Whether your journaling needs are driven by professional requirements or personal uses, Day One has a cross-platform journaling/diary-keeping solution that is convenient, elegant, and easy to use. Day One provided me copies of their Mac and iPad apps for review. For the past three weeks, I’ve been journaling daily–sometimes more than once a day–and have found the experience to be pretty much all I’ve wanted in a journaling app. It’s no wonder to me that Day One was a Mac App Store top app last year.
Available both for Mac OS X (updated for Mavericks) and iOS (updated for iOS 7) as a universal iPhone/iPad app, Day One combines a solid writing environment with data tools to give your writing context. Starting an entry automatically date and time stamps it, though this can be edited to be whatever you want it to be. Location and weather data can be added with a single tap, as can be tags, current iTunes track, and for devices with the new motion processor, daily step count, and activity tracking such as whether you were flying, running, or doing other activities. The distraction-free writing environment lets you get down to business, without tons of formatting palettes and toolbars that make writing in a regular word processor somewhat less than optimal for capturing your free-flowing thoughts.
The main view shows a snippet of each entry in reverse time order, from top to bottom, newest posts on top. Hovering over the entry lets you see more of the entry without opening it fully. The integrated calendar shows you at a glance the days on which you have journaled, and the days for which you might still need to write an entry. Hovering over a date shows you what you wrote on that date. On iOS devices, the photo view arranges all your entries with attached photos into a full-screen collage with the date of each photo superimposed, for quick reference and enjoyment. On Mac, the maps view allows you to see how many entries you’ve written at each map location you’ve captured in your entries. This could be fun for journaling whilst on holiday, to track your travels visually. The interface as a whole is uncluttered and visually pleasing, in comforting tones of blue, grey, and white.
The Mac app contains the option to show writing prompts, useful for those who journal regularly and like to record their thoughts on a wide variety of subjects. For professional users, tags and the built-in search tool make Day One a useful repository for client-specific note taking or project note keeping. Attorneys, for example, could assign tags for client names or types of cases, and easily keep track of the results of meetings and phone calls with clients. The time stamp on note creation can be useful to those who bill their time out, though there is no ending time stamp, so that would have to be noted manually if this were to be your usage scenario.
In my three weeks of using Day One, I have found it to sync perfectly across my devices, which has made me more likely to actually keep a journal, something I have tried to do off and on (mostly off) for years. The ability to set a daily reminder to journal is nice for keeping me on target, as is the quick entry feature on the Mac version, which places a Day One icon in the menu bar where you can quickly type an entry (or just a brief thought to finish later) without even launching the full app. Like so many things that my iPhone and iPad have made easier in my life, being able to write (or dictate!) a journal entry whenever and wherever I am when the inspiration arises has been a tremendous boon to my journal-keeping goals. The seamless set-it-and-forget-it iCloud and Dropbox syncing capability makes this possible. I especially enjoy that Day One has given me the ability to remember my random iPhone snapshots in context and make notes on them for future enjoyment. Too often, the casual ability to take photos with our phones results in lots of pics with not a lot of context or remembrance of why they were meaningful to us to begin with. Being able to incorporate those pics quickly and easily into a journal may be the best thing to ever happen to the camera phone. Exporting from Day One to a PDF is also smooth and easy. Perhaps each year you might want to print and bind your journal, and Day One makes this a snap. Emailing a PDF or the text of any entry is also very simple right from within the app, using the standard iOS sharing tools.
Suggestions: color-coding entries would be a nice addition, sort of like the colored tags (formerly labels) in Mac OS X. For professional users or individuals who need more privacy, the built-in passcode protection on the Mac app can be gotten around by all but the most casual would-be snoopers. Of course, anytime a third party has physical access to your computer, your data is at some risk of being compromised. But it would be nice if a true encryption option existed rather than app-level password protection, which just prevents the app from being launched without the passcode, while leaving the actual text data files still accessible to those who can find them. For most users, though, the user-account password in OS X should suffice, because theoretically if you don’t want someone accessing your data, you probably don’t want them in your user account to begin with. Also, whilst a single journal entry can be viewed on the map on iOS, the Mac-only map overview of all entries would be nice to see on the iOS app as well.
Get the apps here:
Day One for Mac $9.99
Day One for iOS (combined iPad/iPhone app) $4.99
- Review by Ronald Schoedel, Esq.
By Ronald C Schoedel III
In all the years Microsoft has produced Office for the Mac, they've completely left out OneNote, which has become the standard for note taking for Windows Office users for years. Mac users have been hoping for something similar. Whilst other note taking apps exist, and some of them are quite good, there has never been--aside from virtualization--a way for a Mac user to sync with OneNote notebooks used on a work PC, for example.
Now, merry Christmas to all of us, here comes Outline for Mac, bringing with it a capable, beautiful platform for note taking on Mac and iPad, with OneNote compatibility. You don't need OneNote to use or enjoy Outline. But if you've struggled to get along without OneNote on your Mac, this is definitely your lucky day. At only $39.99 Outline is an outstanding and bargain-priced app for comprehensive note taking and organization.
So whether you're a Mac-using OneNote devotee or you're looking for a productivity-enhancing note-taking system, Outline has your solution.
I've previously reviewed both the Outline reader for Mac and Outline+ for iPad, and given them my stamp of approval. In the past 24 hours of using the pre-release version of Outline for Mac (the release version went live today on the Mac App Store), I can say that my enthusiasm remains strong. Note taking on the Mac just got amazing.
Get it here:
Outline for Mac
Outline+ for iPad
Brainstorming has been considered an effective technique for collaboration, getting ideas out of one's mind or a groups' minds, and into a format that can be analyzed, expounded upon, and subjected to a critical process, with the end goal of finding the best ideas and acting upon them.
Mind mapping is a concept that originated a few decades ago, and has since come to the fore of productivity enhancement techniques. If you are not familiar with mind mapping, it consists of a visual representation of the relationships between ideas. A mind map is started with a single idea which becomes a node to which appendage ideas are connected. As the thought process flows, additional ideas are linked together through nodes, subsides, and with color or text style sometimes serving to differentiate trains of thought.
Studies have suggested that mind mapping can be a more effective means of note taking for students, as well as planning, decision making, problem solving, and information gathering/organizing. With such a method being so popular and effective, it only makes sense to bring it to the iPad and Mac, which IdeasOnCanvas GmbH, out of Austria, has done with their MindNode Pro and MindNode Touch apps (hereafter, collectively MindNode).
MindNode is available for Mac and iOS (both iPad and iPhone), and all versions interact with each other and can edit mind maps created with the other version. Dropbox and iCloud synchronization is available within MindNode Pro, so that whatever device you have available, you can use your documents.
For example, in a study group session or a meeting setting, you might put your mind map on the projector screen from your MacBook, allowing collaboration, and then saving it all to iCloud for later reference and editing from your mobile devices. I found the syncing to work exactly as expected, just as reliably as any Apple app uses iCloud, such as Pages or Numbers. It just works.
The software itself is polished and intuitive. It has relatively few controls, making it very easy to get right into and pick up the methodology of mind mapping, even if you've never done a hand-written mind map before. Main nodes are initiated with a simple click, and then branching off is as simple as dragging out from the main node in the direction you want to go. A smart layout mode is available to organize branches, or you can go free form and drag your ideas anywhere onto the page.
Sometimes, after you've got a few ideas on the page and many sub-nodes, you will have occasion to identify connections between ideas that exist within separate trees. Connecting these ideas is quite simple, and provides a visually uncluttered way of acknowledging and organizing relationships in the thoughts you've mapped. The programs' specifications say that the canvas size is unlimited. The ability to collapse and expand nodes as needed helps keep your map tidy when it begins to get expansive.
Colors and fonts are all customizable, but there are also several pre-programmed color schemes that are attractive. Media can be added to a mind map very easily, such as photographs, to add further visual impact to your maps. The flexibility of the software and the method by which the interface just allows your ideas to shine and take center stage really sets MindNode apart from other mind mapping apps I have tried and gotten frustrated with. The keys of good software design is to let the application sort of fade out of view so that the creative work being done is not obscured by buttons, widgets, controls, menus, and so forth. MindNode Pro's exceptionally clean design (across both versions, Mac and iOS) has made me enjoy mind mapping on the computer and iPad, something that a number of cheaper or free programs has not done.
In my use of the apps, I never encountered a single problem or difficulty either in execution of what I wanted to do, or in the results. I'm a big fan of being able to use the same apps across all my devices, and MindNode indulges this need of what I believe is a pretty large group of users. The interface in iOS is optimized for the touch screen, so it's pleasant to use MindNode across platforms, which is often note the case (many mobile apps have been ported from the desktop without much thought given to optimization for a touch interface). Once you've used either the iOS or Mac version, picking up the other without any training is quite possible, but there is a helpful manual and support website available.
Just as important as getting your ideas into the app, and organized, can be the need of getting your ideas out of your computer or iPad onto paper, or into another application for further collaboration. MindNode offers numerous exports, including formats such as PDF and images, but also text (into outline form), and FreeMind and OPML, which is useful for outlining apps such as Omni Outliner. In my tests, mind maps exported into OPML opened perfectly in OmniOutliner, with all data present and organized as a traditional outline. On the iOS version, a handy textual outline view is available. Exporting on the iOS version allows you to save a mind map to your camera roll, or export to another app via the same formats the desktop version supports (of course, using an easy touch interface). It is nice to see an app that exhibits so much thought put into the porting process from desktop to touch. As Mac and iOS users, as we know, it's the little things
Whatever your purpose may be in mind mapping, MindNode Pro provides the canvas for your ideas to bear fruit. I heartily recommend MindNode Pro without any reservations at all. There are no downsides or cons to the apps or to the MindNode ecosystem.
Get it here:
MindNode Pro (Mac)
MindNode Touch (iOS devices) (same app works on iPhone/iPod touch and iPad)
Every once in a while, a company makes a major mistake in their attempt to enter the mobile app space. Even when their desktop software is amazing, a proper effort is not always put into translation of that software into a mobile context. One such major failure is Microsoft's One Note. What is an outstanding desktop application -- I run Parallels on my Mac almost exclusively for the purpose of using One Note -- has no comparable "official" iOS companion. Sure, there is an official One Note app for iOS. It, however, is rubbish, to be kind. I've never met anyone who thinks otherwise. What I have met, however, is a multitude of iPad users who desperately want to be able to sync One Note with their iPad and use their iPad to edit their One Note notebooks. Thankfully, Outline+ has come along with an amazing app at a bargain price, which makes nearly the entire range of One Note features available on the iPad.
This is the app I've been looking for, since I bought my first iPad just before I started law school over three years ago. Outline+ syncs via iTunes, Skydrive, Dropbox, or Box.com, with any One Note notebook you give it access to. It also has the ability to open One Note notebooks that you get in your email via the "Open In..." feature of iOS. Once a notebook has been brought into Outline+, it's an amazing thing to see in action and to work with.
I first discovered this app when I was a busy law student last year, when my notes were pretty much my life. I had been been searching high and low for the very best way to take notes and keep them synchronized between my MacBook Pro and my iPad. Prior to discovering Outline+, I could not say I was really very pleased with any solution I attempted to cobble together. Now, I feel like my iPad is living up to its true potential to revolutionize the academic and professional side of my life.
Anyone who has ever used One Note will immediately recognize everything about Outline+. But it doesn't have to be used with One Note. It is a fully capable stand-alone note taking app, with the capability to manage data in multiple notebooks, each with multiple colored-tab sections, with multiple pages, which can be created and moved to organize your data how you need it.
Using Outline+ is as easy as anything. Create a notebook, assign it a cover from one of many various colors or designs), then create sections within the notebook, and pages within the sections. In my tests, each page can store a ton of text. (It took me only 3 pages to store the entire content of a multinational treaty I am studying.)
Creating text notes is as simple as tapping on the page: a long tap creates a new note on the page, inside a dotted outline box, just like in One Note. Editing these notes just requires a tap on the note and then a tap inside the note. Moving notes into new positions on the page is accomplished by tapping the note, then long-tapping it to move it. Easy, right?
Text can be indented, bulleted, formatted, etc., just as easily as can be done on a Mac. Thanks to custom indent and outdent "keys" that are added to the iPad's virtual keyboard, text manipulation for the sake of outlining is super easy and convenient. Text menus for numbering or justifying text, as well as applying bold, underline, and italics, appear at the top of the page, along with an absolute necessity for note-taking: a styles menu, featuring various levels of headings.
Inserting photos, either from the photo roll or by taking a new one, is as easy as tapping an icon. When you're actively taking notes or reviewing a page, you can expand the page to fill the screen.
Finding notes is also dead simple: three levels of search are available. You can search the currently selected section/tab, or the current notebook, or even search across all notebooks. Page titles, text, as well as any text that is OCR'd from images is included in the search results.
A thorough, and well-illustrated, user guide is included in the sample "Getting started" notebook, so there need be no intimidation in getting acclimated to Outline+ if you've never used One Note.
In my tests, Outline+ performed as well as I could ever have wanted. One Note notebooks were opened, read, edited, and synced, with complete accuracy. Drawing, highlighting, and annotation is dead simple in Outline+, and very intuitive.
Since I've been using Outline+, I have felt so much more productive with my iPad than I have felt previously. It really does fill a huge void. There are many decent note-taking applications for iPad, some of which I have reviewed over the last three and a half years since the iPad's release. But each of them stands, for the most part, as an island unto itself. Outline+, with its One Note synchronization, allows for your data to be usable instantly on either your iPad, your computer, or any internet-linked computer in the world (thanks to One Note's online version on Office Live). That sort of versatility makes a big difference as to what sort of data I entrust to an application. Outline+ is fast, beautiful, and everything you want in an iPad app. Outline+ looks amazing on the iPad's retina screen. Their blog and support are also super helpful with questions you may have.
If my review has not been enough to convince you, their demo video on outline.ws should do the trick.
I predict huge success for Outline+ as the iPad revolution continues. It's awesome as a stand-alone note taking application, no doubt. But in addition to that, no One Note-using iPad owner should be without it, and the $15 price tag will possibly be the best app-money you spend. For those who want to try before they buy, a (barely) limited version is available for free, called Outline. It has limits on how many pages can be added to a notebook, and lacks direct Dropbox syncing capabilities, but should otherwise be enough to give you a good feel for Outline+'s abilities.
A companion Mac app has been added, which serves as a reader only at this point. It has the benefit of also being a native Mac reader for OneNote of course, so OneNote notebooks people send you from their Windows computers can be read on your Mac with ease, even if you don't personally want to take notes in OneNote or Outline+. But here's where things get really cool: if you buy the Mac Outline reader app right now, you will get the planned update to an editor for free, whilst the cost will go up after the editor is released. This is a great way to basically get everything awesome about OneNote on your Mac for a really low price.
Get the apps here:
Outline+ for iPad
free Outline (demo) for iPad
Outline for Mac
Review by Ronald C. Schoedel III, Esq.
This review was first published for Alaskan Apple Users Group in October 2012, updated in November 2012, and provided here with additional updates.
Ronald C. Schoedel III is an attorney, former broadcaster, student of Welsh, and Sinophile. He has lived in Alaska, Wales, and China (Hong Kong specifically), and presently calls Utah home. He has been teaching and training Mac users for nearly a decade, and started blogging as a software reviewer in 2004.