MacJournal 5.1

Do you keep a diary on your computer? Do you blog, but hate your blogging service's editor? Do you find yourself using your word processor to write notes about a variety of subjects, and then find it difficult to locate those notes later? If the answer is yes to any of the above, you may be just the kind of person MacJournal 5.1.4 was designed for.

Journaling

MacJournal is a journaling program--part word processor and part file manager. It's kind of like iPhoto or Aperture, but for written documents rather than photos. MacJournal can handle a variety of media including photos and videos, but at the heart of the program is a very capable text editor, built on Mac OS X's outstanding text services and Quartz 2D Extreme.The editor is so good that you could use it as your main word processor, so long as you don't need advanced formatting options like footnotes or columns.

MacJournal even has a full-screen editing view to let you write without distractions. Now, to that excellent rich-text editor, add a dedicated file manager that will help you keep track of your entries using a variety of metadata fields, including date, topic, status, labels, flags, tags, and more. It's a powerful tool for organizing and filing your writings. And you can supplement your text with photos and drawings, audio files or podcasts, even PDFs and QuickTime movies.

Why use it?

Now, it's true that you can do in your favorite word processor much of what you can do in MacJournal, at least insofar as composing documents. But MacJournal is designed for writers with a certain set of special requirements. For starters, MacJournal is perfect for keeping a diary or daily log of your thoughts. I'm pretty sure the security that MacJournal provides is better than the little lock on the diary I wrote in as a boy--or perhaps its moral equivalent, password protection in Microsoft Word. I can imagine the program being useful to my psychologist sister, who has to write reports about patients on a daily basis and needs them to be encrypted. In fact, MacJournal offers two levels of security to choose from, password and encryption.

Since MacJournal can include almost any kind of content, it could be used by writers who are doing research and gathering data, pictures, and maps, although the program might work better for novelists or even journalists than for scholars, who would need additional support for footnotes and bibliographies.

And if you want to share your thoughts with the world, MacJournal supports direct publishing to a number of popular blogging services. It took me a few seconds to sync MacJournal with one of my Blogger accounts, and once I'd set the account up, I was able to write a post in MacJournal, include a couple of pictures, then quickly upload the post to my blog. Getting the pictures to appear in the blog required a brief visit to the user manual, but the instructions were easy to understand. And if you have a Google Picasa account, MacJournal offers integration with it, too.

MacJournal doesn't support HTML editing, so if you are the sort of writer who uses your blog's HTML editor, you might find MacJournal a bit limiting. But I think most bloggers will find MacJournal's editor easier to use than their current online editor and might appreciate having their blog saved on their local drive.

What's new?

If you've used MacJournal in the past, then you'll want to upgrade to version 5, since this new version adds significant improvements to a program that was already top in its class. MacJournal 5 has been revamped to take advantage of Mac OS X Snow Leopard (version 10.6). Where previous versions used "drawers" for file lists, MacJournal 5 has an integrated window with a toolbar at the top, file list on the left, and main editing area in the middle, much like Apple Mail ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) or iPhoto ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ). MacJournal now supports Snow Leopard's QuickLook feature, so you can peek at an entry right in the Finder without opening the program.

MacJournal 5 also gives users improved control over where and how files are saved and how files are organized; it even has Smart Journals (saved searches). I really like that you can now resize photos right in MacJournal. And if you're really cool, you can record a movie right in MacJournal using your iSight camera. If you have a MobileMe ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ) account, you can use MacJournal and sync with it.

Mariner Software has announced a version of MacJournal for the iPhone, which should be available this spring.

Macworld's buying advice

Much of what you do in MacJournal 5.1.4 can be done without it. You can use your blog's online editor or a service like Google Documents to write your posts, for free. Online free services such as NotePub or commercial desktop applications like Circus Ponies Notebook ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) and Ulysses ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) are excellent tools for taking and organizing notes. But if you are also interested in expressing and organizing your private thoughts, having them all in one place, and keeping them private, then there's nothing better on the Mac than MacJournal.

[William Porter is a database applications developer and event photographer in Dallas.]

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