I have finally started using TextExpander. I tried it once before, but I never really got into it. But this time I’m taking a more measured approach, and adding a few snippets at a time as I see utility. I’m still not completely sold, but it certainly has its uses.
One thing I came up with that I hadn’t seen mentioned anywhere before: A TextExpander snippet for directions. Several times a year, I find myself needing to give someone directions to my home or office. Previously, generating these meant either writing them anew (not difficult, but repetitive and time consuming) or digging out an old email with directions that I could copy and modify (also potentially time consuming, since I could rarely remember exactly where to find them).
So, I created three TextExpander snippets. (Of course, I could have just as easily put these into a text file or some other repository of frequently used text. So this is not really specific to TextExpander. That’s just my current implementation.) Two of them are directions to my home—one from out-of-town and one from within Blacksburg. (Of course, the latter is basically a subset of the former, with the out-of-town directions starting at the interstate and the in-town directions starting from a well-known intersection. But I find both versions useful enough to have.) The other is directions to my office, for which I really only need an out-of-town version. (Giving the name of my building and my office number is usually sufficient for people in-town.) The office directions also include information about parking, although that changes a bit from case to case.
I don’t see a lot of utility to trying to provide step-by-step instructions here. If you have TextExpander and know how to make snippets, then you can figure it out. If you don’t, then there are better places to start.
People have told me that I give excellent directions, though, so let me use the remainder of this post to give a bit of advice on that front. It strikes me that with the prevalence of navigation systems and apps, the ability to give good directions will quickly become a lost art. (Though, perhaps the need for them will also vanish.) So, the first piece of advice is to provide a navigation-system-friendly street address. (This can be a challenge in some cases, though. Until recently, none of the buildings on our campus had street addresses. This has now been remedied for just this reason.)
For the directions themselves, though: provide landmarks and street names (or route numbers for major highways) for each step. Some people (like me) navigate primarily by street names, highways, and route numbers; others (like my wife) primarily by landmarks. And providing only one or the other will render your directions difficult for the other group to use. Note that landmarks can be simple: “The first right after crossing the bridge over the highway” is sufficient.
I would augment this advice with one additional note: A map helps some people immensely. This was always true, but was once sometimes a challenge to provide. (I have many memories of my father sketching maps on napkins and scrap paper.) Now, though, it’s easy to create a map with Google Maps and provide a link. I include such a link in my snippets.