Advanced Usage

Configuration File

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


On Windows, the configuration file is typically found at %USERPROFILE%\.config\jrnl\jrnl.yaml.

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


Backup your journal and config file before editing. Changes to the config file can have destructive effects on your journal!

  • 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 <recipes> 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.
  • colors dictionary that controls the colors used to display journal entries. It has four subkeys, which are: body, date, tags, and title. Current valid values are: BLACK, RED, GREEN, YELLOW, BLUE, MAGENTA, CYAN, WHITE, and NONE. colorama.Fore is used for colorization, and you can find the docs here. To disable colored output, set the value to NONE. If you set the value of any color subkey to an invalid color, no color will be used.
  • display_format specifies formatter to use, formatters available are: boxed, fancy, json, markdown, md, tags, text, txt, xml, or yaml.


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.

Modifying Configurations from the Command line

You can override a configuration field for the current instance of jrnl using --config-override CONFIG_KEY CONFIG_VALUE where CONFIG_KEY is a valid configuration field, specified in dot-notation and CONFIG_VALUE is the (valid) desired override value.

You can specify multiple overrides as multiple calls to --config-override.


These overrides allow you to modify any field of your jrnl configuration. We trust that you know what you are doing.


#Create an entry using the `stdin` prompt, for rapid logging
jrnl --config-override editor ""

#Populate a project's log
jrnl --config-override journals.todo "$(git rev-parse --show-toplevel)/todo.txt" todo find my towel 

#Pass multiple overrides 
jrnl --config-override display_format fancy --config-override linewrap 20 \
--config-override colors.title green

Multiple journal files

You can configure jrnlto use with multiple journals (eg. private and work) by defining more journals in your jrnl.yaml, for example:

  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 your jrnl.yaml looks like this:

encrypt: false
default: ~/journal.txt
  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.yaml, just make sure that at the very least you specify a journal: ... key that points to the journal file of that journal.

Consider the following example configuration

editor: vi -c startinsert 
  default: ~/journal.txt 
    journal: ~/work.txt 
    encrypt: true 
    display_format: json 
    editor: code -rw 
    display_format: markdown 
    journal: ~/recipes.txt 

The work journal is encrypted, prints to json by default, and is edited using an existing window of VSCode. Similarly, the food journal prints to markdown by default, but uses all the other defaults.


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

Unicode on Windows

The Windows shell prior to Windows 7 has issues with unicode encoding. To use non-ascii characters, first tweak Python to recognize the encoding by adding 'cp65001': 'utf_8', to Lib/encoding/ Then, change the codepage with chcp 1252 before using jrnl.

(Related issue: #486)