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TextExpander 6 review: A snippets subscription service that’s priced too high

TextExpander moves from paid apps to a subscription ecosystem with identical apps and an immature Web interface.

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A choice to upgrade for existing users

Those who own recent copies of TextExpander may be faced with a quandary. To ease the transition, Smile is offering registered users 50 percent off monthly subscriptions for the first 12 months (about $2 a month), as well as a lifetime 50-percent discount off a yearly Life Hacker subscription, making it $20 a year.

However, many users may not be interested in the sharing feature; I can’t find a reason for it in my workflow. It’s my fundamental question as I review this revision: How many current users have been dying to share automatically updated snippets? The new system may be highly attractive to new subscribers, especially in business, but if you have no desire to move to this mode, you don’t have to.

The previous releases continue to work in iOS and OS X, and Smile will continue to offer them for sale under the old pricing ($45 for the OS X version and $5 for the iOS one). Smile also changed its original plan to just maintain compatibility for the older versions to continuing development on them. In a statement on April 12, Smile said it will continue to bring some new features to the previous versions as well.

If you want to try out the new version, you can’t have both TextExpander 5 and 6 running at the same time, although you can have both installed and named distinctly, and run one or the other. Installing the new version 4 in iOS doesn’t remove the previous version 3 release, and as alternative keyboards, you can switch among them.

Smile says TextExpander 6 won’t create backward-incompatible snippets, so you can make new snippets in the new version and then export and use them with the older one if you don’t choose to continue with a subscription.

You don’t have to make a decision right away. I believe most current users will probably stick with the previous versions.

A low value in the current price

As a dedicated user of TextExpander for many years, I continue to find a high degree of utility in it, even more so as it’s matured. However, it’s impossible for me to wholeheartedly recommend TextExpander’s new approach to either existing or new users.

For existing users, there’s not enough advantage unless you fall in what I think is a relatively narrow band of people who need more than sync and want individual or team sharing. If you’re one of them, this is the ecosystem for you.

For new users, the cost is simply too high for the current utility offered. While I trust that Smile will continue to expand and develop its product, the subscription price is not far below Slack’s paid tiers, and Slack is a vastly more complicated and sophisticated communication system. The business price isn’t far below entry-level customer relationship management (CRM) software that includes form-based responses that are fully integrated with incoming and outgoing email.

A future version of the TextExpander ecosystem may fulfill Smile’s goals in making this business-model switch, but the current version falls short for the price demanded.

Editor's note: This review was updated to include information about the terms of service that note TextExpander is unsuitable for government users. The review was also revised to note price changes announced on April 12.

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At a Glance
  • TextExpander moves from paid apps to a subscription ecosystem with identical apps and an immature Web interface.

    Pros

    • Company-run cloud service avoids need for third-party storage or account
    • Seamless fast synchronization among devices and other users and team members
    • Team sharing works well for small businesses

    Cons

    • Not enough value yet to justify price
    • Snippets are stored unencrypted on Smile’s servers
    • All expansions stop working without active subscription
    • Monthly cost much higher than previous upgrade cycle pricing
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