Scrivener for keeping a diary

I have kept a diary on and off since 1977, and think I have now found the perfect program for keeping an on-line diary. In the past, I have used various programs (before that, I used paper) including Treepad (Windows), Yeah Write (Windows), and MacJournal (Mac).

Are there any other diarists out there who use Scrivener?

Since you’re probably wondering why I don’t use MacJournal, here are some things that Scrivener has as a clear advantage

  • Clear means of importing existing entries (rather than MacJournals “try to import it and see if it works” approach).
  • Index cards with a synopsis. I can use this either for notes about scheduled events, as a reminder to write about something, or as a summary of the days events.
  • Actual named metadata, rather than just color-coded entries. Usually I forget what each color means.
  • Status. Although I don’t normally re-write diary entries to make for a better story, I do sometimes write a “stub” entry with one or two sentences. This way I know to go back and fill in the details later
  • The outline view distinguishes between a blank and a filled in entry, so I know what to go back and fill in later.
  • The “compile” process (with a little tweaking) is capable of producing some quite beautiful output.
  • Character and scene sections, and the ability to cross-reference entries to characters and scenes. Although intended for fiction, characters and scenes appear in real life as well.
  • Since I also do some other writing (mostly technical writing), I have a tool which is well suited to that also. Much of this writing involves taking a lot of unconnected facts and details and weaving them into something which has some sort of logical progression. Compared to “outline mode” in Word, using index cards is a piece of cake!

I don’t keep a journal, but I have often thought Scrivener would work well for it. The only thing it doesn’t have that I think would be important for journaling software would be calendar integration. I doubt that’s a feature that will ever get added, but who knows?

A simple “create entry for todays date” would be nice. I use my diary as a record of what has happened, rather than a calendar/appointment book, so calendar integration is less of an issue for me, but I could see it being useful. Don’t professional writers have due dates?

I use yyyy-mm-dd format for daily entries (OK - i’m a nurd), and a straight title for everything else. Sometimes I nest special entries (pasted in emails, etc) below a dated entry. One really nice thing is that one can nest documents, so that a document can have content, but also have children. The only problem is that this structure is difficult to import.

In fact, since I measure time by week rather than month and year, I may make a bunch of weekly “parent” entries, and make individual entries as needed.

I’ve found that I can print the synopsis as part of the document (without labels synopsis: text: etc). I’ve gone back and added a synopsis for all events. One can even print just the titles and synopses to make an “index” or summary.

An easy way to create dated entries is to use the Insert Date & Time command. Create the new file using whichever method you prefer, and then either use the Edit/Insert/Current Date and Time menu command, or press Shift-Opt-Cmd-D. This will use your system preferences for date stamps, so if you don’t like the formatting you can adjust them at the OS level. It uses Long Date and Long Time.

Another thing to consider is that Scrivener stores creation and modification time automatically for you, so you might find outliner view with the appropriate columns enabled to be useful as a way of keeping track of entries by date. You can sort by these columns by clicking on them in the outliner header bar.

I use the binder for dates, with folders for years and months, and then I label text pages as dates. I use the synopses for page titles/descriptions, or for what the binder was probably intended for.

For keeping date centric journal entries, such as in a diary, this has worked so well for me that I don’t even miss calendar integration. To look at what I wrote over any date range, I can select the date range in the binder, and then I can scan the synopses to get a quick summary of the topics that I wrote about in the selected time frame. The corkboard and the outline both work well for this.

One of the problems that I have with automatic dating is that software programs tend to assign a creation date or modification date to a journal entry. But in my actual workflow, I sometimes write up an event a day or two after it occurs. I have no use for a computer creation date or modification date that may not reflect the actual date of the event that I’m writing about. For me, that must be an entry that I have control of, and the binder works well for that.

I use Scrivener for my diary also. I have made folder “2011” where I put subfolders from 01 to 12. Under those folders I create files depending on date, like “17”. Simple and organized. Works well and no need for calendar at least in my usage.

Also I have created encrypted DMG-file what I will mount every time when I am going to write my journal. When I have wrote my journal, I unmount that DMG-file. Might be a little paranoid but well… :slight_smile:

Has anyone created a diary or journal template? Or can anyone share a detailed description of what one might look like? The template would be appreciated big time. I use DavidRM’s The Journal but I think I’d like to start using Scrivener instead.

Well, I have just created months in the left side (folders) and under them I just create files by day, eg. names are named from 01 to 31 under correct month. Nothing special, just folders and files. Easy and works well for me at least.

Yeah, I can’t really think of anything from my own journal projects that would be useful in a template either. The dated folders will go out of style, my boilerplates are probably only useful to one person, I don’t really compile, and I don’t really use a lot of meta-data in it either that isn’t content generated (like keywords). I don’t really do anything special in it, so maybe that’s all you need as a hint. Just start making files in the Binder and write in them. :slight_smile: Let a system emerge out of that; if it needs to it will.

Not sure how useful it’d be, since I’m still testing out the relationship myself, but Aeon Timeline now synchronizes rather well with Scrivener. You could have a timeline of your journal (through Aeon) that links to the individual day’s entries (in Scrivener). Aeon’s free at the moment, since it’s still in beta, so you may want to give it a try!

(Like Scrivener, Aeon is technically intended for fiction writers, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work well for what you’re doing, too. And on an unrelated note, Aeon supports fantasy calendars, which is simply awesome for people, like me, who write fantasy! You should give it a once-over, at least!)

I thought I’d resurrect this particular thread, since I am a journaler myself. I was an avid user of DavidRM’s “TheJournal”, but the limitation of windows only frustrated me over time enough that I decided to just do straight text files in my Mac for the time being.

What is the latest thoughts on those of you who are currently using or seriously considering using Scrivener for your journaling/diary?

I decided I’m going to start using it come Jan. 1, 2013 and see how it goes. My biggest reason for changing from straight OS rich text files is I love the idea of creating year, month, date folders and being able to view them as individuals or groups, and export any of those to an external file.

Dawn in NJ

I think it’s a great idea. I believe someone shared a template on this forum that works well for journaling (creates the kind of organization that you described). So Scrivener as a journaling tool would probably work out well.

My issue is journaling while away from my computer. I need an app that I can use on my smartphone and tablet (both Android) that can export to something like Scrivener or The Journal seamlessly. I’ve found a few candidates but am not 100% happy with the options at this point.

Edit: Dawn, I forgot to mention that David is working on an iOS version of The Journal. Perhaps he’ll consider porting the iOS version to an OSX version later. (Unfortunately for me, he isn’t planning to create an Android version.)

Try Simplenote. It’s quick and easy to use, and syncs with Scrivener. You can use the folder sync methods as well. Any new text files you create in the Drafts or Notes folder using your phone will be added to the project automatically when you get back to it. I’d say Simplenote is one of the easiest to use for quick notes though. You don’t have to make a new file and name it. Just hit the + button in the project’s keyword category (or add the keyword later) and type away.

Mac disclaimer: sorry, this thread started out on one platform and diversified. I neglected to note your platform tag when I wrote the above. I still think there are some easy ways to work—particularly with Dropbox, but ResophNotes might be a decent way to get from Simplenote -> disk -> Scrivener.

Hi all,
Interesting responses, thanks.
I know that a very common suggestion on message boards (not just scrivener) is to use the search box, but I have to say, I often do not get the kind of results I’m looking for…I say this because I’d like to find that journaling template fortiboz suggested but I wonder if I’ll be able to find it…

Fortiboz- I really loved TheJournal and David is a terrific guy- he works so hard on his product and is very responsive… but the lack of a native mac app just killed it over time. That he’s working on an iOS version is terrific, but if I don’t have the initial app on my mac, it won’t do me any good, even though I plan on getting an iphone and ipad sooner and later… I currently have an android but I find the allure of iOS apps for my projects is just too much for me to resist (welcome to the “other” side… :wink: )

RE: Simplenote. Yeah… the whole platform thing kills me… I have a win machine at work, and a mac at home. This has been most difficult as it relates to my journaling, thus the simple rich text files… I want to try it on Scrivener, if nothing else because Scrivener is just such a neat program and doing my journaling on it gives me an excuse to play with it other than my other writing… but it would be good to find a way to sync to mobile devices. I looked at simplenote yesterday, and it sounded useful, though I think there was something holding me back on that one. I just signed up for dropbox, but it’s definitely a longer route to sync documents.

OK… let me go off and do an infamous “search” for “journal template” or some such wording… I’d love to see a section on this board for user shared templates - project and document levels… What fun to be able to share our creations with other writers. …

Hi Dawn,

I was wondering, did you ever find that journal template? I too am going to start my journaling in Scrivener and would LOVE to find it also.



Sorry folks, I may have started a myth there. I think I mixed up the phantom Scrivener journal template with a different template I saw. :frowning:

So someone should create one now!

Hi Brandy,
Sorry for the late response!
I did try to search for it, but had no luck as I suspected. I’ve also decided to stick with my rich text files because I do so much of my journaling at work- both just writing direct, and also copy/pasting posts from FB, emails etc.
If I had a companion program I could use on my PC and easily sync the two, I’d re-consider, but for now I’ll have to stick with one big rich text file for each year.



You don’t say whether you have any control over what’s on your PC at work, but there is a Windows version of Scrivener and you can sync between the two using Dropbox or similar. That means two licences for Scrivener, though, as they are the work of two (and a half) separate programmers.

If finance is an issue, have you thought of using Evernote to do it in. Free, available on both platforms with 2GB — I think — space on their server automatically syncing between your installations. I started using Evernote, but it was duplicating another app and I found its increasing attempts to be all things to all men and women more than irritating, so I don’t use it any more, though I haven’t yet deleted it from my systems.


Hi Mark.
Thanks for the response. I might be able to get away with using scrivener on my work pc but I’m not willing at this point to spend the money just to experiment with using Scrivener for journaling. Otherwise I wouldn’t use it for anything else since I don’t have a writing job.
I do have Evernote on both home mac and work pc, but I’ve done a little reading and don’t thing the benefits would outweigh the effort. Since I keep most of my document files on a jumpdrive that I carry around with me, If I decided to try the journaling on scrivener idea, I think I’d just opt for a simple cut and paste process.

I do thank you for mentioning evernote as a possiblity though. I hope that the ios vs. of scrivener is still in active development and that I’ll be able to use that when the time comes. It’s one of the excuses I have for lusting after an Ipad :wink:

Don’t forget that the trial version of Scrivener that you would install on your work PC gives you 30 days of use before you have to buy a license. So you’d have over a month of using it and syncing to decide if it’s useful. If not, your project will still be accessible at home, where you could export the files or compile them for easy access.

Also, the Mac version has “External Folder Sync”, which would give you a set of Rich Text files that you can edit with any editor, even adding new files, i think (don’t use this feature myself). You could easily use the feature with dropbox to always have access to your files at no additional cost to you.