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Day One: A beautiful and functional cross-platform journaling app

Have you ever kept a journal or diary? For writers, it's almost a given that you're going to keep a personal log of what you do during each day, how you feel, or interesting things that might create that prize-winning book some day. For others, it's a way to keep track of health issues, emotions, relationships, the growth of a child or the decline of an aged parent. Day One (US$9.99 for Mac, $1.99 for iOS) is a well-designed and implemented journal app for Mac OS X and iOS.

Day One for Mac

First, let me describe the Mac app. It's available through the Mac App Store and loads quickly. When launched, Day One recognizes whether or not you have Dropbox installed, and asks if you wish to use that service for syncing with the iOS app. Day One also supports iCloud for syncing -- it's easily enabled through the app preferences.

The next thing the app asks is whether or not you want to enable reminders and quick entry in the menu bar. Reminders will prompt you daily to update your journal, while quick entry makes writing an entry as easy as clicking an icon in the menu bar and typing your words.

The user interface of Day One for Mac is spare and functional. On the left side of the app window are five buttons -- one to add a new entry, one to show your entries in a list format, one to show your entries on a calendar, another to display "starred" or favorite entries, and a final button for setting reminders.

Clicking the add entry button opens a blank page. Since this app is Lion-friendly (it runs on OS X 10.6 and later), it can go full screen, although that simply puts the fixed-width app window into the center of your screen. That works great on an 11" MacBook Air; it looks absurd on a 27" iMac. I found that once I got the general idea of how the app worked, I just used the quick entry button on the menu bar to write my entries.

All entries are time and date stamped, of course, making Day One useful for situations where you might want to keep track of what you're working on -- a contemporaneous work log. Day One supports both Markdown and MultiMarkdown in the edit and read modes, so if you're familiar with Markdown it's simple to add emphasis and links to an entry while typing away.

Any entry can be emailed, exported as text or Markdown, or printed. There's a gem of a feature built into the Info button on each post -- a word and character count. That's great if you're trying to write Twitter-length entries, so let's hope that developer Paul Mayne adds Twitter support to the next version of Day One.

At the present time, Day One doesn't support the addition of images to journal entries. However, that is on the to-do list for the app along with tags and categories, encryption of entries, and location data if desired. I think the last would be incredibly powerful for doing a trip log, as travelers would be able to write entries marked with their current location, and embed photos. One other handy addition would be the capability to store multiple journals -- for instance, one for work, one for personal, one for a vacation, etc...

My biggest love of this app is the simple and clean interface. Anyone can be up and running in minutes, and Day One makes keeping a journal a pleasure instead of a chore. Now let's take a quick look at the iOS version.

Day One for iOS

The iOS version of Day One is universal, so you only need to purchase the app for iPhone or iPad to have it run on both devices. Paul Mayne has done an awesome job of optimizing the user interface for each device. On the iPhone, the entry method is simplistic and similar to the quick entry mode on the Mac. On iPad, there's the luxury of more room, especially in landscape mode.

Remember that Info button I talked about in the Mac version? On the iOS version, you just pull down a journal entry to reveal the current word and character count. And remember my comment about wanting to be able to send a short journal entry as a tweet? It's possible with the iOS version.

Syncs through Dropbox are almost instantaneous. I didn't try syncing through iCloud, although it should work in a very similar manner. Mayne does note that there are some performance issues with current versions of the app doing first-time syncs over iCloud with large journal libraries.

Conclusion

For keeping a private journal, I can think of no better solution at this time than Day One. Being able to make journal entries anywhere, anytime is a powerful way to keep the log of your life up to date. The similarity in the UI between the apps makes it easy to switch platforms at the drop of a hat, and the support for Markdown / MultiMarkdown provides a decent level of formatting.

While the app currently doesn't have the power of Mariner Software's single-platform MacJournal ($39.95), Day One is ultimately a much more user-oriented app that makes keeping a journal a pleasure. With the changes that developer Paul Mayne has planned for Day One, a great app will only get better.



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Software iOS OS X

My biggest love of this app is the simple and clean interface. Anyone can be up and running in minutes, and Day One makes keeping a journal a pleasure instead of a chore.