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When my partner of 16 years passed away from cancer in 2016, I was left with as many years of memories, but little else. That made the few traces of his existence -- the clothes, knick-knacks and photographs -- all the more precious to me.

To feel closer to him, I'd often follow his digital footprints. I'd scroll through his Facebook (download for iOS and Android) feed, scan photos of him stored on Google Photos (download for iOS and Android) and listen to his Spotify (download for iOS or Android) playlists.

Occasionally, I'd watch an episode of "Sister Wives" that he had appeared on via Amazon Prime Video (download for iOS and Android), just so I could see him move and hear his voice again.

But the one vestige of our relationship that I couldn't bear to approach was our Messages thread. Like many couples, texts were the main way that we communicated -- things as light as requests to pick up something from the grocery store or as deep as expressions of affection and longing.

I was afraid that seeing these intimate exchanges again would overwhelm me. Our life together would flash before my eyes and then be taken away from me just as quickly for a second time.

Besides, the thought of reading these messages over text from the bottom up on a small screen wasn't all too thrilling.

So when I recently discovered Keepster (download for Mac), a new app, which can transfer all your texts from your iOS device into folders -- or Keepsters -- on your desktop that you can then read from the top down and even turn into physical books, my interest was piqued. Maybe enough time had passed and I could now handle it.

SEE: Best apps to help plan your perfect Valentine's Day

To start, I downloaded the Keepster app on my desktop. I then connected my iPhone to my computer via a lightning cable and then allowed Keepster to import all my texts, photos and emoji from Messages.

However, the app also works with WhatsApp (download for Android and iOS), Viber (download for Android and iOS), Messenger (download for Android and iOS), Line (download for Android and iOS) and Hike Messenger (download for Android and iOS).

The process was surprisingly painless and only took a few minutes to complete.

Then I was able to easily search the messages I was interested in preserving and edit and organize them in Keepsters that I could then title by subject, person or place, for example.

As a Valentine's Day gift to myself, I had Keepster transform our message thread into a book that I was able to customize with a title, photo and dedication. Keepster charges $9.99 and up for a paperback book and $19.99 and up for a hardcover edition.

Once I opened my book and saw the 364 messages from our final month together -- that was all that was left for some reason -- I felt a mix of emotions.

As expected, there were the requests to bring home half and half -- he never lost his thirst for black tea in the morning -- and a lot of messages about how he was doing and feeling while I was at work.

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The days that he couldn't sleep or keep food down had been painful for us both, and the days that he could, were joyful. I was reminded of both of these feelings as I read.

I also smiled, recognizing a photo of a pair of pajama pants I'd purchased for him for our final Valentine's Day -- he couldn't get out much anymore -- and a museum painting I'd photographed and sent him to cheer him up when I was out of town.

But the parts that really stuck with me were the messages of love -- the "I love you's" and "I miss you's" that make up at least half of our text exchanges.

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Our story didn't end with the happily ever after I'd anticipated when we started dating all those years ago, but I did feel happy and grateful to re-experience some of our most powerful "for better or worse" moments once again. Most importantly, I felt loved.

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Takeaways

  • The Keepster app for Mac allows users to import their messages from their iOS devices to their desktops to file away in Keepsters that are easily searched, organized and scrolled.
  • For a small fee ($9.99 and up for a paperback and $19.99 and up for a hardcover), users can get their message threads transformed into a customizable book complete with a title, photo and dedication.

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Joshua is an editor for CNET's Download.com. He covers the mobile tech and apps that power our lives and interviews celebrities about their favorite apps. Previously, he worked as an editor at Healthline and Gay.com and as a contributing writer for Mac Directory, MacAddict, SF Weekly, SF Examiner, and SF Chronicle.