The iOS App Store has been live for more than five years now, and that means just about every category has one or two high-quality apps available there that maintain a strong presence. Offline reading category has Pocket, Reddit apps have Alien Blue, when it comes to word games, there’s Letterpress, and in context of this post, journaling apps bring to mind Day One. The category has been dead for a long while now, but a new app called Narrato Journal aims to shake it up.
Narrato’s main screen
Narrato aims to solve a genuine problem I have with Day One: what do I write about? When Day One reminds me to update my journal at the end of a day, I’m completely exhausted and don’t have the energy to go through my day’s activities in my mind to recall the special moments worth writing about. It all seems like a blured mix of taking classes, commuting, checking social media, and interacting with people. Narrato solves that with “LifeStream”.
With a simple swipe gesture, LifeStream shows you the latest photos from your Camera Roll, tweets from Twitter, posts from Facebook, and check-ins from Foursquare to ‘inspire you for your next entry’. You can selectively add items from your LifeStream, and give them context with your own text entry, additional photos, moods, and locations.
The app’s design is different from Day One, which allows you to make multiple text+photo entries for each day, and shows them separately in a neat manner. With Narrato, each item you import from LifeStream, along with any text / mood / photo you add, locations you check-in to etc. from a day go in separate posts within a single day. In other words, the main screen of Narrato organizes groups of posts by day.
Entries for the day (left). LifeStream posts (middle, and right)
Arguably, Day One’s killer feature is cloud storage and syncing. Write a post on the iOS app, and you can see and edit it on the Mac OS X app. Your entire journal can also be backed up to Dropbox, and individual entries can be exported as PDF documents to ensure you can access your journal even if Day One goes down someday.
Narrato also offers cloud syncing and backup, but it isn’t as full-featured. Everything you create on one iOS device is backed up to Narrato’s servers, and can be pulled down to other iOS devices. You can also export your data but since it is done so in JSON, it isn’t quite human-readable and needs to be imported in another compatible app .
Exporting journal entries
For all its innovation in coming up with ways to maintain your journal, Narrato lacks two important features that should be present in a journaling app on day one (pun intended). There is no way to protect your sensitive journal entries with a PIN code, and the data that the app exports is not human readable. I prefer keeping my journal entries in a universal format – like PDF – that isn’t tied to a single app. Apart from that, the app suffers from plenty of UI niggles too, which hinder the overall user experience.
As of this writing, I cannot truly recommend Narrato over Day One. The way it uses Lifestream to inspire you to maintain your journal is excellent, but other departments are lacking at the moment. However, this is only version 1.0 of the app, and the developers appear to be working hard at making it better, adding new features and fixing bugs. They just released v1.1, which includes the ability to create multiple journals (work, exercise, as you see fit), and fixes some of the UI niggles I experienced with the app.
Narrato is available from the iOS App Store for $3.99. Even if you don’t get it right now, it is worth keeping an eye on.