These days, between Twitter, Facebook, Internet forums, and Web forms, most people spend a good amount of time typing in text boxes and fields. In fact, if you use Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or another Web-based e-mail system, or if your work requires you to use Web-based tools, you may even do most of your text typing and editing outside of your favorite text editor—or at least frequently copying and pasting between your favorite editor and your browser.
Hog Bay Software’s QuickCursor (Mac App Store link) aims to make this back-and-forth easier—easy enough that you’ll start using your favorite text editor any time you have to type or edit text.
Launch QuickCursor, and it appears as a small icon in your menubar. Then, whenever you’re working with text—in a Web page, a Twitter client, a word processor, you name it—just choose your favorite text editor from the QuickCursor menu or, even better, press a keyboard shortcut. QuickCursor immediately switches you to your text editor, pasting any text you were working on. (As with many e-mail clients, if you’d selected a bit of text, only the selected text is pasted. If no text was selected, QuickCursor pastes everything.)
You then type and edit away, using all the features that make your favorite text editor, well, your favorite. When you’re done, simply use the standard Mac OS X Save and Close commands—either from the File menu or by pressing Command+S, Command+W. As soon as you close the “document” (which conveniently disappears into the aether), QuickCursor automatically switches back to the original program and pastes the edited text—replacing the original text with the freshly edited version, if necessary.
While it took a couple paragraphs to describe how QuickCursor works, the entire process is quick and easy in practice. If I’m, say, replying to a post in the Macworld forums, I simply press Control+Option+Command+B (my QuickCursor shortcut for BBEdit) to start working in BBEdit; compose my reply; and then save and close that BBEdit window to have my edited text automatically entered in the Web form back in Safari.
QuickCursor is also useful whenever you’re using Mail, Entourage, or Outlook—or even a full-featured word processor such as Microsoft Word—and you need to perform the kinds of text-munging at which a good text editor excels. You can even use QuickCursor within your text editor. For example, when I’m writing an article in BBEdit, I often want to edit or process one section of that document. If I select that section and press my QuickCursor shortcut, I get a new BBEdit document containing just the selection. When I’m done editing, QuickCursor pastes the edited block of text back into the original document.
What if you regularly use more than one text editor? QuickCursor’s menu lists any supported editors installed on your Mac, and the utility even lets you assign a different keyboard shortcut for each one. So you could, for example, use BBEdit for editing code fragments, and Hog Bay’s own WriteRoom for editing prose. QuickCursor currently supports eight popular Mac OS X text editors: BBEdit, Espresso, MacVim, Smultron, SubEthaEdit, TextMate, TextWrangler, and WriteRoom.
As long as you leave the original application alone while editing your text, the process works perfectly. You can even switch between multiple applications while editing—when you save and close the window in your text editor, QuickCursor will switch back to the correct program and paste your text. However, because of the way QuickCursor works, there are a couple caveats. If you’re, say, editing text for a field in your Web browser and you switch to a different browser tab before you finish, the text field into which QuickCursor is supposed to paste won’t be accessible, resulting in an error message. (You don’t lose your work, though—QuickCursor uses the standard Copy and Paste commands to work its magic, so your edited text will still be on the Clipboard for manual pasting.)
Similarly, you don’t want to switch to another document or window in the target application, or to a different text field on a Web page, while editing your text in your text editor—your edited text will end up being pasted in the wrong place. That said, I’ve found that I rarely encountered this type of problem, as I typically use QuickCursor for on-the-spot text editing—I invoke QuickCursor, edit my text, and then get back to the original program.
QuickCursor has actually been around for a while, but previous versions relied on either input-manager hacks or a less-capable approach to working with applications. QuickCursor 2.0 is a major update that doesn’t rely on system hacks and works reliably with any program that uses OS X’s standard Copy and Paste menu commands. (If you’re the geeky type, you can grab the open-source code for v2.0 and build the utility yourself, but for the rest of us, the program is just $5 on the Mac App Store.) As someone who uses BBEdit to work with text as much as possible, QuickCursor lets me do so for virtually every bit of text I need to type.