TextExpander Expands into Subscription Pricing while Consumers Shrink with Sadness


Ok – I couldn’t help write a title that plays off TextExpander’s name and functionality.

So what is TextExpander? TextExpander is a program that is the equivalent of keyboard shortcuts but for words/phrases/paragraphs. For example, I have a snippet (i.e. whatever you want to expand to) that expands ;thx to Thanks for your help!. So thx is the trigger that expands into the snippet of Thanks for your help!

The brilliance of TextExpander is in its integration with iOS. The TextExpander that runs on my Mac can save my snippets to a folder on Dropbox, which TextExpander Touch (iOS) version can use. Then I can use this text expansion on my phone in 2 ways:

  • The first use is through iOS apps that support TextExpander expansion (like Day One and ByWord).
  • The second is through the TextExpander keyboard for iOS apps that don’t support TextExpander (i.e. most apps)

It is my eventual loss of this integration that makes me sad about Smile Software‘s (the maker of TextExpander) to change their pricing model to a somewhat steep subscription model ($45/year).


Pricing up to now

Up to now Smile Software charged for upgrades. Typically the price was around $20 for such upgrades. For instance, the (Mac) TextExpander version that I have is version 4.3.7. When Smile went to version 5, I didn’t upgrade. Why? Well – 4.3.7 had all the functionality that I needed so I didn’t see the point.

In fact, I think this is the core issue with the change to subscription pricing for TextExpander. As a consumer, I only need updates to the application when Apple makes operating system changes that break the old version of the app. TextExpander for me is in the same class as text editors (like the previously mentioned ByWord). For example, I don’t need ByWord, but it’s nice, and it makes me more productive with its built-in features.

Subscription what?

Smile Software Announcement – 1

On 4/5/16 Smile Software announced subscription pricing.

As a consumer, I don’t share my snippets. They’re my own quirky snippets – why would I need to share them?

Smile Software Announcement - 1

Smile Software Announcement – 2

Continuing with information from the announcement:

Why do I need a web application? Up to now Dropbox acted as the synchronization tool since I just need the Mac application to sync up with TextExpander on my iPhone/iPad.

Also, why mention the technology stack? This is a product announcement – so why mention Meteor and Galaxy (and why have links to them)? Maybe I’m reading too much into this but seeing the pricing for Galaxy (which is a service that provides hosting for Meteor) does not persuade me to TextExpander’s subscription model. After all – if I don’t need the web application, then I don’t need Meteor nor Galaxy. Dropbox synchronization has been more than sufficient.

Smile Software Announcement - 2

Smile Software Announcement – 3

The subscription pricing explanation talks about “regular costs to provide an online service”. But if Smile used Dropbox (like it has up to now), then there are is no “online service” and “regular costs”? Exciting times indeed.

Smile Software Announcement - 3

Is this subscription pricing worth for me?

I’m a consumer of TextExpander, not a “life hacker”. I’m not a business, and I’m certainly not an “enterprise user”. So I speak from this perspective.

I can’t justify TextExpander’s subscription pricing. As mentioned before, I can justify needed upgrades due to application breakage from operating system upgrades. Maybe I’m frugal (I’m still sporting an iPhone 5S and am patiently waiting for the iPhone 7S plus), but $50 per year for a text editing class application is very hard for me to justify.

I’ve let Smile Software know this through the contact link mentioned in their announcement. If you feel the same – you should let them know too or through Twitter (@smilesoftware and @textexpander).

Is this subscription pricing worth for me?

TJ Luoma explains this pricing issue very well

TJ Luoma explains this pricing issue well in his http://rhymeswithdiploma.com/post/142315992434/textexpander-6-or-how-not-to-launch-your-saas post (found through John Gruber’s excellent Daring Fireball site). It’s a post well worth reading. He talks about SaaS and contrasts TextExpander’s subscription model with 1Password for Families (another subscription product).

Where to go from here?

Smile Software published a follow up to their pricing change blog post. The folks at Smile Software are friendly and intelligent people. The concluding part of their follow-up post clarifies that TextExpander was a product that was either declining or staying flat sales-wise. Their choice to go to subscription pricing is a choice to pursue a different set of customers (i.e. business/enterprise/”life hackers”). I bear no grudge towards Smile Software and I wish them well with this approach.

Personally, I’m going to stick to 4.3.7 and potentially upgrade to 5.0 as the “final” TextExpander upgrade. My hope is the iOS integration will work for a while though iOS 10 is coming up fairly quickly. After TextExpander’s Mac/iOS integrations stops working I’ll pursue another solution like TypeIt4Me.

Where to go from here?