The Advantage of Snippets

August 15, 2022

Whether you write or code you often might find yourself repeating the same text over and over. A command you often use, or some boilerplate response. If you type it enough you will eventually remember it, but it can take a while to get there. Sometimes you have infrequently used commands or text that you want to save for reference as well. In both these cases using a snippets tool can save you searching and typing.

The original and fully featured snippets tool is TextExpander. If you’re not a software engineer, I can highly recommend this app. They have great documentation and many features that help it work well across platforms and software. The usefulness of snippets is not lost on coders so there are also a variety of tools that include snippet features. I personally use the snippet feature in Dash.

If you’re a software engineer take some time to migrate commands into your snippets tool, preferably with descriptions. The infrequently used commands will be easier to find than if you have to go into the full documentation every time. The frequently used commands will end up having to be typed less as you have shortcuts to expand them. Some tools even let you share snippets with your team. One of the biggest downsides to code and the command line is the challenge of discoverability and recall, and snippets are a great mitigation against those problems.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.