I have been using Day One as my journaling app of choice for three months now. Before using Day One, I have tried other journaling apps, like Momento, Meernotes, and Evernote. I even tried to use Path to document my everyday life. If you want to know more about Momento, I recommend Camila’s excellent review. I will not go into detail about what basic journaling app features should be.
Before I jump into my review, I would like to share the fact that I have never kept a journal when I was younger. It is only within the past year did I realize that journaling is the best way to capture my thoughts and help me come back to them later. Day One helps me to write them quickly and reliably even when I’m on the go.
Day One for iPhone
Day One was made by Bloom LLC, a company by interaction designer Paul Mayne. From its conception, Day One was made with integration in mind and a great UI. It has won numerous award and was even featured by Apple as App of the Week on January 2012.
Day One is focused on helping users remember, record, and track their lives in a simple way that will provide a valuable resource in the future. Besides basic journaling features such as text and photo, Day One also adds great features like putting a shortcut bar just above the keyboard. I just need to swipe the bar right or left to quickly include the weather and location for each post, add a photo, star the post as favorite, and format text with markdown. The bar also shows character and word count.
The front page of the app provides me with my journal statistics, such as the total number of entries and the number of days with an entry. I can then browse through my entries by visiting my timeline or photos, or by perusing the calendar for a monthly or yearly view of all journal entries. I can also quickly access my starred or favored reviews.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of a search function on the iOS version, which makes it difficult to search for specific past posts. There is also no tagging mechanism, so the only way to is to star posts to add them to a shortlist of favorite posts. (Update: These features were added in version 1.9)
Day One realizes that keeping a journal is often a private affair, so there is a Settings section where I can set a passcode for accessing the app. I can opt to sync my entries to Dropbox or iCloud, set a reminder, change the fonts, enable Markdown, and link Twitter names with users on my Twitter account.
For location based tagging, Day One enables integration with Foursquare, and I can Auto-add Location for metadata. It is also possible to enrich entries with photos taken with the default camera or using Camera+. Should I decide to share an entry with my family and friends, Day One also supports sharing by email or Twitter and embedding on Foursquare check-ins.
The Day One app includes a focus mode which takes away the menu and lets me read or edit a post quickly by removing distractions. I can also set a reminder to write a journal entry daily, weekly, or on specific times during the week. This enables me to keep track of days when I haven’t written anything.
Day One for Mac
Day One is also available for the Mac. Designed from the ground up to fit desktop usage, the Mac version has its own set of unique abilities.
To start off, the Mac version workflow for creating posts is different than that of the iOS version; it allows entry using text only and user cannot start with photos. I can, however, embed a picture from a file after adding an entry. This tidbit is well thought of, considering people on notebooks or desktop computers often take photos with other peripherals rather than the onboard iSight camera.
Unlike its iOS counterpart, Day One for Mac allows sharing to Flickr or Facebook straight from the journal. The app also includes integration with AirDrop and Messages for posts that contain photos.
The Mac version doesn’t have a focus mode or markdown formatting assist, which I think is a differentiation made by developers based on how people use their devices. It has a search feature to help find a specific post in the timeline, but not a tagging mechanism.
A unique feature in Day One for Mac is the menu bar icon which I can click to quickly create an entry or set a reminder. While this widget window is quite small, it is useful to quickly jot down thoughts or ideas, and you can always use the full app to complete the text later.
Why Day One is Outstanding
Day One is jam packed with features that makes it easy for someone to create an entry. The hardest part of journaling is always the speed and immediacy of the entry; I need to be able to create an entry fast and with the necessary information during the writing.
I’m thankful that Day One handles this well by creating several ways for me to do it. I only need a single tap to create a quick entry of my thoughts or collect photos for me to visit later. The metadata (such as weather, location and time of entry) are always added immediately and automatically.
MultiMarkdown is supported beautifully throughout the application. If you want to learn more about the features, you can get tips, tricks and plugins as described on the Tools section of the website. These allows you to extend the functionalities of the Mac version even more. Examples include adding command-line entry for all the elite coders, enabling export to Evernote, integration with Aperture, linking to Apple’s Reminder, and even logging with Alfred.
The overall look of the app is also very polished. In both the iOS and the Mac version, the interface is very easy to use. Without even knowing about all the features I described above, I could pick up the app immediately and start journaling. I also appreciate the implementation of gestures that make it easy to navigate through my entries; simply pull up or down for previous or next posts.
When I am writing on my iPhone, the focus mode is a joy to use. Font geeks like me would delight in the fact that the app includes a wide selection of fonts. It is also possible to increase the font size to 42pt on the iOS version or 30pt on the Mac version, which is more than enough for most people.
Last but not least, I applaud the developer for adding many enhancements to the app since its release. This is unlike Momento, which has become quite stagnant in development and added only small improvements.
Day One in My Daily Workflow
I use Day One whenever and wherever, but primarily on my Mac. I like how the Mac version gives off suggestions on what to write when the reminder is triggered, such as “Write about something you love” or “Write about past experiences”. It helps me get into the habit of writing my thoughts into the journal at specific points in time. But, I always have the option to hit the snooze button if I am still in the middle of work.
When I am on the road or just sitting at Starbucks enjoying coffee, and a thought suddenly comes to me, I can quickly jot it down on my iPhone and edit it later on my Mac. If there is a moment to capture while I’m in the middle of work, I can easily use Day One to store the photos and add additional information later.
I use focus mode to read my past journal entries quickly and calendar mode to get into specific point in time. Searching is nonexistent on iOS, but I do use it a lot on the Mac version to look for specific ideas. This is especially useful when I posted a bunch of notes and photos during a vacation, but couldn’t be bothered to edit it right then and there.
Simplicity is key here, but Day One knows to add new, functional features when necessary. The ability to sync with the Mac version is a plus, and the feature-packed-simplicity is a win against other apps.
The cross-platform options are great, and it’s easier to work on different machines using Dropbox and iCloud. I have created entries with Day One much faster than I did with other apps, and I find it a lot more enjoyable.
If you just want to journal, fast, then this app is for you. Day One is clearly made for journaling and in this aspect, it has beautifully succeeded.
Note: This has been a guest post by Ray Pello, my and Camila’s colleague. Ray is a web developer slash designer slash UX enthusiast living in Surabaya, Indonesia who loves information overload, cool stuff, chocolate, bacon, and problem solving. This entire review was made in Day One using its MultiMarkdown support and Dropbox integration.
Other apps you might like: