How to Track Movies, TV Shows and Books
Looking after Your Inner Critic
- Day One
Ratings and Reviews
Taming the Onslaught of Culture
How Many Apps Do We need?
You don’t have to use just one application to keep records of your culture consumption. All the possible applications have their pros and cons. When you’re setting this up you need to think about the accessibility of the information and how you want to use it later. In the Sofa application you can search for the movie in an online database. It’s good to get the image to go with the movie along with the release date and an overview of the story. With Sofa you get the runtime of the movie too. It’s nice and easy to use. In comparison, a set of shortcuts I found for tracking movies is not so user friendly. Sofa is more about what to watch out for. You don’t get a chance to leave a review or a rating. Maybe this is something we’ll find in a later version of the application. So for the moment you need to have something else to satisfy your desire to critique. I’m a big fan of the application Day One for all of my journalling needs. This is a great application to store reviews, ratings and notes in a chronological order.
Keep it Simple With Text and Emojis
If it’s enough for you to keep your documentation in simple text form, I would highly recommend the application Drafts. Write about your reading, viewing or listening experience in a free-form manner. Whenever you open the application it presents you with a clear page ready for you to write. Add tags so the drafts get sorted and easily found when you need them. Have a workspace to keep all of your cultural activities in one place. Or you can separate them into books, music, films or whatever. Drafts has search functionality with tags and basic word searches so you can find what you want later. You can keep all of this record keeping just within Drafts, although it will be prettier if you use Day One also. With templates in both Day One and Drafts it is simple to dive in and log the information quickly. I like to put emojis into templates and menus as it makes menus more functional and prettier.
Let's Try Out The Apps
Step 1 – Download the Action from the Action Directory. New Draft with Template Use the one made by the developer of the app. Look for AgileTortoise. Install in whichever action group suits you best. You don’t need to fiddle with any settings in the action, but I like to set the new draft to archive itself when the action is run.
Step 2 – Create some templates. Put in the boilerplate text which has to be present in each draft containing your film review or book review. Make sure the template has the tag – template. The action will be looking for that tag to supply you with choices on the menu. Add a tag for Movie or Book if you want. This tag will carry through to the draft being created by the action.
Step 3 – Tap on the action New Draft with Template and choose the template off the menu. As you can see It looks better when you use emojis in the title of the template.
Step 4 – Fill in the form you’ve created in the template. This is a new draft and the template is still in the templates workspace ready for you to use unchanged as a template again.
Optional Step – Send the completed new draft containing your thoughts and feelings about the movie/book/TV Episode you’ve just watched, to Day One the journaling app. Or maybe to AirTable.
A great place to save your list of the movies/books/TV series/video-games you want to get through. It’s easy because Reminders is built into the system and it’s just a tap or a click on any of your devices to mark a movie as done. Another plus is how you can easily send items to a list using the Shortcuts app. The main limitation of Reminders is it’s only providing a partial solution to the whole process. It’s great if you want a checklist of movies to see and you check them off as you watch them. There’s just no mechanism to add your rating and a date for when you’ve completed the task. Although, there is a notes field where you could add some of this data, it’s not suitable for the job. It doesn’t accept TextExpander snippets so you would have to enter everything manually. There’s a place to add an image, but it is not viewed best until you tap on it and it fills the screen. Reminders works best in combination with other apps.
There are lots of apps for creating general lists. Agenda is another possibility. It’s a note taking app with a slant towards dates, but you can make lists with checkboxes inside notes. You could start with a Category of Entertainment. Fill it with Projects like – Films to Watch and Books to Read. Inside the project have a note for each movie with the details. Use the name of the movie as the title for the note. Have a checkbox to mark if it has been seen then write your review and rating in the rest of the note. Add an image of the movie poster to make it look good too.
Instead of a checkbox to mark if the film has been watched, make another project in the same category called Movies Seen. Drag the note from the list of Films to Watch into the Movies Seen list. And/Or… Use tags. when you add a word with a hashtag in front, it becomes a tag in Agenda. Later you could search for the tag #Watched to get your list of movies you’ve seen. Another plus point is the search can be saved into the sidebar. That works like a smart folder in Finder.
Agenda doesn’t do templates nor TextExpander on iOS. However, we do have Shortcuts. Have your template set up in Drafts and use the share action. Share to the shortcut you’ve setup to push the draft contents to Agenda. I have it set so the Shortcut prompts me to dictate the title of the movie and this sets the title of the note. The shortcut sends the text of the draft directly into the project where it’s supposed to go. So for me this goes to Films to Watch. When I get it in there I can add the poster image for the movie if I wish. I’ve found the best way to get posters is through IMDB using a screen capture.
Day One - The Journalling App
Day One is an application which I use every single day. For that reason it would be a good place for me to keep a record of movies I’ve watched. As it is date based you get a date attached to your review automatically. You probably write your review just after or during watching the movie, so the date is going to be good. Possible to change the date to when you actually saw the movie if necessary. It’s my habit to write something in Day One every day and it’s easy to extend the habit to reviews of books, films, TV series and music. I have a couple of ways of getting the information into the application.
– Direct entry into Day One with a template.
– Write first in Drafts and send using an action to Day One.
I am a fan of writing in Drafts first because it gives me a built in backup of anything I write. When I send my writing somewhere else the original still resides in Drafts. It could be in the inbox or the archive folders and it could even be in the trash folder. The main thing is that it’s there and I can always go back and find it if I need to. Using Drafts does make it into a two-stage process using two different applications, but I think that’s a price worth paying. The good news is the markdown syntax is supported in both applications. Your headers and paragraphs as well as bold and italics will also work in Day One. The only thing extra you’ll need to do is to add the image for the movie poster or a picture from the television series or the book cover.
I would recommend having both means of entering data into Day One setup and ready to use. If you are already in the Day One application then why not hit the plus button and choose a template. You can set up your own templates easily. I like to have the title for the entry starting with a level 2 header. Then you can add sections. In my templates for recording my thoughts of episodes of a TV series, the title for each of these is What Did I Watch? Followed by five sections – Title, Series, Episode, Rating, Review. When you’re filling in the data on the new journal entry you can use the Next button to jump through to each of the sections. In the advanced settings you specify which journal the entry will be sent to. Also add tags to enhance searches later.
Using Templates in Day One
This is a good and quick way to enter the data to record movies seen, TV series watched, books read and so on. I’d like if I could change the formatting of the section titles, but it’s not possible. The section title is formatted with the text in all caps inside a rounded grey rectangle. I tried to format the sections using HTML headers, but that didn’t work. You could still use it, but then you’d have to manually move between each part of the data entry. TextExpander works in Day One and I use that to add the rating for the book, TV series or whatever. I add the five popcorn boxes if I really liked the culture I’d consumed.
Day one isn’t really suitable for keeping a list of movies you’d like to see. Although there is a checklist function in the app. So a good combination would be to use Reminders or Sofa application for a list of what you want to watch or read.
Using the Sofa App For Culture Tracking
Sometimes the best app is one which was made to do one thing and to do that one thing well. The application Sofa is going in that direction. The best thing about the application is that it searches online databases to bring you information on the movie or TV series. It does the same for books, podcasts and music albums. The application is a work in progress at the moment, but is usable for making a good set of lists. It’s possible to export your data out, but only as one big lump of data. You can either have it as a .CSV file to put into a spreadsheet. Or you can export it out as markdown so you can put into Drafts or Day One. Whichever way you go, you only get a basic list of the titles in each section. Plus you get the list of titles completed.
It’s good to use this application for the useful information it drags in. Even though there are limits with what you can do with the information. To get the poster, release date, runtime and overview you need to do a screen capture. It could work out okay using that image in Day One or in Airtable. I have tried the export to comma separated values and opened it up in Numbers okay. It was the exact same information as the export to markdown. The application has crashed a couple of times in the short time I’ve been trying it out. Apart from that it was working fine. I think it’s worth persevering with Sofa and hopefully we will see improvements over time. Use Sofa for your list of things to do and combine that with Day One or Agenda for the reviews.
Recording Culture Consumption in Airtable
Airtable is a database app and therefore should be a perfect place to keep the data. There are certainly advantages to doing it this way. The main disadvantage would be if you use it extensively you could run into the limits of the free version of Airtable. The maximum number of records for free you can have in the application is 1,200. If you go over that, you’re looking at paying $10 a month. There are perfectly serviceable ways to do this for free and I really don’t want to spend any more money on subscriptions. So what are the advantages of using Airtable?
- Customisable fields. One field type is specific to ratings. There’s a date-based field. To record where you watched the movie you can use a multiple selection field. Add movie posters as an attachment. It’s simple to add a checkbox to mark a movie as seen.
- Various ways of viewing the data. Create a form for an intuitive way to enter the data. The gallery view is a great way to get an overview of all the movies you plan to see, especially if you’ve added images.
- Have one database of all the movies and then group them by if they have been seen. Put it all in there, books, TV and video games too.
- Filters are useful. Create a filter so you’re only showing movies with a rating of three stars or above. See the movies you’ve watched this year. Lots of filter possibilities to play with.
- Sorting. Perhaps you want to see all the movies sorted by date when you watched them. Or sort by Netflix, Amazon and so on.
It might seem like it takes more time to set up using Airtable to record your viewing and reading. Once you’ve it done though, it does become a lot easier and quicker. Setting up the database in the first place doesn’t take any longer than creating the boilerplate text you would use in TextExpander. Or the time taken creating a template in Day One.
There are a number of ways you can add data to your movies, TV series, books database. There are Airtable applications for the Mac and also for iOS. Access Airtable through a web browser if you want. There’s an API which can be accessed through the Shortcuts application. It’s really easy to set up questions you ask one after the other in dialog boxes and have the information sent to the database.
Airtable is amazing and gives you a huge number of possibilities to enter, sort and view the data. For that reason it has to be high on the list of solutions to record your ratings and reviews of movies. You can give it a try for free and see how you like it. It’s quite likely you’ll love it and want to continue using it. If you are prolific in your consumption of movies, TV series and books you could hit that limit of 1,200 records. At that moment you’ll have to decide whether to continue using it and start paying. On the other hand, you could move all the data to another system. It wouldn’t be too difficult to export out of Airtable if you had to. You might find it annoying having to change from a system you really liked. It could be difficult to find something which worked as well as Airtable. The list of movies to watch could be in the same list as movies seen. Get it all done in one application.
Using the Apple Notes Application
The advantages of using Notes is the fact it’s an Apple application you can use across all of the system. Add data into Notes easily from whichever device you’re using. The data can be added using actions in Drafts or Shortcuts created specifically for the purpose of recording your reviews. Have one note which will be your ‘movies to watch’ list. Have a checklist within this note. The app does a nice trick where when you check off the item as done, it gets moved to the bottom of the list.
The way to set up in Notes would be to have folders and maybe subfolders. The main folder could be called culture with subfolders of movies, books, podcasts, video games and TV series. Then in each of the folders, for example movies, you have a note for each movie. Insert the title of the movie at the top and format it as the title of the note. Next you could add the image for the poster of the movie. Followed by the rating and the review.
A disadvantage of using Notes by itself is that you can’t use TextExpander on iOS. There is the system wide text replacement you can set up in the settings for the iOS device. If I type in R5 it expands to – Rating: ★★★★★. I’m not able to get it to enter a date for me in the way that I can get a date automatically expanded out of TextExpander.
Notes doesn’t have a proper tagging system. It’s for this reason I would prefer to use Agenda which allows the use of tags. It’s possible to create your own tags within Notes. You use the hashtag # or another symbol such as a § immediately followed by the word you want as the tag. §movie or #movie. When you do a search in Notes this will work a little bit like tagging. It’s not perfect or as good as having a system with tags built in. As a workaround it’s fairly useful.
Goodreads an Application Specific to Books
There’s the Goodreads application on iOS and you can also enter the data through a webpage for Goodreads. You basically have a list for all the books you want to read and another list for books you have read. You can create bookshelves which is a way to sort books. I have a bookshelf called ‘Couldn’t Finish Book’, as some books are that bad. I try to persevere with a book and learn from the bad writing or rubbish story if I can. Sometimes though you have to say, “Enough is enough.”
I like the reading challenges in Goodreads. I usually set myself the challenge of reading 30 books in a year. Most times I beat that challenge by a good amount. There are suggestions from other Goodreads users and communities to join. I’m in the group for time travel books. I love a good time travel story. They give recommendations of which books to read.
As you read the book you can add reviews or leave it until you’ve finished. I leave the rating when I have completed reading the book. It is cool to update the progress though the book sometimes. Look at the book page for your reading progress and you get to see what you thought about it as you progressed.
This is a good way to keep track of your books and you won’t really need anything else. The only problem is it is not under your control. It has been around for some time and will probably stick around, but you never know. One day the person in charge of the site could stop doing it for whatever reason and you’ll lose all your data. On the plus side it’s good to get suggestions for books to read from other Good reads users. Some reviews you have to take with a pinch of salt. There are books with mostly five star reviews with a one star review thrown in by a reader. You just can’t please everybody all the time.
My Workflow for Saving The Data
Adding to the Movies to be Watched List
- Go to Sofa app or IMDB to get the movie info and screen capture the poster.
- Add the movie to the list in Reminders if it is a Movie to be Watched.
Adding a Rating and Review of the Movie or TV Series.
- If in Drafts use a template to make the entry I will make in Day One.
- Send the draft to Day One using an action.
- Add a picture to the entry if I want to.
- If already in Day One the use the template there.
- Add an image as necessary.
With both of the options I add the rating Rating: ★★★★★ or 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿 to the entry using TextExpander. Saves a lot of time.
I do everything about books I want to read and have finished reading in Goodreads
Other App Options for You
Agenda will work for this, as will Notes app. You could use Evernote if you feel inclined. So go and watch your movies and TV Series and leave yourself a review. The reviews don’t have to be just for you. There are plenty of social networks for you to choose from to spread your words.