I just read the news about TextExpander’s new subscription model. I use TextExpander on my Mac and my iOS devices, and I think it’s good software, but I can’t really see spending $5 per month to keep using it. (Technically, $2 per month for the first year, with their upgrade pricing for current users. But only for the first year.) They have said, in a follow-up blog post, that the old version will keep working for a while longer, so I don’t need to be in a hurry to switch to something else, but I’ll need to switch to something else eventually.
I’m a little worried, as I’ve seen a number of other software vendors take tentative steps toward switching to a subscription model. In many cases, a big part of this is switching from using iCloud or Dropbox for syncing, to a proprietary sync model. That, in itself, is a little worrying too. With Dropbox or iCloud, I have local access to my data, and have it automatically backed up to a reliable cloud provider.
Day One 2 switched from using Dropbox or iCloud to using their own sync service. But they haven’t switched to subscription pricing. (The new version required a new purchase, though, on both Mac and iOS.) The nice thing about the new sync service is that they can offer stuff like IFTTT integration and (at some point) a web front-end. I’m using Day One on a semi-regular basis now, but if they switch to a subscription model, I’ll probably just switch over to using Evernote for journaling, since I’m already paying for Evernote. (Speaking of Evernote, I don’t mind paying for that. I’m getting a lot of use out of it.)
1Password has also started moving towards proprietary sync and subscription pricing, introducing a team plan last year, and a family plan this year. I’m still using the regular single-user version on iOS, Mac, and Windows, and I’m fine with that, and hoping that they don’t move to a subscription model. But, if they do, there’s a fair chance I’d pay for it, since it’s such a valuable piece of software.
Getting back to TextExpander, I’ve been looking at alternatives. On Windows, I use AutoHotKey, which is free open-source software. I’ve been using that for a long time, and I’m really happy with it, so I don’t need to make any change there.
On iOS, I do use TextExpander, but I really don’t get much value out of it. iOS doesn’t really allow an app to grab all the keyboard input on the phone, for obvious reasons, so TextExpander on iOS has to rely on two mechanisms: (1) built-in support for it in certain apps, and (2) a custom TextExpander keyboard. The app support is good, but it’s not in enough apps. (Specifically, Evernote and the Apple Mail app don’t have it.) And the custom keyboard is useful, but it’s missing a lot of capabilities of the regular system keyboard, so I don’t want to use it full time, and it’s a bit of an inconvenience to switch back and forth between keyboards. So, really, I think I can drop TextExpander on iOS and just not bother with text expansion, outside of what I can do with the built-in iOS text expansion.
On the Mac, I do get a good bit of use out of TextExpander. But there are a number of alternatives to it. In particular, I’m thinking about switching to LaunchBar snippets. I’ve already paid for LaunchBar, and I know I’m not using more than maybe 20% of its capabilities, so I’m going to look into it.
Also, this blog post from Craig Pearlman goes over some of the same ground I’ve covered here, and mentions Typinator as a possible alternative. I wasn’t familiar with Typinator, but it looks like it might be a good alternative.