Day One journaling app for Mac and iOS

Product Review


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Reviewer: Ronald C. Schoedel, III
Product: Day One for Mac and iOS
Company: Bloom Built LLC
Price: Mac App $9.99; iPhone/Pad App $4.99
Pros: Attractive interface. Writing prompts for more interesting journaling. Perfect syncing of photos, journal entries, and meta data across your devices. Automatic or manual time stamping of entries. Reminders to write. Tagging. Quick-entry from Mac toolbar. Photo view arranges pics with date prominently displayed. Seamless set-it-and-forget-it iCloud and Dropbox sync.
Cons: Security passcode provides little actual protection of data from all but the most casual snoops.


Product Rating: 4.5/5 Excellent

by Ronald C. Schoedel, III, Alaskan Apple Users Group Member

Whether your journaling needs are driven by professional requirements or personal uses, Day One has a cross-platform journaling/diary-keeping solution that is convenient, elegant, and easy to use. Day One provided me copies of their Mac and iPad apps for review. For the past three weeks, I’ve been journaling daily–sometimes more than once a day–and have found the experience to be pretty much all I’ve wanted in a journaling app. It’s no wonder to me that Day One was a Mac App Store top app last year.

Available both for Mac OS X (updated for Mavericks) and iOS (updated for iOS 7) as a universal iPhone/iPad app, Day One combines a solid writing environment with data tools to give your writing context. Starting an entry automatically date and time stamps it, though this can be edited to be whatever you want it to be. Location and weather data can be added with a single tap, as can be tags, current iTunes track, and for devices with the new motion processor, daily step count, and activity tracking such as whether you were flying, running, or doing other activities. The distraction-free writing environment lets you get down to business, without tons of formatting palettes and toolbars that make writing in a regular word processor somewhat less than optimal for capturing your free-flowing thoughts.

The main view shows a snippet of each entry in reverse time order, from top to bottom, newest posts on top. Hovering over the entry lets you see more of the entry without opening it fully. The integrated calendar shows you at a glance the days on which you have journaled, and the days for which you might still need to write an entry. Hovering over a date shows you what you wrote on that date. On iOS devices, the photo view arranges all your entries with attached photos into a full-screen collage with the date of each photo superimposed, for quick reference and enjoyment. On Mac, the maps view allows you to see how many entries you’ve written at each map location you’ve captured in your entries. This could be fun for journaling whilst on holiday, to track your travels visually. The interface as a whole is uncluttered and visually pleasing, in comforting tones of blue, grey, and white.

The Mac app contains the option to show writing prompts, useful for those who journal regularly and like to record their thoughts on a wide variety of subjects. For professional users, tags and the built-in search tool make Day One a useful repository for client-specific note taking or project note keeping. Attorneys, for example, could assign tags for client names or types of cases, and easily keep track of the results of meetings and phone calls with clients. The time stamp on note creation can be useful to those who bill their time out, though there is no ending time stamp, so that would have to be noted manually if this were to be your usage scenario.

In my three weeks of using Day One, I have found it to sync perfectly across my devices, which has made me more likely to actually keep a journal, something I have tried to do off and on (mostly off) for years. The ability to set a daily reminder to journal is nice for keeping me on target, as is the quick entry feature on the Mac version, which places a Day One icon in the menu bar where you can quickly type an entry (or just a brief thought to finish later) without even launching the full app. Like so many things that my iPhone and iPad have made easier in my life, being able to write (or dictate!) a journal entry whenever and wherever I am when the inspiration arises has been a tremendous boon to my journal-keeping goals. The seamless set-it-and-forget-it iCloud and Dropbox syncing capability makes this possible. I especially enjoy that Day One has given me the ability to remember my random iPhone snapshots in context and make notes on them for future enjoyment. Too often, the casual ability to take photos with our phones results in lots of pics with not a lot of context or remembrance of why they were meaningful to us to begin with. Being able to incorporate those pics quickly and easily into a journal may be the best thing to ever happen to the camera phone. Exporting from Day One to a PDF is also smooth and easy. Perhaps each year you might want to print and bind your journal, and Day One makes this a snap. Emailing a PDF or the text of any entry is also very simple right from within the app, using the standard iOS sharing tools.

Suggestions: color-coding entries would be a nice addition, sort of like the colored tags (formerly labels) in Mac OS X. For professional users or individuals who need more privacy, the built-in passcode protection on the Mac app can be gotten around by all but the most casual would-be snoopers. Of course, anytime a third party has physical access to your computer, your data is at some risk of being compromised. But it would be nice if a true encryption option existed rather than app-level password protection, which just prevents the app from being launched without the passcode, while leaving the actual text data files still accessible to those who can find them. For most users, though, the user-account password in OS X should suffice, because theoretically if you don’t want someone accessing your data, you probably don’t want them in your user account to begin with. Also, whilst a single journal entry can be viewed on the map on iOS, the Mac-only map overview of all entries would be nice to see on the iOS app as well.

Day One earns a solid four and a half moose rating.

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