Making the Journal work in Outlook 2013

Last reviewed on April 22, 2014   —  57 comments

I'm going to begin this by saying that I really think it's time to find another solution for journaling. I have no idea how many more versions we'll see before Microsoft rips Journal's heart out. It's time to move on to something that is going to be around longer.

On the other hand, it's possible that Microsoft has removed all they can without breaking backwards compatibility, in which case, the Journal module might be mostly left alone for another 10 years. I don't have a crystal ball and Microsoft isn't saying anything more than the "journal is deprecated" and deprecated features have a way of hanging on, thanks to their need to provide backwards compatibility.

OneNote is one possible option as a replacement for the journal. I have a VBA sample to Copy Outlook Journal Entries to OneNote.

For those users who aren't ready to move on.... I'll share some facts about the state of the Journal in Outlook 2013 and workarounds to make it more useful and less broken.

Opening the Journal folder

The Journal button was removed from the Navigation pane / Peeks row. The keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+8 works or you can select the Journal from the Folder list.

Currently, a Journal button can be added to the ribbon or QAT.

  1. Open the Options dialog to Customize Ribbon or Customize Quick Access Toolbar.
  2. Select All Commands in Choose Commands From:
  3. Find Journal (click in the commands list and press J)
  4. Add a New Group then Add journal to the group.

Add the Journal command to the ribbon

If the Journal command is missing in your version of Outlook, you can use VBA to switch to the Journal and assign it to a QAT or ribbon button.

Sub GotoJournalFolder()
    Set Application.ActiveExplorer.CurrentFolder = _
End Sub

Creating New Journal Items

The New Journal button was removed from the New Items command and the shortcut to create a new journal item from any folder (Ctrl+Shift+J) was removed. You can either browse the New Item button and open the More Forms command and select Journal, switch to the Journal folder first, or use VBA to open a new journal item and assign it to a QAT or ribbon button.

If you have Outlook 2013 v.15.4535, New Journal Entry is listed in ribbon customization. Use the steps above to custom the ribbon or QAT. Look for New Journal Entry under All Commands. If you have an earlier version of Outlook, you need to install updates.

Sub NewJournal()

Set objFolder = Session.GetDefaultFolder(olFolderJournal)
Set objItem = objFolder.Items.Add("IPM.Activity")
' start the timer automatically
End Sub

New Journal entry for Contact

This code sample creates a new journal entry for the selected contact. To work with open or selected contacts, get the GetCrurrentItem function from Work with open item or selected item and use Set oContact = GetCurrentItem() instead of Set oContact = ActiveExplorer.Selection.Item(1).

Sub CreateJournalForcontact()

If TypeName(ActiveExplorer.Selection.Item(1)) = "ContactItem" Then
 Set oContact = ActiveExplorer.Selection.Item(1)

Dim oJournal As JournalItem
Set oJournal = Application.CreateItem(olJournalItem)
 With oJournal
 .Companies = oContact.CompanyName
 .ContactNames = oContact.FullName
 .Body = oContact.MailingAddress
 .Categories = oContact.Categories

End With
  Set oJournal = Nothing
MsgBox "Sorry, you need to select a contact"
End If

End Sub

New Journal entry for email message

This variation of the macro creates a new journal entry for the selected email message. As with contacts, you can use it with open or selected items if you use the GetCurrentItem function and change the Set oMail line.

Sub CreateJournalForMail()
Dim oMail As MailItem

If TypeName(ActiveExplorer.Selection.Item(1)) = "MailItem" Then
 Set oMail = ActiveExplorer.Selection.Item(1)

Set oJournal = Application.CreateItem(olJournalItem)
 With oJournal
 .ContactNames = oMail.SenderName
 .Body = oMail.Body
 .Categories = oMail.Categories
 .Type = "Email"

End With
  Set oJournal = Nothing
MsgBox "Sorry, you need to select a message"
End If

End Sub

Setting Journal Options

Journal options were removed from Outlook 2013's File, Options dialog, meaning that there is no UI around to edit the settings. This included the dialog where you could choose to journal email from specific contacts, and automatically create journal entries for Office documents.

In applications that support VBA, you can create journal entries automatically using VBA. See Create a journal entry for Word documents in Outlook 2013 for a sample that creates a journal entry when you open a Word document.

Ah... well what about creating the journal keys in the registry yourself? I tried and so far, no luck. You need to create at keys in Outlook\Options\Journal, SharedTools\, and Outlook\, possibly other keys as well. (I'll keep trying.)


Contact activities were broken in Outlook 2010 and completely gone from Outlook 2013. You'll need to use Instant Search or custom views to find journaled items.

You can use VBA to create an Instant search in the journal folder. Use the VBA code samples at Use Instant search to find messages from a contact, then select a contact and run the macro. With the journal tweaks, the macro will open the journal folder and search for the contact's name in the Contacts field.

Link contacts to Outlook items

Contacts field in Properties


UBitJournal Outlook

UBitJournal Outlook 2013 will run from your startup folder and emulate the file journaling capabilities that Microsoft has removed from Office 2013. UBitJournal will add open Microsoft Office files from local drives and server (including those synchronized locally) to your Outlook journal. Currently seeking testers.

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlookforums.

57 responses to “Making the Journal work in Outlook 2013”

  1. jeremy

    Does anyone have any suggestions for potential Journal replacements moving forward?? The best thing about the Journal is the ability to take Phone Call notes while speaking with a contact and having that recorded and immediately available linked to that Contact's page. When activities was working you could get a single page view of all activities including email and journals so this is ideal.
    Does ANYTHING do the same thing within or outside of Outlook?
    Tried ACT! and that is a headache with the syncs back to Outlook and it won't import old Journals.
    Onenote is barely 1 step above keeping stacks of Yellow legal pads on the desk.

    Anyone recommending addins or replacements??

  2. Jay Farnsworth

    You can create draft emails without a "To:" entry, and move the emails from the drafts folder to the contact's folder. Then, when you look at their folders, you will see these items as if they were journal entries.

  3. Tobias Morris

    Hi Diane

    I have been using Journal as a CRM tool now for 13 years for my business. I have created around thousands of journal entries directly from the Journal folder. That is, I open Journal folder and then create the entry. This is independent of other records so I dont need cross referencing capability. Can you tell me whether these journal entries will be visible and editable in Outlook 2013 as I am about to upgrade (currently I run Outlook 2003). Can I also create new Journal entries in Outlook 2013? Any help you can give me would be much appreciated. Regards Tobias Morris

  4. Tobias Morris

    Thanks so much Diane. That is a great help. Does the removal of the Navigation pane mean that you can no longer diarise a Journal item for a specific date? If you can do this, where is this visible? I hope you dont mind me asking. I really appreciate your advice on this. I cantseem to get the information from anywhere. Regards Tobias Morris

  5. darrylgittins

    Is there a way to modify the newjournal macro to create a new journal item populated with details from the currently selected Outlook item?


    Sub NewJournal()

    Set objFolder = Session.GetDefaultFolder(olFolderJournal)

    Set objItem = objFolder.Items.Add("IPM.Activity")


    ' start the timer automatically


    End Sub

  6. Steve McNamara

    I have been using Journal linked to Word and Excel to track the time I spend on files and by having the files saved in folders with client names I have been able to use Journal as an effective time costing tool. Is there any way to link Journal in Outlook 2013 to Word and Excel to get the automatic tracking, and if not is there a substitute?

  7. D

    Is anybody else incredibly irritated by this, or just me? I used the Journal to track contact activity, Office program activity, etc. DAILY, and referred to it often. Now suddenly I have no tracking. One Note, IMHO, is next to useless. Why in the world did the @$$hats decide to break this?

  8. Mark LaPirow

    Probably the people that use Office 2010 on a serious level have not upgraded. I have because I have bought a new computer and I cannot buy Office 2010 Professional. What a disappointment. I will not use the new computer to replace my existing one as my main device. I will maintain it as a backup only.

  9. Claudia Cedill

    Losing Journal entry tracking of files and duration of files being worked on was my way of charging to different projects I can bill to. I had not idea I was losing this feature with my update. I just realized it and have no clue or notes on what all I worked on. Is there any fix or patch for this yet?

  10. Mike Mandell

    It is still pretty easy to create new journal entries or open the journal folder by including a shortcut on the top menu. I have both an "open journal" shortcut and a "new journal entry" shortcut (these are still available in the "commands" menu).
    The biggest problem for me and probably most users is the inability to migrate from thousands of journal entries to something new because Microsoft has provided no way to import journal entries. I have exported thousands to an Excel file as a backup, but can't use BCM, OneNote or anything else I know of with these. Microsoft has largely abandoned a module without any migration plan.
    In my opinion, they are making Outlook a lot more like a free web-based app than the desktop PIM it started out to be. They should note web-based apps are free. Outlook is not.

  11. Kati Hungerford

    Tobias - I would love to hear more from you on how you are using the journal as a CRM in 2013, I just started today after a month long headache and heartache searching for a CRM I would like

  12. Sonny

    we use Journal for time tracking. but I was wondering if anyone knew of an iphone/ipad app that we can use to access the Journal as most of our folks are on the road.

  13. Gary

    Hi, after upgrading to Outlook 2013 I am also very surprised I can't access my journal by contact. By following the notes above, I can create new journals in Outlook 2013 but how do I attach/associate these journals with specific clients? Thanks for any info.

  14. Gary

    Thanks for responding so quickly. I have completed a couple of new journals. I see 'CONTACT' in the title bar of the list of journals - can you please tell me how I complete the 'contact' field for a particular journal as I don't see that field in the journal. Thank you.

  15. Gary

    Your link says the following: "You can still link Contacts in File, Properties (or Options dialog) of an open item but that is an extra step." The link also mentions to change the registry.

    Are you saying you can link a contact by going to " File, Properties (or Options dialog) of an open item." without altering the register OR must the registry be altered as you say further down in the article?

    Under File/Options, I don't see a box to link contacts - do I need to alter registry? Thank you.

  16. Gary

    I found the 'Contact' field. Thanks.

  17. Efthimios

    Following the idea of using tasks instead of notes, I'm planning on importing journal entries as tasks (first I prepare a csv and then I import to the appropriate folder). My only problem is that I cannot map the creation field (date & time format) which is crucial in reviewing history of every contact. Is there any way to work around this?
    Thank you for helping!

  18. Efthimios

    Than you Diane! I'll give it a shot...

  19. SH

    Thank you for your TIPs...

    You saved me !!

  20. JH

    Many thanks! I was not happy to be forced to use ONENOTE.

  21. Lynda

    We use journal for meeting notes but when our Outlook was updated to 2013 it looks like some of the entries are missing. How do we retrieve them so I can transfer them to another platform? I have the .pst backup file. Is there a way to go into it and just get the journal entries out?

  22. Gary A

    I apologize if I am repeating something above, but to clarify, is there some way of getting the journals I have created for specific contacts into Outlook 2013 from an older version of Outlook? I have Outlook 2013 on my new laptop and Outlook 2007 on my old laptop. If I want to look for an old journal relating to a specific contact, I have to go to my old laptop to access it. I'm hoping there is some way to get these onto my new laptop for viewing. Thanks for any comments.

  23. Therese Cerny

    Please help me!!! When I update a contact in the Contacts module for a particular contact that is associated with a journal entry, the "Contacts" field in the journal entry does not show the update I just made. What do I need to do??

    1. Therese Cerny

      BTW, I'm using Outlook 2010.

  24. Therese Cerny

    Thanks for responding Diane. Can you describe the changes you're referring to?

  25. Therese Cerny

    The contact name that is displayed in the field to the right of the "Contacts..." button is not updated. But, like you said, when you click on that name it allows you to link to the actual contact and that's when you see the updates that were made. So if this is the case, is it safe to conclude that after a new journal entry is created and saved and closed, there is no contact synching function and all the user is left with is a simple hyperlink to the contact?

  26. Greg

    This is very useful, thank you.

    Do you know, does the journal item need to be displayed to start the timer?

    I've tried to remove the .Display line, but am finding the outlook entry doesn't have the activity time in it when I do. Is there a way to have it all work in the background without it being displayed as another open window on the screen?

  27. Antoine

    This is purely unbelievable. How much time Microsoft developpers spent to revamp design for this horrible, space wasting interface with subtle effects when moving items or changing view ? Did someone seriously asked them for ? I would be pleased to hear someone finding major improvment. But real useful features in a professional context are probably not fun to maintain and to evolve for developpers ? I spent hours to configure Outlook 2013 to work approximatively as 2010 was. Synchonisation does not work anymore with iTunes for a local opened PST file for example. If I had to upgrade again from 2010 to 2013, I won't do it. Let's tell things as they are : 2013 is a regression compared to 2010 from features perspectives, i.e. I am less productive with it than what I was doing with 2010. Ah yes, we just have to wait for Office 2016 with very new features (probably Journal coming back as a major improvment ?). Just a way to make business, changing look and feel and removing features so people don't see it immediatly, then re-adding old features, changing again interface, etc...What Microsoft did with Windows 7, 8.1 and 10. What Apple did with new iWork suite... Yes, we should think, as users, about grouping ourselves to make pressure on major software editors to do what they have to, and not what we don't expect to...

  28. dourily

    We just upgraded to office 2013 and so far this is the worst upgrade I've ever experienced. Aside from making my work computer incredibly slow, the changes to both Excel and Outlook are awful. I am spending so much more time on the same amount of work... previously used the record feature in journal to keep track of time on projects in word excel and access for billing and time... and no one seems to have a good replacement suggestion. I also can't find anyway to change settings so I don't see previews of read emails and the search function seems to be completely useless in outlook 2013. I need to be able to find past email on a regular basis and it just doesn't work!

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