Day One: The Traveller’s Journal

Keeping a journal on the road is a tradition as old as time. I have no doubt that the ancient Egyptian equivalent of Dr Livingstone carried around A5-sized stone slates to chip down hilarious observations about the dress of Ancient Roman centurions.

These days, we still have the slate except now it’s attached to a smartphone and it’s a description of a colour rather than actual slate.

(We still write on it, though.)


Day One for iOS

A pic of Day One's photo features

Taking pics of my daily sketching is a great way to keep them without having to carry around a ton of sketchbooks

My digital journal of choice is currently the beautiful Day One for Mac and iOS. Each new entry is automatically tagged with the current date and time (though this can be changed if you are catching up with entries) and it has a nice calendar view where you can easily navigate your digital meanderings.

But it’s the way it takes advantage of all the iPhone features that make this of particular interest to the travelling notesmith. For each entry, you can tag it with location and even the weather for the moment that entry is created. You can also make photo entries from directly within the app, or delegate it to Camera+, giving you a plethora of additional photo editing options before you add it to your digital diary.

In case pure date organisation isn’t enough, you can also tag entries. This can be done manually, or by using hashtags within entries which the app will automatically recognise and convert. And if you ever forget where you wrote something down, it also has search.


Day One For Mac

There are both iOS and Mac versions available. Thanks to the juju of iCloud, all of my witty and groundbreaking insights on why, once again, I find myself riding a Bolivian bus that is older than my dad; how Reggaeton must be the worst musical style in the history of humanity; and how tarmac is such an under-appreciated technological marvel are transferred instantly between the two versions, all dated up and ready for when I might need them.

Putting something in my phone and having it automatically appear in the right place on my laptop and vice versa is some kind of weird future voodoo magic that makes me as giddy as a sugared-up five year old.

But as well as syncing flawlessly with the iPhone version, the Mac version of Day One also has a nifty little menu bar item for quick entries. If I’m on Facebook and I see something that makes me crazy, I can hit control+shift+d to fling it open, let the vitriol flow, then tuck it away, never to see the light of day.

Day One's Dropdown menu item

No Harm, No Foul

It supports reminders, so you can set it up to nag you every day to get some writing done and both the iOS and Mac versions support Markdown. All of the entries are stored as plain XML files which makes backing up easy and opens up the possibility for all sorts of scripting fun (automatically add your Twitter entries at the end of the day, perhaps?).


Any Downsides?

A few:

  1. The Mac app lacks the tagging and location features of the iOS version (although these are rumoured to be coming soon).
  2. It has password protection, but as all of the files are stored as plain XML, it’s kind of meaningless if your snooper knows the location of the data.
  3. iCloud support gets a bit choppy when you reach 2,000 entries (at which point they recommend you switch to Dropbox syncing)


One Thing Well

I am a big fan of apps that focus on doing one thing well, and Day One does journalling really well. I have tried many different systems for keeping track of journal entries—Word documents, individual text files, even the mighty Scrivener but none have come close to this little piece of programming genius for getting my crazy mutterings in order.

If you keep a journal of any sort, you owe it to your little writerly self to check this app out.

Mac version ($9.99)

iOS version ($4.99)

Available on their respective App Stores.

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