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No Smile Here as TextExpander Subscribes to New Business Plan

Years ago I got hooked on automation for fun and productivity, and expanding snippets of text on my Mac made me feel like a wizard.

In those early years, I waffled between Typinator and TypeIt4Me before the introduction of the iPhone. I moved to TextExpander sometime around 2010 when it began syncing with my then-new iPhone. I used it exclusively until Tuesday, April 5, when Smile Software announced the transition to a subscription plan.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. —Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)

The idea of a subscription model doesn’t bother me. The software is awesome and remains the only snippet expander that is widely supported by iOS app developers. Why write off more than five years of building habits and muscle memory?

The exorbitant cost.

Expanding Costs

I think I got into the game with my first purchase of Textpander 3 circa 2010 for $19.95 (after taking advantage of a $15 discount). Continuing to invest in the system, I later upgraded to version 4 for $19.95 followed by an upgrade to the last version for another $20. These purchases for my Mac were coupled with versions 3 and 4 on iOS for $4.99 each.

If you’re keeping up, that’s a total investment just a hair short of $70 to license the software for roughly five years, or about $14 a year.

Under the new subscription model, the cost is easy to project for the next five years. The charge over five years for new users paying monthly will be $297. “Loyal” users get a break for 12 months. Here is a full breakdown of subscription costs over a five-year period.

New Annual New Monthly Upgrade Annual Upgrade Monthly
$237.60 $297 $213.84 $267.36

Doesn’t Compare

Smile Software isn’t breaking any new ground with its move to a subscription model. Adobe and Microsoft also made the move, but the return on investment simply doesn’t compare.

If my memory hasn’t faded too much, major version releases of Adobe’s Master Collection arrived about every three years with an upgrade cost of $1,800. The company now charges $50/month to access the entire stable of pro editing software with regular updates, or $1,800 every three years.

Microsoft’s Office Suite used to be in the neighborhood of $400 with deep discounts for students to $150. Now, those apps are available to regular users of Office 365 for $6.99/month, or $419.40 every five years. This includes services such as free tech support, 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage, and web versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook in addition to the full desktop apps.

The cost to subscribe software from Adobe and Microsoft is comparable to the prior cost to buy boxed versions off the shelf. Based on my personal experience, the cost to subscribe to TextExpander will increase from an average of $14/year to $42.77/year, a 205.5 percent annual increase.

Technical Difficulties

There are other concerns beyond price.

Smile seems proud to drop sync services with Dropbox and iCloud to host its new Meteor app on the Galaxy cloud service. No more free to cheap, widely available, mature services available. Just the new textexpander.com. They seem to be taking Steve Jobs 2007 “very sweet solution” for developers to heart.

This was a case where history proves that Jobs wasn’t always right. Smile’s mandatory replacement locks users into a service that is arguably less secure. After fallout from the company’s initial announcement and press release, Smile Software issued a clarification the next day explaining upgrade options and the company’s intention “to support it on El Capitan and the next major upgrade of OS X.”

Alternatives

What now?

After turning off snippet expansion in TextExpander, I am adding snippets to Keyboard Maestro as needed. Keyboard Maestro is life-changing software I already owned that easily handles snippet expansion and so much more.

What Else Can Keyboard Maestro Do? Pretty much anything you can imagine including launch applications, click the mouse, palettes, execute scripts, insert text, manipulate windows, record macros, built in flow control, use text tokens, menus and buttons, open, file actions, clipboard history, control itunesnotifications, notifications, and perform image actions.

I lose syncing with iOS this way, but will just enter my oft-used snippets into the the Text Replacement features built into iOS. You can find these options on your iPhone under Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Snippets entered here will sync with your other Apple devices, but lack form entry and support for multiple lines or paragraphs of text.

A few other options include Typinator (by ergonis) and TypeIt4Me (by Ettore Software, App Store affilitiate link) along with aText (by Tran Ky Nam Software), the cheapest alternative for a sawbuck. Ettore also offers TypeIt4Me Touch (App Store affiliate link) that syncs with iOS using iCloud.

Long Story Short…

It’s too late to keep this long story short. If you scrolled to the end, here’s the nut of it. TextExpander has priced itself out of my business and I’m using Keyboard Maestro instead.

(Which) Music to My Ears

Spoiler: Apple Music wins

Rdio was my jam for a couple of years. A couple of months ago, Spotify offered a cheap deal and I gave it a shot. Now, Apple Music has bebopped into the mix. All three have deep catalogs to fuel a music marathon running in any direction.

Rdio is my favorite of the three, but probably won’t win back the top spot on my devices. The music service does social better than its competition. The app itself wins for its ability to control other versions of the app. By that I mean if a song is playing on my Mac, users can pause or change tracks from their iPhone and iPad or switch to play the track on their mobile device. Discovery is also pretty great. Search for your favorite artists and play a channel of that artist and others like them.

Spotify is more popular than Rdio, at least it seems to have more users. Maybe it’s because I cut my teeth on Rdio, but Spotify’s interface seems confusing to me. The playlists matched to activity is kind of neat, but it isn’t the first one to offer that feature. Songsta has done that for a while, and a new player in the field prominently shares the same sorts of playlists.

Apple Music also offers activity playlists and boasts human curation. It’s also the only service with anything like the DJ-curated Beats 1 Radio.[footnote]Don’t slip up and just call it Beats One. I hope the “online electronic and dance music radio station based in Calgary, Alberta” is taking advantage of any confusion.[/footnote] “Worldwide. Always on.” Curation by real people rather than algorithms is intriguing and helpful. Apple Connect is a huge improvement over the fruit company’s social flop by serving a different purpose than Ping—connecting artists to fans, not fans to fans. I’m still not sure how that will shake out, but so far so good in my opinion. I’ve found some good stuff in Apple Connect. The “For You” tab in Apple Music is another pro. Some of the playlists here have been perfect for me. Again, these are said to be arranged by real human beings who put thought into these lists like the cassette mixtapes of lore.

The problem with Apple Music, at least on the desktop, is that it is still a part of the monstrous digital hub that is iTunes, Apple’s answer to syncing, streaming, and managing apps, devices, podcasts, videos, movies, voice notes, TV shows, iTunes U, and more. There is a lot to deal with, both on OS X and iOS, so it’s confusing at first. I’m willing to learn.

Even with its warts and pain of the birthing process, the curation and deep roots in my digital ecosystem mean Apple Music is going to be my new jam.

Without a hiccup

Astounding anecdote via TiDbits, and definitely out of my budget.

I visited an Apple Store in San Francisco, and made pals with one of the sales guys. He gave me a demo of the Mac Pro. He opened the Applications folder and had me hold my hand over the vent. He then hit Command-A to select everything, then Command-O to open every app, including the pre-installed Adobe Creative Suite. Within 15 seconds, everything was open, without a hiccup, and all I felt was a waft of warm air. Pretty incredible.

Troubleshooting Apple Networks

My home network has been plagued with incredibly frustrating problems with dropped connections and other weirdness that are hard to diagnose. I still haven’t solved it, but found two articles in Apple’s Knowledge Base that are finally pointing me in a better direction.

There is a lot of information there that isn’t obvious at at a glance, so be sure to expand all of the disclosure triangles.