Since my initial, rather negative, reaction to Smile’s release of Text Expander 6, with it’s move to subscription pricing and forced use of their un-encrypted in-house cloud, Smile have announced some important changes.

Critically, they will continue to sell the non-cloud versions of their OS X and iOS apps (TE5 & TE3 respectively). This means that users can continue to use TextExpander for the foreseeable future, without having to trust their data to an un-tested and un-encrypted cloud. Smile have also addressed the cost issue by extending the 50% discount for existing users from 1 year to a lifetime.

It’s great to see Smile responding to their customers, and I think the price-drop for existing customers will resolve the cost issue for many people. It does for me.

Personally, I would like to be in a position to move to the new subscription version of the apps in the future, but I’m not going to feel comfortable doing that unless and until they address the privacy concerns I have about their current cloud design. I’m hopeful that they have heard that feedback too, and that encryption will show up on their cloud offering within the next year or so. If that comes to pass, I’ll happily make the switch.

I’m also hopefully that as Smile conduct their postmortem of this troubled launch, that they look again at how they use data from their support inbox when planning product changes. Support requests can serve as a good metric for what new features would be of the most value, but they provide no information at all about the relative importance of existing features. Text Expander 6 removed an existing feature, DropBox/iCloud sync, to facilitate the addition of a new feature, sharing. The support mailbox provided evidence of the desire for the new feature, but the value of the old seems to have come as a complete surprise to Smile! You simply cannot infer the value of existing features from support inboxes of Twitter feeds – the only way to figure that kind of thing out is to ask users, or to run betas. Smile kept all this totally secret until they had made a massive investment of time and resources. A mistake IMO, but then again, I am only an armchair CEO, and it’s not my livelihood that’s on the line!

The bottom line is that Smile have clearly been paying attention to the feedback, which can only be a good thing.