When Smile announced that their super useful, $45 text expansion utility TextExpander was switching to a subscription model, the internet (or at least my Twitter feed) did not take it well. And this is one of those few times when the outrage might not be entirely unwarranted. TextExpander now costs $4.95/month (Or $3.96/month if billed annually) and doesn’t add any new superbly useful features to make it worth paying $5 every month.
With TextExpander 6 for Mac, TextExpander 4 for iOS and surprisingly, a new Windows beta, TextExpander has released its own, secure web service (along with a website) for storing and syncing text snippets. This is something users could already do using Dropbox previously. TextExpander also added a whole new tier ($9.95/month) for making it easier to store and share snippets between teams.
— TJ Luoma (@tjluoma) April 5, 2016
The writing on the wall is clear. TextExpander has gone full-on Enterprise.
Should You Stay?
Here are a couple of reasons why you might want to stick it out with TextExpander.
– First of all, and it’s the big one, you don’t mind paying $5/month for the TextExpander service.
– You’re too used to some specific pro features like intelligent snippet suggestions, document fill-ins to let it go.
– You’re already used to the plethora of productivity iOS apps like Drafts or Editorial that integrate TextExpander snippets and let you type more efficiently.
– You think the cost of switching will be far more than paying $5/month.
– You want to take advantage of the easy sharing features added in this update or you’re looking forward to the new Teams tier and future updates.
Should You Leave?
If none of those points resonate with you – especially the part where you don’t want to pay $5 for a sync service just for text expansion and if your text expansion needs are fairly basic, you should probably switch to another app.
While the new sharing features make sense for teams, it doesn’t make sense for individuals to spend $5 on this service every month. They might add more features later on, but I have a feeling they’ll all be targeted towards business users.
So if you’re thinking of leaving TextExpander, here are your best alternatives.
Our Top Alternatives to TextExpander
1. aText for OS X
For most users out there, aText is going to be the go-to alternative.
The interface is similar, it supports basic text expansion, along with pro features like macros. Transferring snippets from TextExpander is pretty easy (more on that below). Cloud backup with iCloud and Dropbox is also available.
And it costs exactly as much as 1 month’s TextExpander subscription. The upside – this one’s yours. Forever. Or at least, till it’s updated. Still a better deal.
aText is my personal choice. And what I use everyday. When I got into text expansion – around two years back – I saw what was out there. All the podcasts and Mac sites said TextExpander was it. But even then, with its one-time fee of $35, it was too much for me. So instead I went for aText. And right now I’m glad I did.
aText has served me well over the time. Except when I upgraded to El Capitan and the app just broke for a few weeks till I discovered that the new sandboxing rules didn’t allow aText to do its job. But after migrating the licence to the one I downloaded from their website – it was fine again.
So here’s a heads up. If you do decide to go with aText, buy it directly from their website, not the Mac App Store.
Download: aText ($4.99 – 30 day trial)
How To Export Snippets from TextExpander to aText
Step 1: Open TextExpander and select the group you want to export.
Step 2: Click the “Gear” icon, select “Save a copy of Group (group name)” and save the file where you’ll remember it.
Step 3: Open aText and from under the “Data” menu, select “Import Data”.
Step 4: From this popup, select that file you just saved. It will have a “.textexpander” extension.
This will only work for one group at a time so you’ll have to repeat the process for every group you want to export.
2. TypeIt4Me for OS X and iOS
In some ways, TypeIt4Me is eerily similar to TextExpander. It shows detailed stats of your usage, has a similar interface and even loads TidBITS’s library of frequently misspelled keywords. Another way it’s similar is that it has an iOS counterpart. Something aText is sorely missing.
The Mac app costs $19.99 and the iOS app is $4.99. There’s also a 30-day trial. In my testing, I found the app to work well enough with both basic text expansion, images, and macros.
Download: TypeIt4Me for Mac ($19.99)
Download: TypeIt4Me for iOS ($4.99)
How-to Transfer Snippets from TextExpander to TypeIt4Me
Step 1: Open TextExpander, select the group in question, click the “Gear” icon and select “Save a copy of group (group name).
Step 2: Open TypeIt4Me and from the “File” menu, select “Open”.
Step 3: Open the file you just saved.
Step 4: This will create a new file on your desktop, but with a “.typeitforme” extension instead.
Step 5: Open this file and now all the snippets will be included in TypeIt4Me.
3. OS X and iOS’s Built-In Text Shortcuts
OS X and iOS both come with a built-in text expansion feature. To tell you the truth, it’s a bit too barebones. And I’ve personally had problems with syncing shortcuts between Mac and iPhone. But if you only have a handful of shortcuts, it’s something worth looking into.
Plus, it’s free. So there’s that. Also, you’ll get text expansion on iOS – without needing to change the default keyboard.
4. Keyboard Maestro
Keyboard Maestro is many things. A keyboard launcher, automation tool and also – a text expansion app. Using the app’s Macro Triggers feature – specifically Typed String trigger, you can replicate the TextExpander feature.
Keyboard Maestro costs $36 and in no way is this a solution for everyone. But if you’re a pro user who already has Keyboard Maestro and is familiar with this complex automation app, it makes sense to just move the text expansion ability to this app.
Download: Keyboard Maestro ($36)
Ultimately: aText vs TypeIt4Me
As I see it, if you’ve decided to switch over from TextExpander, your two best choices are aText and TypeIt4Me.
If you really need text expansion support for both Mac and iOS, go for TypeIt4Me. Remember that you’ll lose iOS’s default keyboard and the 3D Touch cursor movement feature.
If all you need is text expansion on Mac, just go for aText. Not only is it cheaper, I wasn’t able to find any killer feature in TypeIt4Me that would convince me to spend 4 times the money on it. Plus, if you need some basic text expansion on iOS, I suggest you take some time and setup text shortcuts on your iPhone and iPad.
Will you be switching over from TextExpander? Or will you keep paying $5 per month to support the developers or just because you’ve grown accustomed to it and you think the cost of switching would be way higher?
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