MacJournal: Much More Than a Digital Diary

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.


Summary

A full-featured writing application perfect for chronicling your life, tracking a project, writing your blog and more.

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  • http://andrewgoodrickwerner.ca/ Andrew Goodrick–Werner

    This looks absolutely fantastic — I’m at a loss for words.

  • Andrew

    I have bought and use macjournal. It is functional and good at what it does and has plenty of options.Therefore it is difficult to criticise it. I think clearly it is the best and most full featured journal app for the mac. I use it every day.

    However I think it just lacks something. It is difficult to define. There are software applications I have that I really love like Omnifocus, Reeder, iAWriter etc. I just dont think of macjournal this way and I dont really know why.

  • PamG

    Dont believe the hype if you have more than a desktop. I’ve had this app on my iMac & iPad for over a year. Syncing remains a horror story. Only way to ensure the WiFi sync occurs is to sit in front of both, simultaneously — messages pop up requiring a click/tap. Sheer idiocy. Devs did not respond to emails. Can’t believe there’s a new number version, with no commentary re syncs. I finally gave up and moved to DayOne.

    • http://www.dailyphoto.se Christopher Grant

      +1. I absolutely agree. This is an over-hyped app. Same issues as Pam.

  • Jon Henshaw

    I’m not a big journaler, but I do like to dump my thoughts every now and then. While MacJournal definitely seems more full featured, I still prefer the “user experience” of Day One. It sync perfectly with Dropbox, and its UI makes me want to use it – both on iOS and OS X.

  • Sigilist

    I’ve been following this package for a while now, and waiting for it to do something more in growth that the superficial. While it is a decent package for basic journaling, and now has expanded metadata and viewing metastructure, I have to just say… so what?

    MacJournal has been fumbling and lacking in to major areas for a long time: data in/out, and date distribution. Yes, that’s not really what journaling traditional has been in the past, but it is now in the age of the web log/journal or “blog.”

    It still has (big) problems where syncing is concerned, but more the just machine to machine, it is one of the few entry “posting” applications that cannot actually “post.” And the Formating capabilities internal to the editor are paltry and have not grown since I first discovered this application 3 years ago. Even then it was behind the times; even now it still has not found a decent direction for growth. Almost anything you can do with this app and be done with at least two other free ones put together. Heck, you can just get yourself a blog online, make all your posts private, and even the lousy post editor produced by Google/Blogger out does the one in MacJournal.

    This is not to say it is an aweful program. It does what it does adequately for the most part. But not adequately enough for the price… not even close. Get yourself a free blog somewhere and you’ve already got most of what MacJournal can do… for nothing… and you’ll do it better.

    • http://welecometosherwood.wordpress.com Steve Zeoli

      I’m not sure what you mean when you say MacJournal cannot “post.” I use it to post to my blogs, and it works fine for me. Perhaps I don’t fully understand what you mean by “post.”

  • http://welcometosherwood.wordpress.com Steve Zeoli

    Regarding DayOne versus MacJournal… I admire DayOne for making it easy to add entries. I haven’t tried the sync feature, but trust that it works well. But I think DayOne and MacJournal are very different applications, with the latter being much more of a full-featured writing environment, and the former being a fast, convenient place to record activities and thoughts. Tags and categories for DayOne have been promised for a while now, but still not implemented. Text formatting in DayOne is not available yet, and will be handled through markdown, which I have no problem with, but it isn’t exactly a powerhouse editor. These are not criticisms of DayOne, just pointing out how these two applications are very different, with DayOne being lighter and quicker, and MacJournal being a full journaling application, which is how I approached it in my review.

  • Pingback: MacJournal review now posted on Mac.Appstorm « Welcome to Sherwood

  • Jeremy

    I like Day One. It’s simple, clean, and easy to use. I’ve read they’re implementing pictures, videos, etc too which was the one thing i found lacking. it’s a totally different type of application from MacJournal though. When comparing MacJournal Vs viJournal, i still like viJournal better.

  • http://www.tapscreenapps.com/ Jack

    Hi there, I really impress. Its great having multi functionality diary. Its useful for everyone and easy to input.

  • Mark

    MacJournal is in a class by itself. I’ve tried every journaling app out there from DayOne to viJournal and there really is no comparison. I’m a doctor and at my practice I use MacJournal to capture notes and info on patients. I even use it from my own personal journaling and blogging. I’ve never had any issues with Mariner and as a matter of fact they have went above and beyond on numerous occasions for me. This is probably the most important app I have on my Mac next to Mail.

  • mostlyfiction

    I’ve been using MacJournal for sometime now ( since version 3 ). It’s the only application I use EVERYDAY, period. Although I do have Office & iWork on my MacPro & G5, MacJournal is the first app I go to. I have a master journal containing journals set by year containing journals set by month. Just be sure to setup a custom template for documents that need printing with modified margins and your set. The shear joy of having ALL my thoughts, lists, to do items, web links, business & personal letters, etc., etc. in one very organized and easy to find place saves hours over the year. MacJournal is hands down a classic killer app !

  • http://sanitybox.com Chris

    I’ve been using MacJournal for a couple of years now, and while the syncing is a bit of an issue, (they’re working on bringing in iCloud integration), this is an awesome app if you have to manage multiple blogs, enjoy normal journaling, or ever have to migrate blogs from one content system to another. If you want to Journal & blog, this is a great app.

  • http://www.clinicalrecordkeeper-mac.com Charles M. Stewart, M.D.

    I use Macjournal for patient records. So far about 500 records, 30mb. works very well. Backs up easily to USB drives, encrypts well, handles templates well.
    I don’t use some of the advanced features like tags, pictures, or much linkage. I never synch with anything. About 3 years running without difficulties.
    Love it. Spend all day writing on it.

  • http://seo seo

    Hi, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog site in Opera, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, excellent blog!

  • http://www.berekettente.com tente

    I’ll be pointing out the significant new features as we go along. Let’s get started.

  • imindrider

    MacJournal far exceeded my expectation. Primarily for the fact that it isn’t just a journaling tool. I use it for organizing home, work, scheduling, authoring, book writing, note-taking, …. I have Day One and it serves as a great journal but hands down, MacJournal is far more flexible.

  • http://ebabbie.net Earl

    I am a heavy user of MacJournal and have been for years. My chief complaint right now is that when I sync to my iPad all the formatting is lost. And if I modify my journals on the iPad (which I want to do on the road), syncing then removes all the formatting on the Mac file. Gasp! (Memo to self: back up files.)

    Despite that significant complaint, MacJournal is a major league app.

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