That journaling-shaped hole in my life has been filled today with an app called Journey for Android. To quote the gentlemen of The Prompt, I have been using this app for a couple weeks and I really like it!
How Easy is Journaling?
A super important aspect of any journal, whether it be digital or physical, is how little friction there is to getting your thoughts into it. I'm happy to say that Journey makes it incredibly easy to jot down anything from a quick thought to an lengthy entry on the state of the world.
There is a button in a fixed location on every page of the interface (besides the settings page) that will initiate a new entry. From that point you simply type out your entry and hit "done." Much like Day One, Journey also automatically attaches metadata to your entries so you can get a little bit of context for you entry. Your current location, steps taken[^1], currently playing music, and the outside temperature are attached. You can also attach a photo if you'd like. I've gotten in the habit of taking a selfie with each entry. This has unintentionally flooded my camera roll with unexciting selfies, but it's a hit I'm willing to take to get a more complete picture (no pun intended) of my life.
For those more technically minded, there is Markdown support as well, so you can format your entries beyond simple plain text. You can also tag your posts, but I've never used this feature. I guess you could use it to tag the emotion you were feeling at the time or other people you were with.
How fun is it to use Journey?
The guys at 2 App Studio have done a fantastic job of creating a delightful app. While they don't call it out specifically in their marketing, this is clearly a design based on where Android is going (Material) and not on where it came from (Holo). That is an excellent thing, because Journey feels very in line with the recent updates Google has been making to their own apps. There is a new wave of app design coming, and Journey is right there with Google leading the way. If you're designing an app today on Android, you should look at Journey to see how it's done.
But that's just the designer in me talking: I'm a sucker for this stuff. Within the next few weeks, I'm sure my high over the design will wear off. I'm happy to say that there are more things to like about Journey than just how it looks and feels.
There is a well-implemented search feature that lets you search through all of your entries for keywords and tags. Do you think you write too much about work? Do a search and check it out. Do you want to know how often you swear in your entries? Go ahead, search for * or *, or even ****, and see how vulgar you are when you document your life. I would like to see the developer add the embedded metadata in these searches. For example, I would love to be able to see all my entries I've done between midnight and 4AM. What is on my mind at those ungodly hours? Or how about entries when the temperature was over 90˚F outside or entries when I have taken over 10,000 steps that day? More powerful searches like that would put me over the moon for this app.
I also like the gesture-based interface Journey sports. With a 5 inch screen, gestures become your best friend as buttons can be a little tricky to reach my mere average-sized human hands. Any experienced iOS user will feel right at home with the gestures here. Whether you're swiping in from the left to bring up the navigation menu or across entries to move from one to another, everything feels natural. It's "just right" which is not always easy to pull off on Android.
They're building this app on top of Android 4.4 KitKat, and I can't wait to see what this app feels like when Android L is officially out and 2 App Studio can use those updated interface effects. It's going to be a treat.
Journey has a solid set of features for a 1.0 release. The basics are all here, such as adjusting font sizes, enabling Markdown rendering, setting reminders to write entries, setting a passcode to keep your journal out of prying eyes, and sync with Google Drive are all here. You can also share your entries with the rest of the world by exporting your entries as either plain text, HTML, or a printable PDF.
Journey is a free app, but it does have a $5 in-app purchase that unlocks full Markdown support, a night mode, the ability to print your entries (or save as PDF), and export your journal out of the app. The app functions without this IAP, but I would highly recommend buying this once you decide you really like it. Not only will it make Journey nicer to use, but it also supports an indie Android developer, which just means more goodies for us in the future.
What I'm Hoping For in 1.1
Besides a more advanced search feature, there are a few things I would love to see 2 App Studio add to Journey to make it even better.
First, I would love to see the app ask to adjust the time of an entry to when the attached photo was taken. Sometimes I make a couple entries at the end of the day, but for posterity would like to see these at the times they took place. As of right now, you can change the time manually, but this little bit of automation would be welcomed.
There are also a few UI oddities that could be ironed out. In the main navigation, there is an option titled "Journey Premium" that lets you upgrade the app with an in-app purchase, but after you do the menu item is still there and simply links to a list of your entries. It doesn't make a ton of sense, and changing it to something like "Entries" or "Journals" makes a lot more sense. I would also like to see them have a better file name for PDF exports. Right now, the default name is "webview" which is not very helpful. Not only do you have to change the name to something you can recognize, but you also have to add the .pdf extension to the end of the file so your computer knows what to do with it. After such an otherwise delightful experience, this is a bit of an oversight.
Finally, I would love the ability to sync with services other than Google Drive. Can we have Dropbox sync, please?
Comparisons to Day One for iOS and Mac
It's pretty easy to see that Journey was inspired by Day One. It's good to be inspired by the best, but Journey does fly a little close to the sun. The developers behind the app are good guys and I would give them the benefit of the doubt, but you can't help but see the similarities. While the app does many things differently than Day One, there are some things like the extra row over the keyboard that looks nearly identical to the one Day One has been using for a while. I mentioned this to the team during the beta and they tell me this is just an evolution of the formatting bar they have used in JotterPad.
Without making too big of a statement on this, let's just say that as a previous Day One user, I felt very much at home in Journey.
Wrap it Up
Journey now sits on my home screen next to my Twitter and Messaging apps. It's become that critical to my phone usage. It's made me love my phone even more as it is no longer just a tool that let's me communicate and kill time, it's now also a place where I'm saving memories. I can't say enough about how wonderful the design is of this app and I hope that the Android community falls in love with this app like I have.
Journey is free on the Google Play Store with a $5 in-app purchase to add some functionality. It comes with my highest recommendation.
[^1]: As long as your phone can track that sort of thing.