[Update: Things have changed; for details, see “Smile Brings Back Standalone TextExpander, Reduces Subscription Price ,” 13 April 2016.]
Smile (a longtime TidBITS sponsor) has released the latest versions of its text expansion utility, TextExpander 6 for Mac, TextExpander 4 for iPhone and iPad, and even a beta of TextExpander for Windows. Currently available for download, the latest versions of the apps themselves are free, but now require a paid subscription account at the newly created TextExpander.com. New users can try out the apps for 30 days before having to purchase a subscription.
New Syncing Features -- With this latest release, TextExpander users now sync their snippets among their devices via the servers at Smile’s TextExpander.com site instead of using services such as Dropbox and iCloud. Snippet data is encrypted end-to-end as it traverses the Internet, and while the TextExpander.com servers do not encrypt the stored snippet data on a per-user basis, server access itself is secured using both passwords and two-factor authentication.
The TextExpander.com site, however, offers not just a syncing service, but a full-blown snippet management system. Users can organize, edit, delete, and add snippets through the Web app, as well as through the apps on their devices, and they can share them, with varying levels of permissions, with other TextExpander users.
In addition to TextExpander subscriptions for individual users, Smile also offers team subscriptions to TextExpander. For team accounts, TextExpander.com provides shared snippets and snippet management features tailored to organizations, making it possible, for example, for the vast TidBITS and Take Control media conglomerate to establish groups of shared TextExpander snippets for use by authors and editors. Shared snippets are probably even more valuable in customer support teams, where they’ll save time and standardize tone and writing quality. (One tip: sharing snippets requires some communication ahead of time, since you and your colleagues need to agree on abbreviation conventions.)
Plus, the TextExpander snippet editor has been revised to make snippet editing easier, adding a toolbar that offers various snippet customization options. The editor is available both in the TextExpander app and on the TextExpander.com site, with almost identical functionality.
Subscription Plans -- Why is Smile moving to a subscription mode? Smile founder Greg Scown explains:
We’ve updated our pricing model to match our new service. Instead of license purchases and upgrades on an irregular schedule, we’ve switched to a subscription model where you pay monthly or annually for your TextExpander service. This lines up with the regular costs to provide an online service. It also frees you as customers and us as developers from the “upgrade treadmill.” We can offer our apps free of charge. We can deliver incremental improvements as they’re ready rather than wait and package them all into a new “big” upgrade release. We’re really excited about what this change will allow us to offer our customers, and we hope you are too.
As mentioned above, the TextExpander.com accounts come in two types:
A single-user Life Hacker plan that costs $3.96 per month, billed annually ($47.52 per year). If you prefer monthly billing, it’s $4.95 per month ($59.40 per year).
A Team plan for organizations that costs $7.96 per user per month, billed annually ($95.52 per year). Again, if you prefer monthly billing, it’s $9.95 per user per month ($119.40 per year).
In addition, current users of TextExpander get a 50 percent “loyalty discount” for the first year of their subscriptions, and those who purchased the previous version of TextExpander after 1 December 2015 are eligible for 3 months free under the Life Hacker plan. For current users who choose a Life Hacker plan, the first-year loyalty discount means that you’ll pay $1.98 per month (for an annual total of $23.76) if you choose yearly billing or $2.48 per month if you opt to pay by the month (which works out to $29.76 per year); for current users choosing a Team plan, the first-year rates are $3.98 per user per month ($47.76 if billed yearly) and $4.98 per user per month ($59.76 if billed monthly).
Current TextExpander users, however, should have ample time to ponder the utility of snippet sharing and see if the new subscription pricing model really will lead to the delivery of “incremental improvements as they’re ready”: Smile has promised to continue support for TextExpander 5 not only in OS X 10.11.4 El Capitan but through the next major upgrade of OS X.