Mariner Software’s MacJournal 5 may be the best journal, diary, and blogging front end for the Mac. That's saying quite a lot, considering that any word processor should be able to fulfill the same needs. But while word processors can do these things, they don't do them nearly as well as a dedicated application like MacJournal.
MacJournal is a writer's journal. It lets you record ideas or create full stories in multiple journals and entries. You can use MacJournal to chronicle your life, assist you in developing stories or ideas, or just as a front end for your favorite blogging service.
MacJournal - Installation
You can purchase a retail, boxed version of MacJournal or download it from Mariner Software's online store. No matter which version you choose, installation is about as straightforward as it gets. Either double-click the file you downloaded to mount a disk image, or insert the MacJournal CD into your CD drive. Either way, you'll end up with the same Finder window on the desktop.
To install MacJournal, simply drag the MacJournal icon to your Applications folder. The Extras folder, located in the same Finder window as MacJournal, contains aliases to release notes, version history, and a MacJournal Palm Conduit plug-in. Because these are aliases to files located within the MacJournal application, you don't need to drag the Extras folder to your Applications folder. Surprisingly, many application developers scatter extra stuff in separate folders that get left behind because users don't realize they need to install them or copy them manually. It's nice to see that Mariner Software gets both the big and the little things right.
MacJournal - First Impressions
MacJournal has an interface style that will be familiar to many Mac users, particularly those who have used iTunes or Mail. When you initially launch MacJournal, it displays a simple interface with four primary areas. Across the top are the usual menu and toolbar. The left side has a sidebar that lists all journals and journal entries. You can collapse or expand a journal to hide or display its associated entries.
Below the sidebar is a calendar that displays the current month and highlights any days that have journal entries. You can use the calendar to quickly jump to any day's journal entry. The main area, where you write journal entries, occupies the lion's share of the workspace.
A separate, floating palette called the Inspector displays information about the selected journal and entry, much like the toolbox in Microsoft Word or the inspector in Apple's Preview. To view the Inspector window, click the 'Inspector' icon in the toolbar. The other available floating palettes are Fonts, Colors, and Spelling. You can hide or display the palettes at will, which allows you to work in the environment you like best.
There is also an option to use MacJournal in full-screen mode. In this mode, MacJournal takes over your entire screen and displays just the main area for writing. You can't get much more focused than that.
MacJournal - Journals
At heart, MacJournal is journaling software. As such, it needs to offer both writing and organizational capabilities. The sidebar displays all journals, as well as any associated entries for each journal, in a tidy list. You can organize journals by topic; for example, one journal for hobbies, another for a writing project, and a third for your blog. There's no limit to the number of journals you can create, or the topics they can cover.
Each journal contains entries you can organize and label in whatever way is appropriate. In the case of a diary, the entries may be identified by day and hour. In the case of a hobby, a date format may not be the best way to go. Instead, you might use a descriptive title, such as South Pacific Coast Layout or Ten Wheeler Details. It's this simple organizational flexibility that allows MacJournal to be so versatile, and it's why journaling software is preferable to a word processor for this purpose.
One of MacJournal's newest features is Smart Journals, which are similar to the Finder's Smart Folders or iTunes' Smart Playlists. A Smart Journal can automatically search all journal entries for key phrases you specify. Matching entries will be included in the Smart Journal, a handy way to pull together related content that may be spread across multiple journals.
MacJournal - Entries
You can organize entries by date, topic, or idea. Once you create a new journal entry by clicking the 'New' icon in the toolbar, you can start writing. MacJournal offers all of the usual writing tools, including text formatting, font selection, a spelling and grammar checker, and tables.
MacJournal also has some of the specialized tools that journal writers and bloggers need, including tags, which are similar to key words, and statistics (word and character counts, word frequency, and average word count).
One of my favorite tools is the Clean Up tool, which is located in the Format menu. You can use the Clean Up tool to, among other things, change the case of selected text, remove links, or remove line breaks. You can also use it to remove email quotes, which is handy if you want to use part of an email message in a journal entry. If you use Apple Mail, MacJournal can also strip the bars that Mail uses for quoting.
MacJournal time stamps every entry you make, so it's easy to track the progression of a journal over time. MacJournal uses the time stamp as the topic for an entry, but you can easily change it to something more descriptive than "August 9, 2008 1:56 PM." You don't need to worry about getting things out of chronological order, because MacJournal can organize entries by name or by date.
Entries aren't limited to text. They can include images, audio, PDFs, and QuickTime movies, including video you record with a web cam or audio you record with a microphone.