Update on Diarly

Since writing about my move to Diarly from Day One, a few things have happened and it might be worth an update.

Diarly itself has had a couple of versions. These fixed minor bugs I mostly had not come across, but it has also fixed the issue I mentioned about Day One imported temperatures. These now come across rounded to one decimal place. Too late for me, but a quick and direct response to me pointing at the issue. 

But Diarly now also has an Apple Watch app, which allows me to dictate from my wrist straight into the journal of my choice (I can also use watch scribble to write).

It works very well (as Watch dictation usually does) and comes across with a neat timestamp at the beginning of what you entered from the watch. I don't think I would use this particularly heavily, but I have already made a couple of quick nature journal notes, of things I wanted to remember the details of, while I am out and about.

Krzysztof, Diarly's developer, is amazingly responsive and helpful. As well as pointing out the strange temperatures imported from Day One, and him fixing it within days, I emailed some thoughts about how the automatic writing prompts don't work well for me at the moment and received a rapid, thoughtful and helpful reply. I think this aspect of the app will develop over time, but for now I am happily using the prompt system for "markdown templates" in those journals where there is a repeating pattern of headings (e.g. my monthly evaluation journal) but am finding it quicker, easier and more flexible not to use them for more traditional journals where I write about what I have done, thought or experienced on a particular day. I am not using the inserted values (e.g. time or weather or location or calendar entries) in any prompts as I really don't like the formatting and can't control it, but I do insert those values where I want them, with key presses when I am writing. 

Diarly has led directly to me starting an extra journal. Since lockdowns started, I have hiked or walked very nearly every day. (I define a hike as "off tarmac" and walking as more or less the same thing but in a suburban or urban environment). As I am lucky enough to live in the New Forest, I have a vast variety of great places to hike, even straight from my home. I use my (old and minimal) Apple Watch and a great app called "work outdoors" during these "perambulations". The maps on the Watch are genuinely helpful when I am somewhere that I don't already know well and it is useful to see how long I have been out and how far I have gone. I also have a detailed record of my exercise. I use another excellent phone app called "Healthfit" to see summaries of my exercise, for example to show me if I am ahead or behind of where I was last week or month. It shares beautiful, small, summary images of walks and hikes straight to Diarly to create entries in my new journal, and I then write something about that hike or walk: it might be something about the place or route, or perhaps something I noticed (e.g. trees coming into blossom or summer birds reappearing) or thoughts and feelings or conversations that happened while I was there. Diarly would work just as well with the images that work outdoors can share, but I prefer the very neat and minimal summary that Healthfit gives, and I have the app anyway.

The image is a screenshot of the beginning of one of those journal entries where I hiked along a local beach and back. This is directly from that journal and shows how I have set Diarly to appear (Palatino font with minor tweaks to the font size and line height sliders and the Harmonic16light theme - which automatically switches to dark with my system). 

Day One is continuing to pump out updates with photos in the calendar view, all day as well as timed entries, and "notes" journals that sort by order of the date an entry was last edited rather than when it was created. I'm not going back, though. I do a weekly markdown export from Diarly (and could do it as often as I like) and have every one of my journal entries, neatly organised in easy to navigate folders and as single markdown files, complete with working links to media. The best Day One can do is export whole journals as markdown, but with one document per journal and with photos in a single folder, but not linked in the markdown file. Subtle, but powerful, lock-in to a significant annual subscription. I am also more offended than I should be that Day One does not allow me very much control over how my journals are displayed. It is slick, and there are good options, but I have enjoyed making Diarly mine in a way I feel I cannot with Day One.

For example, I realised that some of my existing journals were probably better as collections of notes (e.g. the journal I used to record work on my house). Diarly and markdown allowed me to move them into Agenda (where they were date and project based) and Craft (where they were more like general notes). I had to do a little tidying up (e.g. Agenda did not recognise and assign dates automatically) but markdown is remarkably portable, lightweight and robust and with a weekly markdown backup there is simply no lock-in. I can point iaWriter at the files and read or edit them, or I can import them to any number of apps, without needing the Diarly app at all.

I am in Diarly to stay.

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