Review: Journler

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I started using an application called Journler a few months back and if you’re like me in that you have to constantly keep track of lots of small pieces of information, notes, and documents, you should check it out. (It is Mac OS only.)

I keep Journler open 24/7. Whatever I’m thinking about or need to remember (other than calendar/to-do’s) goes into it. If I didn’t have it, I would be far less organized and efficient.

I’d been using Chronos’ SOHO Notes for several years for the same purpose, but got fed up with the difficulty of transferring the database from one machine to another, which I unfortunately had to do several times in a row due to some flaky MacBook Pro’s. So I sought out another solution and came across Journler, and overall it does the job at least as well as SOHO Notes for much less money, and with a much more responsive user community and developer, and in general feels more stable than SOHO Notes. It also gets updated far more regularly.

Basically Journler allows you to keep all kinds of things - text, photos, pdfs, audio, web pages - together in a single organized structure that is easily searchable. It saves me time by not having to think too much about where to save a miscellaneous item, and worry that I won’t be able to find it again later.

There’s no way I can catalog all the capabilities and features that Journler has, so extensive are they, but here are a few things I do with it:

  • Take meeting and call notes. Journler is great for this because everything you type is saved continuously, you don’t need to worry about losing notes. The notes of course are easily searchable and sortable. Journler by default sorts everything chronologically, so you can easily go back to something that you can’t remember what it was called but you know you wrote it some time in the previous week.
  • Keeping track of work-related industry data and analysis. I ingest pdfs and websites (which get cached complete with images, formatting and links) so that I don’t have to worry about bookmarking or losing them
  • Notes for blog postings and articles. Again, constantly saved so worry-free. Journler has blog integration so you can post directly to certain types of blogs (though I can’t get it to work with the Squarespace service I use).
  • Quotations and anecdotes to sprinkle into presentations
  • Packing list for traveling
  • Job candidate interview notes

Journler has pretty good text editing tools, taking full advantage of OS X’s capabilities here. Lists, paragraph formatting, text highlighting are all easily done. Tables can be inserted. Photos and video can be captured using an iSight camera. Audio annotations can be inserted using the microphone. Journler taps into the iLife media library if you use that. Frequently needed notes can be bookmarked for instant access. Notes can be inter-linked and documents can be attached to a note.

Notes can be sorted into manually created folders, and you can also make Smart Folders just like in iTunes based on criteria. For example I have one folder called Meeting Notes that looks for any note tagged with “meeting note” (tags autocomplete by the way) and brings it in, regardless of what context it was in. 

Journler is very fast at searching. It can search inside pdfs, so even finding obscure references inside documents is not a problem. It is also very good at ranking results so I often find things I’d forgotten that I even had. Very handy when going through my collection of analyst reports and trend articles. You can organize things by folders, categories or tags, which gives a lot of flexibility (perhaps too much). Word searches can be done, and Journler also offers a criteria/text-based filtering mechanism similar to OS X’s Finder.

The one thing I miss the most from SOHO Notes that Journler has no equivalent for was its drawer that popped out from the side of the screen that stored every item you ever placed on the system clipboard (i.e. cut/copy items). It was super handy when having to take a bunch of stuff from one document to another. But there are other solutions that do just this, so it’s not a show-stopper. The only other thing I miss is Notes’ full-screen mode that just has the text of the note you are working on on-screen, and blocks out everything else. It’s great for distraction-free thought.

But Journler is also only $10 as a donation. It’s really stunning what developer Philip Dow is able to pull of for that.

If you want a broader overview of applications that do similar things to Journler, here’s a nice review. As the author says: 

Journler is an incredible bargain, and my hat is off to the developer who’s building this marvelous package. Journler is a cornucopia of Cocoa and Mac OS X goodies, and it takes advantage of every opportunity Apple’s engineers are providing to extend Mac software to the latest and greatest possibilities. Just a quick look at the full range of Journler’s capabilities makes me drool about its potential, and I’m in awe of the programmer’s skills and his generosity in making this hard work available for free.

Journler website 

Chronos SOHO Notes