Familiar with MacJournal or Recommend Another Journaling App?

Anyone familiar with MacJournal?

I no longer use DayOne for a number of reasons.

I haven’t really found a replacement. MacJournal looks like an attractive app.

Yes and no.

Yes, there was a time when I actually did use MacJournal. But that was more than 10 years ago. I had no issues with the app back then. I am not writing any journals these days. So, no, I am not familiar with MacJournal v7.

The developer’s website:

https://danschimpf.com

The app’s developer is Dan Schimpf. He sold the app to Mariner Software. Eventually they lost interest and the app went back to Dan Schimpf again (as a “free” app since its return to Dan Schimpf). It still is in development and there seem to be frequent updates:

https://danschimpf.com/macjournal/history.html

The app celebrated its 20th Birthday just this summer. At this time, it is only available on MacOS. The developer apparently has the intention to get “the iOS app back on the App Store with syncing functionality intact”.

My issue with the app: I am not so sure about its sustainability. “Free” does not work in the long run. And as of now there is no app for iDevices. Then again, apparently Dan Schimpf really loves his “baby” and he seems to do anything he can to keep it alive. So, there might be a future for the app. Who knows?!

Given the fact that every app eventually will come to an end (my opinion), a journal might be a tough use case for any app: it is important to be able to get the data exported if necessary. And in the long run, open solutions with no proprietary databases might be a good idea.

Or the good old method: a pen and paper… :wink:

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Maybe try the Agenda app for journaling. It is free but to get the premium features, you can sign up for a 1 year fee to get the latest updates. You can let it expire and pay again if there are any new features that you’d want.

You get to keep all the new features that gets introduced during your 12 month period.

Devonthink is ok for journaling. It’s a decent enough app.

Or use Drafts?

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I currently use Day One but have had plans to move my journal to Obsidian. Benefits with Obsidian are it’s free for crossplatform using iCloud, or if you already pay for the Sync service, lower costs (Sync has E2E encryption btw), making links between your entries, a wide library of plugins for various functionality, and of course all your files are stored locally as plain text Markdown so you don’t rely on a third-party service to keep your journals safe.

(Haven’t moved to Obsidian yet, just been a bit lazy to move my stuff over and reconfigure my workflow and all my shortcuts xD)

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… and that’s the way how I would do it as of today if I still were into writing a journal (with or without Obsidian). :slight_smile:

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I use Obsidian’s daily note feature.

A little tip – in Obsidian’s Daily Note settings you can configure the date format for the daily note. If you use this format, then Obsidian automatically puts new daily notes created with the “open today’s daily note” command into a Year > Month > Day folder hierarchy – only creating the year folder and month folders when needed:

YYYY/MM/YYYY-MM-DD ddd
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I still use Day One…just. I was grandfathered with a “Plus” account but after horrible recent sync problems I deleted my account. I’m now using Day One on my Mac more or less exclusively.

I export regularly as markdown (which works well) and import into DEVONThink. Pretty much the entire procedure is automated by Hazel and a DEVONThink smart rule. I then use AppleScript within DEVONThink to replace any Day One links (i.e., cross-references to other journal entries) with DEVONThink links and to convert (manual—because Day One tags don’t export when using markdown export) hashtags to hidden markdown metadata (which displays the tags in DEVONThink but removes the original ugly hashtags).

The joy of all of that is that I’ve added many more photos to my journal entries in DEVONThink than I ever did in Day One (because of fear of encumbering sync) and (above all) the infinitely better search facility in DEVONThink than the paltry, slow search offering in Day One. (I should perhaps say that I have 18,000+ individual journal entries. Searching those in DEVONThink is sheer pleasure!)

Stephen

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I found that this method then broke the Calendar plugin (bug report), so I’ve stuck with the default format.

Like others, I use Obsidian. I used to use Zim Wiki, but it didn’t play nice with macOS, so I used to write on Windows or Linux and I moved to Obsidian as soon as I found it.

Sorry that you think there’s a bug, however I read your bug report and the issue does not happen for me. (I realize that’s an annoying response.) Perhaps something else is wrong in your configuration?

What don’t you like about Day One?

Perhaps it’s been fixed with a later version of the plugin/Obsidian and the Github bug hasn’t been touched, but it was certainly reproducible at the time on both Windows and macOS with no other plugins.

At this stage, I’m not sure I want to try and change it back to the YYYY/MM folder structure!

You make a number of great points, Christian! I tend to think, as well, that the apps don’t live on indefinitely. That is commendable that the app is continually updated and is indicative of a certain degree of admirable commitment.

I may have used it a while back as well. The title seemingly rang a bell right away.

Free is wonderful but even the most committed might need to recoup some of the money and, of course, time.

Pen and paper is almost ideal but you don’t want to necessarily keep a journal just lying about although you could put it in a strong box of some sort and before you know it, it’s too cumbersome. You’d be limited w/o search features and be unable to organize that readily although you are sort of joshing. It wasn’t such a bad option.

Thanks!

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Wilson, I have been using Agenda. I paid for the initial year. I am most impressed with the commitment of the developers. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE the UI. Just gorgeous. Plus I like that you can include handwriting, photos, doodles.

I find it to be the best alternative out there. I think I need to start adding something where I’ve never ventured before: tags. Do you use them at all in Agenda as a journal?

That’s how I kept my journals for many, many years before going “electronic”. I then undertook the huge effort of transcribing virtually every one of my paper journals into Day One (now in DEVONThink). I have never regretted all that effort because of the ability to find, in an instant, cameos of my life in the past. That, for me, is the huge difference between paper and disk.

Stephen

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I’ve been exploring things like Pen to PDF and other tools to take a pictures of a handwritten item, then handwriting recog it and then create the digita text. Imn my case my writing is so poor that I have not found anything that works and I am not yet willing to transcribe everything.

Plus, there is value in paper documents, they have a longer shelflife in general unless you take special care to update the old formats with each new system or app change. The cost to bring the old stuff forward alone can result in orphaned data. Anyone else stil have old bernoulli drives or even Mag tapes of one form or another? Heck I only just got rid of my last paper tape copy of source code for a program I wrote mumble years ago a few months ago. But I do still have the paper printout of the code in case I ever need it again.

Right. The very quality of the journal changes once you go digital.

My main concern use to be keeping my writings private which was non-existent, impossible when I was growing up. There were ten kids. Privacy is one reason I learned Spanish and even there I have to fiddle with it a bit to make it less obvious.

Writing helps me to vent, to organize myself too and I love it with a passion.

I just wish I had kept a journal for as long as I was inclined to do so. Well, I’ve always kept one but I’ve often wound up tearing the pages up. Dumb.

I do keep art journals and I really enjoy that. I use Smash books by K and Co. and the way they are set up you can get fairly creative.

I recall I just happened to start a diary on the day JFK was killed. I was writing as we kids were being herded into the church to pray.

Did you have the benefit of OCR at all?

I like that I can handwrite them now.

I did have Day One but it drove me crazy that in order to edit I had to go out of my way to do so. There was an extra step. Once they went to subscription and wasn’t using the Cloud I started using Agenda mostly.

I suppose that step is to prevent accidental erasures. I used Day One for years and I want to migrate into Agenda. Would you have any idea how to do that? The only thing I dislike about Agenda is it is not password protected.

Have you checked Agenda out at all? The UI is gorgeous. No subscription either.

I like that: “cameos of my life”.

Thanks, Stephen! I find your post so encouraging.

No, I haven’t use tags extensively. I do have separate Agenda “projects” that represents a journal. Doing a search doesn’t really require tags. So I haven’t found a use for tags yet.

I’m sure when you’re ready to use tags, you’ll find it useful. We don’t have to use every feature that an app provides.

Agenda is timeline based note entry and I can keep each note inside different projects. I can associate them with an Apple Calendar event if needed.

I can record project progress and meeting notes easily for each project. I can mark certain notes as done so that it’s not on my “Today” agenda. When I do complete certain tasks related to an event, I can mark the note as done and file it away.

There might be the odd time where I might tag something but it’s been rare. The tags are great for searches but I can usually find a keyword in Agenda with the search function.

One personal thing I would like to see is a saved search function similar to OmniFocus custom perspectives or an iTunes smart playlist. Tags are helpful during searches and I’d like to have frequent search terms saved.

The developers did note that a tag browser is one possible feature that may be forthcoming. I’d use that for my saved search.

There’s a post about searching tags here:

Day One User here, I have been thinking of leaving it. 4,000 entries but that app (with the photos and videos in my entries) swallows up 30 GB of my phone. Lately, I have been concerned with sync because I am posting less entries and fixing up my older entries, there seems to be a picture or video that is no longer working properly. If I go into the details or info, I can see it, but the entry screws up. I never considered moving my journal entries to Day One, do you have a step-by-step write up on how to do so? including, audio clips, video clips, photos. I also have it sync up with my Instagram and Facebook posts.

That is true. However, I take consolation from the fact that my journals (have to keep trying to say that—we call them “diaries” here in the UK!) are in markdown format, which, of course, is essentially plain text. I think if we reach the stage when that can’t be read we shall have more serious problems than simply being unable to read old journals!

No—I did try but it was really too much of a challenge: not simply because of handwriting but also because it was not easy to scan journal pages accurately to the margins. In the end it proved more efficient to transcribe.

From a very brief read about Agenda it appears to accept plain text—but I note that it also allows import of markdown. Day One’s export function (at least in the Mac version) allows export to plain text/markdown. In my experience that works well, with two caveats:

  • any tags you have used in your Day One entries are not exported; and
  • if you export multiple entries you end up with a single file of entries rather than individual entries in individual files.

I’m unsure how Agenda would treat a single file of entries were that to be imported into Agenda. However, I did post on the Hazel forums an easy method of splitting that file and renaming each of the individual entry files (if you use Hazel, of course).

No: I’ve stuck with Day One (on my Mac) for my daily entries and then regularly export to DEVONThink to experience the joy of a proper search facility. I now find that I’m searching entries several times a day and it’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s a “joy”.

I think the absolute key issues when choosing a journal app are:

  • the ability of the app to export entries easily in a non-proprietary format which preserves all of the key information you have input (i.e., including any metadata like location, date, time, etc.); and
  • a really good search facility.

Sorry for the length of this post.

Stephen

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That is exactly the reason I deleted my Day One account. I’d been making minor amendments to old entries (when looking through them in DEVONThink I’d spotted the odd typo so corrected it there and in Day One). I then discovered that sync was completely messed up (technical term!) with odd entries missing that I could never get to appear again on either iPad or Mac.

As a result I now jourmal exclusively on my Mac, don’t use sync at all and (as I’ve said so often, sorry!) export regularly to DEVONThink to reduce my dependence on Day One for historic entries.

Assuming you’re talking of moving from Day One I can only suggest my post on the Hazel forum linked in the preceding post in this thread. However, that may not be so much help if you don’t use Hazel. Howvere, it may, at least, provide an overview of what can be done to improve the Day One export.

Stephen