Some days, it seems to me that we’re in a technological era that demonstrates simultaneous trends of increased utility and decreased complexity. The strive for simplicity is apparent in Mac software, and the effects are often increased productivity and clarity. The best example of this that I can come up with is a growing number of Mac apps that set out to do one thing really well, rather than the swiss-army-knife applications of the past (not that there isn’t still a time and place for those).
Today, I’m going to take a look at one such application called SnipEdges. Developed by Houdah Software, SnipEdges is a new kind of global snippet manager. It uses the confinement of your screen as its management method, rather than a hierarchical window, and it does so to great effect. Let’s dig in, shall we?
Saving And Using Snippets
There will always be a special place in my heart for menubar apps, and SnipEdges is a particularly elegant one. When you launch, the menubar icon will pop out a helpful introduction video to help you find your bearings. To get started, simply highlight some text you might need later, and drag it to the edge of your screen.
As you near the edge of the screen, a green tab will appear. You can fine-tune the location of the tab, and once you release the mouse button, your snippet will be created. The tabs are beautifully equipped with a slide-out mouseover animation, which is handy for seeing which snippets are which when you’ve built up a large number of them along the edge of the screen.
By default, the name assigned to the snippet will be the first line of text within it, but simple clicking on a snippet that is moused-over will give you the option to rename (or remove) it.
Finally, SnipEdges is built on a drag-and-drop system. So to use a snippet, simply drag it from the edge of your screen to your desired location. The text will be inserted, and the snippet will remain on the edge of your screen for later use.
Not only can SnipEdges handle text, though. You can drag files, folders, and multiple media formats to your screens edges as well, which can likewise be drag-and-dropped into various applications. Text snippets will always have a green color, while any other type of file will be stashed on a blue tab.
A bit of a technical warning: snippets created for files or folders are only references that duplicate the original when dropped. Moving the original file will break the snippet.
In addition to the color coding, SnipEdges provides you with a few customization options. By default, both the left and right edges of the screen are fair game for tab-stashing. However, this can changed to just one or the other, which can come in handy if you’re working in an application with a side-dock or palette window, for example.
From the same Preferences menu (attractively displayed as a pop-down from the menubar icon), you can change the behavior of the tabs themselves. You can disable the mouse-over animation, in the event that you’re confident enough in your ability to remember which snippets are which. You can also turn off the tabs all together, which will keep the out of sight until you actually mouse-over the edge of the screen, which I found helpful for a distraction-free workspace.
SnipEdges certainly isn’t the first piece of software to try and accomplish functionality like this. But it is definitely one of the most graceful. And developing for modern machines poses it’s own challenges in how the software will deal with certain things, such as multi-monitor setups, or the virtual desktops and fullscreen apps found in OS X Lion. And while while Houdah’s website says it will only work on the main monitor (I only use a single monitor), I am quite pleased to report that your snippets will follow you to all of your other Spaces and full screen applications. This makes dragging and dropping between assorted writing applications, coding applications, or browsers an absolute breeze.
One of my favorite things about these lightweight apps that do a single thing really well is that the ways in which you can use them often vary dramatically from user to user. I’ve come up with a few various ways I think SnipEdges could be used, but I’d love to hear how others are using it as well.
If you find yourself creating several files or folders at a time, SnipEdges can be an efficient way to spawn empty folders or blank documents. Similarly, you can stash templates for later use (think pre-built spreadsheets, or blank invoices).
I haven’t mentioned it much so far, but in my experience, the word “snippet” is most often used in reference to pieces of code, and I haven’t overlooked the benefit of using SnipEdges in such an environment. In addition to the tabs themselves following you to your full-screen IDE, there’s something to be said for not having to use a snippet manager in a separate window.
SnipEdges is a creative solution to problem that is probably so commonly-occurring that most people forget that it could be streamlined. Managing text and images between applications and projects has come a long way in the past few years, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be simplified even further. Because let’s face it: the less time you have to spend tinkering with your tools, the more time you can spend focusing on the content behind them.
SnipEdges is only a 1.0 release at the moment. With that in mind, I will confidently say that it has definitely improved my workflow since I began using it only a few days ago. That being said however, it is easy to see how it could fall short on a longer scale. For example, your screen edges only have so much space, so all of your context-specific snippets could get quite unruly after a while. I would like to see some sort of solution for this, such as a profile manager that would only give you access to the snippets you need (text snippets for writing, code snippets for programming, etc.).
Criticisms and feature requests aside, for the low price tag of $2.99, SnipEdges is exactly the kind of lightweight utility I love to fall in love with. I look forward to seeing what kind of improvements Houdah can make, and what other creative ways it’s users find to implement it.