750 Words is my personal attempt at making private journaling a long-term habit. However, since it’s a tool that I’m building primarily for myself, and I have no ambitions to turn it into a business (just daydreams), it’s not going to be the tool for everyone and all private journaling needs.
In my wanderings I’ve found two other great private journaling tools that I want to tell you about in case they are exactly what you’re looking for. It doesn’t matter to me which one you like best!
Ommwriter is a beautiful Mac application. It is an immersive that takes your full screen and your full attention. It has subtle imagery, sounds, and effects to help tame the wild monkey of your attention and to just write. It’s like a log cabin in the woods without the log cabin and the woods.
- It’s got an immersive quality to it that I haven’t seen attempted by anyone else. You really have to try it to know what I mean.
- It stores all your writing on your computer. No need to export or fear privacy of your writing.
- It’s free.
- Mac only. Well, that’s actually a pro in wolf’s clothing if you ask me.
- If you don’t always do your writing on your own computer, your writing might get fragmented.
- No password protection or other kinds of security to keep your pesky roommates or others from digging through your writing.
I like the way that it takes the writing environment as seriously as it does. I’m jealous that they can pull off a full screen mode that web apps can’t do (at least, not without the help of Plainview). It feels like such a strong writing tool that I downloaded it and then tried to think of a good reason to work on a new novel.
Penzu is also awesome in its own right. They’ve hit a home run on one feature in particular: post encryption and security.
At first glance they have a lot of similar features as 750 Words: auto-opening a page to write on (they don’t even require an account), auto-saving, auto-scrolling of the page when you get to the bottom. And then they’ve got a lot of features that I don’t have: multiple entries per day, public entries, attaching photos, and a Pro version that gives you extra security, a rich text editing option, and other advanced features. I was most impressed, however, with their security… you can set a password on each entry that double encrypts your entry with an encrypted version of your password and is basically permanently irretrievable without that password. And of course there’s no password recovery option because the entry itself is encrypted with the password. It’s pretty impressive and definitely the place that I send people who want to be absolutely sure that their secrets never ever see the light of day. I am going to implement my own encryption as well, but because of my desire to be able to parse and analyze text I most likely won’t ever go the full route of 1-way encryption.
- Very secure.
- Easy to use.
- The Pro version is well-priced and offers about all the features you could possibly ever need if you wanted to write a private journal.
- I think they’re trying to differentiate themselves on the private journaling front, and yet they offer lots of ways to make your entries public, to share them, etc. It seems to dilute the purpose of the site a little.
They’re also very active bloggers and Twitters and seem to be doing a great job of making a business out of private journaling. They seem very responsive and friendly to everyone who writes to or about them on Twitter.
But does it beat a physical notebook?
It’s difficult to beat the notebook on aesthetics and ease of use. That said, I think the two options above are significantly better than writing in a physical journal: Ommwriter because it doesn’t require you to scrawl in your ugly handwriting and come up with your own writing mood music, Penzu because it’s super secure and free (even a notebook costs money).
The important thing in all of this is that the fruits of private writing are only as good as the fruits of the writing that you do and the insights and self-knowledge that come from that. The tools might kick you in the right direction, but ultimately I’d recommend using whatever tool resonates with you most, and gets out of the way and lets you just do your writing.
That said, the most important aspect of private journaling is feeling safe in the environment that you do your writing. It’s important that you aren’t paranoid of people finding your words (either because of secrets or maybe just the sheer pettiness of your thoughts (if you’re anything like me)), and trust that you can really dump it all out. In my experience it’s only then that you really get the full reward that private journaling promises. Once that’s achieved, I think it can really improve your life in a noticeable way.