Perfect or almost-perfect journalling system required, please.
September 7, 2012 5:25 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: I want an electronic journaling system that does EVERYTHING.

I want it to:

* automatically date entries, & let me tag parts of entries and then bring up those parts when I click on the tag (eg: "ways of coping with the blues": 'going to the beach' - where 'going to the beach' may be a part of a longer entry that actually says: 'everytime I catch myself going to the beach, I find myself smiling at the thought of the sunshine and other wankery things.' (other tags might include events, motivational, psychology, medical, books, movies, entertainment)

* line up entries from same date different year just for the fun of it

* allows me to set both random and regular journaling prompts like eg what did I do today that was productive? What am I grateful for? (See or maybe writing prompts like Confuscious lunyu

*I’d like a section for projects I want to start – ideas for artworks, research, photographic themes, books, character development, book themes and GANTT Charts to reach my goals

*I want to track what I eat (kilojoules) and how I exercise without having to add things up

*I want to track the books/articles I want to read, and have read (like this

*Grabbing my facebook check-ins and status wouldn’t be bad either

*I want to track my spending without counting money

*It might be cool to use hypomnemata but I’d want to be able to distinguish this with date / colours (see

*Places I want to go and references to them (eg France – Monet’s garden)

*I want to be able to see myself (like this:

*I want to be able to search and index the whole damn thing

*Be able to find things like this easily:

*Lets me make to-do lists, that can be contingent upon other tasks, and with the option to embed in day once done.

I'd like to suck in google calendar data, and maybe Facebook statuses and checkins.

I'd really love to be able to sketch into it, but will settle for importing jpgs.

Is this too much to ask? I want to be able to download my brain into one place and be able to retrieve things again. Is there a way to do this on paper that makes reviewing/tracking easy? Or failing my perfect journaling app, what's the next best imperfect one - PC or Ipad?
posted by malibustacey9999 to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Quick, quick... EVERNOTE. There. I was the first
posted by 0bvious at 5:49 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

(in conjunction with you can do everything you mention)
posted by 0bvious at 5:50 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hahaha, we must be a very similar type of person. I, too, am wishing for something that does all of this. Meanwhile, I use an arsenal of different web and iPhone apps:

Momento for iPhone does a lot of this. Automatic date and time stamping, tagging, grabbing check-ins and status updates from Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and Instagram (and probably others that I don't use). You can also attach photos and tag people (whether or not they're in your Contacts) and places in entries. For the rest, you should contact the developers.

For tracking what I eat in a very basic way I use the USDA's Super Tracker. It's very low pressure because you're only selecting foods that they have in their database already, and there's no custom entries. I just use it to look at the pretty color-coded bar chart of the food groups I've eaten that day. There's an exercise tracking component, too, but, I don't exercise, so.

For tracking spending I recently dumped Mvelopes (not free) for LearnVest. LearnVest just pulls your banking data, while Mvelopes is much more robust and also allows you to manually enter expenses as you spend (there's an iPhone app) that you can then reconcile with what imports from your bank with that few-day delay.

Book tracking I do on Goodreads. I haven't found anything I like for articles, but there's always things like Instapaper and other read-it-later apps. I'm still searching for a good movies-I-have-seen-and-want-to-see site (besides Netflix or like, IMDB).

For travel, Gogobot tracks places you've been and places you want to go. Matchbook for iPhone creates a wishlist of places but in a more local sense, like a bar you want to try.
posted by thebazilist at 6:45 AM on September 7, 2012 to track finances and set budgets.
posted by Highest_Of_Fives at 6:48 AM on September 7, 2012

Best answer: I use OneNote for a lot of this, and the new OneNote, currently in beta, now has basic spreadsheets. (Caveat--I haven't tried it yet.) I just don't like Evernote. I've tried it on and off since the first beta (when the interface was like a rolling ticker tape) and I just don't like it. My favorite thing about OneNote is the ability to put things where I want them on the page. (Link is to a screenshot of one of my reference pages.)

To address specific points.

- New pages are automatically dated when created.

- I'm not sure about lining up entries--there's probably a way to do it with the search function, but I use the tag summary panel for almost all of my searching.

- Automatic writing prompts? Can't help you there, though you could suck in a page from the webernets to reference when writing.

- OneNote is especially good at setting up projects. I use a tag (@someday) so I can easily summarize the list from the tag panel.

- Hypomnemata. I have a whole section devoted to what I call my "commonplace book" where I react to things I have read, keep lists of things I like (names for future pets, MMO character names, words I like) as well as copies of poems, quotes, etc. Again I'm not sure about listing by date, but you can restrict searches to single sections of notebooks or whole notebooks.

- Grabbing facebook checkins. In my version of OneNote? Prolly not, though I imagine you could do something crazy with VBS in Excel and embed checkins into a page.

- Money tracking. In the current version, again with the spreadsheet embedding. In the new version you can have simple spreadsheets.

- Places I want to go. See @someday, along with pasting in pictures, travel information, etc.

- Seeing yourself. Not sure what you mean by this. Isn't this part of regular journaling? I do keep links to things that I find useful/interesting, and sometimes just copy and paste in OneNote. It keeps the original reference URL when you paste.

- Searching and indexing. With diligent use of tags, OneNote is great at this.

- Finding things. See Seeing Yourself.

- I use OneNote for to-do lists, but my version at least has no contingency. I suppose you could use the link between OneNote and Outlook to do this, but I hate Outlook, so that would be a non-starter for me. It does embed checked off tasks, but not into the date completed, just to the page you created it on. I solve this problem with tagging. I have a tag for each specific project-- @aquarium-build, for instance, which will have its own page and sub-pages. Then I make a list of all the tasks to be completed without making them actual checkboxes. Only the next task on the list gets a checkbox. When it's complete, I make the next task in the list a new checkbox. On the tag summary panel I can then see what my next task is.

- Sucking in calendar data. Maybe Outlook for this too.

- OneNote has pen features, and the new one seems to have brushes. Definitely can suck in JPGs--I have a whole section for inspiration and reference for 3D modeling, texturing, etc., along with automatic links to where it came from originally. I also keep notes on my current pieces for later reference. (How did I do that thar thingie I did that one time?)

So, not perfect, though the new version may address some of the things I'm not sure about. There is finally a google chrome addon for sucking into OneNote from the web, but I actually don't use it much--I'm a copy-paste kind of girl. You can keep your notebooks on the cloud if you wish.
posted by xyzzy at 7:41 AM on September 7, 2012

Evernote and OneNote will be the standard answers, and they are obviously worth a look. Springpad might be worth a look as well.

But I'm going to go outside the box and suggest you take a peek at The Journal. I keep a copy of this in my Dropbox folder, and it has plug-ins that do things like that "auto-journaling questions" you noted.

I've never settled on any one of them as the "everything" solution, though. If you end up doing so, I'd love to hear how you do it!
posted by Pufferish at 8:13 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been interested in something like this for a few years.

There's a discussion forum of this software genre at

I agree that OneNote is probably the best solution for the journal / notebook aspects, but I don't think it can handle task lists where some tasks are contingent on others, or pulling calendar data or rearranging entries by date.

UltraRecall can do a lot of what you're looking for, but development has slowed the last couple of years. This is a subject of some discussion on the outliner software forum.

Take a look at TheBrain. It has a great interface, syncs with Google Calendar, is very flexible and they've been around for several years. The major drawback is the cost. If the price does not immediately put you off, go to the forum to see some examples from the users. For a dated journal you would need to create a calendar inside the program file, but that's easy to do and discussed in the forum.

Personal Brain works very well in conjunction with OneNote and that combination is what I use.
posted by BigSky at 8:14 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

ConnectedText is another option.

Listed under features is:

"Include information dynamically from external sources using plugins"

But the list of plugins is relatively small so that would entail you writing your own.
posted by BigSky at 8:29 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

That Connected Text thing looks very cool.
posted by xyzzy at 9:31 AM on September 7, 2012

Response by poster: OneNote appears to be the one that best fits the needs of my friend. Thanks, all.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 9:07 PM on September 9, 2012

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