Basic Usage

jrnl has two modes: composing and viewing. Basically, whenever you don’t supply any arguments that start with a dash or double-dash, you’re in composing mode, meaning you can write your entry on the command line or an editor of your choice.

We intentionally break a convention on command line arguments: all arguments starting with a single dash will filter your journal before viewing it, and can be combined arbitrarily. Arguments with a double dash will control how your journal is displayed or exported and are mutually exclusive (ie. you can only specify one way to display or export your journal at a time).

Listing Journals

You can list the journals accessible by jrnl

jrnl -ls

The journals displayed correspond to those specified in the jrnl configuration file.

Composing Entries

Composing mode is entered by either starting jrnl without any arguments – which will prompt you to write an entry or launch your editor – or by just writing an entry on the prompt, such as

jrnl today at 3am: I just met Steve Buscemi in a bar! He looked funny.


Most shell contains a certain number of reserved characters, such as # and *. Unbalanced quotes, parenthesis, and so on will also get into the way of your editing. For writing longer entries, just enter jrnl and hit return. Only then enter the text of your journal entry. Alternatively, use an external editor).

You can also import an entry directly from a file

jrnl < my_entry.txt

Smart timestamps

Timestamps that work:

  • at 6am
  • yesterday
  • last monday
  • sunday at noon
  • 2 march 2012
  • 7 apr
  • 5/20/1998 at 23:42

Starring entries

To mark an entry as a favourite, simply “star” it

jrnl last sunday *: Best day of my life.

If you don’t want to add a date (ie. your entry will be dated as now), The following options are equivalent:

  • jrnl *: Best day of my life.
  • jrnl *Best day of my life.
  • jrnl Best day of my life.*


Just make sure that the asterisk sign is not surrounded by whitespaces, e.g. jrnl Best day of my life! * will not work (the reason being that the * sign has a special meaning on most shells).


jrnl -n 10

will list you the ten latest entries (if you’re lazy, jrnl -10 will do the same),

jrnl -from "last year" -until march

everything that happened from the start of last year to the start of last march. To only see your favourite entries, use

jrnl -starred

Using Tags

Keep track of people, projects or locations, by tagging them with an @ in your entries

jrnl Had a wonderful day on the @beach with @Tom and @Anna.

You can filter your journal entries just like this:

jrnl @pinkie @WorldDomination

Will print all entries in which either @pinkie or @WorldDomination occurred.

jrnl -n 5 -and @pineapple @lubricant

the last five entries containing both @pineapple and @lubricant. You can change which symbols you’d like to use for tagging in the configuration.


jrnl @pinkie @WorldDomination will switch to viewing mode because although no command line arguments are given, all the input strings look like tags - jrnl will assume you want to filter by tag.

Editing older entries

You can edit selected entries after you wrote them. This is particularly useful when your journal file is encrypted or if you’re using a DayOne journal. To use this feature, you need to have an editor configured in your journal configuration file (see advanced usage)

jrnl -until 1950 @texas -and @history --edit

Will open your editor with all entries tagged with @texas and @history before 1950. You can make any changes to them you want; after you save the file and close the editor, your journal will be updated.

Of course, if you are using multiple journals, you can also edit e.g. the latest entry of your work journal with jrnl work -n 1 --edit. In any case, this will bring up your editor and save (and, if applicable, encrypt) your edited journal after you save and exit the editor.

You can also use this feature for deleting entries from your journal

jrnl @girlfriend -until 'june 2012' --edit

Just select all text, press delete, and everything is gone...

Editing DayOne Journals

DayOne journals can be edited exactly the same way, however the output looks a little bit different because of the way DayOne stores its entries:

# af8dbd0d43fb55458f11aad586ea2abf
2013-05-02 15:30 I told everyone I built my @robot wife for sex.
But late at night when we're alone we mostly play Battleship.

# 2391048fe24111e1983ed49a20be6f9e
2013-08-10 03:22 I had all kinds of plans in case of a @zombie attack.
I just figured I'd be on the other side.

The long strings starting with hash symbol are the so-called UUIDs, unique identifiers for each entry. Don’t touch them. If you do, then the old entry would get deleted and a new one written, which means that you could lose DayOne data that jrnl can’t handle (such as as the entry’s geolocation).