What’s Next for Apple’s Journal App?

Ryan Christoffel, writing for 9to5Mac:

However, after seeing what a new third-party autobiography app is doing with AI, I’m convinced Apple could have a blow away moment if it showed off an AI-supercharged Journal app.

The Journal app is a curious offering from Apple. It was first introduced at last year’s WWDC as an iOS 17 feature, but didn’t end up shipping to users until the end of the year in iOS 17.2. In an era where Apple is pushing cross-platform solutions like SwiftUI and Mac Catalyst, Journal debuted as an iPhone exclusive. As a result, you couldn’t (and still can’t) create or even view Journal entries on your iPad or Mac.

If you have a spare iPhone and sign into iCloud, you can see that Journal does in fact sync everything via iCloud with end-to-end encryption. There just aren’t — yet? — versions of Journal for iPad or Mac to sync to. I actually like the focused, super-simple nature of Journal a lot. But it’s damn curious to me that it’s still iPhone-only.

2024 is the Year of AI, so if there is any Journal-related news at WWDC next month, I’m sure some of that news will be about improving the AI-backed suggestions. But Journal is missing some fundamentals that strike me as far more essential:

  • iPad and Mac apps.
  • Search.
  • Import and export.

I worry that import and export aren’t priorities for Apple. Apple Notes can import RTF and plain text files, but its only option for exporting is, bizarrely, PDF — which is a file format Notes can’t import. A good system for import/export would allow for full fidelity round-tripping. You should be able to export to a file or archive format that Notes can also import, without losing any formatting, metadata, or image attachments. Notes doesn’t even try. And if Notes still doesn’t support robust import/export, 17 years after it debuted as one of the original iPhone apps in 2007, we probably shouldn’t hold our breath for Journal.

Search, on the other hand, feels like something Apple must add to Journal. What’s the point of keeping a journal if you can’t search for previous entries? I’d like to see Apple add tagging too — but proper tags, like the ones you can use in the Finder, not gross hashtags like they shoehorned into Apple Notes a few years ago. (I’d love to see Apple reverse course with Apple Notes itself, and change those gross hashtags to proper tags.)

Conceptually I think of Journal as a personal, private social media timeline. Many of my entries are just a sentence or two. I don’t think of entries as days, but rather simply as posts or items. Threads has shown how proper tagging can work with a social media timeline.

Friday, 31 May 2024