CCATP #433 I Push Hard on Greg Scown from Smile About TextExpander 6

There’s been a lot of consternation on the Internet this week about the announcements by Smile with their new TextExpander 6 product at textexpander.com. I invited Smile founder Greg Scown onto the show to explain their thinking and to allow me to ask him some tough questions. It was hard for me to do because TextExpander is a beloved product and the company Smile has shown themselves over the many years to care deeply about their customers. In fact, when I recently surveyed listeners about the first five apps they add to a new Mac, TextExpander was in the top three. It’s important to note that Smile is not an advertiser for the NosillaCast.


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Here’s an outline of what I asked Greg. You’ll need to listen to hear his answers:

Sharing is the big new feature of TextExpander 6.

  • I have to be honest, I don’t think that I have a need to share my snippets with anyone. Even when I was working in large teams at work, I never felt the need for this. I have trouble convincing other people that haven’t used a text expansion program that they should even start using one. What research do you have to show that users need/want to share snippets??

Sharing on TextExpander 6 is through their own web service, not using Dropbox or iCloud:

  • Syncing is notoriously difficult. We’ve all suffered duplicate contacts, duplicate photos and all the other fallout of poorly designed syncing tools. Why did you decide to design your own syncing tools instead of using those that are already built like Dropbox and iCloud (which still has its problems)
  • In your documentation you say that our snippets will travel over secure connections, but they will be stored in plain text. Obviously my audience is way too well educated to store passwords and social security numbers in TextExpander, but the aggregate of someone’s snippets would be a terrific attack vector for a phishing attack.
    From my snippets you’d know my name, home address, phone number, email address, tools I use, people I communicate with, places I’ve worked, my mechanic’s phone number. That’s a pretty good place to start with a phishing attack.
  • Why aren’t you encrypting our data as it would if it were in Dropbox or iCloud?

TextExpander 6 is only available through subscription pricing:

  • There has been a great deal of conversation online about the new subscription pricing. I think two factors are biggest in people’s minds.
  • They are weary of monthly bills piling up and feel it makes them lose control of when they can afford to spend money
  • The pricing of the monthly subscription is much higher than they’ve been paying to buy TextExpander outright and buy all of the updates. Some math is showing it as around 2X the previous price. With competition out there, how do you justify this sizable price increase to your customers?

Smile also announced TextExpander Windows beta – this is huge news! I know if you google “is there a TextExpander for Windows” you get about a zillion hits.

  • If people have bought Breevy from 16Software.com to sync their TextExpander snippets back and forth with Windows, will this be disabled if they go to TextExpander 6?
  • Can you explain how TextExpander works with respect to logging into the service? For example, what if I’m without network access for an extended period of time? Will my snippets still work for an extended period without Internet access?

33 thoughts on “CCATP #433 I Push Hard on Greg Scown from Smile About TextExpander 6

  1. Laura - April 8, 2016

    I appreciate you doing this episode. It was helpful to hear his explanations, but I absolutely disagree with his reasoning. I don’t need or want to share my snippets. In fact, as a lawyer I have snippets I use regularly that I do not want to share and, more than that, must keep secure. If their syncing service is not encrypted I can’t use it. I’m sick about it, but I will probably have to give up a tool I’ve relied on for a long time.

  2. Trevor - April 8, 2016

    Great show Allison. Your concerns mirrored mine. You certainly pushed Greg and I think he came away with some issues to consider.

    My snippets have been developed to assist me. I’m not a power user with this software but do find it useful. I have no need to share my snippets with anyone – the thought never even occurred to me.

    I pay for software but find the pricing is always an issue when those in other parts of the world are subject to the US$ exchange rates. The upgrade price of US$24 per year (“Discount for Current Customers
    for first 12 months” from their website not ongoing as Greg said so you may have extracted a concession for everybody) turns into $35-$40 in Australia or New Zealand. Too much for this pensioner.

  3. Mike Leonard - April 9, 2016

    Allison.
    I agree with your concerns. I would ask if Version 5 would still be for sale even if never upgraded. I think that would satisfy your request for single user version. I personally detest the “RENT” your software idea. I used to love Photoshop but now I hate it because of that fact. I even hate Photoshop elements because it’s “Protection” prevents me from reinstalling my legal original copy if an earlier install went wrong, I have to, as you say, nuke and pave, to get it to work!
    In conclusion, KEEP selling old Versions for us smart ones.
    My two cents
    Mike Leonard
    P.S. I won’t buy a car past 2006!!

  4. podfeet - April 9, 2016

    You might want to check out Affinity Photo at http://affinity.serif.com. It’s $50 in the Mac App Store, so $50 for ALL your Macs. They have really good videos online so you can see the cool things it can do. Pretty freaking amazing.

  5. Doug Blunt - April 9, 2016

    I think you are over reacting Allison. As a person who leads a team at work on windows and works on macs at home this Is great news . I never could quite get text expander and breevy to work together. The price Smile Is charging Is nothing compared of the benefit. Now I can sit on the couch at home and do snippets or answer emails from work using this service. I’m bouncing between an Ipad, 2 Iphones, 2 macs and a window machine and even at beta Its working good.

    the group plan Is very reasonable considering Evernote charges 20 bucks a month, dropcam charges 10 bucks
    take It easy on Smile

  6. Laura - April 9, 2016

    For your situation, Doug, I absolutely agree: the price is nothing compared to the benefit of sharing with your team. What I think Allison was saying–and I agree with her–is that some users don’t see that as a benefit. I have no interest in sharing my snippets with anybody else. That feature is not a benefit to people like me who use TextExpander for their own personal productivity and do not need or want to share snippets. I can access my snippets from all devices I want to use them on (Macs and iThingies) just fine without the new syncing service. I’m glad the new version works well for you. It’s not a service I want. 🙂

  7. Rush Sherman - April 9, 2016

    Great podcast. I love how you don’t relent when you have a question or concern, but you do it in a respectful manner.

    In the podcast you mentioned a great Google+ community. Was it the smilesoftware.com community or another?

    Thank you,
    Rush

    PS. for now I’m going on with V6 (blind faith) hoping the platform will develop and sharing takes off. However, it will take good communities and open sharing for that to happen.

  8. Doug Blunt - April 9, 2016

    Hi Laura . There are few versions out there. You can put a little amount of snippets on any Mac or IOS device.
    I think that Allison was a little rough on the poor guy from Smile. The guy from Smile is trying to cut his losses. He wants to stay in the business with a small shop but we have driven the price of apps from 100 dollars down to 2 bucks and expect updates for nothing! When Allison and her husband worked for a defense contractor they wanted a livable wage and benefits to retire comfortably. This is a good thing. My wife and I also worked in the defense industry in Southern California and we wanted a good wage with benefits so we could have a nice retirement. I really don’t think the guys at Smile are making a huge amount of money on these apps. Apple has all kinds of restrictions they imposed them plus they take 30 per cent off the top on every sale. I’m very happy Smile did this .. and I’m spending my time filling our bug reports so they can make it better.

  9. podfeet - April 9, 2016

    Doug – I felt bad doing that to Greg. I sent him my questions (and my strongly-worded position) ahead of time so he’d know I was going to press him. Before started to record, I told him again that while I have huge respect for him and his company, that I was going to be hard on him. He walked into this with eyes open.

    This is not a case of a $2 app. This is an app that was around $60 to buy and $20 to upgrade, and people happily paid it. Your analogy of our personal salaries is pretty weird to compare, but we were both paid what the market decided we were worth. In this case, there’s a $5 app that’s not nearly as good as TextExpander but probably does what 10% of the people need. There’s also a couple of $20 apps that are even better that maybe can do what another 40% of the people need. The market isn’t going to treat this huge price hike kindly.

    I think if they’d JUST doubled the price, or JUST made you share snippets, or JUST made snippets not encrypted, or JUST made it a subscription, there would not be the nearly universal uproar. They did all four things at once.

    I have to believe they’ll change their minds on at least some of this.

  10. podfeet - April 9, 2016

    Thanks Rush! The community in G+ is called TextExpander Tips at https://plus.google.com/communities/111052411803883631364

    It’s not super active but when people post it’s usually pretty cool stuff.

  11. Frank - April 10, 2016

    @Doug, I’m not a power user and this Mac is not used to earn my daily bread. At work I have to use a PC and I am not allowed to install third party software. Let alone “key-log” software. So to me TextExpander is a handy utility, something nice to have, but not essential. Not software I value enough to take a subscription. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to spent money on software, I bought not only TextExpander 4 and 5, the iOS versions, but also PDF Pen. My budget for software is limited. I don’t know the financial situation of Smile, and even if I did that shouldn’t be a reason to subsidise them.

    Furthermore I now have to worry about the security of another cloud. The other day I was working on my openVPN setup and copied and pasted my settings, including my password several times and then TextExpander suggested to make a snippet from my password. Information I don’t want to end up on some cloud server, especially now I know that the data is not encrypted there. Snippets can be very powerful, with scripting they can even run Bash commands. I don’t need a special cloud to sync my snippets, I use local network sharing to sync my snippets.

    As it stands, I will use the copy of TextExpander I have, until it doesn’t work anymore on a future version of OS X. Then I will look into alternatives.

    @Allison, thank you for podcast, I’m not a power user of TE either. I hope that Greg will consider a non-Pro version of the program, like 1Pasword.

    I hope your laryngitis will heal soon.

  12. Frank - April 10, 2016

    BTW Kudos to Greg Scown for coming on the podcast, even tough he knew the questions.

  13. Anonymous - April 10, 2016

    I agree that a) kudos to Greg for coming on-line and b) to Allison for doing this. They are solving a problem I don’t have, and the pricing is problematic for me. They’re asking half the annual pricing for Microsoft Office, as one measure. The existing sharing mechanism was fine — I’ve got a bunch of shortcuts I got from MacSparky, and I’ve periodically updated them as he posted about updates. As someone who works in enterprise architecture and security, I know how hard it is to get security right, and bringing yet another cloud service (that doesn’t have two factor auth) into the mix for something that’s fundamentally a keylogger is just absolutely not acceptable. I’m giving this a couple of weeks to see if Smile comes to their senses. If not, then I’ll be starting the migration to Keyboard Maestro, as suggested by MacSparky and TJ Luoma (among many others).

  14. Anonymous - April 10, 2016

    Greg has said nothing at all to make me feel better about Smile doing this. Greg needs to understand there are a *lot* of users who could not care less about sharing. I hope he can swallow his pride and roll back this idiotic decision.

  15. Mike Leonard - April 10, 2016

    A P.P.S. to my previous comment. I still think keeping an older version available for sale, would satisfy these complaints.
    I think an old version maybe upgraded to work with the latest system would be minimal work, maybe.

    My only other complaint is being forced to use cloud based software, and again renting it, a big problem for me.
    Talk about having to “phone home” to get your software to work!
    Mike L.

  16. JeffK - April 10, 2016

    Greg kept saying that sharing the snippets was essentially impossible until the TE6. That got me wondering, why is the TextExpander cloud the only option? People share code all the time with git on private server (for team sharing) and GitHub for community sharing.

    If you pull these git repositories to your local disk which happens to be the DropBox folder then you can use them across all your devices where DropBox is available. Keeping snippets up to date and edit permission can be done with git, so I can’t say the TE cloud is the only way to achieve the team sharing goals.

    I’m a developer who also has a family to feed, but I’ve moved on to Keyboard Maestro right away so I can continue creating and updating my snippets without the last second rush when the doom day comes.

  17. […] (2016-04-10): Allison Sheridan interviews Greg Scown (via Katie […]

  18. Allison Sheridan - April 10, 2016

    I think it comes down to the definition of share, Jeff. In my world and yours sharing means letting someone have a copy of what you’ve done and letting them get updates. In Smile’s setup, you’re actually using the same snippet at the same time. At least that’s how I interpreted what they mean.

  19. Doug Blunt - April 10, 2016

    Hi Allison. Interesting discussion hasn’t It been . How come I’m not hearing anyone complaining about the other subscription services like Office 365, Adobe Lightroom, Netflixs, Dropbox, just to name a few? I’m In love with this new version of Text Expander . I really like going from my Mac to my iPad then to my windows machine …

  20. KC - April 10, 2016

    We are talking about snippets… What are we talking about? Snippets? – In an Allen Iverson voice. Now I’m glad I chose Typinator years ago. A snippet application is not worth a subscription service. Thanks Allison. Sorry Smile.

  21. Niran - April 10, 2016

    Thanks for a great interview. You asked the right questions and did not avoid conflict. I still can’t wrap my head around shared snippets. Snippets work because they are personal mnemonics. Shared snippets, not so much. As for sharing text information – shared sync files (Box,Dropbox,Google drive etc…) with the option of deciding what to do about shared text information.

  22. Allison Sheridan - April 10, 2016

    Thanks KC and Niran. Doug – I wish we had a way to consolidate all discussions. Over in Facebook there’s a big discussion going on about Adobe’s software rentals. More people love it, but some don’t. Those with restricted incomes don’t like it. But they have a choice – Lightroom is available as a purchase. Many on Twitter have compared the price of TextExpander rental vs. Office 365, and don’t think it’s worth 1/2 of the price of Office.

    It’s GREAT if people like the changes. It’s also perfectly acceptable for us to have differences of opinions. And as KC says, we have the option to try out different text expansion services.

  23. Lars - April 10, 2016

    Text Expander wasn’t a cheap app. Not at all. There’s a text out there for $5, which has the same core functionality. I am NOT against subscription models per se. Let’s look at an example:
    – Adobe Photoshop (CS6) used to cost $999, Lightroom something around $200. Significant updates came at a steep price, several hundert dollars, every 2-3 years.
    – Now I pay $9 a month for Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC. They added a cloud service and some goodies. $108 a year compared to the acquisition price of over thousand dollars. Sure, you could get some discounts and save 10-20%, but I think you get the point. With the subscription model, I have a yearly rate of 1/10 the original price.

    The same goes for MS Office, I get a ton of software for a modest monthly rate. I also subscribe to Backblaze, Evernote and some other stuff, because I think it’s worth it.

    Now let’s look at Text Expander:
    It cost $35 and major updates (every 2 years) cost $20. I gladly payed that. So, if I use TE for 6 years, it’s one purchase and two updates, adding up to $75 or ~$1 a month. so, with the $4/month model, I will have to pay FOUR times the amount. With the next version, I would do exactly the same, expand snippets. Sync service? What was wrong with Dropbox sync, it worked like a charm, so there’s absolutely no added value there. And if you look at a broken sync service, take a look at the Omni Group, they gave us OmniSync for free for their applications.

    Let’s get back to Adobe: for $9 I get applications that are on the cutting edge of technology. Ever looked at the feature list and the developer team? It’s 4,5 GB of software I am getting. Text Expander is a 30MB helper app. Look at MS Office 365, for ~$10 you get several applications (Excel, Word, Powerpoint….), there’s a cloud service included and even a whole programming language. I know, economies of scale, Smile is not MS or Adobe.

    Getting back to my 6-years-of-usage example, $4 dollars per month amounts to €288.

  24. Allison Sheridan - April 10, 2016

    Lars – I think you may have encapsulated the price comparison better than anyone else. I had heard the argument about other applications but not with the detail of what you get for those subscriptions. Your analysis is complete and detailed and it’s coming from someone who sees the value in subscription services and are gladly paying it where you see value. Thank you for taking the time to articulate this piece so well.

  25. Derick - April 10, 2016

    @JeffK yeah there are 90+ github repos devoted to TextExpander snippets….snippet sharing has been going on for years

  26. Anonymous - April 11, 2016

    I am in complete agreement with Lars.

    I have just upgraded from TE4 to 5 and it cost me over €32. I paid it at a moment when I could see that my monthly budget could take that hit (yes, I’m on a tight budget) because I DO find TE useful – or rather text expansion and fill-in snippets are very handy. I also paid it so that I could ensure having TE5 before it disappeared from Smile’s system (I have always bought the non-MAS app).

    I, too, have absolutely no use for sharing snippets. I work in a team and we share many things but snippets just wouldn’t cross our minds. We each have our own set. On the rare occasion when I have thought that a snippet might be useful to others, I have shared it manually.

    I sincerely hope Smile will reconsider and make a standalone, buy outright “personal” app with the current synch system, and then offer a “business” tier, “Pro” app that requires a subscription including free apps and an encrypted synch/share platform.

    Exactly what they would offer for the Pro/subscription app, I’m not sure but if Evernote, et al, can work it out, I’m sure Smile can too.

    Look forward to the solution.

  27. T Baucells - April 11, 2016

    Sorry, my post above, agreeing with Lars, got published as anonymous. This is me 😉

  28. Allison Sheridan - April 11, 2016

    TextExpande Tweeted this today;

    “Your feedback is important and does matter. Expect an update on The State Of TextExpander (based on your comments) very soon.”

    I think there’s reason to hope.

  29. T Baucells - April 12, 2016

    Perhaps what 1Password has done would be a fairly good example for Smile.

    Looking forward to the State of TextExpander update

  30. podfeet - April 12, 2016

    Woohoo! Smile heard our concerns and reversed some of their decisions!

    Standalone TextExpander 5 will continue to be offered for sale for Mac & iOS as custom keyboard. In addition, if you’re an existing customer, you get a LIFETIME 50% discount for TextExpander 6 subscription service, so only $20/year.

    This is AWESOME news – we have choice!

    https://smilesoftware.com/textexpander/entry/textexpander-adjustments

  31. Laura - April 12, 2016

    That is amazing. They really are an awesome company!!

  32. Rob Poulter - April 12, 2016

    Great episode. With all the hand wringing and speculation out there it was really good to have someone from Smile talk about it.

    This discussion literally had me shouting at my phone since Greg both provided a good use case for enhancing the way snippets are used, but completely missed the point of how to market it. Why it never occured to them to develop this stuff into a compelling collaboration platform before changing the pricing model is anyone’s guess (maybe they needed the cash to do it, who knows).

    Anyway, nice to know they’ve backpedalled somewhat now, as well as making the price more reasonable. I still won’t be paying it, but then I get no value from the direction they’re going, and will stick with the standalone version.

  33. Jan Koopmans - April 12, 2016

    The changes in TE pricing are not enough for me, especially as the new syncing option (or non option) is too much of a privacy issue for me. So I won’t be using TE anymore after support ends for the current versions, and maybe even switch over to aText right now.

    It’s a real shame, worked so well, and just got ruined…

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