Lessons Learned: Offline Directions For When You Need It

Lessons Learned: Offline Directions For When You Need It

Jason Yang
Sep 1, 2011

Blogging live from the doghouse for forgetting to bring printed directions, we were fresh from failed experiences one after the other with technology in the great outdoors. The main problem was not having a cellular connection to access Google Maps and directions and being stuck far from civilization as we know it (the couch, TV, internet, etc.). We expand upon Unplggd reader Kaete's ideas from her comments and present a guide to offline directions for when you don't or might not have a cellular connection where you're going.

Having planned a weekend of outdoor activities in the Shenandoah, we knew we might have poor cellular connection so we printed out directions in advance of our trip. Things quickly went downhill when we forgot to bring printed directions for a portion of our trip.

While Unplggd reader Kaete might suggest that all parties involved are equally guilty of forgetting the directions, there's likely not much we could do to convince the missus of this argument. When coverage might be spotty, Kaete e-mails everything to herself and her husband and preloads it in advance. No printing needed, plus a backup if something happens to one of the two phones. This idea had us thinking about additional options and ways to help bridge the experience of driving directions.

Google Maps actually presents quite a few options for sharing and preserving your maps. In the upper right hand corner are three icons - PRINT, E-MAIL, and LINK. The LINK option allows you to e-mail a URL to the map or create an iframe to embed your map into a website, but that doesn't really help with providing offline directions. The printing and e-mailing options provide some great alternatives for creating a set of directions and maps to have on hand when you don't have a data signal.

Printing directions may seem like an obvious selection, but an alternative to printing your directions to paper is to print/save your directions as a PDF. E-mail the document to yourself per Kaete's suggestions or transfer the file to your smartphone. Since we use Dropbox regularly, that's a great option for us to share the file from our computer to not only our phone but any other Dropbox user.

The e-mail icon presents three options - E-MAIL, CAR, and GPS. The e-mail option shoots off a message with turn by turn directions as well as a mini map. Just be sure to preload the e-mail message onto your phone before you head out the door to where you might lose signal. The car feature was quite intriguing - turns out you can connect to all sorts of vehicles with navigation devices. Simply entering your username for whichever compatible system you have (Maps works with TomTom, Garmin, OnStar, Ford SYNC, BMW Assist, and a bevy of other systems) sends your pre-planned directions directly to your car! There's an option for sending to GPS as well, which apparently creates a file that transfers to a GPS unit connected to your computer. We weren't able to test these last two feature as our cars and GPS units aren't fancy enough to have these options, but it's a fantastic idea to be able to look up directions before you head out the door instead of just trusting that you can plug in an address and your in-car GPS will take you where you intend to go.

Of course there's always the time honored method of bringing a real live paper map. They're called road atlases or something, our memories are fuzzy on the matter.

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