Review: MacJournal

Originally posted July 24, 2010 You can hear the audio file of this review at this link. This is a review I did of MacJournal for the Nosillacast Podcast hosted over at – A Technology Geek Podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh Bias! I am posting here because it is a new way of thinking for me… I am an old-school computer geek but the people in the Mac community are changing my perspectives. I’ve done magazine reviews in the 80’s but this will be recorded as an audio review for a podcast show. How far have we come since I first laid hands on a computer in ’78!

This is Jim, aka Deverill, from Key West. In celebration of the arrival of my first Mac USB microphone I thought I’d do a review of a product that has really impressed me.

I am also using the product I am reviewing to save the typed version for the show notes and my blog. More on that in a minute.

The product I’d like to talk about is MacJournal written by Dan Schimpf and distributed by Mariner Software at MacJournal is a tool for journaling and blogging and brings together the utility of a nice editor, the tracking of a good organization system, the security of your little sister’s diary – stored in a bank lockbox, and the Mac goodness of simplicity by interfacing well with blogs and other systems automatically.

There is a full 85-page manual included which is also very well done that covers all the details so you can imagine that there are too many features to cover completely in this format but I’ll hit the highlights.

The latest version, Version 5, has been rebuilt for Leopard and Snow Leopard and looks absolutely wonderful. No Windows or Mac Classic interfaces here, it’s pure modern Mac style complete with calendar, inspector, and other well-done panels to help create your masterpieces. It is nicer than TextEdit but not as gaudy as Microsoft’s Word. Just right for a tool that you can use to get in and get out but yet powerful enough you can perfect your document without ever leaving the program.

MacJournal handles every type of media: text files, PDFs, Quicktime movies, images, and can even store files it doesn’t recognize. You can record audio entries to your journal or blog and it will even record video with your iSight! You know I said I will post this on my blog? I’m going to use this audio ability to include this recording too so the visually impaired don’t have to rely on Alex to read it to them. He’s a nice guy and all, but I thought this would be a good use of the feature to give it a more personal touch.

With MacJournal you create journals which are like separate binders into which you place pages or, as they call them, entries. In my case I have a journal for work-related information, one for ideas or future products, one for a course I am taking and one for each of the websites I run as WordPress blogs. Inside an entry you can, of course, enter text either by typing or pasting but you can also insert images and screen captures. Audio and video recording is done by using the recording bar interface which is built in to MacJournal and can be placed directly in an entry. Each entry you create has a title, date, tags, status, priority, rating, size and content. Status has options to help organize your entries such as not started, underway, needs review and completed. Perfect for collaborative blogs or documents at your job.

A common feature among the better Mac programs is the ability to create smart journals. Using this you can combine any entries from all your journals into a single smart journal. Perhaps you want to be able to access all the entries about your new car in one place – just tag the entries “New Car” and create a smart journal. The companion feature to this is Entry Aliases which are like file aliases in Mac OS X. They allow you to put a pointer to a entry in a different place. This is especially useful if your need doesn’t warrant an entire smart folder but just a pointer to another entry somewhere else.

There is also a Quick Note window available that lets you press a shortcut and enter information into a compact note window without having to go back into the MacJournal program. It’s great for doing research in a browser and storing your findings without ever leaving your page.

MacJournal is not just some little kid’s diary program. It is a full blown application with very good security so it can be trusted with everything from corporate secrets down to the note you wrote to the cute little red haired girl you have a crush on and only guys like the CIA can find out what you said. Hopefully they won’t be that interested in your journal. The journals themselves can be locked with a password. You can store the password into your Keychain if you like, but this is optional, as is the password hint. After locking a journal you can click it again and choose to encrypt it. This uses AES-256 encryption which the U.S. Government says is good enough for Top-Secret level documents.

Of course a tool like MacJournal has the complete set of sorting and searching facilities. It’s always easy to find that entry you are looking for, but the features seem to never end. If you insert an image into an entry you can scale it right there to window-width, 25, 50, or 75% with built-in tools. No need to leave the program to find your favorite graphics editor. This thing will even auto-discover Wiki-like links to other entries! Just click a button and your internal linking is automatic if you like. Tables and lists? No problem, it does them too. Messy import? MacJournal will automatically do a wide range of cleanup such as removing e-mail quotes, smileys, removing multiple spaces, removing HTML tags, and so on.

Do you wonder if you are overusing that new vocabulary-building word you learned today? What about how many words you have in that term paper you are writing? The statistics panel will give you this and more in a single place.

Of course Growl support is built in. I love Growl because I set it to speak and I hear when a new mail comes in and can choose to ignore it if I’m busy since Growl announces who it is from and the subject. This and other features can be set in the extensive preferences choices you can use to modify MacJournal to be the best for you.

My favorite feature is the ability to update blogs. I have several web sites that I run and it’s always a bit of a hassle to log in to the blog, do the password thing, go to the posts and click Add New. Nothing bad but to do several sites with several entries is time consuming. With MacJournal I just go to the journal that is linked to the website I want to add a post to. When I create an entry and get it the way I want I just right-click and select Share and one of the options is “Send to -the-name-of-my-blog-“ and when I click that it’s done. No logging in, no browser windows, nothing, just blogging goodness. This works with most of the popular blogs such as WordPress, LiveJournal, Blogger, TypePad, MovableType and more. This is especially nice when you combine the ability to embed YouTube videos into an entry to the blog posting. Way better than using the blog interface.

The program has built-in support for MobileMe, but I have found that by saving your journals into a dropbox folder you can access your journals from anywhere. Mariner Software has a great licensing policy. They allow you to install one serial number onto two Macs but only if you are the only one using the product. This is great for me because I have my computer at work that only I use and then my iMac at home. Dropbox makes for the perfect sync mechanism in my case.

One final feature is the abilty to export to podcasts, MicroSoft Word, RTF, HTML and many other formats. You’ll never be trapped by a discontinued product but I have a feeling that Mariner Software isn’t going anywhere for a long time based on the quality of MacJournal.

MacJournal is available for iPad, the iPhone and Mac and in ten different languages. I have not tested it because I do not know what to look for, but the web site says “MacJournal is 100% Accessibility-supported.” which is totally awesome and sets the standard for the rest of the developers out there that should be taking note!

MacJournal is available from Mariner Software for $39.95. An upgrade is only $14.95 and they also have versions for the iPad and iPhone.

Check it out – MacJournal is a great software product and I think you’ll be happy you did take a look. Mariner Software has other products too so look around while you’re there – you may find something else.

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