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Review: Momento, a polished journal app for iPhone

Jaib reviews Momento

[Update Nov 26: Momento 2.0 is now available and I have published an updated review here.]

Make every occasion Momento’s occasion – well, at least that’s what I like to tell myself (with a big cheesy grin) as I use the app to record all sorts of thoughts. Momento takes bits from your Twitter, Facebook, Last.fm, and Flickr accounts and combines them with private moments that you record within the app to create a gorgeous, organized record of your life. Instead of being a window to what everyone else been eating, complaining about, or listening to, Momento shows you your own reflection. It’s an app that’s all about you, and it’s actually a lot of fun.

Pulling Feeds
Momento is very specific in what it chooses to take from your online profiles. I’ve been told that deeper and wider support for social media is planned for future versions of the app, but I don’t have any details to share in this review. For now, Momento takes the text updates from your Facebook and Twitter accounts (@replies can be exempted), your most recent Flickr uploads, and – here’s where I become a bad reviewer – how you’ve been using Last.fm. I’ve tried Last.fm before, but I’m just not all that keen on the service, so I haven’t been using that feature at all.
For now, the point of pulling all of these feeds in is simply to form an impression of what you’ve been doing. There are no active links, so everything is plain text or a picture. That’s not to say that Momento isn’t a fully-featured app, but that its focus is razor sharp. I load up the app to reminisce, to review, or to quickly record, and it’s refreshing to see how – for once – the text is just text. No HTML strings attached.

Private Moments
It’s still a surprise to me how much personal information people are willing to share online. I love tech and the idea of the internet, but there are still some things I want to write down without sharing – and there are also times that I have thoughts that are so mundane that they’re not worth tweeting, but still  worth putting down on a page. Momento has become the home for all of those stray thoughts, and I can add a surprising amount of extra detail to those “Moments” (as the app calls them).
Moments can include tagged people (called up from your address book), geo-locations, custom text tags, and up to eight photographs. I’m actually pretty spartan in my recording process, and I usually only insert text and perhaps a picture. The other categories are just overkill for me. I also still haven’t found a use for the iTunes-style ratings system for moments, but maybe it’s something I’ll grow into. Or maybe my life isn’t just exciting enough to warrant five stars yet 😉

Dear Diary
Assuming that you already use a few of the online services that Momento pulls information from, then your Momento experience doesn’t have to start from scratch. Just load the app up, enter your account information, and wait for the small beeping sound that tells you new information has been synced to the app.
You can then use Momento to browse through all of the stupid or awesome things you’ve said on Facebook over the last year or two, or you can simply review all of the things you’ve done in the past week.
The app does a good job of presenting all of these moments, but there’s definitely some room for improvement. One thing I sorely miss in Momento is some sort of grand list view. There are tabs at the bottom of the screen for Days, Calendar, Tags, and [online] Feeds. The Days view lists all of the days with moments in them (tapping on a day shows all of the moments within), but I’d also like to have an even more detailed list, one that allows me to scroll through every moment of every day. I can see how this might take a hit on performance, but it’s just text and links to pictures within the app, it might not be too bad.

That’s really my only issue with the app’s UI right now: most everything else is gravy. Moments are captured and displayed beautifully, and each page is meticulously designed. Individual days look gorgeous, with very minimal line breaks between each entry, and clear icons to tell you where each update came from. The calendar tab is also very thoughtfully executed: it’s similar to the month view in Calendar, but tapping on a date without any moments initiates a prompt to write a new one, and a horizontal scrollbar along the bottom lets you quickly move to any month in the year. The last two tabs let you search for specific moments by filtering moments by tags or particular feeds, but the app also supports text search like the default iPhone apps do – just scroll upwards ever so slightly on the Days tab to reveal the search bar. I’m not the only one to have noticed how gorgeous Momento is: the app was nominated for Best Visual Design in the 2009 Best App Ever Awards.

Choosing to use Momento is obviously a bit of an investment in terms of time and energy (the app itself is only $3). It’s great to use the app because of the amazing UI, but what if you move away from the iPhone platform to buy a Nexus One or a Palm Pre? What happens to all of your private moments then? You can currently export all of these moments (not the online ones) into a .plist file and e-mail it to yourself. It’s sufficient for backing up the information, but I haven’t yet found an OSX app that will display the contents of the .plist file correctly. TextEdit (the Mac equivalent of Wordpad on Windows) just shows my actual entries hidden in a jungle of HTML tags. Long story short: Momento does export its data, but not in a very useful manner or format.

I wouldn’t mind a little more open-ness in the UI (the giant scrolling list I mentioned), a better export solution, or a landscape keyboard for typing new, but I’m definitely taken with the app.
I think Momento is off to a great start, and I’m really excited to see how it progresses. It has created an interesting little personal space that I’ve made a habit of visiting two or three times a day, just to record a quick thought, or look back at what I’ve been up to. I’ll leave it to you to wax philosophical over what Momento might mean to you, but time slows just a little bit when I load the app up. It’s a little bit of breathing room on my crowded Springboard, and it’s refreshing to take a moment to see what I’ve been up to in Momento.

Momento is available for $2.99 on the App Store.

Momento was provided by developer d3i for review on Just Another iPhone Blog. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

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