Posted on Feb 15, 2013 | 0 comments

darkside Read This If You Use Penzu (Or Have Thought About It)

If you have been a part of the Easy Journaling community for a while you have probably seen a post or two about the most popular online journal, Penzu. Not writing about it would be similar to a tech blog not writing about Apple- possible but not realistic.

This journaling service offers many features for free and even more for $19/year including syncing Penzu on Android and iPhone. Almost a year ago I wrote a personal piece on the subject titled Why I’m Switching to Penzu. In short, I was tired of Wonderful Days for the iPhone and wanted the best option available. I was the digital journaling guru so I should be using the best, right?

It was the right decision at the time and I basked in the magnificence of feature overload for months. I could customize to my hearts desire, write from a keyboard or touchscreen and sleep in the comfort of knowing that my journal was backed up, password protected and encrypted. Maybe overkill, but nice nonetheless!

And then something happened, I switched from iPhone to Android. I didn’t think it would be a big deal because Penzu has an Android app just like the iPhone app. I could switch phones and my journal wouldn’t care, I preached.

This is roughly when the problems started.

My iPhone had been unable to sync the entries stored on the device with the web application for a few months. Yes, I should have taken this as a red flag but the developer reassured me that future updates would fix this issue and all of my entries would be synced. I trusted this and waited while continuing to use my iPhone to create entries that couldn’t sync.

By the time I made the switch to Android (Thanksgiving time) all of my mobile entries were still mobile. I tried everything possible to back them up or transfer them including deleting the app, restarting the device and every other trick I could think of. Nothing worked and I ended up losing MONTHS of entries. If you want to frustrate me, just find a way to lose my journal entries.

I understand that much of this problem was my fault for continuing to use the iPhone app when it wasn’t syncing but this shouldn’t even have been a problem. I have discussed this with other developers and they have confirmed that every journal application should (and can) have autosync. At worst, developers should give a plan B such as the ability to email all of the entries on the mobile device as a PDF. I’ve seen it so I know it is possible.

And speaking of mobile applications, that is another issue with Penzu- the mobile applications are terrible (both iPhone and Android). I didn’t really understand how bad they were until I recently switched to Diaro 3 for Android. This simple app has made me enjoy journaling from my phone again!

To top all of this mess off, when I finally went to export all of my Penzu entries as a PDF (read my mini-guide The 3 Things You Should Know for more info on that) the PDF was crumby. All of the formatting, fonts and backgrounds were not to be found. All you get is plain text and your pictures that aren’t justified or formatted within your text. Sure, I have all of my entries and data but if I would have known how bad the PDF export process would have turned out I would have had second thoughts.

The bottom line: Penzu is an amazing service if used right. Just understand the limitations and take control of your data or else you will likely be disappointed in the end.

Anyone else been burned by Penzu?