Advanced Usage

Configuration File

You can configure the way jrnl behaves in a configuration file. By default, this is ~/.jrnl_config. If you have the XDG_CONFIG_HOME variable set, the configuration file will be saved under $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/jrnl.


On Windows, The configuration file is typically found at C:\Users\[Your Username]\.jrnl_config.

The configuration file is a simple JSON file with the following options and can be edited with any plain text editor.

  • journals
    paths to your journal files
  • editor
    if set, executes this command to launch an external editor for writing your entries, e.g. vim. Some editors require special options to work properly, see FAQ for details.
  • encrypt
    if true, encrypts your journal using AES.
  • tagsymbols
    Symbols to be interpreted as tags. (See note below)
  • default_hour and default_minute
    if you supply a date, such as last thursday, but no specific time, the entry will be created at this time
  • timeformat
    how to format the timestamps in your journal, see the python docs for reference
  • highlight
    if true, tags will be highlighted in cyan.
  • linewrap
    controls the width of the output. Set to false if you don’t want to wrap long lines.


Although it seems intuitive to use the # character for tags, there’s a drawback: on most shells, this is interpreted as a meta-character starting a comment. This means that if you type

jrnl Implemented endless scrolling on the #frontend of our website.

your bash will chop off everything after the # before passing it to _jrnl_). To avoid this, wrap your input into quotation marks like this:

jrnl "Implemented endless scrolling on the #frontend of our website."

Or use the built-in prompt or an external editor to compose your entries.

DayOne Integration

Using your DayOne journal instead of a flat text file is dead simple – instead of pointing to a text file, change your .jrnl_config to point to your DayOne journal. This is a folder named something like Journal_dayone or Journal.dayone, and it’s located at

  • ~/Library/Application Support/Day One/ by default
  • ~/Dropbox/Apps/Day One/ if you’re syncing with Dropbox and
  • ~/Library/Mobile Documents/5U8NS4GX82~com~dayoneapp~dayone/Documents/ if you’re syncing with iCloud.

Instead of all entries being in a single file, each entry will live in a separate plist file. So your .jrnl_config should look like this:

  "journals": {
    "default": "~/journal.txt",
    "dayone": "~/Library/Mobile Documents/5U8NS4GX82~com~dayoneapp~dayone/Documents/Journal_dayone"

Multiple journal files

You can configure _jrnl_ to use with multiple journals (eg. private and work) by defining more journals in your .jrnl_config, for example:

  "journals": {
    "default": "~/journal.txt",
    "work":    "~/work.txt"

The default journal gets created the first time you start _jrnl_. Now you can access the work journal by using jrnl work instead of jrnl, eg.

jrnl work at 10am: Meeting with @Steve
jrnl work -n 3

will both use ~/work.txt, while jrnl -n 3 will display the last three entries from ~/journal.txt (and so does jrnl default -n 3).

You can also override the default options for each individual journal. If you .jrnl_config looks like this:

  "encrypt": false
  "journals": {
    "default": "~/journal.txt",
    "work": {
      "journal": "~/work.txt",
      "encrypt": true
    "food": "~/my_recipes.txt",

Your default and your food journals won’t be encrypted, however your work journal will! You can override all options that are present at the top level of .jrnl_config, just make sure that at the very least you specify a "journal": ... key that points to the journal file of that journal.


Changing encrypt to a different value will not encrypt or decrypt your journal file, it merely says whether or not your journal is encrypted. Hence manually changing this option will most likely result in your journal file being impossible to load.

Known Issues

  • The Windows shell prior to Windows 7 has issues with unicode encoding. If you want to use non-ascii characters, change the codepage with chcp 1252 before using jrnl (Thanks to Yves Pouplard for solving this!)
  • _jrnl_ relies on the PyCrypto package to encrypt journals, which has some known problems with installing on Windows and within virtual environments.