MacJournal: Much More Than a Digital Diary

Posted by | January 09, 2012 | Apps | No Comments

A journal is a great tool for keeping track of daily happenings and the start of a new year is a great time to begin your new journal. Whether you are tracking progress toward achieving those resolutions you’ve just made, chronicling the important milestones in your life, or simply creating a dialog with yourself, a good journaling application will be your constant companion throughout the year.That’s why it is important to select the best option for your needs.

There are a lot of choices in this growing category. Today we are going to take a look at one of the venerable Mac-based journaling programs, MacJournal from Mariner Software. Version 6.0 was released recently, and I’ll be pointing out the significant new features as we go along. Let’s get started.

MacJournal Interface

MacJournal's Interface

You can purchase MacJournal at the App Store or directly from Mariner Software. The price either way is $39.95. (Actually, at this writing it is $.04 more at the App Store.) Mariner also puts it on sale from time to time, and you might find it part of a low-cost bundle. Go to Mariner’s site and you can download a trial version. You need OS 10.6.8 or higher. Manual installation is standard, and there is a video tutorial at the Mariner site for those who’d like more guidance.

The Basics

In MacJournal you first create a Document, the main file for your information. Each document contains Journals, which in turn contain Entries. You can create as many entries as you want in your journals and your documents can contain any number of journals. You can also create Smart Journals, which are saved searches that gather specific entries from all the journals in your document. Journals can also be nested in other journals. You are probably safe thinking of journals the same way you would think of folders in many other information managers.

Entries can hold a wide variety of media. Text, of course, but images, video, PDFs and sound files can all be handled by MacJournal.

When you create a new document, you will be presented with an open entry with that day’s date and one new journal, as in the screenshot below:

MacJournal Entry

A new journal with an unedited, open entry.

This is a pretty standard Mac interface. I’ll demonstrate the ways you can adjust this view as we go along. First, let’s add some information to our new journal.

The default topic title is the date, but you can give the entry whatever topic title you’d like.

MacJournal Entry with text

A new entry with text and a new topic title.

As you would expect, MacJournal is very date-centric. Want to create an entry for any day, just click on that date in the little calendar window at the bottom left. Dates are adjustable, and you can create entries with future dates.

MacJournal Screenshot 3

Just click on any date to create a new entry.

A Real World Example

Let’s put MacJournal to some practical use now. I’m going to start a journal to keep track of the movies I watch. I begin with “Beginners,” which I watched just last night.

The first entry in my movie journal.

The first entry in my movie journal.

MacJournal 6.0 has several new pieces of meta data that I can associate with an entry using the Inspector. Another nice new feature of version 6.0 is the easy access to the Inspector panel. A small Inspector button resides in the list in the Entries Pane, and there is another to the right of the topic name in the Info Bar. Click that and the Inspector panel appears, so that I can add tags, adjust the date, select a rating for the movie, and much more.

MacJournal Inspector

Click the “i” buttons to reveal the Inspector.

After I’ve made several entries, my movie journal begins to take shape. MacJournal helps me visually keep track of my entries by allowing me to select which pieces of meta data display in the entries pane and in the Info Bar at the top of the entry content. Clicking the little down arrow to the far right of the column headers in the entries pane opens up the list of meta data, which I can check off to display.

Meta Data List

You can determine which meta data appears in the entries pane.

The Info Bar in the above screenshot merely has the topic for that entry, “Henry’s Crime.” But you can customize the Info Bar to show other pieces of meta data, as I’ve done in the screenshot below:

MacJournal Info Bar

You can choose which data to display in the Info Bar.

In each of the screenshots I’ve shown so far, MacJournal’s navigation mode is set to “Journal.” That is, it shows us entries by journal. New in version 6 is the ability to change this, so you can choose to view your entries by Tag, Rating, Due Date, Priority, Status, Mood, or Label. The navigation mode selector is the little icon below the calendar and farthest to the right.

Navigation Mode

You can select alternate ways to navigate your entries.

Alternate navigation mode

Entries in this document by type of movie, based on the tags applied to each entry.

New Ways to View Your Entries

Version 6.0 of MacJournal introduces two new views, which are accessible from toolbar buttons. With Timeline view you can see your entries paraded across a re-scalable diagram.

Timeline View

New to version 6 of MacJournal is the Timeline View.

The Calendar view opens a large calendar on which the topic names of your entries are displayed based upon their dates.

Calendar View

Also new to MacJournal in version 6 is the Calendar View.

I’m not sure how vital either of these views is for everyday journaling, but I think they may well help extend the usefulness of MacJournal into other areas. For instance, an attorney might find the timeline view a valuable aid in laying out a case, while the calendar view makes MacJournal useful for future planning, especially when combined with the due dates and priorities meta data.

Data In, Data Out

An important feature of any application like MacJournal is how easy is it to get your information in and back out again. It begins with the editor, which is pretty standard Mac-fare, quite adequate for the job, but not as powerful as a full-blown word processor. You can export your entries in an impressive number of formats from plain text to ePub, the open e-book standard.

Export Options

MacJournal sports a wide range of export options.

You can also select and export multiple entries at the same time. And another nice feature is that you can view multiple entries in the editor window simultaneously, although this would be a more powerful feature if the size of each entry would adjust based on the amount of text. Instead it is a set size, so that there is a lot of white space when the entry is small, and when it is long, the text is truncated in this view.

Multiple Selections

Select multiple entries to display them together in the editor, or export them as one file.

If you want to share your journaling with the world, MacJournal supports the most popular blogs, including WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal and Tumblr. You can set up a specific journal with your blog server, so it is easy to keep your private thoughts from your public ones.

Other Choices

There are many journaling options available for Mac users. Search “journal” here at AppStorm and you’ll find excellent reviews of many of them. If you are looking for a minimalist approach, try viJournal. If you want an application that best mimics a paper journal, give Per Se a look. And Day One makes a science of creating a new entry, quickly and easily.

A Genuine Journal Application

A “journal” can be anything from a personal diary to an official record. With its full-range of powerful features, MacJournal handles any kind of journaling you might throw its way. In fact, it is even a viable option for all kinds of writing. While it lacks many of the features of a writing application like Scrivener, MacJournal does serve me quite well for one-off articles, correspondence and many other writing projects.

MacJournal is not flashy, but it does what it does very well, so I give it a rating of 9 out of 10.