There are many different variations of the snake, including the shapes of the pieces, number of pieces, size, and color. But the most common type of snake has 24 pieces. Snake puzzles, especially the larger ones, can be used to create interesting shapes and figures, such as animal shapes. In Speedsolving a 24-piece snake, typically the goal is to go from a straight bar to the 'ball' shape (rhombicuboctahedron). Advanced solvers do this in 3-4 grips.
Out of the box they don't turn very well. For speedsolving purposes, sanding can help. However, the snake will become loose on its own after breaking in and eventually will not stay in shape when put on a surface.
In a series of exchanged emails in 2006, James Straughan and Johannes Laire created a notation for Rubik's Snake. The pieces of the puzzle can be turned 90 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise and 180 degrees either direction. For the notation, each piece from left to right is given a number from 1-24. A "+" sign after a number means to turn that numbered piece clockwise, "-" means counter-clockwise, and "x" means to turn that piece 180 degrees. If there is a sequence of numbers in order, the numbers after the first in the sequence can be omitted and only the "+", "-", and "x" modifiers written. Below is James Straughan's speed solution for forming the ball shape:
2- 3- 4+ 6+ 7+ 5- 8- 9+ 11- 10- 12+ 14+ 15+ 13- 16- 17+ 19- 20+ 21- 18- 23+ 24- 22+