Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Electronic Journaling

Apart from other kinds of note-taking software, I have always found electronic journals useful. "Journal" here means nothing else than "notes organized in temporal sequence." At first, I just used a Word file with a template that mimicked Notepad's log feature.[1] I later transferred all these entries into Ascend (in 1993) and fooled around with other programs. In 1998 I bought The Journal. I used this program until May 2010 (upgrading to versions 3 and 4 in the mean time). In May 2010 another upgrade for version 5 ($24.95 US) would have been necessary. I did not upgrade because The Journal had become too bloated in the meantime. It included and includes many features I never used and saw myself never using. Many of them "too cute" by far (calendar charms, MemoryGrabber, Writing Prompts, etc., etc.). At the same time, features I would have liked: easier linking between entries, for instance, were not implemented. Global Search was always fairly slow and the interface not quite standard. It seemed to go in a direction I just did not like.

So, I did not upgrade and used the money to buy Advanced Diary. It's much more simple, and it has a clean interface. While it is not perfect—could be faster in loading, for instance—it does everything I want it to do, and it does so without fuss. I saw it described somewhere as "Wordpad with a calendar." This is not quite fair—it allows multiple notebooks or journals, for instance, and has a tree. It also has a password function and encrypts its files.

Still, the categorization "Wordpad with a calendar" is not entirely inappropriate either. It's just that I think there is nothing fundamentally wrong with an application that aims at being "Wordpad with a calendar," anyway. One good thing about The Journal, it perfectly exported all the entries to RTF, which allowed me to import them without loss into Advanced Diary. Meanwhile this application has also had a (free) upgrade to version 3 (but it has become more expensive for new users).[2]

Advanced Diary works well with ConnectedText. It accepts its URLs and thus makes it easy to cross reference the daily entries with my other notes. In some ways, it would prefer to keep my Journal in ConnectedText as well, since it handles date entries quite well. The only thing that keeps me from doing it at this time is that you cannot yet password protect ConnectedText files or projects.[3] But this feature seems to be planned for the near future. Since Advanced Diary also exports very well to different formats (and ConnectedText imports them), the switch will be easy. I have tried it already, but for now I keep on using Advanced Diary.

1. For those who don't remember or who never used this feature: You just put ".log" at the very beginning of a file, and then, every time you open the file, the date (10:04 6/30/2010, for instance) automagically appears at the beginning of the file so that you can take notes under it. Notetab also has this feature (as do some other editors). Will Duquette's Notebook, which I used for a time in tandem with The Journal, implements this idea very nicely, by the way.

2. Whether I would pay $39.95 for it, I do not know. There is a free version (2.1, I think), but it does not handle twenty years of data very well (actually: not at all would be a better way of putting it).

3. I do not have any deep or dark secrets, but I do not want everyone to be able easily to get at all my information and musings. Some things are better kept private—or so I believe.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Like you, I was a fan of The Journal, but I lost interest on the upgrade from 2 to 3, because David switched editing engines in order to add a lot of those unnecessary whistles and bells. The new editor does not support full extended selection options, and that's a killer for me in an application I want to write extensively in. I have yet to find an adequate substitute in Windows, though for my private journaling, I use my MacBook. MacJournal is quite good. I wish that Mariner Software's Windows version was equally as good, but alas. I'll be interested to read how you like Advanced Diary after working with it for a while.

MK said...

I will report. So far, so good. I was tempted by RedNotebook, but I think it might be more difficult to get the stuff back out of it again.

I will report on my experience later ...

P.S.: I know that there are some worthy alternatives on the Mac.

Anonymous said...

I too stopped using The Journal. Instead I migrated to iDailyDiary. It's cheaper than Advance Diary, and overall seemed to have host of features (such as an embedded timer) that were of interest to me.