Cool Tools # 4

It’s a double whammy this week, with a new blog post and the return of Cool Tools.

This week we’re looking at Map Frappe ( This is an awesome tool that allows you to easily compare the size of two areas.

This is not a tool I use all that often, but it’s amazing when needed. Basically, at some point you’ll find yourself asking, “how big is _____ compared to _____?” For example, if you’re proposing a new community park, you (or a client) may want to see how it compares in size to a nearby park, or Millennium Park in Chicago, or if you really want your park to look tiny, Central Park in New York. With Map Frappe, you can simply trace one park, and have the outline appear on a map below where you can compare it to anything you want.

Give it a try. This is Planning Geekiness at its finest!




Once Upon a Time: Planner as Story-Teller

I recently had a very interesting conversation with a Planning student. We’ll call him John – not for anonymity, but because I forgot his name (I’m a jerk like that). Anyways, John is about to graduate and is concerned that his unique skillset may not translate to a career in Planning. You see, John is a story teller. As he describes it, he’s good at the technical side of Planning, but his passion is writing and inspiring others.

Oh, John, do I have a job for you!

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Copy and Paste, Or How to Think Outside the Text Box

Hey, remember me? I used to write posts here. My apologies. I went away on Paternity Leave and … ahhh, never mind, no excuses. I’m planning to provide regular updates again, but they’ll be spread out a bit more than before. I’ve exhausted most of the topics I wanted to write about and unless you have specific questions, I’ll just post when something strikes me. I’m hoping for once a month or so. On to the topic at hand.

I’ve mentioned before that a huge part of your job as a Planner will be writing. I’ve also mentioned that many of the projects you’ll work on will be similar. The obvious connection here is COPY AND PASTE! While this sounds like a no-no, it’s actually pretty common practice, and a great way to be more efficient and productive. If you or a colleague have written Urban Design Guidelines for a mid-size City in Ontario, and you’re working on Urban Design Guidelines for a mid-size City in Vancouver, go ahead and copy and paste any relevant text. If you wrote an overview of the Provincial Policy Statement for Guelph, and you’re working on a project in Barrie, go ahead and re-use that text – it’s all relevant. In fact, I like this approach because it gives me the chance to refine text each time I use it, making it better and better, until I feel it’s perfect. Of course every City is different, and every project has its nuances, so there will be lots of chances to prepare original text (might as well take the break when you can get it).

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Public Consultation: Say Hello to the Bad Guy!

If you’re not a ‘people person,’ you may want to pursue a different career!

As Planners, our responsibility is to represent the public interest or the ‘greater good,’ which means working with the public throughout (most) projects. While public involvement varies (based on project scope, budget, location, etc.), most projects have at least three meetings with the public, including:

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The P Word…

I’ve touched on proposals in a few other posts, but this week I thought I’d go into a little more detail. As a new Planner, helping to prepare proposals is a bit of a rite of passage, and you may find this takes up the majority of your time until you become more involved in regular project work (or until your company hires someone more junior than you). You’ll learn this on your own, but it’s best if we discuss the ‘elephant in the room’ up front: PROPOSALS KINDA SUCK. Even under the best conditions, they are super stressful… and they rarely get prepared under the best (or even good) circumstances.

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Cool Tools # 3: Text Fixer(s)

As a Planner, you’ll be quoting a lot of policy documents, which means lots of copying and pasting from PDFs. Unfortunately, copying from a PDF often breaks up each line when pasted into another program (i.e. Word or InDesign). I know when someone in the office is doing this, because you here the same key pattern over and over:

down, home, backspace, backspace… down, home, backspace, backspace… down, home, backspace, backspace…

Luckily there’s a solution. Try copying your text into the box here and letting do the work for you. If you don’t want to use a webpage, download AutoUnbreak (a light windows plugin) and create a shortcut on your taskbar (that’s how I roll).

Obviously this is unnecessary if you’re copying a couple of lines, but can save a significant amount of time if you’re pasting a lot of text.