There are numerous plain text manipulation tasks that coders need daily. Sometimes those tasks can be automated with an integrated development environment (IDE) or via command line. Still, in both cases, it can be time-consuming to find and run the desired task. That’s why Click On Tyler, a Nashville, TN-based independent software development company, created TextBuddy.
TextBuddy is a plain text manipulation app that stuffs a lot of features into a small package. It has over 100 useful commands that enable developers, writers, and anyone needing to modify text the ability to transform, sort, capture, and filter plain text. It’s designed to complement and work with existing apps via macOS Services, and it also integrates apps like Drafts and Marked.
TextBuddy also comes with some “wow” features. The main feature that caught my attention was its ability to capture text from images. It’s the perfect tool for quickly grabbing text from messages shared as images, which is done often on social networks like Twitter.
TextBuddy also supports syncing text with iCloud. That means you can capture and manipulate text on one computer and then open up TextBuddy on another computer and have the same data appear. That’s a feature I find useful since I switch between a laptop and desktop throughout the day.
I reached out to the creator of TextBuddy, Tyler Hall, to ask him why he built TextBuddy, who the app was made for, and how he came up with his pricing.
Q&A with Tyler Hall, creator of TextBuddy
Jon Henshaw: Where did the idea for TextBuddy come from?
Tyler Hall: I bounce around frequently between three text editors.
Ulysses is for long-form serious writing. Blog posts, website copy, meeting notes, and work emails that need extra attention, etc.
Drafts is where most of my writing usually begins before either graduating to Ulysses or shuttling off to another app and archived.
And then all these years later, I still use TextMate as my true text editor – as a programmer would use one. It’s fantastic at doing amazingly complex text edits.
But then, on the morning of January 18th, 2021 (I know because of my commit logs), it sort of hit me that I needed an even more temporary editor in-between those three. Not a place to keep text long term, just a text field I can summon with a hotkey, paste a block of text, make a few quick edits, and move on.
I remember thinking that it was such a simple idea (almost requiring no code) I could throw something together super quick. And I did! I blew off work that morning and had a very, very basic version working by lunchtime.
Over the next three weeks, the app’s feature set snowballed as I took inspiration from TextMate and a lot of my own “wouldn’t it be cool if…?” ideas. But even as the features expanded, I feel like the app’s focus narrowed. Now it’s this landing zone for very, very temporary text that’s easier to use than the command line and less cumbersome than opening a real programmer’s text editor.
Jon Henshaw: Who is TextBuddy for? What are its best features? What makes it unique?
Tyler Hall: Most of the commands available in TextBuddy fall into one of two buckets:
- Actions for programmers like JSON and HTML manipulations.
- Actions for “normal” plain text workers who need to sort, filter, and clean up text they get from somewhere else.
But then appealing to both demographics are the advanced capturing tools like image and audio recognition. That lets you pull text from apps and documents that might otherwise be “locked” because the original source is either not text or the text is not selectable.
Jon Henshaw: You provide three pricing options for the same license. What’s the thinking behind that?
Tyler Hall: Two reasons behind that approach.
On January 24th, 2020, I tweeted: “One day I will get around to either releasing or open sourcing the dozen or so bespoke, one-off Mac apps I’ve built just for myself. Today is not that day.”
That was a bit of a joke but also serious. My goal during 2020 was to start releasing many of the little one-off apps I make just for myself. And whenever I’d release one, it became a bit of a judgment call to decide if the app should be
- Open source
- Closed source but free
- Inexpensive with limited support and no guaranteed development future
- A “real” app that I plan to support and charge for accordingly
The first app in the #2 category was Spotish, which I put on Gumroad as a “pay what you want”. I got a lot of sales, but I think the truly open-ended pricing hurt me. Most sales are for the minimum $1 price.
The next app in that category, my little audio app Ears, I wanted to try suggesting prices and came up with the tiered approach. Surprisingly, very few people pay the minimum amount. Most customers choose the top two tiers.
By no means am I retiring to an island soon, but that pricing model worked well enough that I felt confident doing it again for TextBuddy. Granted, I’m writing this less than 24 hours into the app being on sale, but so far, sales are coming through at roughly:
- $19.99 – 35%
- $9.99 – 50%
- $4.99 – 15%
For whatever consumer psychological reasons at play, it seems to work out in my favor with Ears and now TextBuddy.
The second reason is for word-of-mouth purposes. I’ve long thrown free copies of my apps at students, anyone who randomly said something nice on Twitter, or even if someone just emailed and said they couldn’t afford it. I’d much rather someone use my app for free and enjoy it and tell their friends than not use it at all.
I think offering that lower-tier price gives customers a way into the app without a large investment. I know “pay it forward” is cliche, but I’ve never done any advertising. Whatever success I have has come directly from customers telling other people they like my apps. So, I’m totally fine encouraging that sort of serendipity.
You can learn more about TextBuddy and download it for free at textbuddy.app.