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MacJournal 4

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With MacJournal 4, Mariner Software significantly revamps the blogging architecture of its unique journal-keeping application and dips a toe into podcasting waters. Unfortunately, bugs—and what seems to be an incomplete implementation of the podcasting features—mar these welcome enhancements.

MacJournal’s hallmark is the way it organizes documents, grouping them as entries within journals—which can likewise be nested within other journals. You can save entries in a variety of formats, such as Word, RTF (Rich Text Format), PDF, and HTML—or post them as blog entries.

A journal can house draft chapters for your novel, photos and notes from your vacations, recipes for every holiday season, or anything else you choose, as long as you are satisfied with basic, single-column copy and basic text formatting.

The chief difference between MacJournal 4 and its predecessor, version 3 (   ), is in the tools it provides for formatting and publishing journals. Taking a page from Apple’s iWork interface, MacJournal 4 introduces an Inspector palette for setting journal and entry attributes. The Inspector allows each journal to be configured for a specific blogging platform (including Movable Type, Blogger, LiveJournal, and .Mac), via a setup tool that applies the appropriate server settings when you type in your blog’s Web address. You can also give individual entries custom server settings. For instance, pages with photos can be uploaded to one server, while pages containing movies can be uploaded to a different server.

Inspecting the Inspector

You can also use the Inspector to assign background images and colors to documents, individual journals, or entries. New entries can inherit global attributes, or you can assign custom characteristics to them. Unfortunately, blog-hosting sites don’t always support background colors and images in the same way, so these settings may disappear when you post an entry to your blog.

A more consistent vanishing act occurs with entries created with MacJournal 4’s new Table tool, which makes it easy to build and even nest tables on a page. Tables look great as long as your entry is in MacJournal’s native file format but, because the program cannot generate HTML tables, if you save an entry containing a table as a Web page (in HTML format), or publish it to a blog site, the table disappears. That’s frustrating in light of the important role tables play as Web-page layout elements.

Podcasting tool debuts

MacJournal’s podcasting tool, the Recording Bar, works with your Mac’s built-in microphone and most add-on mics (but not the one built-in to Apple’s iSight camera). It presents standard record, play, and pause buttons, plus an LED-style audio-level input indicator. This no-frills recorder can’t touch GarageBand 3 (   ) as a podcast recording tool, but its 64Kbps/44.1MHz mono recording capabilities are fine for voice-intensive audio files. Less fine, however, is MacJournal’s clunky approach to publishing podcasts. To publish a MacJournal entry that contains an audio file, you must first export it as a podcast, which places the sound file and an XML index file (used for podcast RSS feeds) in a folder on your hard disk. Then, you must manually post the folder to a server via FTP. Mariner says one-step podcast publishing is planned for a future version 4 update.

This detail, along with others—breaks in journal entries aren’t recognized by the popular Blogger site, for example—make MacJournal 4 feel unfinished; I look forward to a 4.0.1 bug fix, and ultimately to a version 4.x with better podcast publishing implementation.

Macworld’s buying advice

Enhanced control over the appearance and behavior of journals and entries, as well as tools for creating tables and publishing podcasts, make MacJournal 4 a worthy upgrade, but with spotty implementation of these new features—and some major bugs in the 4.0 version—you might want to hold out for version 4.1.

[ Jim Akin is a technology writer and editor based in Minneapolis. ]

MacJournal 4’s new controls include an Inspector palette, shown at right, and the Recorder Bar, located below the main toolbar, which can be used for recording voice annotations and podcasts.
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