The Journal Newsletter – January 2012

The Journal Newsletter

January 2012


Happy New Year!

I hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start. I always find January exciting, and this one is no different. I’m working on some updates of The Journal, and I’m looking forward to working on (and finishing) some new writing projects this year.

Amateur historian Laura Donaldson is back to remind us that the future only knows what we tell it, and I have a couple new tips to share about using The Journal.

Special Note for International Users: A translation of The Journal’s menus and forms into German is almost ready, plus there is a completed version of the Russian translation. I expect to announce an update with that these translations in the next few weeks. If you would like this update earlier, feel free to email me.

Thank you for using The Journal!

The Journal News

The Journal 7 is the current release.

To see if you have the latest version of The Journal:

  1. Click on the “Help” menu in The Journal.
  2. Choose “Check for Update of The Journal”.

If you are using The Journal 6 (or an earlier version):

Tips & Tricks

TIP: Using “View in System Tray” on Windows 7

If you are using Windows 7 and like having The Journal show up in the Windows “system tray” (usually located on the lower right of your screen beside the time and date), then I recommend you do not use the Windows 7 feature “Pin to Taskbar”.

If you have both of those features active, when you click on The Journal in the task bar (as you will be tempted to do), you may be prompted to “Open another instance of The Journal?” If that happens, just click on “No” to bring up The Journal already running.

TIP: The “Go” Menu

The Journal’s “Go” menu has commands (most of them with hot-keys) for navigating your entries in a variety of ways. Most of the hot-keys for these commands use the F5, F7, and F8 keys.

“Go to Today’s Entry” (hot-key: F5)

“Go to Date” (hot-key: Ctrl+F5)

“Go to Previous Entry” (hot-key: F7)

“Go to Next Entry” (hot-key: F8)

“Go to Random Entry” (hot-key: Shift+Ctrl+F5)

“Go Back 1 Month” (hot-key: Shift+F7)

“Go Back 1 Year” (hot-key: Ctrl+F7)

“Go Forward 1 Month” (hot-key: Shift+F8)

“Go Forward 1 Year” (hot-key: Ctrl+F8)

Most of these are self-explanatory. Note, though, that “Go to Previous Entry”, “Go to Next Entry”, and “Go to Random Entry” only bring up dates that have entries. The other commands might bring up a date that has no entry (yet).


Voices from the Past

By Laura Donaldson

Humorist A. Whitney Brown once observed:

“The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down.”

Unfortunately, this is true. We are totally reliant on those who came before us to put it in writing (and, hopefully, accurately and honestly). The only way we can really know our ancestors is to study what they left us. The better the record then, the superior the history.

For much of time, the majority of our ancestors failed to contribute consciously to that record. Some were illiterate and could not leave notes, diaries, or essays for us to read. Others lacked the technology for making a record — oral or written — and sometimes the technology itself degraded (think: old film) and with it went the treasure it contained. We can piece together bits of their lives from what survives — census and legal records, for example — but these do not tell us how the average person felt about their experiences or what motivated them to do what they did.

Fortunately, you have the means to help preserve the present that will become our past. Your personal journal, for example, can be a helpful contribution to the evidence from which future historians will work. Your observations on the world around you, your tallies of budgets, your memorials of trials endured, and your notes on valued moments are all insights into how people today experience their lives.

You don’t even have to limit yourself to recording just your own experiences. You can help others leave their accounts, as well. Make a project of interviewing others — historians call these “oral histories”. Pick a topic of interest and interview various friends and relatives about that topic. Or, interview someone close to you on multiple topics and preserve what they have to say. You could be helping them write their memoir, or just collecting some of their recollections into a book of essays. The format is up to you. The important thing is to make a treasured record for yourself, and also for future scholars.

These oral histories could be the basis of a book or just a private collection. You can pass it down in your family or see about having it published. To really assure that the record is not lost (think of all of the out-of-print books we no longer have), consider donating the digital record to a historical society in your community or some other kind of archive so that it will be professionally preserved.

This would be a challenging (but interesting) writing project that is also a public service for the people who come after us. They can only know what we tell them, so put in your two cents!

About the Author: Laura Donaldson is an independent scholar specializing in American history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Currently, she is working on a book about how we write about history and how the historical profession works. She also writes a regular blog on topics related to history and current events ( and teaches courses on American history for her local college. The historical character she would most like to slap is Alexander Hamilton.

Submission Information

If you would like to contribute to the “How I Use The Journal”, “Writing Exercises”, or “Tips & Tricks” sections, or would like to submit an article about journaling, writing, or another The Journal-related topic, we would love to hear from you.

Submissions for the newsletter should be sent to:

If you are submitting for a particular section, please indicate which one. Try to limit your submissions to 500-1000 words. Submissions may be edited for length and content.

If you prefer to remain anonymous, please state this in the email. Otherwise your name (but not your email) will be used in the article heading.

As always, if you have any suggestions for, or bug reports about, The Journal, please feel free to email them. Both are always welcome.


Editor: David Michael (
The Journal Newsletter Copyright © 2015 by David Michael.
Updated: June 24, 2015 — 9:54 pm