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Well try just

{ "keys": [".", "."], "command": "insert_snippet", "args": {"contents": "->"} }

and ensure you have a comma between every {"keys"...} section.

This seems like something you could accomplish by writing an ST2 plugin, which either performs AppleScript evaluation itself, or just watches some local file for commands or Python statements to be placed in it; and then write something on the AppleScript side to populate that file.

Probably the easiest way would be to add something like this to your user keybinds file:

{ "keys": [".", "."], "command": "insert_snippet", "args": {"contents": "->"}, "context": [ { "key": "selector", "operator": "equal", "operand": "source.php" } ] }

This will probably get you at least part of what you are after:  https://github.com/joelpt/sublimetext-print-to-html

You could use your browser's print function with this plugin to do print-to-PDF.
This makes me wonder whether it should do document-wide highlighting even if the selection contains spaces or other characters. I could see it being useful to highlight something like "foo == bar" and see all instances of this highlighted, e.g. as a help in refactoring.
I would also like to see this addressed. More broadly I believe it is a general problem with continuing a given syntax scope across string concatenation boundaries. Unfortunately those boundaries are constructed differently in every programming language so this may not be a straightforward thing to fix.
+1 also for nightly builds.
This is already possible:
    // If enabled, will highlight any line with a caret
    "highlight_line": false,

Having not used Textmate/Chocolat, I'm not sure what you mean. 

Does shift+rightdrag perform the effect you're after?

If so, you could copy your Packages/Default/Default (OSX).sublime-mousemap into a new Packages/User/Default (OSX).sublime-mousemap file, then change the bindings to the way you like them. 

Though AFAIK there is no way to persistently toggle between selection-modes, you just have to use the correct modifier key/mouse button to use column selection mode.

Consider using the Sublime SFTP plugin. It has alleviated the need for me to mount remote folders locally.