Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Apple Launches Journal App


Journal, a new iPhone app available today, helps users reflect and practice gratitude through journaling, which has been shown to improve wellbeing. With Journal, users can capture and write about everyday moments and special events in their lives, and include photos, videos, audio recordings, locations, and more to create rich memories. On-device machine learning provides private, personalized suggestions to inspire journal entries, and customizable notifications help users develop their writing habits. With the new Journaling Suggestions API, third-party journaling apps can also suggest moments for users to write about. Journal and the Journaling Suggestions API are available with the release of iOS 17.2.

Stephen Hackett:

There’s no iPad or Mac version yet, which some may find frustrating. However, given all the suggested content stuff that the app is doing, Apple may not be ready to ship it on more than one device.

The version that is out now for the iPhone is very basic, without any import or export functionality[…]

I don’t think any app should ship without export functionality.

Dan Moren:

Though Apple may have great hopes for its new Journal app, I think it unlikely that it will transform the average person into an avid journal-keeper if they aren’t already. And, frankly, if they already are, I’m not sure Apple’s Journal app is going to sway those folks from their current journal of choice.


But to set itself apart, Apple is applying the secret sauce—the fact that it is the platform owner and can leverage data that no third-party developer would ever have access to.


As I looked back over the entries that I’d made, I came to the conclusion that Apple has kind of done this feature already—and arguably better—in the Photos app. Journaling Suggestions seem to use the same algorithm that Photo’s Memories do, looking at pictures and videos taken within a certain time period or at a certain location, and grouping them together with a theme. (And, indeed, Memories are even surfaced within the app’s suggestions at times.) But Photos does this automatically, presenting memories as a fait accompli for you to revisit, rather than waiting for users to actively go in and manually create them.


In the end, Journal feels a bit like Apple applied its trademark fixation on privacy to social networking: it’s a social network of one person, for one person.

I will continue to use BBEdit.

Ryan Jones:

Sadly, @FlightyApp will not add your travel to Apple Journal.

The API is only for reading suggestions from Journal. 😔


Update (2023-12-19): Niléane:

Design-wise, the Journal app is simply beautiful. It doesn’t look like any other built-in iOS apps, but it doesn’t feel too alien either.


While it is possible to highlight text to format it to bold, italic, or underlined, it is impossible to manually insert a link. If you paste a URL, it cannot be tapped to open in Safari.


Weirdly enough, though, there is no way to view an entry in a standalone view. Nothing happens if you tap an entry. Instead, you tap items that are contained within an entry — which will expand them to a full-screen view. This means the only way to read your journal is to scroll through the main view of the app.


Unfortunately, in its current state, I don’t think this UI will scale well as you keep using it over months and years. You can filter entries by content type — or only display bookmarked entries, but that’s it. There are no tags, no folders, no compact view, and no way to browse by date.

Nor is there search.

Although developers cannot contribute to suggestions populated by the appropriately named Journaling Suggestions API[…]

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FWIW, 3rd parties do have some access to the journaling suggestions. Day One supports them, and for me suggests recent workouts, recent contacts (people I had FaceTime calls with), and groups of photos. Not sure about Apple Music since I use Spotify. And, Day One does support a few different export options.

Day One Release notes: “The new "Suggestions" button suggests photos, videos, songs, podcasts, and other attachments to add to your entries. (Available for iOS 17.2 and later)”

Also this documentation suggests if apps do donate activities via SiriKit, they may be surfaced as suggestions


@Jason Yes, Ryan is saying there’s no way to go the other direction: have third-party apps suggest items to Journal.

@John I don’t know, but he says no.

My main problem with an Apple journal app is that I needed one back in 2010, but Apple didn't have one. I found an alternate app ages ago. Moving to an Apple journal app would be something of a nuisance.

Ryan’s comment was from October, and I’m not sure why he’d know any more than the rest of us can see from Apple’s docs

Be interesting to see if suggestions from non-system apps do start to surface, although I’m not a journaller (journalist??) myself and unlikely to use the new app

@John Ryan wasn’t the only one saying this when the API was announced. I suppose it’s possible that the situation has changed since October. On the other hand, he’s probably tried to actually implement this and found it didn’t work. And, as an ADA winner this year, he probably has access to contacts that the rest of us don’t. If this actually were possible, Apple probably would have wanted Flighty to implement it on day one and would have gotten a quote from him endorsing the feature.

@Michael That’s fair comment - as usual it would be nicer if Apple was more explicit with what’s going on rather than just one small sidebar in a documentation page

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