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Thread: Best way to manage a Journal

  1. #1

    Default Best way to manage a Journal

    I'm trying to find out what the best way is to manage a Journal.

    OVERVIEW:
    Let me lay out first what I mean by Journal, and what features it should have for me:
    (a) The Journal would collect notes (obviously...), whose length may vary from short to relatively long (e.g. summary of a meeting; ruminations about a topic).
    (b) The entries would be assigned a time stamp (year, month, day, time), at best automatically, but still with the ability to edit the time stamps if necessary (I might want to date back items)
    (c) I would want to be able to assign keywords / tags to entries in order to facilitate searching for items. The list of keywords should be easily expandable, but at the same time I would need to be able to keep track of keywords easily (to avoid creating 'similar but not alike' keywords that would impede searching).
    (d) It should be easy to access the collected data, i.e. at best no 'special application' and/or 'special data formats' (that couldn't be read without the key application) would be used.
    (e) Ideally, I would be able to sync with a portable device.

    SOLUTIONS:
    These are solutions I've contemplated so far.

    (I) Simply creating 'Journal' entries in your calendar (or using, for instance, Journal entries in Korganizer):

    the good:
    - entries are obviously placed in a nice, chronological order
    - easy to sync with a portable device

    the bad:
    - unable to assign tags / keywords
    - difficult to search by topic, rather than title or particular phrases

    (II) Using a spreadsheet (.csv file):
    That's what I've been doing so far.

    the good:
    - able to assign keywords in a corresponding column
    - comparatively easy to sort / search (by filtering, sorting, etc)
    - portable (I copy the .csv file onto my PDA and have a small application there which I can use to display / edit the content)

    the bad:
    - spreadsheet cells are not really made for long entries, so moving around in the spreadsheet has become quite slow (I'm using ooo-calc for it, but I expect it would be similar with other spreadsheet apps).
    - the table format is not particular easy to read / browse

    (III) Using a database:
    Hmm, I haven't tried that yet, and perhaps this is the solution to my problems. I'm shying away from the effort of learning how to use ooo-base and having to create a database in there.

    the good:
    - likely easy to manage and easy to manipulate the data
    - possible to import the data from my existing spread sheet

    the bad:
    - Well, I did look into ooo-base a little bit, and managing keywords seems to be a bit of a pain. Plus the effort of design the database as well as the input mask.
    - portability / sync with PDA??



    Actually, the software that manages online blogs seems to be perfect (it allows easy creation of notes; assigns a time stamp; and allows tagging entries), but I haven't found any application yet that does the same thing offline. (And no: I don't want to write an online blog / use online software to manage my Journal ... )

    Hmmmm, does anyone have a good solution / idea?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Best way to manage a Journal

    Quote Originally Posted by homoludens1000
    I'm trying to find out what the best way is to manage a Journal.

    OVERVIEW:
    Let me lay out first what I mean by Journal, and what features it
    should have for me:
    (a) The Journal would collect notes (obviously...), whose length may
    vary from short to relatively long (e.g. summary of a meeting;
    ruminations about a topic).
    (b) The entries would be assigned a time stamp (year, month, day,
    time), at best automatically, but still with the ability to edit the
    time stamps if necessary (I might want to date back items)
    (c) I would want to be able to assign keywords / tags to entries in
    order to facilitate searching for items. The list of keywords should be
    easily expandable, but at the same time I would need to be able to keep
    track of keywords easily (to avoid creating 'similar but not alike'
    keywords that would impede searching).
    (d) It should be easy to access the collected data, i.e. at best no
    'special application' and/or 'special data formats' (that couldn't be
    read without the key application) would be used.
    (e) Ideally, I would be able to sync with a portable device.

    SOLUTIONS:
    These are solutions I've contemplated so far.

    _(I)_Simply_creating_'Journal'_entries_in_your_calendar_(or_using,_for_instance,_Journal_entries_in_Korganizer):_

    the good:
    - entries are obviously placed in a nice, chronological order
    - easy to sync with a portable device

    the bad:
    - unable to assign tags / keywords
    - difficult to search by topic, rather than title or particular
    phrases

    _(II)_Using_a_spreadsheet_(.csv_file):_
    That's what I've been doing so far.

    the good:
    - able to assign keywords in a corresponding column
    - comparatively easy to sort / search (by filtering, sorting, etc)
    - portable (I copy the .csv file onto my PDA and have a small
    application there which I can use to display / edit the content)

    the bad:
    - spreadsheet cells are not really made for long entries, so moving
    around in the spreadsheet has become quite slow (I'm using ooo-calc for
    it, but I expect it would be similar with other spreadsheet apps).
    - the table format is not particular easy to read / browse

    _(III)_Using_a_database:_
    Hmm, I haven't tried that yet, and perhaps this is the solution to my
    problems. I'm shying away from the effort of learning how to use
    ooo-base and having to create a database in there.

    the good:
    - likely easy to manage and easy to manipulate the data
    - possible to import the data from my existing spread sheet

    the bad:
    - Well, I did look into ooo-base a little bit, and managing keywords
    seems to be a bit of a pain. Plus the effort of design the database as
    well as the input mask.
    - portability / sync with PDA??



    Actually, the software that manages online blogs seems to be perfect
    (it allows easy creation of notes; assigns a time stamp; and allows
    tagging entries), but I haven't found any application yet that does the
    same thing offline. (And no: I don't want to write an online blog / use
    online software to manage my Journal ... )

    Hmmmm, does anyone have a good solution / idea?
    Hi
    Something like this maybe?
    http://basket.kde.org/index.php
    It's part of the standard install.

    --
    Cheers Malcolm (Linux Counter #276890)
    openSUSE 11.2 Milestone 5 (i586) Kernel 2.6.31-rc5-git3-2-desktop
    up 2 days 0:17, 2 users, load average: 0.27, 0.17, 0.10
    ASUS eeePC 1000HE ATOM N280 1.66GHz | GPU Mobile 945GM/GMS/GME


  3. #3

    Default Re: Best way to manage a Journal

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    And I just use Tomboy notes for my Journal entries, as well as almost
    everything else. XML-based, great, fast search utility, supports plugins,
    prints if needed, can link between them, fast and automatically-saved...

    Good luck.





    Malcolm wrote:
    >
    Quote Originally Posted by homoludens1000
    > I'm trying to find out what the best way is to manage a Journal.
    >
    > OVERVIEW:
    > Let me lay out first what I mean by Journal, and what features it
    > should have for me:
    > (a) The Journal would collect notes (obviously...), whose length may
    > vary from short to relatively long (e.g. summary of a meeting;
    > ruminations about a topic).
    > (b) The entries would be assigned a time stamp (year, month, day,
    > time), at best automatically, but still with the ability to edit the
    > time stamps if necessary (I might want to date back items)
    > (c) I would want to be able to assign keywords / tags to entries in
    > order to facilitate searching for items. The list of keywords should be
    > easily expandable, but at the same time I would need to be able to keep
    > track of keywords easily (to avoid creating 'similar but not alike'
    > keywords that would impede searching).
    > (d) It should be easy to access the collected data, i.e. at best no
    > 'special application' and/or 'special data formats' (that couldn't be
    > read without the key application) would be used.
    > (e) Ideally, I would be able to sync with a portable device.
    >
    > SOLUTIONS:
    > These are solutions I've contemplated so far.
    >
    > _(I)_Simply_creating_'Journal'_entries_in_your_calendar_(or_using,_for_instance,_Journal_entries_in_Korganizer):_
    >
    > the good:
    > - entries are obviously placed in a nice, chronological order
    > - easy to sync with a portable device
    >
    > the bad:
    > - unable to assign tags / keywords
    > - difficult to search by topic, rather than title or particular
    > phrases
    >
    > _(II)_Using_a_spreadsheet_(.csv_file):_
    > That's what I've been doing so far.
    >
    > the good:
    > - able to assign keywords in a corresponding column
    > - comparatively easy to sort / search (by filtering, sorting, etc)
    > - portable (I copy the .csv file onto my PDA and have a small
    > application there which I can use to display / edit the content)
    >
    > the bad:
    > - spreadsheet cells are not really made for long entries, so moving
    > around in the spreadsheet has become quite slow (I'm using ooo-calc for
    > it, but I expect it would be similar with other spreadsheet apps).
    > - the table format is not particular easy to read / browse
    >
    > _(III)_Using_a_database:_
    > Hmm, I haven't tried that yet, and perhaps this is the solution to my
    > problems. I'm shying away from the effort of learning how to use
    > ooo-base and having to create a database in there.
    >
    > the good:
    > - likely easy to manage and easy to manipulate the data
    > - possible to import the data from my existing spread sheet
    >
    > the bad:
    > - Well, I did look into ooo-base a little bit, and managing keywords
    > seems to be a bit of a pain. Plus the effort of design the database as
    > well as the input mask.
    > - portability / sync with PDA??
    >
    >
    >
    > Actually, the software that manages online blogs seems to be perfect
    > (it allows easy creation of notes; assigns a time stamp; and allows
    > tagging entries), but I haven't found any application yet that does the
    > same thing offline. (And no: I don't want to write an online blog / use
    > online software to manage my Journal ... )
    >
    > Hmmmm, does anyone have a good solution / idea?
    >
    > Hi
    > Something like this maybe?
    > http://basket.kde.org/index.php
    > It's part of the standard install.
    >

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  4. #4

    Default Re: Best way to manage a Journal

    Thanks for the comments!

    (I) BasKet:

    I used BasKet a bit when I first started using KDE, about two years ago. Should probably go back to it and see how it has development in the meantime.

    As for managing a journal, two things make it seem less ideal:
    (a) too much functionality that is not related to writing a journal (e.g. to-do lists, free-page layout, etc.)
    (b) lack of sync'ing abilities with a handheld device.

    In addition, I wonder how data are stored. Most likely one would always need to use Basket in order to access one's data, which might not always be possible (for comparison, the .csv file I'm currently using can be accessed on any computer).


    (II) Tomboy

    Haven't used it yet. Is the wiki-style linking really that useful? I see the point, of course: the linking ability would replace keywords / tags. But having to add links sounds cumbersome.
    Other weak points would seem to me (without really knowing the app, so please correct me if I'm wrong):
    (a) lack of automatic time stamping;
    (b) cumbersome to browse (would have to click & open each entry card);
    (c) lack of portability (or is it possible to export the data for use on a handheld device / different computer?)

  5. #5

    Default Re: Best way to manage a Journal

    Disclaimer: I'm the maintainer of Tomboy, and I ran across this forum post via a Google Alert. Since you had some questions/concerns I thought I could help explain a bit more.

    Quote Originally Posted by homoludens1000 View Post
    Thanks for the comments!

    (I) BasKet:

    I used BasKet a bit when I first started using KDE, about two years ago. Should probably go back to it and see how it has development in the meantime.
    BasKet is really cool, but last I heard it was an abandoned project. Though maybe the latest version is still sufficient for your uses.

    Quote Originally Posted by homoludens1000 View Post

    (II) Tomboy

    Haven't used it yet. Is the wiki-style linking really that useful? I see the point, of course: the linking ability would replace keywords / tags. But having to add links sounds cumbersome.
    Adding links in Tomboy is an automatic process. If you have a note called "favorite pizza recipe", and then in another note you type the text "I need to refine my favorite pizza recipe", the last three words there are automatically turned into a link. It can help you rediscover old notes, actually. If you change the title of a note, all the text that links to it is automatically updated to reflect the new title.

    Instead of tags, Tomboy has notebooks. You can assign notes to different notebooks if you want to.

    Searching is pretty much instantaneous, so searching is generally easier than traditional tagging. But categorization is still nice so that's why Tomboy has notebooks.

    Quote Originally Posted by homoludens1000 View Post
    Other weak points would seem to me (without really knowing the app, so please correct me if I'm wrong):
    (a) lack of automatic time stamping;
    Tomboy does track the create and last modification times for your notes, but those are not editable without mucking with the XML.

    Tomboy ships with a Note Of The Day plugin that automatically generates a new note each day with a title like "Today: June 5, 2009". The Note Of The Day can be pre-populated with whatever content you might want. If you don't edit the note, it is automatically deleted the next day when the new day's note is created.

    Titles are editable, of course, so that might work out for you.

    Quote Originally Posted by homoludens1000 View Post
    (b) cumbersome to browse (would have to click & open each entry card);
    You can bring up the simple search very quickly (you can make a keybinding to open the window, or even use gnome-do to search your notes). But you're right that each note opens in its own little window.

    The top 10 or so recently used notes show up in the menu you see when you click on the Tomboy icon in your panel. You can also pin arbitrary notes to this menu for quick access.

    Quote Originally Posted by homoludens1000 View Post
    (c) lack of portability (or is it possible to export the data for use on a handheld device / different computer?)
    Tomboy runs on Linux, Windows, and Mac. You can synchronize between different computers running Tomboy as long as you have one central server location to point them all at (via ssh, webdav, or a local mount on your computer).

    There is a port to Nokia Maemo devices called Conboy, and a work-in-progress port for Android devices called Tomdroid. I'm not sure how people are syncing their notes for that.

    I do know that Conduit has support for syncing Tomboy notes with various online services and handheld devices.

    Lastly, we're currently working on a free web service called Tomboy Online. Once released, you'll be able to sync all your computers with your account on Tomboy Online, and view your notes from any web browser. We're hoping to release it within a month, but it's hard to predict. It will be supported by Conboy and Tomdroid.

    Sorry for the long post, just trying to help answer your questions about Tomboy. Feel free to let me know if you have any more.

    And best of luck with whatever solution you choose. :-) Luckily, there are a lot of good note-taking tools on Linux (Zim is another popular one you might check out).

  6. #6

    Default Re: Best way to manage a Journal

    Sanford,

    thanks for taking time to reply to my post, your commends on Tomboy were very informative, and I have to admit that I was completely unaware of the great features it offers! Will definitely trying it out. I believe finding the 'right kind of application' for what I intend to do requires a bit of experimenting, and getting inspired, by various applications anyway.

    Since I already got you on the line, so to speak: Does Tomboy have exporting functionality? What format(s) does it export to?

    And if you don't mind me asking, how does it organize data / entries internationally? Some sort of tagged database? (I'm not a computer engineer, but am nevertheless a curious user ... )

    (Zim is another popular one you might check out).
    Thanks for the tip, never heard of it before and will take a look!

    BasKet is really cool, but last I heard it was an abandoned project. Though maybe the latest version is still sufficient for your uses.
    If I remember correctly, Basket found new maintainers, with new ideas as well.I believe I didn't like the direction it was taking, hence did keep track of its recent development. (I had originally been looking for a good hierarchical outliner, and many features of Basket were great, besides the great GUI, but the new team I think went on to focus more on 'note keeping' than outlining) ...

    PS: Never realized what a convenient tool Google Alerts can be!
    Last edited by homoludens1000; 20-Aug-2009 at 21:18. Reason: more things to write

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Tallinn, Estonia
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    Default Re: Best way to manage a Journal

    Very informative thread!

    I'm actually looking for something similar: (hierarchical) application for taking notes. At the moment I use BasKet Note Pads, but I'm planning tom migrate from it (as mentioned here it has been abandoned some time ago).

    As another option, not mentioned here, I see Kjots.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Best way to manage a Journal

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    Built into my Tomboy app I can export to HTML. Plus as the files are
    XML-based parsing them with my own parser (should I be so inclined) would
    be trivial. The files are all kept in ~/.tomboy with UUID-named files (so
    their names are nothing like something you will recognize, though that's
    never been a problem for me since the idea is not to go tinkering with
    them via the filesystem directly anyway) and I also had not tried that
    Note of the Day plugin, but apparently need to. My wife has been looking
    for something like that too, I believe, so I need to tell her about it as
    well.

    Good luck.





    homoludens1000 wrote:
    > Sanford,
    >
    > thanks for taking time to reply to my post, your commends on Tomboy
    > were very informative, and I have to admit that I was completely unaware
    > of the great features it offers! Will definitely trying it out. I
    > believe finding the 'right kind of application' for what I intend to do
    > requires a bit of experimenting, and getting inspired, by various
    > applications anyway.
    >
    > Since I already got you on the line, so to speak: Does Tomboy have
    > exporting functionality? What format(s) does it export to?
    >
    > And if you don't mind me asking, how does it organize data / entries
    > internationally? Some sort of tagged database? (I'm not a computer
    > engineer, but am nevertheless a curious user ... )
    >
    >> (Zim is another popular one you might check out).

    >
    > Thanks for the tip, never heard of it before and will take a look!
    >
    >> BasKet is really cool, but last I heard it was an abandoned project.
    >> Though maybe the latest version is still sufficient for your uses.

    >
    > If I remember correctly, Basket found new maintainers, with new ideas
    > as well.I believe I didn't like the direction it was taking, hence did
    > keep track of its recent development. (I had originally been looking for
    > a good hierarchical outliner, and many features of Basket were great,
    > besides the great GUI, but the new team I think went on to focus more on
    > 'note keeping' than outlining) ...
    >
    >

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  9. #9

    Default Re: Best way to manage a Journal

    Quote Originally Posted by seld View Post
    Very informative thread!

    I'm actually looking for something similar: (hierarchical) application for taking notes. At the moment I use BasKet Note Pads, but I'm planning tom migrate from it (as mentioned here it has been abandoned some time ago).

    As another option, not mentioned here, I see Kjots.
    Oh, is Kjots still around? That's really a veteran of KDE applications, isn't it?

    Well, I didn't really consider using a hierarchical outliner for journal keeping. There are of course a couple of great ones out there, but for a journal, the hierarchical structure would be in my humble opinion rather an inconvenience / not really necessary. Plus, the output wouldn't look that nice for a journal ...

    So, dealing with hierarchical outliners here would probably get us off track, but just for the record some remarks:
    1. My all-time favorite outliner is still Natara Bonsai (a Windows / Palm OS application). I've ceased using the Windows desktop version a long time ago, but the Palm PDA version still serves me from time to time. Haven't found anything like it yet in terms of ease of use & functionality.
    2. Haven't taken a close look at Zim yet, but from a superficial glance it looks very sophisticated and useful too.
    3. Other applications I've tried out in the past and found pretty useful include: TreeLine, Leo, hnb and iKog (the latter two both being command line-based, but very fast and sophisticated)

  10. #10

    Default Re: Best way to manage a Journal

    sanford,

    I've checked out Tomboy, a great application indeed. Smart design, fast, easy-to use ... Perhaps not the best for keeping a journal, but I might make other use of it. Got some ideas for improvements which I'll post at /PlaceForNewIdeas.

    Cheers

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