Review: Day One diary app for Mac, iPhone and iPad

I love buying software for my Mac and iOS devices.

What keeps me buying is often noticing I have a problem, and wanting to fix that.

I have kept a digital daily journal for about 12 years. I have typed more than 300,000 words, mostly detailing the things I did each day. I started entering text into a Palm device which slotted into a folding keyboard, then moved up to an Alphasmart keyboard which used the Palm OS: this was a truly fabulous device. I ADORED it. I later upgraded to an Alphasmart Dana. As the Alphasmarts had a full-size keyboard it was easy for me to stick to my discipline of entering text every night.

I recently threw my Dana away as I now spend so much time with my iPhone and iPad.

I have been keeping a diary sporadically, sometimes typing in a Diary document in Pages. Sometimes I’d type into the Together side box (see separate review), and use Typinator (see my review) and type ddate to get the date to appear, and ttm to get the time. So during a working day I’d occasionally stop, enter the date into the side box, enter ttm for the time, and start typing what I had just been doing, or what I was about to start. Then I’d later copy these logs into the Pages diary document. Not elegant, especially if my Mac crashed, in which case I lost whatever was in my side box. Steve, the programmer of Together, has no plans to have an auto save for the side box so I really wanted a better solution.

So my situation…

  • I wanted an app which would encourage me to write daily.
  • It would log my entries simply.
  • It would sync with my iPhone and iPad.
  • It would be password protected.

So the other day I bought Day One, a journalling / diary app. Price: £6.99 (US$9.99) for the Mac app and £1.29 (US$1.99) for the Universal iOS app, which runs on other iPhone and iPad.

Day One for Mac consists of a standard application and a popup window that you can trigger on the menu bar, and which can pop up every x minutes during the day…

Day-One-diary-app-for-Mac

And the application itself looks like this (I’ve ghosted out an earlier entry for today)…

Day-One-diary-app-for-Mac-2

What’s good about the Mac version…

  • it syncs its files with Dropbox — so whatever I type on my Mac appears on my iPhone
  • it can’t lose my data as it’s in Dropbox: so a crash of my Mac won’t cause me to lose a diary entry
  • it’s password protected
  • I can set reminders on my Mac so I have set the Day One pop-up box to appear every 30 minutes at the top of my screen.
  • exporting all the entries is very easy: Day One creates a simple text file

What’s not so good about the Mac version…

  • there is no user guide: just a few questions answered
  • the documentation seems out of date: for example, it says a password feature will be added soon when in fact it’s here now
  • I can’t find a way to edit an entry
  • I don’t like the ‘inspiring quotes/messages/tips’ that appear at the top of the journal in big type. They look pretty, but there aren’t that many of them, and come across as a nice idea that may get dropped in a few versions time, or be much improved. They look like this at the moment…

Screen Shot 2011 10 11 at 12 35 20

Screen Shot 2011 10 11 at 12 35 34

Screen Shot 2011 10 11 at 12 35 47

Screen Shot 2011 10 11 at 12 36 00

  • I have my reminders set for every half an hour: so if I call up the popup and enter in a diary entry and click the Save button at 10.29am, at 10.30am the popup jumps onto the screen again. Logical, but annoying, for me!
  • the exported feature is simple at the moment, so output looks like this, with “starred: false” appearing before each entry which I’d like to see stripped out myself…

Day One text export

Here’s what the iPhone version looks like. When you launch the app you’ll see this password entry screen if you selected this in Settings…

Day-One-diary-app-iPhone

The main menu where you can see that I have made 13 entries so far over 4 days…

Day-One-diary-app-iPhone-5

…and when my last entry synced via Dropbox, this is what it looked like…

Day-One-diary-app-iPhone 2

What’s good about the iPhone version…

  • it’s very easy to edit an entry
  • I love the shadow effect behind each bullet as I enter each digit of my password
  • the whole app is very elegant to use, and very functional

What’s not so good about the iPhone version…

Some of my entries have times in them: for example “We arrived at the swimming pool at 1pm.” Well all these times are in blue and are underlined. So you can get an entry that looks like this…

Day-One-diary-app-iPhone-3

…and this…

Day-One-diary-app-iPhone-4

…which I think is a real nuisance. It’s the same in the Simplenote app for the iPhone. Ugly, distracting and unnecessary.

Reminders seem to work in a different way on the iPhone: the idea is you set each reminder individually.

What I’d love…

I’d love it if the popup box could be made smaller – for me it takes up too much space. I’d make the Save button smaller and the text entry area smaller.

Even better, I’d rather have an option so the popup box didn’t appear at all every 30 or whatever minutes. This is maddening to be honest. Occasionally I’d rather quit the app so I can concentrate on my work!

Instead I’d like the bookmark on the menu bar to pulse at each reminder time, and maybe even have the option to play a simple sound to remind me. The app could give me a choice of a few such alert sounds, and be able to set the volume to. (And make me a cup of tea while it’s at it.)

This idea is used in a brilliant little app called I Love Stars which costs 99 cents on the Mac’s App Store. Then, if I tap on the bookmark icon on the menu bar, I’d see the popup.

I’d love it if Paul Mayne, the very skilled programmer who created these apps, explained in detail why he created Day One and his thinking behind it.

Why did he have a starred entries tag? What’s it useful for? Why have a time for each entry? Why did he do this rather than let people put their own times in? What’s the best way to use the app? And so on.

Personally, I’d love the option to get rid of the dated entries system: I just want an app where I can add the next chunk of data. If I want to put a time in front of it, I can do this manually, or use Typinator to drop this in myself. Ultimately buyers of this app will be exporting several months or years of diary entries to a text file so that one day their children can read them, or they themselves can read them. Do they really want that file to look like this??…

Day One text export…I think not.

Despite my reservations above I am very happy I bought the Mac and iOS versions of this app. What I am doing is entering text each day, and that’s what I want. The text is safe, and secure with the password protection. This app may be just what you are looking for too. If so, find out more on Paul’s site here.

Programmer Paul Mayne kindly sent me an email: “Thanks for the review and it’s great feedback. I’m definitely improving the export formats soon.” In response to my idea above regarding a more subtle reminder to post an entry Paul replied, “Thanks Chris, great idea, I will considerate this.” Great news!

Do please share this content! :)
Christopher John Payne
 

Chris helps coaches, trainers and consultants to double or triple their net income by optimising their website, product funnel, pricing structure, and more. He lives just outside London, England. His main site is at christopherjohnpayne.com.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments
CodyO

Hello,

I also love this app however found one downfall. It seems that you solved it though, possibly I just overlooked. How do you export the whole journal as one file? I use this on iPhone and iPad with iCloud sync. I see how to export one entry at a time but I would like to export the whole journal.

Thanks!

Reply
    Christopher John Payne

    Hi CodyO,
    I had no problem exporting the whole journal as one file. Rather than go into detail here, have another read of the documentation on the Day One site. Then if you’re still stuck, contact the developer who does reply to emails.
    Chris

    Reply
Grahan

Ive been a journal keeper for years, digital since I turned to Apple.Ive used MacJournal for a couple of years but felt it was dated and going nowhere. Day One took my interest when it finally introduced adding images.

I like it, it's basic, but clean and simple. The task of transferring 1500 entries from MacJournal is daunting, but I've made some progress.

Reply

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