Mémoires: The Easy Way to Keep a Journal

I’m a firm believer in the benefits of journalling and writing every day. Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way” has been very significant in my life, and after reading it for the first time, I kept up the central practice she recommends – of writing three pages first thing every morning – almost every day for the following five years. For the past few months, I’ve fallen out of the habit, but I know I will pick it up again in time, and that I will most likely continue to keep a journal of some kind for the rest of my life.

I’ve always preferred pen or pencil on paper for this kind of writing, but I thought it might be time to have a go with one of the several journaling apps available for the Mac. I’ve gone straight to Mémoires, an app produced by Coding Robots, whose YouTube viewer, Cathodique, we included in our piece on improving YouTube.

Like Cathodique, Mémoires is a well-focused application: it does one thing, with minimal fuss or distraction. And yet it does that single thing well enough that it makes one take note. Join us after the jump for a quick walkthrough of Mémoires’ main features.

Getting Started

Mémoires has a very simple interface. The layout is functional, but at the same time, care has been taken to make things look good. There’s a panel on the left that displays a calendar for easy navigation between your dated entries, and the selected day’s writing on the right.

The Basic Interface

The Basic Interface

Forgive me for not sharing my own writing – the entries in all the screenshots are either a Coding Robots press release or Lorem Ipsum text generated by the useful Blind Text Generator.

To return to your entry from last Thursday, you simply click on the date. Days that have entries are highlighted in the calendar. If you have a particularly prolific day, you can hit the + at bottom left, which will add a new entry, joining the list of entries under the calendar.

Viewing Entries

Viewing Entries

Click on the small calendar icon in the left corner, and the calendar rolls up and disappears, to be replaced by a full list of all your entries to date.

Using Mémoires

There’s not much to say about using the app – it’s extremely straightforward, so you can just get on with it and not fuss too much about settings or any of the other things that can so easily distract one from the work (and pleasure) of writing.

In the Preferences menu you’ll find a control for setting the default font, and you can use the familiar [cmd]+[+] keyboard shortcut to enlarge text if you’re ever struggling to read anything.

Enlarging Text

Enlarging Text

Mémoires has a fullscreen mode – just click on View and Fullscreen, or hit [cmd]+[shift]+[f] and your text will expand to fill the entire screen. It’s a basic implementation – with none of the subtlety or options of, say, Writeroom, with its typewriter scrolling and control of margins, etc. – but it does the job. I don’t actually find this feature very useful in Mémoires – I need a narrower, more confined space for reading or writing, so Writeroom’s margins are essential – but perhaps others would find it easier to use than I do.

Mémoires saves your Journal in a SQLite-derived database, so it’s easy to get your information back out, even if the app were to disappear. You can also export your entries as two flavours of Rich Text, Plain text, or PDF.

The app autosaves every five minutes, so you’ll always have a fairly recent version if disaster strikes. I would prefer to see a more flexible, user-defined approach here: quite a lot can happen in five minutes, and a crash or a power cut after 4½ could be a real pain.

Additional Features

Mémoires has some nice touches; drag and drop inclusion of photos, which also dynamically resize as you change your window size, the ability to include tables and lists, and some simple control over your text’s appearance (justifying, simple formatting). These are all things you would expect from a fairly basic word processing application. But then Mémoires goes a little further, adding a few features that make it good for particular uses, or for particular ways of recording your journal entries.

Say you were away on a holiday somewhere picturesque. Well, that ability to drop in photos would of course allow you to keep a more interesting record of your visit. Add to that some of the clever built-in Data Detectors, and you can embed links to maps (actually, this didn’t work with the UK addresses we tried, though addresses in the US did work) and easily add contact information to your Address Book.

And if you’re a more visually-minded person, there’s also the ability to add sketches to your entries:

Adding Sketches

Adding Sketches

I’m not even going to pretend to be able to sketch! I would find using the Mouse or Trackpad to do so extremely difficult, but I expect some people would be glad to be able to add a quick and simple drawing to their entries now and then.

That little ‘padlock’ icon alongside the calendar at the bottom left corner (visible in previous screenshots) allows you to encrypt your current Journal:

Handling Encryption

Handling Encryption

That is the whole Journal, rather than the entry you’re currently viewing. A more selective control might have been a nice addition – so you could decide on an entry-by-entry basis whether you want to lock things down.

The search bar at bottom-right does exactly what you expect, allowing you to search through all your Journal’s entries for particular words or phrases. You can also opt, in Preferences, to have the text of your entries indexed by Spotlight, so that you can search for them from anywhere without needing to have Mémoires open. This is disabled by default, so that your intimate texts are safely excluded from system-wide search results unless you choose to enable it manually.

And a last thing to mention, Mémoires has spell-checking built-in, including a nice auto-correct feature, which caught most of the test errors thrown at it, though not all.

So, Will I Be Switching From Paper?

I’m going to continue to give Mémoires a more thorough workout. At the moment it seems quite good. The truth is, though, that it’s extremely unlikely I would ever choose to use a computerised journal instead of writing by hand – I love the sounds and smells and the overall embodied experience of writing too much to give that up.

I can definitely see instances when Mémoires would be great, and know people who already choose to keep their journals electronically, whose lives would be made much easier by Mémoires.

What do you think? Do you keep a journal or do any kind of daily writing? Would you choose to do your writing on computer?


The easiest way to keep a journal on your Mac. Saving your memories and returning to them has never been so enjoyable before. The interface is simple, functionality is minimal, but therein lies the appeal. The ability to add graphics and sketches is also a nice touch, as are multiple export options.