TextExpander Moves to Subscription Pricing Model

One of the most useful tools on my Mac is a utility that expands abbreviations into longer bits of text. I’ve long used such apps, and, over the years, have used two of them: Smile’s TextExpander and Ettore Software’s TypeIt4Me. As I said in a Macworld article last year:

When you write a lot, anything you can do to save keystrokes saves time. TextExpander saves me a lot of time by allowing me to set up abbreviations that the app, working in the background, expands to longer bits of text.

I have dozens of “snippets” set up in TextExpander, for quick replies to email (“Please remove me from your list,” for example, for all the junk I get from PR people), app names I type often (iTunes, iTunes Match), my address, my phone number, bits of HTML code, and more. TextExpander also reminds me when I type something frequently and suggests that I create a snippet to save even more time.

TextExpander was the third app I installed on every new Mac. Not any more.

TextExpander has announced that, with the release of TextExpander 6, the company is moving to a subscription pricing model, which means that, instead of the previous one-time price of $35, it will now cost $47.52 per year to use the app, and, if you want the Team version, which allows you to share snippets among a company, it’s almost $96 a year per user.

Text expander pricing

Lots of developers are switching to this sort of subscription model for their apps, and, for TextExpander’s Team features, it may be worth the cost. But not for an individual. I understand the need for developers to monetize their work, and I’ve been paying for upgrades to TextExpander for years. But I’m not going to pay $4 a month to use the app.

If you compare this price with other apps that are available on subscriptions, it just doesn’t make sense. You can get Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for $99 a year. A 1 TB Dropbox account costs the same. Apple Music or Spotify cost $120 a year. Todoist, a task manager, that offers OS X, iOS, and web clients, costs $29 a year. And Evernote costs $25 for its Plus plan, and $50 for its Premium plan (they differ in the amount of uploads available). If TextExpander was offering a subscription at, say, $20 a year, it would be a lot more logical, and I’d be happy to pay that much (though I would really rather have Dropbox sync, than use their sync server).

You can still use version 5 of TextExpander, and it will certainly work at least until the next major update of OS X, but Smile is unlikely to update it after that.

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. They issue major upgrades every couple of years, and with upgrade pricing, you’d pay about the cost of a one-year subscription for two or even three years of buying the app at full price then paying for upgrades.

This is a risky choice. Apps that target business users can get away with subscription pricing, but those that are used by individuals price themselves out of the market. Perhaps that’s what Smile wants; there are many similar apps, including TypeIt4Me, which was the first such app on the Mac, and others.

Update: Listen to The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations podcast with Smile’s Greg Scown discussing the issue of subscriptions for software. Greg Scown mostly highlighted the utility of sharing snippets, which is certainly useful for business users, but certainly doesn’t affect individuals or freelancers.

Update 2: Smile Software has said, in a blog post: “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.” So if you’re using TextExpander 5 now, you can continue to do so for at least a year and a half or so, perhaps more.