Keeping a Hassle-Free Journal With Chronories

If you’re anything like me – you’ve bought a fair number of Moleskine and other notebooks in the hope that you would journal and keep track of your busy life a little better.

Journaling has been proven to de-stress as well as calm the business of your mind. However, writing out long hand is slow – almost as if your hand can’t keep up with what’s rattling around in your head. I’ve always loved the idea of keeping a journal or diary on my computer – a la Doogie Howser – but never really found a program that prodded me to keep up without spamming my Growl notifications or E-mail inbox.

Then I was asked to take a look at Chronories, from the popular Mac software development firm Synium Software, based out of Germany. I was surprised at the great Mac integration of the application, as well as how automated it was in recording little details from my day that made writing a few thoughts down a little less painful.

In this review, we’ll take a look at journaling with Chronories on your Mac, and see if this app can once and for all push your journaling from a vague resolution into a regular habit.

Startup Screen and Interface

On the first launch of Chronories, the app presents you with a splash screen asking you to watch their quick tutorial. At around 2 minutes long, the video does a great job of showing off the many features of Chronories – giving the user a fair idea of what they’ll be able to accomplish while using the program.

I’m always impressed when developers love their app so much they are willing to have videos and screencasts showing off the features and providing users with some guides on how to use the program.

That and the length of time since the last blog update are the two things that give me faith the developer hasn’t or isn’t going to abandon the program.

Splash / Welcome Screen

Splash / Welcome Screen

Once into the main interface you can be a tad overwhelmed, especially if you haven’t watched their tutorial video. First things first, you can fill out a story about what happened that day – as you would expect from any journaling program.

You can use then calendar on the left hand sidebar to view previous entires. At any time, you can click the big “Today” button to jump back to entry you were working on before.

Main Chronories window

Main Chronories window

Beyond a Diary

What makes writing in Chronories great is the added data that gets collected into each diary entry. It will let you easily mark your overall mood from the day, as well as fill in several ‘Tag Clouds’ of various topics that were on the forefront of your mind, the places you traveled to and the people you met with.

At a later date you can sort via the tags you enter, and find out how many days of the year you really are spending with your good friends or in-laws.

Automatically collected data

Automatically collected data

Chronories also automatically collects data from both your Mac and the outside world. It will record the amount of time you’ve spent on your computer during the day (and when) as well each application (and for how long). Maybe this will help you fight your Angry Birds addiction – now that it’s available on the Mac App Store…

Chronories also records the music you’ve listened to, local weather, e-mails sent and received for the day, websites visited, chats, and iCal appointments (of course). This is automatically collected, so you don’t have to worry about logging any of it.

It will also remind you, through a slightly ugly menu bar applet, to complete a few manual entry aspects. This could be taking a daily iSight photo of yourself, or even just a screenshot of your desktop, so that you can’t ignore journaling each day.

Chronories' menu bar applet

Chronories' menu bar applet

Later, once you’ve used Chornories for a few weeks, you can develop reports on anything the app has recorded. If you had a super-memorable day – like buying a car or getting a new Mac – you can bookmark it so it doesn’t get lost in your dozens or hundreds of entries.

Advanced Features

Chornories allows you to customize the font, color and size of the diary entry – a basic feature that lets you make your diary more personal. You can also enable or disable features in the preferences, like hiding the daily screenshot if you decide that it isn’t something you want to record or be reminded of.

The app also supports fetching and remembering RSS feeds, so your favorite websites can be recorded and revisited years later.

Chronories' preferences window

Chronories' preferences window

Of course, Chronories supports some UI customization – like changing the background wood image – and it will let you manage the database that it stores the diary entries in. For instance you can chose to lock the database with a password, or clear everything out if you think that would be necessary.

Adjust the look and feel of your journal

Adjust the look and feel of your journal

Conclusion

Chronories’s main competitor is the very well known MacJournal. Even though Chronories does a great job of collecting tons of data on your daily activities – it has no way to post entries to a blog or website. (Something that is a key feature for MacJournal).

E-mail import also only works for Mail.app – but it does let you select the e-mail accounts you’d like it to capture.

One little nit-picking disagreement: by default Chronories lives in your menu bar at all times, which is how it records all the data. This is fine if you aren’t like me with more menubar applets than I know what to do with.

Also, the icon doesn’t blend super well into the menu bar, and is set by default to flash annoyingly when you haven’t completed your daily diary entry.

Overall, I found Chronories to be a dream to use. They really thought of everything when it comes to recording daily events and the things happening around you, without you having to do everything manually. It is a fast and well designed app that should make keeping track of what happened over the last few months easier than ever.


Summary

A mac friendly, semi-automated journaling program. It allows you to collect every detail from your day with ease, and it includes some amazing built-in reporting features.

9
  • http://thefaderist.wordpress.com Scott Danielson

    Excellent review. I’m going to head over and pick up a copy now!

  • Michael C.

    I really liked Chronories – once I made it more like a traditional journal (which – credit to the developer) you can do. What I thought was the best feature was that it was open and ready to be written into! It is such a smaller feature but it makes perfect sense.

    In the end though I had to abandon the software and head back to MacJournal because I didn’t see an easy way to get my information back out unlike MacJournal which can back up to a simple .doc file with the headers intact (as far as I can see Chronories only exports in proprietary format).

  • http://twitter.com/vegbrasil @vegbrasil

    I’m trying to use the app but uses much CPU, warming my macbook and leaving the other things slow.
    The idea is great but not well implemented…

  • sannyd

    i have both macjounal and chronories. but i use this everyday. i tried it just on a lark as ive been a journaller all my life..and wanted to take it new school. it is very minimal. i have it set up in my quick bar to show when i havent writtern, taken a photo or said my mood. I like how its not as intrusive. the updates have made it come a long way. at first about mid last year it was crashing alot and real laggy but thats done know as its reliable. i bought it again in the app store which was the first time i plunked my money down to do. it just works.
    its not an energy hog which is a sticking point for me. ive been using this since aug 2010. i love it.

  • Peter

    I absolutely love the interface and its simplicity! My only major complaint is that this app does not encrypt the database! Even though I password protected it, I was able to open the main database in a text editor and there it was: my dark secrets for all to read :) With a little bit of tweaking, it’s possible to save the database on an encrypted dmg, but this it’s not the prettiest of solutions.

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  • Rod Webb

    I liked this program and have used it for years. When Apple issued its sandbox rules, Synium abandoned Chronories. Fair enough! But they did not inform their customers and did nothing to help us save/transfer our data. So think twice about using Synium Software to organize your diary, financial or genealogy records. If something goes wrong, they walk away.

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