Anglers who are disciplined enough to keep a journal of their fishing exploits (or as I prefer to call it, a record of my blanks) have always impressed me. Though I have tried, and at one point managed to keep it going for 3 (or was it 4?) separate outings, keeping the momentum up was too much for my adled brain and the journal all too quickly fell into disrepair.
To make my journal work, and to stop my enthusiasm for filing it in exiting stage left, I needed to make it a bit more suitable to me.
My other keen interest, besides crashing through the undergrowth and falling into rivers (all in the name of catching undersized brown trout) is technology. I earn my living as a Technology Manager - I spend my working hours dealing with software developers, writing code, managing projects, servers, desktop computers and smart phones.
Through my day job I’d come across a couple of bits of software that would provide me with a means to quickly create a journal template, and auto-populate it with a few items of relevant info and give me a framework for recording and then searching through my fishing outings - all within a nice interface and compatible with my computing environment (iPhone, iPad and iMac).
Day One by Bloom Built software is a highly praised and very polished journalling application. It’s available for iPhone/iPad and Mac, and syncs entries (using either iCloud or Dropbox) across any of these devices you own the software for.
The interface is really elegant, allowing you to capture your thoughts or actions without any unnecessary clutter, whilst at the same time providing you with the tools you need to make the writing experience as effortless as possible. All this was important to me if I were to use Day One as a fishing journal.
Within the TextExpander interface you enter the piece of text you wish to automatically place in a document, you then enter a trigger string of characters. When the trigger string is typed into the document window TextExpander will go off and replace the trigger string with the stored snippet.
TextExpander is available for iOS and Mac, and able to sync your Snippets across all devices using DropBox.
How it all works
As I’m sure you’ve worked out, Day One is where I keep my fishing journal. There are many features in Day One that makes using it head and shoulders better than a paper journal:
When ever you create a new journal post into Day One, it logs your current location. The location is displayed as a place name in the Day One application with your entry. Clicking on the place name will open up a map view showing a pin for the exact location.
A recent-ish addition to Day One has been it’s ability to store a photo along side your journal entry. The photo appears at the top of the entry as a full width mast head - looks very professional when you go back over your previous journal posts.
This one is really new - only made it into the software in the last week or two, but is already an invaluable feature. You can add as many tags to your entries as you see fit. For example, for every fishing trip that ended with you catching bugger all (that’d be most for me then!) you can tag it with ‘Blank’ At the end of the year, filter all your entries using the tag ‘Blank’ and you’ll instantly see how bad you really are! I’m using it for location/pool names, flies and rods used.
The application brings in the current weather for your location. I always enter more info about the weather as I write the entry, but it’s handy having this info in there as well.
This is where it all gets a bit geeky. Markdown is a method of applying formatting to plain text by adding specific symbols to indicate the type of formatting you want. To make a word italic you put an asterisk either side of it, to make a word (or sentence) bold, you put an two asterisks either side of it. To make a word (or sentence) into a heading you start it with a #. For a sub heading it’s ##, sub-sub heading ### and so on (if you know html, that’d be a H1, H2 or H3 heading).
But what's with TextExpander?
All good so far, but I’m sure you’re thinking what on earth is TextExpander for?
To help keep the layout and style of the journal entries consistent, and to make sure I capture all the right info to make the journal worth while, I use TextExpander to create a standard template for data entry.
Markdown was created by John Grubber. There's a wealth of info over on Johns site, Daring Fireball - head over there and geek out!
To help illustrate how I use these two applications to capture my days fishing, here’s the workflow I use.
- As soon as I arrive at the river, before leaving the car, I fire up Day One on my iPhone. I create a new entry and type ‘;report’ my TextExpander shortcut to have my fishing journal template entered into the page. At this point, after only typing ;report my Day One entry looks like this (in editing mode):
...and like this when you're in viewing mode (notice how all the headings are all nice and bold, with all the **'s missing). Also note the location and weather/temp info automatically entered when I created the new journal entry.
- Enter the current outside temp (I use the car thermometer, it might not be 100% accurate but it is consistent) the weather conditions and any other info that might be relevant (any other anglers cars about etc). Whilst entering this info Day One has obtained my position via GPS, the time and date of the entry and entered it’s own weather info.
- Leave the car, get togged up and tackled up and head off to the river to catch small trout.
- During the day on the river I’ll add bits and pieces of info every so often. I don’t spend too much time on this, I’m really just capturing basic info whilst I remember.
- At the end of the day, once I’ve returned home I can fire up Day One on my iMac or iPad and open the entry made earlier in the day. Day One syncs through iCloud - so any time I make an entry on my iPhone, iPad or iMac it’s available to the other two devices instantly. Once I have the days entry open I’ll go through and finish off any notes I’d made or tidy up the shorthand into something that reads a little more like English. I’ll also add any tags I want to apply to the entry.
The journal entry when viewed in the Mac application, looks like this:
That pretty much sums it up. Day One provides me with a means to capture all the details of my days fishing in a really well crafted piece of software, syncing across all the devices I own. TextExpander ensures the data I enter is consistent and complete.
It’s not quite perfect yet though. Day One only allows one photo to be placed into a record. There is a way around this is by creating multiple records for a day - that would be fine if I were writing a diary, but it doesn’t really work for a fishing journal.
Another slight problem I have Day One is in the way it displays the entry previews. When you’re viewing a list of journal entries, the preview text shows the raw Markdown (so you see all the #’s and *’s rather than bold/italic words and headings). It’s not a huge problem, but not as elegant as it should be.
Feel free to download my Day One fishing journal TextExpander snippet. Please feel free to fork me!
TextExpander is available direct from the very nice people over at SmileSoftware.
If you've any questions about how I use the two pieces of software to create my journal, or if you've a cool (or not so) way of recording your blanks, post a comment below.