About the Best Digital Journaling App

Day One 2 is good. But Awesome Note is better.

I’ll tell you why.

Day One

Bloom released a major new version of Day One for Mac and iOS last week. And it’s a beautiful thing. But it’s a very expensive beautiful thing: $56 for the Mac app and $14 for the iOS app (after the introductory 50% off sale ends next week). That’s a total of $70 for full-on cross-platform journaling. Very, very not cheap.

Day One is a capable enough journaling app. You can post text entries to your journal, and you can attach multiple photos to an entry. Day One will automatically tag your entries with your location and the weather. You know, the basics.

I like Day One. It’s well designed and covers all the basics of journaling. But its feature set is relatively limited, and its design is uninspired and rather blasé.

My major problem with this new version, though, is that Bloom went for a proprietary solution to sync your data between its iOS and Mac apps. So you’re storing your valuable, personal journal data in a closed ecosystem. It’s relatively difficult to get your data out of it and you can only ever use Day One to look at it. You are entirely dependent on this little American company called Bloom to maintain and safeguard your valuable, private journal data. If Bloom bites it, or if you decide to move away from iOS or Mac… not pretty.

Awesome Note

It’s worth stating at the outset that Awesome Note is not designed specifically to be a journaling app. But that’s one of the things it does, and it does really, really well. Awesome Note can easily match Day One, feature for feature (and more, actually), at a fraction of the price. Awesome Note costs just $8: $4 for the iPad app and $4 for the iPhone app (you buy them separately). Chump change.

Like Day One, Awesome Note is also beautifully designed and easy to use. I prefer the Awesome Note interface to Day One.

There isn’t a version of Awesome Note for Mac, but that’s okay. Because instead of a proprietary sync solution, Awesome Note can use Evernote to store and sync notes in the cloud. So on your Mac (or Windows computer, for that matter) you can just use the excellent Evernote client.

And there’s the real benefit of Awesome Note: your data is not trapped in a closed, proprietary environment. Should BRID, the small company behind Awesome Note ever disappear and its apps die*, your data is safe in the data store of the massive, secure Evernote machine.

Anyway, beyond basic syncing, Evernote opens up Awesome Note to a world of extensibility, because Evernote can hook into almost any online service out there. Like the insanely awesome IFTTT.

Day One is ignorant of what you do on social media. And because it’s such a closed platform, you can’t push anything into it. But with Awesome Note syncing through Evernote, you can have IFTTT publish whatever you do on whatever social platform you use to an Awesome Note notebook via Evernote. And then over time, automagically, Awesome Note will build up a history of your online exploits.

There are a couple other areas where I think Awesome Note improves on Day One.

Customization

In Awesome Note, you can customize pretty much every aspect of the interface with colour, texture, and icons. With Day One, I hope you like blue and white. Because that’s all you get. Brrrr.

Integration

Awesome Note integrates with your the calendar and reminders on your iPad or iPhone. So, if you want, you can view your life activites and tasks juxtaposed against information you’ve stored in your journal. This provides a lot of personal insight.

I suppose the one major caveat to Awesome Note is that, to sync, it requires a little bit more custom configuration. You have to step outside of the app to set up an Evernote account if you don’t already have one. But I think that little bit of extra effort is worth it for the cost savings, added features, and improved interface. (All that said, Awesome Note will also sync via Apple’s iCloud, if you prefer an easier-to-set-up but more closed system.)

Day One is attracting a lot of attention these days, thanks to Apple, and I’m sure that’s resulting in a lot of sales. But if you read this, consider Awesome Note instead. I think you’ll prefer it.

* That’s a real concern, actually. At just $4 per app, you have to wonder how BRID is making any money at this. I highlighted that low cost as a benefit, but I really think Awesome Note should cost more. The total $8 price tag for both iPad and iPhone apps is simply not representative of the incredible value. If it were me, I’d doduble the price of each app. I hope BRID survives and continues to deliver new versions of Awesome Note, and I’d encourage them to increase their prices to improve the likelihood of that.