It seems like everyone owns a blog or microblog, with the advent of Twitter and increasingly simple blogging platforms like Tumblr. And why not? You can showcase your talents in writing, spread the word on a cause you care about, and document your whereabouts. But when you simply want a place with no distracting comments to type your thoughts in, and don’t want to store them on someone else’s server, desktop journaling software might be a solution.
There are many note-taking software that would probably suffice for journaling, including Zim, QuotePad, Tomboy Notes, CintaNotes, etc. FOSS RedNotebook is, however, geared exactly for journaling and is available as a portable application so you can easily try it on Windows and Linux (you can try building it on OS X with the links on the Downloads page). Here are some of RedNotebook’s best features.
RedNotebook is a Wiki-style journal, which allows you to easily format text, as well as include links, embed images, attach files, etc, by using a simplified markup language (in a way, like HTML). RedNotebook has the feel of a WYSIWYG text editor as you’ll have buttons to insert media (pictures on your hard drive or direct image URLs) and links, as well as attach files and format the text (e.g. make bold, underlined, etc) easily even if you don’t know all the different syntax.
You also have one-click previewing of your styled entry, which would equal Save on Wiki-style websites.
Even if you’re not familiar with wikis at all, you’ll be guided with instructions from the default template upon loading the program for the first time. Templates can be useful if you’re planning on adding similar entries (e.g. notes or journal entries) on a regular basis so you don’t have to style the text every time.
Each entry can be added to a category and/or tagged and will be loaded every time you click on a date in the calendar on the left pane. There’s a lot of potential uses for an application that can link to calendar dates; in fact, Ryan discussed using iDailyDiary, a similar journaling tool that also features a calendar, to create to-do lists that you can see upon clicking a date in that built-in calendar. If you use Remember The Milk, you’ll notice that even the weekly planner sheet the site offers you to print does not list the tasks in a calendar view, so this kind of calendar feature can prove more useful for the visual learner.
Another thing worth mentioning would be the fact that you can use keyboard shortcuts to quicken your way around RedNotebook. Some of the less obvious ones (the more obvious ones being the universal Ctrl + F to find a keyword, and Ctrl + N to add a new category) would be Ctrl + P to toggle preview mode, Ctrl + PageDown or Up to see the entry from a day back or forward in the calendar, Ctrl + L to insert links and Ctrl + T to add tags. You can see these on the menus and on the program’s Help section.
Your entries, which you can see all listed by typing a space (” “) in the search box, are saved on regular intervals, and they’ll also be saved when you quit the program, but if you ever wish to try another journaling platform (e.g. blogging), you can export your entries in plain text, HTML, PDF or LaTeX formats. You can also backup your entries in TXT format in a zip file.
If you’re looking to password-protect your entries, however, you’ll have to use something like TrueCrypt, or even take each of the entries (each stored as a TXT file) and zip them up yourself in a password-protected file with 7-zip.
These are the major features that make it a keeper (at least, for me), but one downside of using this tool would be that there’s no direct and easy way to media other than pictures, so YouTube videos are out. Also, I don’t know what was up with the grey interface that you see here (I got the same for both the install and the portable versions), as the screenshots of the program from the official website (and other reviews from Lifehacker and GHacks) look really great. Overall, this would a great tool if you want to find an alternative to blogging.
Do you prefer blogging or keeping a private journal? If you do the latter, what method do you use?