Apple’s Journalling Suggestions Go Live in iOS 17.2 Beta 2

iOS 17.2 beta 2 Journal app hero
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If it’s not obvious, one should never judge a major new Apple feature by its first beta appearance. That’s definitely the case with Apple’s new Journal app, which went live two weeks ago in the first iOS 17.2 beta release in a somewhat half-baked form.

To be clear, the Journal app, which Apple previewed back in June, was fully functional for what it did. That just wasn’t much. You could create journal entries and add photos and videos, recorded audio clips, and locations, but that was about it. Apple’s promised journal suggestions were limited to a few basic questions, and even those tended to vanish.

However, what a difference a new beta makes. While we still wouldn’t call Journal nearly as full-featured as apps like Day One, the second public iteration of Apple’s life-blogging app now has the suggestions feature to power a much richer journalling experience.

Journalling Suggestions

From the get-go, the most exciting feature that Apple’s Journal app promised to bring to the table was very tight integration with the other apps on your iPhone to prompt you to write journal entries and relive your special moments.

Apple said the app would offer up things like the music and podcasts you listen to, your workouts, photo memories, calls, messages, and more, and apply on-device machine learning to surface the things you’re most likely to want to write about.

While those were conspicuously missing in the last beta, they’re now live in iOS 17.2 beta 2, filling up the previously blank “Recommended” and “Recents” screens with a wealth of options.

As you might expect from those names, Recent shows you a timeline of all your activities, while Recommended highlights the things that Apple’s algorithms think are most worthwhile.

It also intersperses some questions that might be useful to help get you started but seem to be a bit more generic, at least right now. For example:

  • Recall a recent moment when you felt inspired. Think about what led to that moment.
  • Record an audio note about the wisest person you know. What have they taught you?
  • Review your recent moments. Write about something that made you smile and why.
  • Write down one thing you’re grateful for and think about why you appreciate it so much.
  • Pick a moment from this week that taught you something. What will your future self remember?

In my case, none of these suggestions appear to be related to my recent experiences or any of the other data that’s being shown in my recommended feed. Right now, it’s hard to say whether that’s intentional or if Apple will eventually tweak these to tailor them for each user.

However, everything else in the feed is much more personal since it’s drawn from those things I’ve done on my iPhone. Further, selecting an item doesn’t merely attach it to a blank journal entry; it adds an appropriate prompt to get you started. For example:

  • Workouts: “How was your workout on Nov 1, 2023?” or “How was this workout different from others? Any goals for next time?”
  • Photo Memories: “What’s the story behind this memory?”
  • Music: “What are your thoughts about the music you listened to on Sunday?”
  • Contacts: “How was connecting with Bob?”

You can also add anything from your suggestions feed into a journal entry that’s already in progress by tapping the magic wand button on the editing toolbar, and a single journal entry can have more than one type of suggestion added. Sometimes, this even comes up as part of a recommendation, such as when you were listening to music or a podcast during a workout.

You can edit the name of any suggestion before adding it to your journal entry, and when adding suggestions that include multiple items, such as Photo Memories or music playlists, select the specific items you want to include.

New Journal entries will default to the current date, which makes sense since that’s when you’re actually writing them. However, you can tap the three-dot menu in the top right corner to select the “Moment Date” instead. As we saw in the first beta, it doesn’t appear that Journal will support specific times for entries, although multiple entries on a given day are still organized chronologically, with the newest at the top.

There are still no sorting or searching options here, although I certainly hope a proper search is in the works. Journal entries also aren’t exposed to the iPhone’s system-wide Spotlight Search, although that may be intentional for privacy.

Nevertheless, the main Journal list does offer a filtering menu that will let you see only those journal entries that contain specific types of information, such as plans, recorded audio, photos, workouts, music, and so forth. The filter menu also cleverly only shows those items included in your journal entries, so “Activity” won’t appear here, for example, until you’ve journaled about at least one workout.

There’s also some good news for fans of other journalling apps. Apple’s Journalling Suggestions won’t be exclusive to its own first-party app. Rather, it’s a new framework in iOS 17.2 that third-party developers will also be able to tap into. They’ll need to update their apps for this, so don’t expect to see it happening until iOS 17.2 hits a public release next month, but it should put everyone on a level playing field.

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