Journaling Techniques

Digital Journaling: Ideas and Techniques For The Modern Writer

Digital journaling is more than just typing words into an electronic device. It's a new way of capturing our lives, and it's changing the way we write, think, and remember.

Digital journaling is more than just typing words into an electronic device. It’s a new way of capturing our lives, and it’s changing the way we write, think, and remember. No longer confined to the traditional pen and paper approach of keeping a journal, the modern diarist has access to an array of innovative tools and platforms designed to make keeping a journal more engaging, efficient, and personalized.

From Da Vinci’s intricate notebooks to Frida Kahlo’s colorful diary, journaling has always been a part of the creative process. But in the digital age, it’s taken on new dimensions and possibilities. In this post, we’ll explore creative ideas, techniques, and tools to help discover how digital journaling can revolutionize your journaling experience and enhance your self-expression. Whether you’re a seasoned writer seeking a new medium or a novice looking to explore the therapeutic benefits of journaling, digital journaling offers unlimited possibilities to make your journaling journey uniquely yours.

What is Digital Journaling?

Imagine a journal that you can access anytime, anywhere, with the ability to capture not just words, but images, videos, and even voice notes. This is digital journaling—a modern take on a timeless practice, combining the introspective nature of traditional journaling with the technological advancements of the 21st century.

Digital journaling is the art and practice of keeping a journal using electronic devices to record your thoughts, feelings, experiences, ideas, and reflections. As opposed to traditional journaling, which typically involves writing in a physical notebook or diary, digital journaling can be done through various mediums, including text, audio, video, or a combination of these formats.

Digital journaling is about expressing your thoughts, documenting your ideas, charting your personal growth, and immortalizing your memories within a digital space. Your digital journal is a diary, a sketchbook, a scrapbook, and a planner all in one, always at your fingertips.

Digital journaling is the art and practice of keeping a journal using electronic devices, platforms, and tools to record your thoughts, feelings, experiences, ideas, and reflections.

Digital journaling brings the act of self-reflection into our fast-paced, interconnected world, allowing you to create a personal repository of thoughts, ideas, and experiences that is as diverse and dynamic as life itself.

an example of digital journaling on a laptop computer

The Shift from Traditional to Digital Journaling

As our lives have become increasingly integrated with technology, it’s only natural that our journaling habits would follow suit. The transition from physical to digital journaling is a reflection of our evolving relationship with technology and the ways we communicate and express ourselves.

The practice of keeping a journal to regularly record one’s thoughts and experiences dates back thousands of years. Early civilizations often used journaling as a means to record events, track seasons, and document learning. During the Middle Ages, journaling took the form of chronicles, where monks and scholars recorded events and knowledge. The Renaissance brought personal diaries into prominence, with individuals starting to document their private thoughts and feelings. In the 19th and 20th centuries, journaling became a widely accepted therapeutic tool, often used for self-reflection and personal development.

With the advent of the digital age, journaling has taken on new forms. Blogs, social media, and digital journaling apps like Day One have made it easier than ever for people to record their thoughts and experiences. Today, digital journaling allows us to combine text, photos, videos, and other multimedia elements, adding a new dimension to this age-old practice.

Despite all these changes, the core purpose of journaling remains the same: to provide a space for self-expression, reflection, and a record of our lives. Whether on stone walls, paper pages, or digital screens, journaling continues to be a practice that yields profound personal growth and understanding.

Despite these changes, the core purpose of journaling remains the same: to provide a space for self-expression, reflection, and a record of our lives. Whether on stone walls, paper pages, or digital screens, journaling continues to be a practice that yields profound personal growth and understanding.

The Many Advantages of Digital Journaling

Digital journaling leverages technology to offer a convenient, flexible, and secure way to capture capture your thoughts and experiences. These functionalities allow for a richer, more varied expression of thoughts and experiences. Some of the many advantages of digital journaling include:

1. Convenience

The primary driver of the transition to digital journaling is convenience. In an era where smartphones and laptops are constant companions, digital journals offer a level of accessibility that physical journals simply can’t match. With a digital journal, you can record a thought, idea, or observation the moment it strikes, no matter where you are.

An example of digital journaling

2. Multimedia Integration

One of the most exciting advantages of digital journaling is the ability to include various media in your entries. Photos, videos, audio clips, and even hyperlinks can be added, making your entries more vibrant and reflective of your experiences. With the ability to express yourself using text, audio, video, or a combination of formats, you can add depth and variety to your journaling practice.

Multimedia in a digital journal

3. Privacy and Security

While a physical journal can be read by anyone who finds it, digital journals can be encrypted and protected by passwords, offering a secure space for your most personal thoughts. Unlike paper-based journals, digital journaling allows you to password-protect your entries, ensuring that your personal reflections are kept private and protected.

Security of digital journaling

4. Features Built for Deeper Reflection

Many digital journaling platforms come with unique features designed to enhance reflection, like daily prompts or the ability to review entries from the same date in previous years. For example, features like “On This Day” from the Day One app compile your journal entries, photos, and locations to give you a comprehensive look at the events of a particular day across multiple years. This can provide a valuable opportunity to reflect on your past experiences, track your personal growth, and gain insights into your own journey.

Digital journaling for deeper reflection

5. Speed and Legibility

When it comes to capturing your thoughts and ideas, typing can be a more efficient and legible alternative to handwriting for many people. Plus, there’s no need to decipher messy handwriting—your entries are always clear and legible. Additionally, typing allows you to easily edit and revise your entries, making it simpler to refine your thoughts and ideas over time.

Digital journaling on a laptop

6. Organization

Digital journaling allows you to easily organize your entries by date, topic, or category, making it simpler to find and reflect on specific experiences. With the ability to sort, filter, and search through your entries, you can identify patterns, trends, and insights that may have gone unnoticed otherwise. This can help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your values, and your goals, and provide valuable insights for your personal and professional development.

7. Searchability

Forget flipping through pages to find a particular entry. With digital journaling, a simple keyword search can instantly bring up the entry you’re looking for. With digital journaling, you can easily search your entire journal for specific words or phrases, making it easier to find patterns, insights, or connections in your experiences over time.

Using an iPad for digital journaling

8. Backups and Cloud Storage

Digital journaling offers an added layer of security with automatic backup and syncing features. With cloud-based storage options, you can be sure that your journal entries are protected from physical damage, loss, or theft. They also provide a practical advantage, as digital storage eliminates the physical space required for traditional journals.

9. Integration with Other Tools and Apps

Digital journals can often be integrated with other tools and apps. You can directly import emails, social media posts, or even fitness tracker data into your journal, making it a comprehensive record of your life.

A digital journal on a laptop

10. Book Printing Options

Apps like Day One offer book printing options that enable you to transform your digital journal entries into a printed book. Printing your digital journal provides an opportunity to preserve a physical copy of your memories and reflections, making it a valuable keepsake to look back on in years to come. With book printing options, digital journaling can offer the best of both worlds: the convenience of digital writing and the emotional resonance of a physical object.

Examples of printed digital journals

11. Social Media Alternative

While social media encourages sharing with others, digital journaling offers a private, introspective alternative. It’s a space to be authentic and honest with yourself, free from the pressures of likes, comments, or shares.

an example of a digital journal as a social media alternative

These are just a few of the many reasons to consider digital journaling as a way to document your life, express yourself, and promote personal growth. From accessibility and organization to multimedia integration and privacy, the innovative tools and features of digital journaling can help you capture your thoughts and experiences in new and exciting ways.

Overcoming Common Digital Journaling Challenges

While digital journaling offers numerous advantages, it also presents its own unique set of challenges. However, with a little creativity and flexibility, these can be mitigated or even turned into strengths. By acknowledging these challenges and implementing these solutions, you can enhance your digital journaling experience, making it as rewarding and fulfilling as traditional journaling, if not more so.

Handwriting and the Sensory Experience

For many, part of the allure of traditional journaling lies in the sensory experience: the scratch of the pen on paper, the smell of the ink, the visual appeal of handwritten text. Digital journaling, with its typing and tapping, can sometimes feel less tactile and personal.

To overcome this, you can create a ritual around your digital journaling to engage your senses. Maybe it’s making a cup of your favorite tea before you begin, or journaling in a spot where you can feel the sun on your skin or hear birdsong. By pairing digital journaling with other sensory experiences, you can create a rich, satisfying practice that engages more than just your fingers on keys. Many apps like Day One also include support for using a stylus and tablet for your digital journaling. This allows you to include “handwritten” entries, preserving that sensory connection while still enjoying the advantages of digital storage and organization.

Screen Fatigue

In a world where we already spend significant time in front of screens, adding journaling to that list can contribute to screen fatigue. To combat this, consider setting aside specific times for journaling where you disconnect from other digital distractions. Using apps or device settings that reduce blue light can also help minimize eye strain. If possible, try to journal in a peaceful environment to create a sense of separation between your journaling time and other screen-related activities.

Privacy Concerns

While digital journaling can enhance privacy through password protection, it also raises concerns about data security. After all, a digital journal is vulnerable to hacking or data breaches. Make sure to choose a journaling app or platform that prioritizes user privacy and data security. Look for features like end-to-end encryption, biometric logins, and clear, user-friendly privacy policies.

Data Loss

In the digital realm, the risk of data loss is a real concern for many users. While rare, technical glitches, software corruption, or hardware failures can potentially lead to loss of journal entries. The fear of losing your carefully chronicled thoughts and experiences to a technological mishap can be a deterrent for some potential digital journalers. Be sure to understand the data protection measures provided by your chosen digital journaling platform. Choose an app that employs auto-save features and cloud backups to prevent data loss and ensure regular backups of your journal. and

Exploring Different Types of Digital Journaling

Digital journaling isn’t a one-size-fits-all practice. Just as there are many reasons to journal, there are many different types of digital journals to explore. Here are a few journaling ideas might consider:

The Daily Log

This type of journal is all about daily reflections. It’s a space for you to record the events of your day, along with your thoughts and feelings about them. The daily log encourages regular journaling and can help you track patterns, notice changes, and see your growth over time. Moreover, it can enhance mindfulness, helping you stay connected to your experiences as you move through your busy life.

An example of a digital daily log journal

The Gratitude Journal

In a gratitude journal, you focus on the positive aspects of your life. By recording things you’re grateful for, you can cultivate a more positive mindset and reduce stress. Research has shown that maintaining a gratitude journal can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.

An example of a digital gratitude journal

The Idea Notebook

This type of digital journal serves as a repository for your thoughts, ideas, and inspirations. Whether it’s a quote that moved you, an idea for a story, or a solution to a problem, the idea notebook is where you can capture these flashes of insight. A digital idea notebook is an invaluable tool for creatives, entrepreneurs, and anyone who wants to keep their ideas organized and accessible.

An example of a digital idea journal

The Travel Journal

A digital travel journal serves as a dynamic record of your travels. You can include not just text, but also photos, videos, maps, and links to places you’ve visited. A digital travel journal allows you to capture the richness of your travel experiences and keep them alive in a way that a few photographs or souvenirs can’t.

An example of a digital travel journal

The Project Journal

If you’re working on a specific project, whether it’s writing a novel, learning a new skill, or launching a business, a project journal can be incredibly helpful. Use it to track your progress, brainstorm ideas, overcome obstacles, and document your growth. By the end of the project, you’ll have a detailed record of your journey from start to finish. Using the Day One calendar view can be particularly helpful to track your progress toward a project.

An example of a digital project journal

The Fitness Journal

For fitness enthusiasts or those embarking on a new health journey, a digital fitness journal can be invaluable. This type of journal provides a dedicated space to track workouts, monitor progress, note how different exercises make you feel, and even log nutrition information. Over time, this type of journal can reveal patterns about what’s working and what isn’t, providing valuable insight to help you reach your fitness goals.

An example of a digital fitness journal

The Dream Journal

A dream journal provides a space to record and analyze your dreams. By writing down your dreams, you can uncover patterns, explore themes, and delve into the fascinating world of your subconscious. Over time, a dream journal can provide insight into your emotional life and innermost thoughts.

An example of a digital dream journal

The Vision Board

Unlike a traditional vision board that requires physical cut-outs and a dedicated space on your wall, a digital vision board can be created and accessed from anywhere. This type of journal is a visual representation of your goals, dreams, and aspirations. You can fill it with images, quotes, and any other digital artifacts that inspire you and align with your vision for the future.

An example of a digital vision board

Goals Journal

For those with an eye on the future and a plan in their heart, a digital goal journal is a game-changer. This type of journal serves as a dedicated space for journaling goals through defining, tracking, and reflecting on your personal or professional goals. Whether it’s learning a new language, achieving a fitness milestone, or launching a business, a goal journal can help you stay focused and motivated on your journey.

An example of a digital goals journal

The Learning Journal

A digital learning journal is perfect for students, lifelong learners, or professionals honing a new skill. Use it to summarize key points from classes or books, reflect on what you’ve learned, and track your growth over time. You can also include links to additional resources, articles, or online courses. This type of journal turns your learning process into a dynamic, interactive experience, reinforcing your knowledge and making it easier to review or revisit key concepts.

An example of a digital learning journal

A Growth and Milestones Journal

This type of digital journal is a heartfelt chronicle of a child’s growth and development, from the early days of infancy through to the teenage years. It’s a place to record first steps, first words, birthdays, school achievements, and the countless precious moments and milestones that unfold as a child grows. Parents can include photos, videos, written anecdotes, and even scanned artwork or schoolwork. This type of digital journal can also provide space for reflection, where parents can document their observations, emotions, challenges, and joys of parenthood.

An example of a digital growth and milestones journal

The Meditation or Mindfulness Journal

This type of digital journal is ideal for those pursuing a mindfulness or meditation and journaling practice. Use it to log your meditation sessions, noting duration, the type of meditation you practiced, and any insights or experiences you had during your session. You might also reflect on your emotional state before and after meditation, or jot down any mindful moments you experienced throughout your day. Over time, this journal can help you see how regular mindfulness or meditation practice is affecting your overall well-being.

The Photo Journal

Photo journaling is a creative journaling practice that combines elements of photography and journaling. You can use photo journaling to document your experiences, thoughts, and emotions through a combination of photographs and written entries.

Creative Writing Journal

For writers, poets, and dreamers, a digital creative writing journal l is an ever-ready canvas for your words. This journal serves as a space to capture spur-of-the-moment poetry, snippets of dialogue, character sketches, plot ideas, or even full-length short stories and novel chapters. This type of journal is also an excellent place to practice and refine your writing skills. You could write daily based on a theme, a word prompt, or simply let your imagination run wild. Over time, you’ll see your style evolve and perhaps stumble upon ideas for larger projects.

To-Do List Journal

A To-Do List Journal is more than just a checklist of tasks—it’s about understanding how you work and optimizing your process. This digital journal allows you to record, organize, and prioritize your daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. From personal errands to professional projects, everything finds a place in this journal. The digital format of a to-do list journal offers the flexibility to easily update, rearrange, or categorize tasks, add reminders, and cross off completed items. You can also incorporate links to resources, notes on task details, and even break larger tasks into subtasks.

Techniques to Improve Digital Journaling

While digital journaling comes with a host of benefits, maximizing its potential requires more than just typing away on a device. Here are some techniques that can enhance your digital journaling practice.

Build Consistency

The benefits of journaling increase with regular practice. But how do you make journaling a daily habit? Start by setting a specific time each day for journaling and stick to it. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or last thing at night, find a time that works for you. Consistency also comes from making the process enjoyable, so personalize your digital journal to make it a place you want to visit every day.

Day One recognizes the importance of this consistency and incorporates a Journal Streak feature. This tool keeps track of your consecutive days of journaling and provides a visual reminder of your commitment. It can be a powerful motivator, turning journaling into a game where the goal is to keep the streak going. By turning journaling into a daily habit, you’ll unlock its full potential, allowing for deeper self-reflection, greater self-awareness, and more meaningful insights.

Set Reminders

Although phone notifications can be a source of annoyance, they can also be a useful tool to establish healthy habits like journaling. By setting reminders within your digital journal, you can create a consistent routine and stay committed to your self-reflection practice. Customizable reminders can be set to suit your schedule and preferences, whether it’s a daily prompt to capture your thoughts before bed, a weekly check-in to reflect on your progress, or a monthly recap of your achievements and challenges. These simple yet effective techniques can help you develop a journaling habit that supports your mental well-being and personal growth.

Within the Day One app, you have several options for journaling reminders. Turn on the default daily reminder to journal, or create custom notifications with settings for the time of day, repeat intervals, tags, and templates. You can also customize the text of your notification message. Prefer to get a text? You can also set up a daily text reminder.

Use Multimedia

One of the advantages of digital journaling is the ability to incorporate different media into your entries. Don’t limit yourself to text alone. If you come across an interesting article, link it. If a particular scene inspires you, snap a photo and add it to your entry. Voice notes can capture your thoughts when you’re on the move or add tonal context to your entries. Videos can bring experiences to life in your journal. Experiment with different media to enrich your digital journaling practice.

Day One supports many types of media, including photos, videos, audio recordings, PDFs, drawings (created with a stylus), and other files stored on your device. Once your files have been uploaded to your journal, they’re encrypted by default.

Answer Prompts

Staring at a blank screen can be daunting, even for the most seasoned writer. That’s where journal prompts come in. Prompts are questions or topics that can kick-start your writing process. They can range from simple (“What am I grateful for today?”) to complex (“What beliefs do I hold that might be holding me back?”).

Day One offers built-in daily writing prompts, or you can find lists of prompts online to suit your needs. In the Day One app’s settings, you can combine prompts with reminders to get a notification each day with the new prompt at a certain time of day.

Utilize Tags and Organization

Digital journals offer powerful organization features that can turn a collection of entries into a navigable, searchable resource. Making good use of digital organization features can turn your journal from a simple diary into a personal knowledge database or “second brain.”

Use tags (or hashtags) in Day One to categorize your entries by topic, mood, location, or any other parameter that makes sense to you. Over time, these tags can reveal patterns and provide valuable insights.

Experiment with Templates

Journal templates are a powerful digital journaling feature that can streamline your digital journaling practice and provide structure to your entries. Whether you’re looking to track specific aspects of your life or ensure you’re asking yourself the right questions, templates can make digital journaling more focused and effective.

Templates can be created for different types of entries, such as daily reflections, gratitude journals, project updates, or travel logs. Once a template is set up, you can use it as a starting point for your entries, saving time and ensuring consistency. For instance, a daily log template might prompt you to record your mood, highlight of the day, and a lesson learned, while a project journal template might include sections for goals, progress, and obstacles.

Day One takes this a step further by offering a free journal template library. This library is filled with a wide range of pre-made templates designed to inspire and guide your digital journaling journey. You can even create your own custom templates that can be connected to a specific journal with tags and media.

Try Voice Transcription

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, sometimes it can feel like we’re always on the move, making it hard to sit down and write in our digital journal. That’s where voice transcription comes in. This feature allows you to capture your thoughts and reflections verbally, transcribing your spoken words into text entries in your digital journal.

Voice transcription is not just about convenience, it’s also a different mode of expression. Many people find that speaking their thoughts out loud leads to more natural, fluid entries. It’s like having a conversation with your journal. This can be particularly helpful if you’re feeling stuck or finding it difficult to articulate your thoughts in writing.

Day One includes an intuitive audio recording transcription feature, allowing you to easily capture and transcribe your thoughts on the go. Simply hit the microphone button and start speaking – your words will be accurately converted into text, ready for you to review and refine. This feature is a great way to make the most of your digital journaling practice, no matter how busy your schedule may be.

Scan Text

Even in an increasingly digital world, we still interact with plenty of physical text: hand-written notes, printed articles, books, signs, and more. Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily incorporate these pieces of text into your digital journal? With the text scanning feature, you can.

Text scanning, also known as optical character recognition (OCR), allows you to capture physical text with your device’s camera and convert it into digital text within your journal. This tool can be incredibly useful for incorporating quotes from book or capturing information from documents. Using a text scanner can save you time and effort – no need to manually type out long passages of text. Plus, it allows you to keep a digital record of important physical documents or notes, further expanding the possibilities of your digital journaling practice.

Day One’s text scanning feature is easy to use and highly accurate, allowing you to quickly digitize text and add it to your journal entries. Simply take a photo of the text you want to capture, and the app will automatically convert it into editable, searchable text. This feature is yet another way digital journaling adapts to your life, bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds.

Look Back at “On This Day”

Imagine reading about what you were thinking, feeling, or doing one, two, or even five years ago on this exact day. It’s a unique opportunity to reflect on your personal growth, recall forgotten memories, and gain perspective on your life’s journey. This is one of the many reasons a digital journaling habit gets richer and more meaningful over time—as you consistently capture your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, your digital journal becomes a living document of your life.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this practice is the ability to look back on past entries. Seeing your past self through your present lens can be incredibly powerful. It can highlight how far you’ve come, which challenges you’ve overcome, and how your perspectives have evolved over time.

Day One’s “On This Day” allows you to easily revisit entries from the same date in previous years. This feature brings a new level of depth to your journaling, reinforcing the value of consistent entries and encouraging ongoing reflection. You can receive a gentle reminder of your past entries for that date, inviting you to take a moment to step back in time. Whether it brings a smile, a tear, or a moment of pride, revisiting your “On This Day” entries is a special part of the digital journaling experience.

Try Mixing Up Your Device (Mobile, Table, Desktop)

By exploring different devices for your digital journaling practice, you can bring variety and adaptability to your writing experience. Experimenting with different devices allows you to find the one that suits your preferences and circumstances best.

For example, you may find that using your mobile device during moments of inspiration on the go, switching to a tablet for a more immersive and tactile writing experience, or utilizing a desktop for longer and focused journaling sessions brings a new dimension to your digital journaling practice. Embrace the flexibility offered by different devices, enabling you to capture your thoughts and reflections conveniently and effectively, no matter where you are.

The Day One app offers multiple formats such as apps for iOS, Mac, Apple Watch, Android, and even a web app (now in beta). All apps sync seamlessly across devices (unlimited devices included with Day One Premium).

Streak Stories: Real Users, Real Impact of Digital Journaling

In the world of digital journaling, sometimes the most compelling narratives come not from the entries within the journals, but from the writers themselves. Our Streak Stories series of interviews features the experiences of real users, showcasing how digital journaling has transformed their lives and writing process.

These individuals come from all walks of life—writers, entrepreneurs, teachers, marketers, IT professionals, retirees—yet they all share a common thread: the impactful use of our digital journaling app to explore their inner worlds, capture their unique ideas, and chart their personal and professional growth.

Here are a few of our favorite inspiring quotes about the profound impact of digital journaling:

“Journaling is an offshoot of meditation—a type of introspection where a record of events is welcome. It doesn’t have to mean the record is permanent. In fact, it’s probably better as ephemeral—permanently locked behind a password. But, the fact that it exists is a comfort in itself.”

CJ Chilvers

“I journal about anything and everything I can in my life – minutiae, dreams, important mailed papers, receipts, etc. There is literally nothing that I won’t put in my assorted journaling.”

Margot Olson

“My advice to those wanting to journal would be to make it fun! I write my journals imagining my future self or future kids being able to, in a sense, time travel to when I was writing that time period I journaled.”

Kevin Anderson

“Someone once said that chopping wood to make a fire warms you twice. Writing a journal is like experiencing everything twice … when you do it and when you reflect upon it as you write.”

Steven Wong

“I’ve learned that little moments aren’t as mundane when you start writing them down. I get inspired by my own journal entries from the past. I smile at really simple things that I’ve written down.”

Kt Anderson

“My Mom was a great journal writer, and I was always inspired by her consistency and dedication in recording the happenings in our family. I’ve read my own journal entries from the past, and have been reminded about things I had forgotten about, it feels important to record feelings and happenings not only in my life, but in the life of my six kids as well.”

Dale Majors

Wrapping Up: Your Digital Journaling Journey Awaits

As we adapt to new technologies and embrace the convenience of digital journaling, let us not forget the timeless essence of this practice—a journey of introspection, creativity, and capturing the essence of our human experiences. The transition from physical to digital journaling is not about replacing one with the other, but about expanding the ways in which we can record, reflect upon, and learn from our lives.

Whether you prefer the weight of a pen or the speed of a keyboard, the goal remains the same: to capture the essence of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a form that allows us to revisit and understand them better.

About the Author

Kristen Webb Wright is the author of three books on journaling. With a passion for writing and self-reflection, Kristen uses her experience with journaling to help others discover the benefits of documenting their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. In her role at Day One, she helps to promote the power of journaling so people from all walks of life can experience the transformative power of journaling.

Photo of author and journaling expert, Kristen Webb Wright

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