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TextExpander 6 Adds Teams and Subscription Billing

[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.

 

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Comments about TextExpander 6 Adds Teams and Subscription Billing
(Comments are closed.)

Finnley  2016-04-06 12:53
I am a long time user of TextExpander on the Mac and Windows PhraseExpress which can sync TE snippets. PhraseExpress announced a Mac OSX version without subscription and cloudsyncing (not allowed in our company). I will wait and then decide.
Roger D. Parish  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-04-06 12:56
Goodbye, TextExpander; hello, Typinator.
Giuseppe Maxia  2016-04-06 13:12
The change to a subscription is practically an attempt to blackmail users. The removal of existing synch methods is a clear indication.

TextExpander 6 is not offering anything desirable for me. After 4 years of using it I switched to the competition.

I have just bought Typinator. It comes with a built-in import feature that recognize almost all TextExpander syntax. I was up and running with my usual snippets in 10 minutes.
I will lose the ability of syncing the snippets to iOS, but since the iOS apps work very erratically, I am used the built-in Apple keyboard shortcuts for my most important snippets.
Chris Pepper  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-04-06 14:14
I am puzzled. Several people have said a subscription is required, but your quote says "We can offer our apps free of charge." On the other hand, mentions 30-day *trials*.

Please clarify: are the new versions of TE usable (indefinitely) free of charge, or is Greg really only saying they can offer free TRIALS?
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-04-06 14:19
The apps themselves are free: you don't have to pay a penny to download nor to launch them. OTOH, for them to provide any functionality requires a TextExpander.com account. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Chris Pepper  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-04-06 14:41
That's useless, and should be called out in the article. It makes nonsense of Greg's quoted claim.
Barry Standley  2016-04-06 18:41
TextExpander, you are now dead to me.
I just purchased TE for Mac, iPhone and iPad: fully paid application purchases. Will I be grandfathered in for at least one year?

The automatic recurring revenue-generating subscription model has been the rage for about 9 years. It's really catching on. I'd rather have them log me and charge me $0.02 each time I use TE. I have weeks that I have used it frequently then not touched for the next two weeks.

I, for one, will fall by the wayside when abandoned by the new model. Is TE worth $500-$600 for 10 years? No way. Not unless it also cleans my house and washes my car.
Nik Friedman TeBockhorst  2016-04-06 23:59
It seems timely to run an up-to-date review/comparison of the main competitors to help people really compare TE's premium feature set with the other solutions out there. Beyond the very-similar Typinator, TypeIt4Me and aText, there's also Keyboard Maestro.

I'd love to see Joe "Automating my Mac" Kissel take a stab at this.
barefootguru  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-04-07 11:13
And of course the simple text expansion, with automatic syncing between all Apple devices, built into iOS and OS X.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-04-07 11:38
Assuming you can get the sync to work reliably, which has been a problem for me and many others.
Anonymous  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-04-07 03:48
You should give the consumer the choice between one payment for the current versions with fixes or a subscription. I won't accept subscriptions if the are not essential
Yashodhan Khare  2016-04-07 04:42
I purchased TE for Mac on 18 Dec, 2015 by laying an amount of USD 44.95. I think the TE guys must upgrade me to the new system for ATLEAST ONE YEAR. After that they are free to change my billing and I am free to decide what I want to do. That seems to be fair. This is a bit one-sided.
Shawn Levasseur  2016-04-07 12:10
To all prior customers they are offering the first year of their service at half off.

Plus, the old version will still work for at least a year and a half, given their plans for supporting it through the next major OS release.

Given the feature list, I doubt there is much in the new version to justify upgrading anyway. Sit tight, and worry about upgrading or switching in a year or two, when either Smile or competitors step up with something better for you.
Bart B  2016-04-07 05:09
I did the maths - this works out as a 3x price hike.

Your article completely scates over just how massive the price increase is.

I can't help but assume the unquestioningly positive 'review' is related to the fact that Smile help pay your wages.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-04-07 10:25
There's no review here—this is a news article that states the facts about what has changed in terms of features and pricing.

How the price has changed depends on a lot of variables, most of which can't be known. For instance, if TextExpander 6 had remained a straight purchase, but required a $99 upgrade fee, the subscription would seem cheap. Or if the company decided that it was going to release a paid upgrade every 6 months but charge $30, that would also be more than the subscription fee. We simply don't know what alternatives to the subscription might have been considered, and changing nothing from the current pricing model is only one of those possible alternatives.

There is no "right" price for anything - prices are determined by a lot of factors, including perceived value, competitor pricing, and meeting development costs. The question that Smile has posed is, "Will enough customers perceive the benefits of snippet sharing and more frequent updates as worth the subscription fees?" If the answer to that question turns out to be "No," Smile will need to rethink the model.
Shawn Levasseur  2016-04-07 12:05
"I can't help but assume the unquestioningly positive 'review' is related to the fact that Smile help pay your wages."

This was a neutral article citing the facts of the release.

There are plenty of opinion pieces out there on this that Tidbits doesn't need to do that.

They clearly are allowing criticism here in the comments. So your insinuation of unethical behavior is out of bounds in my opinion.
Kemer Thomson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2016-04-07 08:54
Like others, I'm outraged enough to switch to Typinator, but not with the same priority of reasons. Sure, the new price model is excessive: I could almost accept about half of what they are charging. However, my primary issue is that I don't want to get forced into yet another cloud account. I have enough cloud accounts as it is and I am hard-pressed to understand why I should need anything beyond iCloud and Dropbox.

Smile has been showing signs of evolving into a marketing-driven company ever since they started aggressively "partnering" with other software products. This latest move completes that turn to the dark force. Their requirement for a cloud account is a form of account control, one of those marketing trends that we are starting to see all around. It is unnecessary and serves as a vehicle to lock users in.

On the bright side, I discovered that Typinator seamlessly imported my snippets and offers greater power. What it and other similar products don't offer — and which I will miss — is iOS support. Smile did a good job building and promoting that interface, although it requires the user to manually refresh snippets app-by-app. I'm willing to abandon iOS support to avoid getting locked into yet another cloud account.
Shawn Levasseur  2016-04-07 11:58
I don't mind the concept of subscription pricing, I use it for a few services.

But as one earlier commenter said "I did the maths - this works out as a 3x price hike."

$47 per year is quite a hike. It feels like feature bloat (especially with a superfluous syncing service) is driving this.

No matter Smile's reasons. My decision is based on two factors.

1. The value of TextExpander to me
2. The alternatives available.

To be fair the alternatives have their own negatives. But they also know that they have a great opportunity to get new customers.

The race is on for either:

1. Smile to convince me of the value of their offering.
2. Smile to improve their pricing.
3. A competitor to convince me they are a viable replacement.

In a year or two we'll likely see how this plays out for Smile.
Lisa Spangenberg  2016-04-07 15:18
There are some helpful clarifications regarding the initial statements from Smile on their blog here: https://smilesoftware.com/blog/entry/textexpander-release-follow-up
Anonymous  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-04-08 02:49
Not a fan of subscrsber and I wonder what this means for the future of PDFPen
G. Douglas Eddy  2016-04-11 09:39
Use TextExpander in its most basic form every day. Don't need nor want fancy stuff - just let me hit the key code and plug in the text. Love it for that but no way I will pay subscription. There are other options and when I get pressed I will switch.

I like much of what Smile makes but if this is their trend they have lost a regular customer. Sad.
chuck green  2016-04-12 22:59
I really like TextExpander but, in my opinion, the subscription model is a massive overreach for a utility. I was FORCED to do this with ADOBE, but there are alternatives to TextExpander and I will choose one. So sorry to see it go.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-04-13 09:39
Note that Smile has now revised their approach with TextExpander. See our article here:

http://tidbits.com/article/16417