Modular URL shortening TextExpander snippets

Yesterday, John Flavin pointed out that my TextExpander snippets for getting Google-shortened URLs could be built better:

@drdrang Why repeat the ;furl code here? Why not just use %snippet:;furl% and make the whole thing a TE shell script?
John Flavin (@JFlavin) Aug 3 2014 11:11 AM

He’s right. Although I was thinking my snippets had to be self contained, they can call other snippets and incorporate the results—even if the snippet that’s doing the calling is a shell script or AppleScript snippet. TextExpander does the expansion first and then runs the script. So I refactored my snippets this way:

First, there’s my old snippet for getting the (unshortened) URL of the active browser tab, ;furl. It’s an AppleScript snippet with the following content:

 1:  tell application "System Events"
 2:    set numSafari to count (every process whose name is "Safari")
 3:    set numChrome to count (every process whose name is "Google Chrome")
 4:  end tell
 6:  if numSafari > 0 then
 7:    tell application "Safari" to get URL of front document
 8:  else
 9:    if numChrome > 0 then
10:      tell application "Google Chrome" to get URL of active tab of front window
11:    end if
12:  end if

(Note that I’m now using Vítor Galvão’s one-liner for Chrome.)

Next, I have a Python script, gshorten, that’s structured like the Pythonista script I use for shortening URLs on iOS, except that it takes the original URL from the command line and returns the shortened URL to standard output. It’s saved in my ~/Dropbox/bin folder. Here it is:

 1:  #!/usr/bin/python
 3:  import requests
 4:  import json
 5:  import sys
 7:  # Build the request.
 8:  shortener = ""
 9:  longURL = sys.argv[1]
10:  headers = {'content-type': 'application/json'}
11:  payload = {'longUrl': longURL}
13:  # Get the shortened URL and print it.
14:  r =, headers=headers, data=json.dumps(payload))
15:  sys.stdout.write(r.json()['id'])

The snippet I use to shorten the URL of the front browser tab uses both of these. It’s a shell script snippet with abbreviation ;surl and this content:

~/Dropbox/bin/gshorten '%snippet:;furl%'

It runs the ;furl snippet and uses the result as the argument to gshorten. What’s nice about this solution is that it’s using AppleScript for what it’s good for (communicating with applications) and Python for what it’s good for (everything else).

Finally, the snippet I use to shorten a URL on the clipboard has the abbreviation ;scurl and this content:

~/Dropbox/bin/gshorten '%clipboard'

It’s basically the same as ;surl except that it uses the clipboard as the argument to gshorten.

Splitting things up this way makes my system a bit more complicated, but there’s less repetition and, more important, each component does one thing. If I need to change the code for getting the front tab’s URL (to add another browser, for example, or if a browser changes its AppleScript library), I only have to change the code in ;furl. Similarly, if Google changes its API, I only have to fix the code in gshorten.

Someone my age should know enough to use modular design in the first place. Thanks to John for straightening me out.