Vince Doss recently reached out to me asking a few questions and explaining his journey attempting to find the right digital journal in his busy life. I was inspired and educated by his story enough that I encouraged him to write it out for all of you to enjoy as well. As you will soon see, Vince is on the right track and his careful selection process will increase his chances of an enjoyable and fulfilling journaling experience.
Take it away Vince!
I am an IT support professional and I have just taken up journaling in the past month. I set out to find a tool to help me gather my thoughts, a compensatory strategy for ADD. I enter repair tickets (only PC based); do network management and email from my PC laptop. I also have an iPad (but find typing on it is not fun with/without stylus) and an iPhone5. I was looking for something to quickly enter notes from the time I wake and throughout the day to both chronicle my day’s activities, for ticket entry later if needed, as well as my goals, thoughts and musings. After trying for a couple weeks I think the iPhone has won out as the primary input platform. I first stumbled upon EJ when searching for “the best journaling apps” and found Sam’s eBooks and PDFs. These were pivotal in helping me arrive at a few conclusions.
I have separated the Journaling App criteria that mean the most to me, in no particular order, into the following categories.
- The Front End – The look and feel. Fonts, backgrounds, layout, how fast can I get in and make an entry? I am a minimalist who, while easily distracted by shiny things, will eventually gravitate to function over form. The aesthetics lure you in but then you usually know right away if something is missing.
- Under the Hood – Does it do what I need it to do. Sync on a free, openly accessible platform, export to PDF. This is a biggie because it was not until after reading EJ, that I could identify what was most important to me in that choosing the right tool for the job means understanding the job at hand.
- The Back End – How Responsive are the developers? Is the app in active development or does feedback fall on deaf ears? Is there hope for change if needed?
I suppose cost goes in there somewhere but while I don’t want to waste money, cost is not a primary factor in my selection process.
I am quite fond of DayOne. There is a reason it is the number one Journaling app for Apple devices. I like the simple consistent feel throughout the app. I have learned how to make extensive use of tags for distinction between my work entries and personal, more Journal-esque entries. I also love the seamless sync with free cloud services like DropBox and iCloud which is but I continue to look because DayOne does not have:
- Either a web based app or a PC based app. The laptop keyboard is important for me from time to time.
- PDF back up for data portability (they do have a standards based xml back up though)
- I would love to have a pseudo reporting capability that could be realized through exporting based on tags, date ranges, etc.
I have moved passed Penzu like yesterday’s road kill. Penzu is pretty much useless without the upgrade to Penzu Pro (you cannot sync with mobile devices without it) but unfortunately I think, for me, it was a waste of $20. It seems there is inconsistency between input platforms. While I appreciate the export to PDF, online accessibility (albeit proprietary platform) and the encryption, I found the Penzu user experience to be kludgy . It felt like it was a web based app that had the iOS app developed after the fact and possibly with earlier development tools. I am not a programmer so I cannot articulate that statement more clearly, this was just the feeling I had while using the mobile version.
I am currently looking at Everyday.Me (Everyday Timeline) and plan to do a hard change from Day One for a week or two so I can give it an honest look. I hear the developer, Noodle Labs falls under my Back End -“responsive developer” heading. I am also eagerly waiting for the Diaro iOS app as the Web-based interface is very attractive.
In closing I recommend a beginner read a little to understand how they might use a journaling app. As someone once said, “you don’t know what you don’t know” and an understanding of the basic requirements that Sam has helped me understand like data privacy, portability, multi-platform synchronization might save you some time because finding what works for you with all the choices available is still like drinking from a fire hose.
Humble gratitude is offered to Sam and Easy Journaling as they provided me direction where I had none.
Share your own digital journaling experiences and let Vince know how amazing he did in the comments below!