raised their prices by as much as they're raising their prices here. They're more than doubling the price of the software, and removing core capabilities (iCloud sync) while they're doing it. That's just bad management.

The syncing. Developers seem to think we don't care where our data is stored. They are wrong, at least in my case. I trust Apple with syncing some of my data, but not all. (I don't use iCloud syncing for 1Password, e.g.). But that's about it. The list does not include Dropbox, who have had numerous security issues in the past, and it certainly doesn't include "independent" developers like Smile and Day One.

The deafness. "Team" syncing? You have to be kidding. As the good Dr. Drang and others have noted, there is little more personal than text snippets. There's no way I'm using other people's. I'm using the ones I want, created the way I want them, in the manner I want to use them. It's like trying to take away someone's Mac and tell them they'd be better off with terminal services. The 80's are over, people.

All of this could have been accomplished the same way Agile Bits introduced team/family — standalone continues to work exactly as always, but for an extra price (or subscription) you get the added capabilities. I'm not using 1Pwd family due to the subscription/syncing, but it doesn't impact my ability to continue to use 1Pwd at all, and therefore I don't care how they're doing it. (I would actually like to use family, but I'm not putting my passwords on someone else's computer, even Apple's.)

This was a bad, tone deaf decision on Smile's part.

Lanny Heidbreder

I fear that this new TextExpander and all it's extra group functions and "pro" features, are a solution for problems few people have, or are looking for.

This is my biggest problem with this mess. Enabling people's superiors to silently change the typing behavior of the people's computers is not a problem for very many groups. This move has probably been in the works longer than 1Password for Teams has been public, but I can't help but feel that this is trying to apply a business model that's successful for one genre to a different genre where it totally, totally doesn't fit.

It's kinda similar to Fantastical 2. I use the lapsed earlier version of Fantastical, a menu utility. With version 2 it became a full iCal replacement app, and was twice the price. It was no longer the elegant little app I originally bought, and therefore haven't upgraded.

Twice the original price was a launch sale. The permanent price is 3.3 times the original price. This does feel similar, but I find TextExpander much more egregious. Pivoting from a menubar calendar to a full calendar is a legitimate move; many of their existing customers wanted it and were delighted when it happened.

I think that there is a vastly smaller percentage of TextExpander users happy to hear about this, perhaps limited only to those who have large amounts of disposable income and are religiously unwavering in their support for indie developers. Whenever an app pricing scandal arises, there are always a few people who shout Developers have to eat! at the people who are angry.

But the anger is rarely about the price itself, but rather is about a broken promise or some other perceived betrayal by the developer. In this case, Smile seems to be abandoning their loyal customers to chase the soulless enterprise market. That's a stronger sense of betrayal than Fantastical, and that's what the furor is really over.

I use TextExpander all day long. I've been buying upgrades for years (it used to be called Textpander, right?). But this subscription model simply doesn't make sense for me. It's so much higher than I've historically spent on this app for this purpose. If Smile wants to support their family of employees, they have to innovate and come up with new products, not just add useless features to an old product and ridiculously raise its price.

These days everyone wants you to subscribe and at some point I have to look at my monthly fees and decide which ones are worth their cost.

Did anyone do any market research to see if we wanted the business tools in lieu of stand alone tools? I love those guys as can be seen from my many years of buying and upgrading licenses TE3, TE4, TE5, TEtouch, PDFpen, Scan+ , but the new subscription model is too expensive for a single user. I would consider paying $10 a year or a 1$ a month, but seriously do you think you provide as much value as 1password? Who did not force me to switch I have already floated this request to Smilesoftware and essentially been told "hey we are giving you a discount for 1 year". But the discounted price is still way too much, as it is I will be moving on as soon as a viable iOS replacement is found. As it is I already own Typeitforme from ettore software, I apparently don't mind paying for software.

I'm sympathetic to Smile's need to keep the lights on, so I understand this pivot. I'm sure they've done the math and hope corporate adoption will make up for lost individual sales. And it *is* kind of a unique product now, with the team focus, whereas before it existed within the four walls of a fairly crowded space. The only question is whether they can get enough team adoption.

But I think a more interesting question that no one has really asked is why development of small utilities like this has gotten so expensive these days? What changed from the days when there were a lot fewer Macs around but small shops could make a reasonable go of things by selling traditional licenses? If you take a look at the team behind 1Password, for instance, they have around 60 full-time staff. Not to say 1Password isn't great, but what changed in the software world that you need teams that size to make something like a password manager? Is it increasing programming complexity? Increasing customer expectations? Does this mean that it's no longer viable to have small teams developing innovative little apps that can still survive in the way they used to?

I have no problem paying hefty prices for software that gives me good value. I also have no problem paying for software I barely use, if I sense it's a developer I want to support and see grow, or an application I want to support and see where it will go, or even an application that alone fills a need and I want to ensure it doesn’t go away. And I also have no problem paying for multiple versions of the same software, while I evaluate which one I want to ultimately support. For that reason, I own KeyboardMaestro, TextExpander, and Typinator and have paid to keep all of them updated.

I've been using TextExpander, both because it gave me the features I wanted and I wanted to support this developer. At this point, I'm abandoning TextExpander. It is, for me, both the subscription model -- although I'm not entirely opposed to subscriptions -- and the price. Paying $50 a year to rent software is entirely, absolutely affordable for me. (Yes, I know I can get it for half that the first year as an existing customer; cost is not entirely the point.) But the cost/benefit of the utility doesn't work for me. I don't see that I need to support this developer's continued existence. This particular software category (snippet/macro app) doesn't seem in danger of going away.

So, value is not there for me. Support for a developer or software category is not there for me.

Let the market decide if Smile made the right move for them or not. My data point in that decision is this: I'm switching back to Typinator. Typinator, and TextExpander, got my upgrade fees in the past. Now only Typinator will get them.

"What changed from the days when there were a lot fewer Macs around but small shops could make a reasonable go of things by selling traditional licenses? If you take a look at the team behind 1Password, for instance, they have around 60 full-time staff. Not to say 1Password isn't great, but what changed in the software world that you need teams that size to make something like a password manager?"

Sync is hard.

Plus, 1Password has teams too, going after enterprise like TextExpander.

That's what's changed. Still a market for 'indie' stuff, but these apps are going 'pro'.

(Dunno OmniGroup's headcount, but far prefer their non-subscription pricing scheme. I don't mind devs needing to pay the bills. I don't mind big shops for 'pro' apps. I don't mind high prices for something worthwhile to me. I just don't like subscription software.)

[…] Ever since Smile Software introduced their new service for TextExpander, and switched to a subscription model for pricing, it seems that everyone in tech had an opinion about it. Bless you, Michael Tsai, for collecting the most interesting contributions. […]

I agree with most of you here. I've been a long-time user and buyer of Textexpander. But I really dislike the subscription model, and I'll be looking for a new product. Office 365 for $9 a month - ok, I can do that -- but $5 a month to expand text (when I have no need to sync or share) is ridiculous. I'm very disappointed in Smile's decision to go to this model.

[…] [toread] TextExpander 6 and – Maia Olson: Smile, the developer of productivity applications for Mac, iPad and iPhone, has launched, the easy way to share snippets across a team, along with new app versions […]

So, if the upgrade was $20 every 2 years, and the new price is $50 / year, it looks like they can afford to lose up to 80% of their customers and keep their income the same. Maybe that's their bet?

Headcount explodes once you start selling into the enterprise, because you need to have sales people, and you need to provide real support, above just answering email. It's not uncommon for enterprise software companies to have tiny, single-digit development teams, but huge triple-digit sales and support staff. No clue if that's what's going on at Smile, though.

Typinator is the world's best replacement for TextExpander, and it doesn't have an oppressive pricing model.

Let's say, for illustration purposes, that Smile's annual revenue was about $8 per customer (Dan Ridley Haddock's example), now, apart from the one-time special pricing, it will jump to about $57 or $59 /year. Obviously Smile will never reap a windfall like that, because many customers will stop being customers. But the math Smile and its investors are looking at would tell them 8/59 = 14%, "so we can lose 86% of our customers and break even". Unless Smile believes there is a massive recession in the software market on the horizon (not likely), they'll probably be more than OK by making this move. Every 1% of the customer base they retain after the storm passes is worth about 60 cents a year. Consumers are less likely to cancel subscriptions than buy upgrades. Software subscriptions are sort of invisible -- you have to look at your credit card statement to remember you have it. Upgrades require conscious action. I don't think Smile is making decisions about existing customers, it can clearly lose most of its existing customers -- they're probably pivoting to what they may think is an entirely new customer base which might be smaller but more lucrative and less likely to be informed enough to quit. If they thought this game was about customer retention, they would have added enticing new features or strong economic incentives ($12 for the 50% discount for 6 months is not an incentive; it's just optics).


This change really stings me personally because I held out on buying TextExpander for *years* because of the old price. The price was fair, and I knew it, but it took me a long time before I decided that the workflow improvements that TE offered were worth my money. Finally, I tried the free trial for a month and ended up paying for a license for TE4 in 2014. I felt GOOD about it -- good about supporting a great development team and good about owning a truly useful utility. In 2015 when version 5 came out, I debated again for a few months before finally paying to upgrade. The new version really did add value for me. Again, I felt great about the decision.

Now I'm bummed because there is no way I'm going to upgrade at these new subscription prices. Like Gruber said, the previous versions were well-priced. In my case, they were probably perfectly priced considering that I considered it almost-but-not-quite too expensive. I'm right on the threshold of customers that bought the product before but won't buy it now.

@Michael: YNAB (You Need a Budget) has just done something very similar. They EOLed YNAB4, the desktop application, in favour of a subscription-based web app. The price has gone up by a few hundred percent, too.

The reaction has been similar if lesser in scale, as the price hike isn't as drastic percentage-wise, and YNAB isn't as fungible as TextExpander is for many of its users.

Regardless of the price, I'm ditching both because I'm being asked to entrust my data to companies with no track record of building secure web services with no benefit to me in doing so.

And that's what bugs me most of all. I'm fed up with companies making a land-grab for my data. Readdle is (well, certainly was) copying your email credentials and accessing your email without telling you with Panic didn't see fit to mention that their sync would also be uploading your SSH private keys to their servers, not just your bookmarks. OmniGroup is the only company I can think of offhand that introduced an in-house sync solution that is respectful to their users: you can use their servers or your own WebDAV server. No loss of functionality and control of your own data.

I think the problem is the subscription, not the charging too much. If they just raised their prices, we wouldn't see this level of outrage.

@Chucky & Vinnie -- Seriously, if the subscription was $5-$8 a year, would you stop using TextExpander? I guess I don't understand what's so privacy laden in folks' TextExpander snippets, but I do get being worried about privacy in general.

But say you got your Dropbox back in TE... would you still complain about paying $7.50 a year to use it? Really? See? It's priced too high, end of story.

Micro-subscriptions are a good idea for app developers pitching consumers. I hope we see more soon. Insane prices and "macro" subscriptions like we have here? Not so much.

Re: ATP -- No idea why a successful consumer product would want to fire their consumers. Pitch businesses, but are you really losing money selling a different product to end users at $5-10 a year? This is Dropbox's problem, if you believe Ben Thompson (no reason not to, I don't think): A consumer solution in search of a business market. But if you have a great consumer pathos, and it's profitable, why not bifurcate instead of fire? I think the TE problem is just plain mismanagement. If they wanted to fire folk, they'd've pointed out alternatives. This media crapstorm is not helping them.

"@Chucky & Vinnie -- Seriously, if the subscription was $5-$8 a year, would you stop using TextExpander? ... See? It's priced too high, end of story."

I don't use TextExpander now, so I wouldn't 'stop'. But yeah, subscription software really does bother me.

I've got no problems paying high prices for software. And I've been quite willing to pay high prices for utilities too. I really value good utilities. They save me time and effort.

It's certainly possible that I'm an extreme outlier here. For most others, you may be correct it really is 100% purely a price and/or security issue, though I'd guess not. I do think lots of consumers object to 'renting' software. (If I did use TextExpander, I'd also be chased away by the privacy issues. Even though it may not seem like a huge privacy deal to you, I share the concerns voiced in Michael's compendium.)

But personally, I'm just incredibly resistant on principle to being tied into an ongoing financial commitment for something that holds my personal data, and/or I invest time and effort into learning / incorporating into my workflow. And that fits the description of almost all software. Note how different that is than the TV content subscriptions that you compare this to in your link. If a software product I used introduced mandatory subscription pricing which was less than I was currently spending on purchase/upgrades, I'd start looking for alternatives.

I look at this as a massive price hike. Almost $150 for three years of TextExpander? No chance.

I think this model doesn't work for most consumers. At least not for me. Besides the price another
account on the web is also an issue for me.
Hopefully it is not the intention of Smile to do the same for PDFpen. Probably move to Typinator.


> I guess I don't understand what's so privacy laden in folks' TextExpander snippets, but I do get being worried about privacy in general.

It's not necessarily that you already have sensitive stuff in your snippets, it's that that now becomes something you have to think about. Most people already know what they're comfortable putting in their Dropbox or iCloud Drive and what not. What's more, they know that Dropbox in particular lives and dies by its online security. They have more and better people working on the security of their webservice than Smile has working on … everything. Smile develops applications for Apple platforms. I have no reason to believe that Smile is any better at securing a webservice than I am.

And what do I gain from switching from Dropbox/iCloud sync to Smile's inhouse solution? Nothing. It's just another company trying to insert itself between me and my data in order to gain some hold over me. It's all about Smile, not me. They're trying to tell me it's Christmas while simultaneously making me the turkey.

> I really value good utilities

Me, too. But for me and many other users, TextExpander is entirely replaceable with the "bonus" snippet functions provided by apps like Keyboard Maestro, Dash, Alfred etc. Or indeed other dedicated snippet applications that now cost a small fraction of the price of TE and don't require you to outsource the confidentiality and availability of your snippets to a company with zero track record of upholding confidentiality or availability.

> would you still complain about paying $7.50 a year to use it?

Complain? No, probably not. But I'd actively search for alternatives that don't try to lock my data into their service purely out of self-interest without providing any benefit to me. And this is transparently the case, as they're ditching perfectly functioning sync solutions, so you can only use their own.

Smile's main motivation may well not be to lock users in to their service, but lock-in is exactly what it is for users who have no interests in sharing snippets.

This was a business decision made my Smile. This was not something the developers did to hurt me personally. My decision is to remove this product as it does not provide enough value for the cost. I liked TextExpander, even when it was Texpander. I still prefer the UI to Typintor. But, it is better to rip the bandaid off quickly. Since TextExpander does not wish to provide value to me as a customer, I bought an upgrade license for Typinator. I get that Smile needs to charge appropriately to support the company, however, they did it in such a way as to alienate a good proportion of their "casual" user base. They focussed their efforts to enterprise customers while disregarding everyone else. This is not a great way do to business or garner good will. Who shares personal mnemonics anyway ?

Lesenswert am 10. 4. 2016 (u.a. TextExpander, Pangea, PGP)

TextExpander ist schon seit vielen Jahren ein beliebtes Programm, um Textbausteine und andere Kürzel automatisch einzugeben und zu verwalten. Der Hersteller SmileOnMyMac hat mit der neuen Version die Preisstruktur auf ein Abo-Modell umgestellt. Das Vor…

@Michael, here's another multi-purpose oddity you may not be aware of: TextExpander itself started life as part of another multi-purpose utility. I changed my mind and spun it off as Textpander fairly late in its development. (The genre's trailblazer, TypeIt4Me, on the other hand, has always been a stand-alone product, as far as I know. And I can think of at least two more single-purpose competitors.)

@Peter Thanks for the Textpander history. Yep, I remember TypeIt4Me from the System 7 days. There was also a utility called Thunder 7, which was marketed as a universal spelling checker but also did abbreviation/expansion.

Smile's PDFPenPro is dead in the water if they go the subscription way just like TextExpander. After all, you get Adobe Acrobat along with Adobe Photoshop in Adobe's Creative Cloud for only $120 a year.

Smile's problem is several-fold:
1) they removed features - e.g. synchronizing via DropBox and other online services.
2) they doubled the price to the point it doesn't provide value compared to the competition.
3) Forcing users to use an insecure server to store their data - as an unnecessary added feature.
4) TextExpander will now get zero or one-star reviews from users.

Exactly how many businesses want to synchronize snippets? I don't think it is a good idea. It increases the learning curve for their employees.

This is software suicide.

[…] plan that would cost roughly $5 per month. The move was controversial, a situation which is well documented at Michael Tsai’s blog. I’ve been using TextExpander for 10 years, but decided against continuing with a subscription […]

[…] Michael Tsai – Blog – TextExpander 6 and […]

[…] Previously: TextExpander 6 and […]

Steen Ricks Olsen

There are two ways to balance the books at smile. One is to increase the per head cost and hope that not too many will keep away from upgrading. Second, is to look closely at the growing staff and cut the fat out of the organization. As solution One seems to be chosen, smile needs to find some strong new features which are worth the increased price tag. But honestly, if "What's New" contains "Beautiful new app look" and a "New app icon" plus a "Beta Windows app"which a majority Apple user don't need, the price tag will not fly, and as many before me have stated, it's time to migrate to other developers who can balance their books on a much smaller production fee without going home hungry.
Thank God for competition.

[…] TextExpander 6 and – Great summation of the Apple community feeling on the sharp increase in price of TextExpander. I’m all for paying for software put the price increase is sharp. […]

[…] TextExpander 6 and, TextExpander […]

[…] much prefer the way 1Password has evolved compared with what happened with TextExpander. The latest versions of the apps still work with the old syncing methods, and they’re even […]

[…] does work on iOS, but its keyboard extension is much less convenient than the TextExpander SDK, which many apps have […]

[…] price. The move still had its critics, including Kirk McElhearn (who has written for Macworld), who wrote “I really do feel bad to have to say this; I think the people at Smile are great, and they […]

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