As you probably know, coding can be a time-consuming and mentally exhausting process. It takes hours, days, or even weeks to code the perfect solution for your use case. But the good thing is that once a project is done, large chunks of the written code can be used later on for subsequent projects.
This means that you don't have to write the same code every time. Yet, it also means that you need to find the best way to store code snippets.
Code snippets quickly pile up as you write more and more code. With time, it gets more and more difficult to find the stored snippets, and it's easy to forget what those snippets do. To overcome this problem, developers rely on a large array of different solutions.
Developers can save code snippets using note apps, text editors, Google Docs, IDE extensions, GitHub Gists, chat rooms, and so on. These may be okay, but they're far from perfect. However, there's a better way.
In this article, you'll learn about the popular techniques developers use to organize code snippets, and you'll also learn about Pieces for Developers, a superior code organization tool when it comes to saving code snippets. You'll learn what its features are, what its advantages are over the other techniques mentioned, and how you can use Pieces to significantly increase your productivity.
Basic Code Organization Techniques
If you asked ten coders about the techniques they use to organize code snippets, you might get ten different answers. Developers organize their code in many different ways. The following sections will discuss some of these techniques and their pros and cons, then explore a tool that overcomes the cons that other tools have.
Let's start with the most basic code organization techniques.
Notes Apps and Word Processors
One of the simplest ways to organize code snippets is to save them into a notes app or simple word processor, such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word. After all, code snippets are essentially nothing more than notes. Countless note-taking apps and many word processors are widely available for free for anyone to use. You don't even have to go through the hassle of installing one since most operating systems have a note app and a word processor installed by default.
Another advantage is that most people use note-taking apps and word processors on a daily basis anyway. You've got your to-do lists and a lot of other information there. Using them for storing organized code is just one additional step from what you're already doing anyway. So, on the surface, storing code snippets in such tools makes perfect sense, right? It's an all-around very simple solution.
Note-taking apps are great for tasks like to-do lists, and word processors are great for creating text documents, but filling your note taking app with code snippets is a totally different matter. Once saved, you need to be able to easily find and reuse the code snippets. This can get very difficult when you have hundreds of code snippets saved.
Most of these tools have a basic search function, which can be useful but isn't nearly as robust as the search functions of tools specifically created for curating code snippets. You might want to share the snippets as well, and it's even better if the snippets are auto-enriched with information such as titles, descriptions, and tags added. Such functionalities are beyond the capabilities of simple note-taking apps and word processors.
So, although they may be used for occasional quick and dirty code snippet storage, note-taking apps and word processors should generally be avoided as a code snippet organizer, especially since there are way more advanced tools for this purpose.
Text editors are another option you can use. These tools are actually designed to make writing code an easier process. Examples include Sublime Text, Brackets, Notepad++, and so on. Text editors are a step up from note-taking apps since they're actually specialized for code.
Apart from being designed for writing code, another advantage of text editors is that they usually have extensions that provide additional functionality. For example, Brackets has the Brackets Snippets extension, which is specifically designed to make saving code snippets easier. Installing the extension is very straightforward, and once it's installed, you can organize code snippets while you're coding in the editor.
Though they offer more functionalities than a note-taking app, even text editors don't have nearly the same capabilities as tools designed specifically with code organization in mind. While such tools are designed specifically for writing code, they're not designed for saving code snippets as their main purpose. Given this, they miss features such as auto-enrichment, transformations, and easy code sharing.
Although not as popular, chat rooms can also be used for storing code snippets. Some of these will make sharing snippets easier compared to the simpler solutions shown above. For example, Slack allows you to create snippets and share them.
You can add a title to your snippet if you wish and choose the "Snippets" file type. When you want to find a snippet, you can filter the files in your workspace to only show that file type. From there, you can edit the snippet or share it in a channel or direct message.
Purpose-Built Code Organization Techniques
The code organization techniques discussed until now were primarily developed for other purposes, but developers sometimes also utilize them to manage code snippets. However, there are tools that are specifically built for code organization.
Code Snippet Managers
Now you're getting into more advanced tools. Code snippet managers are built with a simple idea in mind: to help you easily save and organize code snippets. A code snippet manager can be desktop software or a web app.
They help you find your code snippets more easily than note-taking apps and word processors. Many of them allow you to categorize the snippets and add tags to them. These tools often come with features such as code completion and syntax highlighting.
On the other hand, code management tools have a few cons as well. For instance, many of them come with a price tag, and some can be quite expensive. Furthermore, a significant portion of desktop-based managers are restricted to just one platform.
Online Code Sharing Platforms like GitHub Gists
GitHub Gist is a platform that allows you to share code rather quickly. It's built by GitHub, so you can use it with the same login. However, you'll have a hard time finding it directly from the GitHub website since there aren't many links on GitHub pointing to the gists page.
The good part about GitHub gists is that code snippet sharing is pretty simple. All you need to do is open the gists home page and log in, and there'll be a window where you can write your code snippet. Input a description for the snippet and add a file name (include the file extension to apply syntax highlighting). You can choose between creating a public or a secret gist.
Still wondering how to organize code? One great solution is through an IDE extension. This is quite practical since most developers already commonly use IDEs. You can effortlessly save code snippets as you're writing code in your favorite IDE.
A great extension to integrate with your IDE of choice is a Pieces plugin. These plugins work with the most popular IDEs, such as VS Code and the JetBrains suite. Pieces plugins allow for easy code organization in your Pieces micro-repo, searching through them inside your editor, and sharing them in Slack or Teams. You can even save to and from GitHub gists, with their simple integration.
Advanced Code Optimization and Organization with Pieces
While there's nothing wrong with using any of the tools discussed up to now, they are far from an ideal solution. On the other hand, Pieces for Developers provides code organization techniques that maximize your development efficiency. Pieces provides an optimized way to save, enrich, search, reuse, and share code snippets.
What Does Pieces Do?
Pieces provides a variety of utilization options to cater to different preferences. You can use it as a plugin for major IDEs such as VS Code or JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA, as a JupyterLab extension, as an add-on for browsers such as Chrome or Edge, or even integrate it with Microsoft Teams.
However, for the most optimal experience, it's best to install the Pieces for Developers desktop app, which is Pieces' flagship offering. The desktop app is a graphical user interface (GUI) built on Flutter (see the Dart and Flutter case study here) that lets you visually review your saved snippets. It also provides more advanced functionalities, such as transforming code snippets between different languages and generating code from simple natural language prompts.
Setting Up Pieces and Saving Your First Snippet
You can find all you need to install the Pieces Desktop App and Pieces OS on the Getting Started page, whether you're using Windows, macOS, or Linux. And it's free! The installation is quite straightforward and quick, so you should be set up in minutes. Once it's installed, the window should look something like this:
All the snippets you save, whether through IDE plugins, browser extensions, or a simple copy/paste, will be shown here. Let's see this in action. Once you install the Chrome extension, there'll be buttons for saving and for sharing anywhere on the web where there's a code snippet. Here's how a Stack Overflow page looks once you have the Pieces Chrome extension installed:
The second you click Copy and Save, the code snippet shows up in the Pieces Desktop App:
Auto-Enriching and Sharing Snippets
Not only is the code snippet saved, but it's also automatically enriched at the same time. As you can see, Pieces automatically gives the code snippet a title and a description based on what the code snippet does. It also creates tags. From the quick menu on the right, you can easily edit the snippet, copy it, or edit the description if you want.
Pieces also makes sharing the code snippet very straightforward. Just click Generate Shareable Link from the menu on the right, and you'll get a link to the code snippet. Note that you'll need to connect to an account before you can generate a link, but getting an account is quick, easy, and free.
You can then share the link with your coworkers or even in articles such as this one. For example, here is the link to the code snippet created above. Note that the snippet contains information such as the code itself, the title, the description, the tags, related links, and information about the author who shared the snippet. Once you open the link, you can easily save it to Pieces directly from your browser:
Finding a Saved Code Snippet
Saving a code snippet is useless if you can't find it later on. Fortunately, Pieces for Developers allows you to easily find a snippet you've saved. The following screenshot demonstrates how you could search through different snippets:
You just need to input a keyword related to the snippet you're searching for. As you can see, there are quite a few options to search for a snippet, making Pieces' search function highly robust. One option (the default one) is to search for the specified keyword through the code, tags, and descriptions of the saved snippets. Another option is to search for code or text values. It's even possible to simply write what you're looking for using natural language, and Pieces will find what you're looking for.
All in all, Pieces for Developers is superior to other code organization techniques in basically every way. Pieces is simple to install, free to use, and works with different browsers and IDEs. It offers saving, searching, and sharing functionalities that aren't matched by other tools on the market.
Generating and Optimizing Code with Pieces Copilot
Saving a code snippet to your personal repo is not the end of your workflow. Oftentimes, the code you’re saving from sources like Stack Overflow is simply a boilerplate template that you intend to adjust for your project. That’s where Pieces Copilot comes in.
Pieces Copilot, powered by retrieval-augmented generation, enables developers to curate their work-in-progress materials based on their unique workflow. This technology re-grounds the AI model as you interact with code on the web, in the IDE, and throughout your entire toolchain. That means you’re able to easily transform any snippet based on your pre-existing code base, leading to shorter prompts and smoother interactions.
Pieces enables you to launch the AI copilot based on your saved code snippets, or if working in the IDE, on your files and folders within your project. With a simple right-click action, you’re able to transform the existing code into a personalized snippet, translate to new languages, generate the next snippet you’ll need, or simply ask any question you have of the code base. Think of it as an AI mentor that can enrich, iterate, and curate your organized code snippets.
Once you have a perfect code snippet for a certain use case, it would be a waste to lose it and not be able to find it again. But when you save the snippet, you can later search for it and reuse it for another project. Saving code snippets will therefore significantly increase your productivity and reduce the time you need to finish a project.
This article discussed different options you have for saving code snippets, such as note apps, text editors, Google Docs, and so on. You learned about the flaws of these options and how a solution like Pieces for Developers is the best way to organize code snippets. Pieces makes saving, searching, reusing, and sharing snippets a breeze.
In addition, Pieces isn't limited to code organization alone. It offers much more functionalities, such as AI code generation and question-answering on your personal repository
To try all of this, download Pieces for Developers.