Switching from TextExpander to Keyboard Maestro

The makers of TextExpander recently changed their pricing model with the release of v6 from paying once for each version to a subscription. I have no problem paying for software that makes me more productive, as TextExpander certainly does.

However, v6 of TextExpander started inserting non-breaking spaces rather than normal spaces at the beginning of Python code snippets: I would paste code into TextExpander with 4 space characters in a row, and it would come out with 3 NBSPs and one normal space. This effectively broke TextExpander for some of my most-used snippets.

Additionally, I've always had quality and stability issues with TextExpander and Smile's other product, PDFpenPro. For example, in TextExpander v5, it was impossible to tab from the snippet entry field to the abbreviation field. This infuriating problem was left unresolved for all of v5, but was thankfully fixed in v6. And PDFpenPro is simply much less stable than the alternatives (Preview.app and PDF Expert), with fairly frequent beachballs and freezes.

TextExpander v6 requires syncing to their central server. Given the software quality issues with their stand-alone apps, I'm very concerned about snippet loss from sync errors. I'm also not convinced that the QA issues with their native applications will ever be resolved, especially with the added burden of their new sync/subscription business model. And I am skeptical that their new business model will be sustainable long-term, given these other issues and the response of many users to their subscription pricing.

I decided it was time to look for an alternative.

Keyboard Maestro

Keyboard Maestro is general-purpose Mac automation software, which also has the capability to expand text snippets like TextExpander. I manually migrated my snippets over in about an hour (it can be done automatically too).

What I like

  • Keyboard Maestro (KM) seems generally more stable and performant than TextExpander (TE).
  • KM's two column UI for listing snippets is much more effective than TE's single column with collapsable headings.
  • KM allows multiple snippets with the same shortcut: when you type a conflicted shortcut, it shows a pop-up menu where you can select the snippet you want.
  • KM does lots of things besides snippets, like letting you ctrl-tab between multiple windows in the same application!

What I don't like

  • The KM quick search doesn't show the shortcut for the snippet (TE's quick search does).
  • Setting up new snippets in KM is a bit more complicated than with TE. This is because KM is a multi-purpose tool, and there are definitely benefits to specialization. But at least the tab key works as expected.

Other than these minor complaints, I've had zero problems with KM.

Setting up text expansion in Keyboard Maestro

Here's what my text expansion snippets ("macros" in KM parlance) look like – it seems like it's necessary to reset the system clipboard after expanding the snippet if you use the "paste" insert method rather than the "type" method:

Implications for this website

I've posted a number of tips on this site that use TextExpander. So far I have been able to convert these to Keyboard Maestro macros with minimal effort.

From now on, I will be posting KM macros rather than TE snippets.