Monday, July 17, 2023

Chronicling 1.0

John Voorhees:

Chronicling is a brand-new event tracking app for iOS and iPadOS by Rebecca Owen. The App Store is full of apps for tracking everything from the very specific, like caffeine consumption, to apps like Chronicling that can be used to track nearly anything. What makes Owen’s app unique, though, is it’s one of the best examples of modern SwiftUI design that I’ve seen that incorporates the still relatively new Swift Charts and other recent Apple technologies to deliver a great user experience.

Trackers like Chronicling are the perfect fit for the iPhone. Most people have the device with them all the time, which makes it perfect for collecting data frequently, but it’s what you do with that data that matters the most. Maybe you’re trying to learn a new language and want to track how often you practice to hold yourself accountable. Or maybe your knee has been bothering you, and you want to keep track of when it flares up to see if it corresponds to an activity in your life. The point is, whether you’re trying to form a new habit or find patterns in things that happen throughout your day, part of the process is gathering the data. The other half of the equation is breaking the data down in a meaningful way. Chronicling does both well.

This looks really nice. To me, the line between tracking and journaling is kind of blurry. I’ve been using plain text files for both, which gives me a lot of flexibility to add comments, use a variety of tools, and sync via Git. I’m reluctant to get locked into a more specialized tool that’s rigid or may not last. But I don’t get any pretty charts unless I extract the data and make them by hand. I do get charts for some health stuff stuff tracked via the Health app and for hours tracked via ATracker. The latter is around the fourth such app I’ve used. Each week I transfer the summary data to OmniOutliner and eventually to Excel.


Update (2023-07-18): Rereading this, I realize that it may sound like I’m implying that Chronicling locks in your data. That is not the case, as it lets you export to CSV, and this can be automated via Shortcuts. I was more thinking in general terms of changing the way I work to fit a particular tool’s design and limitations.

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It looks nice, but it's absolutely ridiculous that this kind of local-only app is a subscription.

I'm less interested in journaling and more in (typed) data collection, analysis, visualization and CSV export. Recording gas meter values is one example. My dream app would have a macOS app and iCloud sync for an easy way to access the data on my Macs.

If anyone has suggestion, I would love to hear about them. Actually it does not necessarily have to be a native app. Although integration with e.g. widgets would ease the collection of data.

I recommend you look at the Charty app. I use it with Shortcuts to generate daily widget charts from Health data.

Data Jar might also be of interest for tracking things not in the Health app.

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