Diarly (photo from https://pureformstudio.com/diarly)

I've been a Day One user for years, and it's a terrific app for journaling.

An irritation with Day One is that hitting Command-N or (or using the menu bar tool) will create an entirely new entry each time. The way I like to use digital journals is to create a single entry for each day, and just fill that up as I go. So in Day One I create a new entry for the day, manually add a header with the date (e.g. "Sunday, January 05, 2020") and write in that entry for the rest of the day. I can't then use Command-N or the menu bar, but rather I have to find the today's entry and start typing at the bottom.

This is fine, but it goes against my default way of working.

Using the automatic "Daily Notes" in Roam has made me take another look at my digital journaling options.

What about org-journal? Good question. I've stopped using it. As good as it is as an Emacs org-mode based option, it doesn't help me get a feel for my life, if you know what I mean. Org-journal is a bunch of text buried in individual files. It has decent search, and it's as future-proof as anything, and it's Emacs, but it doesn't feel good. It also doesn't handle images well. I've got it cobbled together so that I can include images, but it's all uphill and too fiddly.

I like scrolling down the list of entries in Diarly and seeing nice thumbnails and previews. I like seeing entries on a map. I like easy access on my phone. And so it goes.

While I can do all this in Day One, there's still that pesky subscription model and the new-entries-all-over-the-place issue described earlier. Day One also has too many features and feels "heavy" somehow.

So, Diarly then? When I first tried Diarly back in 2018 it was rather limited in features so I never really picked it up. One thing I do remember liking about it was that it only allowed one entry per day. This is the correct behavior.

I took another look at Diarly recently and a lot has happened since I last tried it. It now offers a decent PDF export, which was crucial for me, so I kept digging and found several additions that have made Diarly entirely viable as a journaling option for me:

  • PDF export
  • x-callback URLs
  • Image thumbnails are shown in list
  • Map view
  • "On this day" filter
  • Checklists
  • Writing stats
  • Entries can be opened in separate window
  • The Day One importer works!

As a test, I exported 500 "faved" entries from Day One and imported them into Diarly. It worked flawlessly, bringing in images, locations, etc. Multiple entries on a day were combined into a single day with time separators. Nice!

So far so good.

My only complaint is that some actions such as resizing the sidebar can cause the app to lag a little. My concern is that this will worsen as I add more entries. At only 365 possible entries a year, I hope it will be a non-issue. There's no lag when writing, though.

I've been journaling in Diarly since the first of the year and am quite happy with it. It offers sync via iCloud. There's an iOS app. I can encrypt it if I choose. It uses proper Markdown. Export works great.

Diarly is included in my SetApp subscription (why haven't you subscribed yet?) but it's also available on the App Store.