It was a premature spring day in March of 2011 that users began downloading Bloom Built’s Day One en masse from the Mac App Store. People initially reacted by asking for more features and bug fixes, as the comments in our review later in the month of March show. It’s not that they didn’t like the app at all, but rather that it was incomplete for what it was meant to be. The majority asked for something that was not being delivered — something that arrived a month later: search.
Now, 20 months after the release of version 1.0 on the Mac App Store, I’d like to take another in-depth look at the features Day One has adopted since we last told you about it.
Password Protection, iCloud Sync, and Photos
Keeping your personal thoughts secure never used to be a concern, because they weren’t digital. Now, however, that password on your Mac may not be enough to convince you that your information is safe. That is, of course, understandable, and the developers of Day One agreed, so they added password protection in version 1.2 (released in August 2011). It’s a simple feature that you can turn on in the Security tab of the app’s Preferences.
Along with this new feature come some options. First there’s locking. You can tell the app you want it to require a password after a certain amount of time has gone by without you having accessed your journal. By default, this number is 20 minutes, though you can change it in the Security tab or even uncheck the box to disable it entirely (which locks the journal right after you close it). Lastly, there’s a checkbox for locking the app when your computer goes to sleep, which is also enabled by default.
Cloud Synchronization Improved
Day One originally came with Dropbox support. Its purpose was to keep all your files saved in a secure remote server. Then, in October 2011, Apple launched iCloud, its own “cloud storage” that Apple product owners were supplied with for free. Since this was more appealing to developers than the multi-step authorization process of Dropbox, many migrated to it, but some stuck to the old ways. Right now Day One offers both. To set up iCloud, go to the Sync tab of the app’s Preferences and click “Use iCloud…”. The same goes for Dropbox, but sadly the app does not allow you to have them both enabled at once.
The biggest feature that’s been added since version 1.0, besides search, is support for photos. That means you can now use the app as an alternative to Instagram, Facebook, or Flickr. It’s a personal photo diary that can only be accessed by you on your devices. To start using the photos feature, create an entry and drag the photo to it. Alternatively, you can browse for the photo by clicking the camera icon and selecting your choice. The one limitation to this feature is that you can only have one per entry; this does cause it to look a lot better on the iOS app’s gallery.
Automatic Backup, Markdown, and Calendar View
Version 1.5 brought a lot of great features to Day One, from fullscreen mode to printing to nifty shortcuts like CMD + S to save an entry. One of the most notable, however, was automatic backup. Dropbox and iCloud sync are appealing to people who trust the cloud, but if you’re one of those insecure people who enjoy the safety of their computer’s hard drive (or backup one), it’s better to have something that automatically backs up all your thoughts to a safe place.
If you head to the Backup tab of Preferences, you can set up automatic journal backups. (They’re actually enabled by default and set to save daily.) There’s an option to change the frequency of these automatic backups, though there are only three settings: daily, every two days, and weekly — nothing custom. The other settings in this tab are the backup location and maximum number of files you’d like to store in the directory. Be aware that each backup contains all your entries, not just the ones since the last time you secured them.
Remember that cool code by John Gruber? It may not be Leet, but it sure is an easy way to format things without a lot of unnecessary keyboard shortcuts. Day One supports it, too. Now, if you’re planning on writing a lot of words and need to quickly italicize them, you can always press CMD + I and it will make things easier, but don’t forget that you are using a lightweight markup language. Make use of it — the app wants you to.
Perhaps the niftiest feature this app has, calendar view is your way of quickly browsing old entries by looking at a digital datebook. You can scroll through every month you’ve made an entry in, click the day, and browse the entries for it. Everything is organized nicely, though you may get some lag when you get to the bottom. Maybe it’s all those heavyweight entries finally catching up with you. Of course, if you’re looking for something on a specific day, don’t waste time clicking it; instead, hover over the day and scan the text.
Extensions Like Slogger Make it Great
Thanks to Brett Terpstra, developer mainly of Simplenote client nvALT, you can now import your social activity into Day One automatically. Terpstra created a tool called Slogger, which uses services like IFTTT, RSS feeds, and Twitter’s API to access your social activity and add all your thoughts into a single journal. For some people, this might be annoying, but for others it’s a great way to keep track of all their digital life. You can even save Last.fm scrobbles instead of writing “I’m listening to Awakening by Switchfoot” in a journal entry. Before you download the tool, make sure you read the developer’s guide on how it works and are clear on the more complex things. (It is a script, not a full app that’s a one-click setup. Then again, all good things are.)
Encryption is Necessary for Survival
Password protection is one thing; keeping your thoughts completely safe is another entirely. You may think that adding a password to Day One will protect your thoughts from theft, but it actually won’t. First, it’d be very easy to decode due to lack of encryption and second, all the journal’s files are in plain text, which even a four-year-old could open without guidance. Knowing this, would you download Day One and trust it with your personal thoughts?
On Its Way to Glory Road
Day One has won many awards so far, and the developers should be proud of their creation. However, there are still many things users both want and deserve. Security should be the developers’ top priority, not just bug fixes. If encryption and tags are both in the plans for this app, then great — they’re on the right track. Right now, even with all its UI polish and high hopes, it’s still missing what savants would consider the base element and that’s disappointing, especially for the rather high price of $9.99. Compared to MacJournal, it isn’t that bad, but compared to the Mac App Store competition, it appears steep.