Documentation and gedit snippets

As I mentioned in a recent post, gedit snippets can help you write code more quickly, and with fewer errors, than writing all of your code manually. Snippets work by expanding small chunks of text into complete combinations of code boilerplate and variable/attribute placeholders. Using these pre-configured combinations of boilerplate and placeholders frees you to focus on the bits of code and text that are materially relevant to your work at hand.

You can enable the gedit snippets plugin by selecting Edit > Preferences > Plugins > Snippets.

There are four components to using snippets: confirming the language or syntax setting, entering the snippet ID, activating the snippet, and completing the snippet by entering the appropriate attributes or variables into the placeholder text areas.

The first thing is to make sure that the file type is set to correspond with the type of file you're working on. If you're starting from an existing file, gedit will attempt to set the file type for you automatically. If you're starting a brand new file, or if gedit hasn't correctly identified the file type, you can also manually set or change the file type.

Once you have that in place, the most difficult part is actually remembering the snippets that are available. You can view, edit, and create snipppets using the Manage Snippets window (see Tools > Manage Snippets). Once you know the relevant snippet IDs, all you need to do is type a snippet ID, and press the tab key. The tab key is what activates the snippet.

After you press the tab key, gedit converts that brief snippet of text into a combination of boilerplate text and appropriate variable or attribute placeholders. Pressing the tab key again will move the cursor to the next placeholder area.

Here's an example. I'm starting from a blank page, and am writing a new Mallard XML file. The snippet ID to start a new Mallard page file is just the word, "page."

Simple enough! Just enter the snippet ID, press the tab key, watch as gedit inserts the boilerplate text, and then use the tab key to maneuver through the placeholder areas.

There are currently snippets for numerous languages and syntaxes, but coverage of each language varies, and some snippets may not include the most recent language features. Give gedit snippets a try. If you don't see a snippet feature that you'd like to use, file a bug in the gedit bug tracker.