Snippets 1.0 Brings Powerful Snippet Management to the Mac

by Milind Alvares

Snippets 1.0 Brings Powerful Snippet Management to the Mac

by Milind Alvares on March 20, 2010

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[tweetmeme]Snippet management is an ideal that many of us would like to follow. To be able to store frequently used code and reuse it in an instant. It would save time, increase productivity, and allow you to focus on the creative aspect. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. So far we’ve had a bunch of applications catering to this crowd. TextExpander is the be-all master of snippet management, but you can’t really use it for code since a lot of the times you need to see what you’re pasting. I reviewed Snippet, a menubar app, which has a tight user interface for managing snippets. Then showed up Snippets from Lucky Ants. I wanted to review it two months ago when it went into public beta, but it wasn’t stable enough. Today, at 1.0, it’s review worthy.

Snippets, to put it as a cliché, is the iTunes of snippet management. But this is more in terms of look-and-feel rather than being the best workflow to the given task. Snippets allows you to create snippets in a primary database, or inside groups, groups into folders, and smart folders. You can change the syntax highlighting for each snippet depending on the type of code it represents. This makes PHP code look like code. Snippets’ user interface allows you to store thousands of snippets in it without hampering usability. To access snippets, you can either narrow them down by tags which show up on a navigation bar, browsing through the folders, or most importantly, using its menubar access. Click on the menubar icon, and you can search for any snippet using its tag, name, or even the code itself. Option-Click on the icon, and you get a list of all your folders and groups.

Snippets also has a feature called Scrippets, which is a plugin architecture for integrating with online services like Pastie.org. You can select a bunch of snippets from your library, and pipe them to Pastie.org, mark them private if you want, and within seconds get a list of links of your uploaded snippets. Any developer with API access can write these Scrippets, so having this integrate with your favourite service won’t be too difficult.

Now that I’ve explained how it works, I think it’s time to complain. The first is that there’s way to get your snippets into the app without dealing with its full user interface. TextExpander 3 for instance has a global shortcut for creating new snippets. My other big complaint, is its way of accessing snippets. Snippets’ approach treats each snippet as an individual file. When you search for a snippet, while it runs a search for the content it contains, you still have to figure it out by its title.

Snippet from Fuel Collective on the other hand does a few things right. When searching, it displays the snippet content itself, making it much easier to identify what you’re looking for. This also negates the process of naming the snippet completely optional, speeding up the process of snippet creation. This also makes snippets just what they are—pieces of code. They don’t need to be singular independent objects; just clouds of code. Snippet can also handle large amounts of snippets, and never makes you feel like your database is not organised. That’s because it doesn’t even have a library. Once a snippet is created, the only way to access it is by running a search for its content, or code. Depending on how you work with code, that may or may not be a good thing.

Snippets from Lucky Ants is a great way to manage your large collection of snippets—great for programmers dealing with large applications (I suppose). It can sort and organise your snippets till everything is just right, it can find your snippets from thousands that you have organised, and it’s got quite a few features that could speed up your workflow. I just don’t think it’s good for my collection of 25-odd snippets. It’s got a 30-day trial, but has a 25% discount on its full price of $40 right up till 28th March.

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