Journaling in a Digital World

Journaling in a Digital World …

Having even a transcription of an ancestor’s personal journal is a blessing to any family historian. It gives us a picture of the person and the world surrounding him that no amount of vital records can provide. Should we also have letters and photos along with the journal, ecstasy ensues.

Considering how precious we find these gifts from the past, what are we leaving for future generations?…

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Journaling in a Digital World

Having even a transcription of an ancestor’s personal journal is a blessing to any family historian. It gives us a picture of the person and the world surrounding him that no amount of vital records can provide. Should we also have letters and photos along with the journal, ecstasy ensues.

Considering how precious we find these gifts from the past, what are we leaving for future generations? Today’s technology allows us to easily capture not only words and photos, but also audio and video. And, since so many of us are carrying camera phones with us at all times, there’s no excuse for missing the magic moments in our family’s lives. The iPhone, iPod Touch and many Android phones include cameras that shoot both photos and video and there are many journaling apps available to capture and preserve the events of our lives – both the normal, everyday things and the very special ones.

We are already sharing much of these events as status updates, photos and videos posted to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. This may be a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, but not the best place to document your world for future generations. Fortunately apps coming on the market today do just that – capture your social networking content into a personal journal. One good example is the Momento app [iPhone – $1.99]. It not only gives you a platform to enter your thoughts and photos, but you can also connect it to your favorite social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Swarm – Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and LastFM coming soon) to automatically pull in your status/activity there. Your content can be set for automatic backup to iCloud. My first thought was this was carrying things a bit far, but I quickly realized the merits of the idea. In today’s busy world, the less duplication of effort involved in documenting our days, the more likely it is we’ll actually do it. And, having an app like this on a small device that’s always nearby means we’ll be able to capture the sights and sounds of those moments.

Several journal apps also have desktop versions allowing us to synchronize and archive journaling content safely. I use Day One [iOS – $4.99 & Mac – $9.99]. I have it on my iPhone to capture moments as they happen and on my iPad and Mac to write longer stories documenting my family – past and present. Day One also saves entries on iCloud so they are accessible on any of my devices. Entries are organized by date, but also supports tags which can be used to organize your content by topic so you can select, display and export selected entries.

Today’s digital journals may not be as attractive as the leather-bound journals of old, but they will capture a much broader picture of our lives. A journal is a personal thing and the first step is finding a journal app that fits your style. It might be a desktop app or even a “notebook” on your mobile device. Whatever it is, it will become a treasure for future generations. You just need to get started!

Evernote Journaling

There are dozens of journaling apps – desktop, mobile and both – that will capture your thoughts, photos, videos, voice and location in a nice neat package. They all have their share of journaling goodness, but can they compete with the potential Evernote provides as a journaling tool? Let’s take a look.

  • Evernote is available on just about every operating system and device known to man. And, it keeps your notes and notebooks synched to any and all computers and devices you are using. Get a new computer, phone, tablet or whatever and all you have to do is add the appropriate app, then log in with your Evernote account information and all your Evernote goodness is right there waiting for you.
  • Since your primary notes collection is stored online, you always have an off-site backup. Evernote is unique in that many of its apps maintain local copies that are kept synchronized with the cloud copy. This not only means your information is protected, but also that you have access to it when you aren’t connected to the Internet.
  • You can update your journal with just about anything from anywhere. You can write notes (using apps like Penultimate [iPad – $.99] – now part of the Evernote family), type notes, include photographs, dictate notes, email notes and capture notes from the web. You can even send tweets to Evernote. With Skitch [iOS,  Android and Mac – free], another Evernote app, you can grab a screenshot, mark it up and forward it to your Evernote account. The Evernote Hello app [iOS and Android – free] captures contact information. And, don’t forget Evernote Food [iOS and Android – free]!
  • If you organize your personal journal as multiple notebooks arranged in a stack, you can then create notebooks just for special events like vacations, weddings or new arrivals. Tags are a free-form method of organizing and can be used to identify people, places, events or topics to quickly collect everything associated with one or more tags across multiple notebooks when needed.
  • Notebooks can be shared with others – either just for viewing or you can allow them to add content too. You could share a travel folder while still keeping your personal notes and notebooks private.
  • Notebooks can be exported as HTML or Evernote XML format. The Evernote XML format is a great way to archive a notebook for later import into an Evernote profile. It could be imported back into your profile or sent to someone else’s. If you want something for others to read, the HTML version is the better choice.
  • Everything is searchable in Evernote. That includes text in an image and even handwriting. Even if Evernote can’t decipher it, including scans of cards and notes adds another dimension to your journal.

Evernote is an amazing tool for research, but it can be put to dozens of additional uses too. Journaling is just one of them. Try some experiments to see if it works with your journaling style. You may be pleasantly surprised.