Being device independent means being able to code in any device or platform. One of the things you might want across devices is access to your code libraries. One way to do it is using a couple of macro tools combined with Dropbox.

Lately, I’ve been toying around with the idea of platform independence. It shouldn’t really matter wether I’m working on a Mac, PC, a tablet or whatever…I should be able to start a project on one device and continue it on another. I’m already doing that to some extent with my iPad and Dropbox. It’s replaced my laptop as the device of choice when going to meetings. It’s easier to take the iPad than to have to undock from all of my cables. The device keyboard in underpowered, but perfect for quick notes, media or web access. I’ve been wanting to navigate between Macs and PCs for development projects, but I’ve been missing quick access to my code library in both platforms.

The Problem

I have a lot of small pieces of code that I reuse from time to time to speed up my development. Some of them are stored as shortcuts so I don’t have to type a bunch of code when I need to create a basic query or look up a grep pattern. I tried using the tools inside a lot of editors to handle this, but I use different editors for different projects. So I find it better to use a tool like TextExpander that makes my macros available to all programs. The great thing about TextExpander is it’s ability to share preferences via Dropbox for syncing accross different machines, but it’s a Mac only solution.

Thankfully TextExpander has a cousin on the PC side called Breevy. The programs are amazingly similar and Breevy is made to complement TextExpander. One of the key features of Breevy is it’s ability to use Dropbox to keep things in tune with your Mac’s TextExpander snippets.

Taking care of things on the Mac Side

The setup for this is pretty easy. First, make sure you’ve downloaded and installed Dropbox on both machines. You’ll want to start things off on the Mac first so make sure you download TextExpander. It comes with a few default shortcuts, but you’ll probably want to type some of your own to get started.

TextExpander on the Mac

Once you’ve set things up on the Mac, you’ll want to configure TextExpander to share it’s preferences. Click on the preferences icon and choose the Sync tab. Then, click on the Dropbox radio button. Optionally, you can choose to share your snippets with other devices on your network. You can use that to sync my shortcuts to an iPad or iPhone with the mobile version sold separately called TextExpander Touch.

Changing preferences in TextExpander

Setting up on the PC side

You can use these settings to use the same TextExpander library on multiple macs, but if you’re going to share with a PC, you’ll need to download Breevy. Make sure you’ve completed the installation of Dropbox on your PC and downloaded and installed Breevy. Once you’ve done that, head on over to Breevy’s preferences.

Changing preferences in Breevy

Click on the Dropbox Sync tab of the preferences and then check Enable Dropbox sync… You’ll then need to locate your Dropbox folder. Breevy will do a great job of detecting where the folder is, but you can customize it if you want to. Finally, make sure you check Enable TextExpander mode to make sure the database closely matches in both programs.

Some final thoughts

This solution works pretty well, but I wouldn’t go crazy editing shortcuts between machines. Because of some latency in the way Dropbox syncs,things can get out of whack and Dropbox might get confused with too many fast cross-platform edits. If you’ve already running TextExpander, I would recommend you setup and backup your Database BEFORE you do this. Also, use Dropbox as your backup because it allows you to revert back to an earlier revision if things go haywire. I’d love to hear about any cross-platform, tablet to Mac to PC tips you’d be willing to share.