Be More Productive with LaunchBar: Snippets

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In this video, our third on getting more out of Objective Development’s excellent LaunchBar utility, we show you how to take advantage of LaunchBar’s new snippets feature to paste frequently used bits of text.


Here at Macworld, we’re big fans of LaunchBar, a utility that works a lot like OS X’s Spotlight, but does much, much more. I recently reviewed the latest version, LaunchBar 5.5, and in this video, my third on getting more out of LaunchBar (see Be More Productive With LaunchBar Part 1 and Part 2), I’m going to show you how to take advantage of one of my favorite new features, text snippets.

If you have particular bits of text you type frequently, such as your address, stock email replies, or various strings of work-related text, LaunchBar 5.5 lets you store those snippets and then instantly paste them with a few keystrokes.

To use this feature, you just find a snippet in LaunchBar and press Return—the snippet’s text is immediately pasted in the frontmost application; or you can press Command+C to copy the snippet’s contents and paste them somewhere else.

Using snippets is pretty straightforward, but how do you make snippets? There are four primary ways.

The first is to activate LaunchBar (On my Macs, I use Command+Space), start typing A-D-D-S-N-I-P-P-E-T until you see the Add Snippet action, and then press Spacebar. Type or paste your text, press Return. LaunchBar uses the first few words of the new snippet as the name of the snippet.

If the text you want to save is available to select—say, in a document or on a webpage—select that text, activate LaunchBar’s Instant Send feature (for me, this is a double-press of the Control key, but you can also just press and hold your normal LaunchBar shortcut), and you’ll see the selected text appear in LaunchBar. Start typing A-D-D-S-N-I-P-P-E-T until you see the Add Snippet action, and press Return. Using this approach, you get to give your snippet a custom name; press Return to save the snippet.

If you use LaunchBar’s Clipboard History feature, you can easily create a snippet from any past clipboard. Just activate Clipboard History (for me, the shortcut is Shift+Command+V), use the up- and down-arrow keys to select the desired clipboard, press Tab to activate LaunchBar’s Send To feature, then typing A-D-D-S-N-I-P-P-E-T until you see the Add Snippet action. Press Return, give the snippet a name, and then press Return to save it.

Finally—and this may be the easiest approach if you have a good number of snippets you want to create—any text file you save in ~/Library/ Application Support/LaunchBar/Snippets is instantly available as a snippet. You just type or paste text into a plain-text file, save the file in this folder, and give the file whatever name you want to use to access the snippet in LaunchBar.

(Tip: If you save .rtf files here, or convert existing snippet files to rich text, you can create formatted snippets.)

As with any LaunchBar shortcut, you can assign a custom abbreviation, or you can just use LaunchBar’s standard item-finding smarts.

A bonus tip here is that a snippet can contain placeholders that are filled in, on the fly, whenever you use the snippet. For example, the text <date short> will automatically be replaced by the current date (using the Short format for dates as configured in OS X’s System Preferences), <clipboard> pastes the contents of the clipboard; and <|> put the cursor at the location of <|> (and erases that placeholder). You can see a complete list of placeholders in LaunchBar’s Help files.

LaunchBar’s snippets feature isn’t as powerful as what you’ll get from a dedicated snippet utility such as TextExpander, which we also love, but as I wrote in my review of LaunchBar 5.5, if LaunchBar’s workflow is already second nature, you may prefer it—or, like me, use it along with TextExpander.

That’s it for this week; thanks for watching.

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