Where has the time gone? If you haven’t kept a journal, you might not know. Journaling might be the most underrated activity that could boost your productivity and well-being in just a few minutes a day. Just jot your thoughts down or record what happened during the day for a simple way to manage stress, enhance creativity, increase happiness, improve health, and increase work performance, according to the latest research. Ben Franklin swore by his copious journal notes, as have many other successful people in history, including Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Maya Angelou.
“If you’re serious about becoming a wealthy, powerful, sophisticated, healthy, influential, cultured, and unique individual, keep a journal.”– Jim Rohn, business philosopher and author
The mere act of daily writing is a keystone habit that can improve every other area of your life, because it increases your self awareness. Journaling helps you record all the minutiae that, gathered together, reveal the meaning in your life and help you take the next best step.
The trouble is, keeping a journal isn’t easy. It takes dedication to this new habit and a willingness to open up when writing on a blank page. What have you done today? Who are you really? Journaling apps can help you figure this out and help you establish a daily writing routine.
After testing nearly two dozen journaling apps for Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and the web, these are the top journaling apps we’d recommend to record your memories this year and in years to come.
What Makes a Great Journaling App
A paper notebook and pen are fine for journaling, but apps offer more. They give you more context on what you’ve accomplished and where you might want to go, and let you include photos from your phone or posts from your social media feeds to make the journaling experience more rewarding. Add in reminders and the ability to search your journal entries, and digital journaling is almost a no-brainer.
The best apps to keep a journal have a few things in common:
- Easy entry: If it takes more than a couple of clicks or taps to add a journal entry, chances are you’re not going to do it.
- Pleasant interface: A minimalist, uncluttered interface helps you focus on your thoughts and make journaling a pleasant experience.
- Reminders: Perhaps the biggest challenge to journaling is remembering to do it. Automatic reminders help you keep up the habit.
- Exporting: Just in case the app stops being developed or you want to move to a different journaling platform, you’ll want to be able to export your entries in a format other programs can read, such as PDF or RTF.
- Syncing: Syncing will make sure your journal’s up to date no matter what device you’re using.
Other features that might be important to you include password protection, Markdown support, ability to add more than one photo, automatically adding location and weather, and journaling prompts.
The Best Journaling Apps
To come up with this list, we looked at popular journal apps available in the app stores and other sites’ journal apps roundups. We eliminated some apps from our list to test because of high price (one Windows journal app is priced at $99.99 versus our pick for best Windows Journal, Diarium, which is $19.99), lack of features that meet our criteria, or poor user reviews (for example, multiple reports of syncing issues).
We tested the remaining apps over two weeks—creating journal entries daily (or almost daily). In the end, these are the best journaling apps we’ve found for every platform.
- Day One (Mac, iOS, Android)—best for writing quick journal entries in a simple, intuitive interface
- Diarium (Windows, Android)—best for dictating journal entries and seamless integration with Windows
- Glimpses (Windows)—best for free journaling on Windows; free
- Journey (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome OS, Web)—best for seamless journaling and syncing on any platform
- Penzu (Web, iOS, Android)—best for journaling in a blog-like environment while keeping your entries secure
- Dabble.me (Email)—best for journaling by email
- Momento (iOS)—best for automated journaling from your social media feeds
- Grid Diary (iOS)—best for templated journaling
- Five Minute Journal (iOS, Android)—best for quick morning and evening reflections
The Best Journaling App for Mac and iOS
Day One (Mac, iOS, Android)
Best for writing quick journal entries in a simple, intuitive interface
Since its release in March 2011, Day One has long been the most highly recommended journaling app. The Sweet Setup selected it as “the best journaling app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac”, it’s been Apple’s Editors Choice in the App Store numerous times, and Lifehacker chose it as the best journaling app for iPhone.
It’s not hard to see why. The app offers a wide array of features—just about everything you might want or need in a digital journal. You can create journal entries in just one click on the Mac from the menu bar, use templates to make journaling easier, automatically add metadata (location, weather, motion activity, currently playing music, and step count), tag entries with hashtags, insert photos and videos, password-protect your journal, and format entries in Markdown. With Day One’s latest update, you can even draw in the app using the Apple Pencil on iPad or your finger on iPhone. And all of this is within a elegant, unobtrusive design—just one main blue color plus menus and icons in gray, no gaudy toolbars in sight.
Perhaps Day One’s best feature is the ability to customize multiple reminders. Most other journal apps only send you one reminder during the day, but with Day One, you can get prompted to write at, say, when you start the day, at lunchtime, and then at the end of your workday to keep track throughout the day.
The free app offers pretty much all of the core journaling features, but for syncing, multiple photos, and multiple journals, you’ll need to subscribe to the Day One Premium service.
Day One Pricing: Free; $34.99/year for premium features, which includes the Mac app (normally $49.99 on its own)
The Best Journaling Apps for Windows and Android
Diarium (Windows, Android)
Best for dictating journal entries and seamless integration with Windows
Diarium is the highest-rated journaling app in the Windows 10 App Store. Compared to other journaling apps on any platform, Diarium stands out for its support for multiple media types in journal entries. If you’d rather speak than type, you can dictate your thoughts—and the speech recognition is actually accurate, in our tests. You can attach an audio file, an inked drawing, or any other type of file to your entries, as well as multiple photos. Heck, you can even rate your journal entries (perhaps most useful as a way to track how happy you are each day).
Diarium syncs to other Windows devices or Android via OneDrive and you can export your entries to DOCX, HTML, RTF, or TXT formats—with separate files for media attachments—so you can rest assured that your data will always be accessible. We found the syncing between Windows and Android instant and reliable.
To make journaling even easier, Diarium can automatically pull in feeds from Twitter, Facebook, or Swarm and will remind you once a day (at your chosen time) to write in the journal.
Best for free journaling on Windows
Windows users have fewer journaling apps choices than Mac, iOS, and Android users, but that’s not a big deal because the free Glimpses app has you covered with most of the journaling features you’d want—and then some. You can write in Markdown, export to PDF, drag and drop images into your entries, password protect your journal, tag entries, view entries from a timeline or calendar view, and sync across Windows devices via Dropbox.
Glimpses offers a few unique features we didn’t see in other journaling apps. One is the retro mode: Turn it on, and you can write a journal entry in a typewriter font along with clickety-clack sounds as you type. There’s a dark mode as well, which is great for journaling at night, and a distraction-free writing mode that focuses on just your words. You can also create a shareable link to a journal entry, so your family, friends, and fans can catch up on what you’ve been up to outside of Facebook.
One thing to note is that when you add an image to a journal entry in Glimpses, it adds it as a photo behind the journal heading, much like if this were a blog post. That’s different than the inline photos in most journaling apps. Also, Glimpses doesn’t have built-in reminders, but for a completely free, modern journaling app that works with Windows 7 and above, we’re not complaining. iOS and Android versions are in the works.
Glimpses Pricing: Free
The Best Cross-Platform Journaling App
Journey (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome OS, Web)
Best for seamless journaling and syncing on any platform
Journey is the one journaling app we found that works across pretty much any device. And it does it well, with features that rival those of our other top journaling app picks—support for multiple images, as well as audio or video, syncing to Google Drive, exporting to multiple formats, auto location and weather, password protection, and even importing Day One entries.
Journey is probably the best alternative to Day One, with a similar streamlined interface, as well as a dark mode. If you’d rather not pay a monthly subscription for the premium version of Day One, you could buy a one-time license for Journey instead. You’ll need to upgrade for features like unlimited journal entries via email, daily email reminders, and automated entries via Zapier.
The Best Online Journaling Apps
Penzu (Web, iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
Best for journaling in a blog-like environment while keeping your entries secure
Writing a journal entry in Penzu is much like writing a blog post in WordPress or Blogger: You have a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word-processor-like interface, complete with a text formatting toolbar. So why not just use Word, WordPress, or a note-taking app like Evernote? For one thing, Penzu keeps your entries together in one journal online, as opposed to several different files. Custom email reminders help you remember to record your journal entry. And Penzu can uniquely send you reminders of what you’ve written in the past, so you can reminisce about the good old days.
If you’re on the Pro plan, Penzu can also safeguard your entries with military strength encryption, send multiple reminders, and customize each journal with distinct covers, backgrounds, and fonts.
If you want to keep a journal the same way you might a personal blog, but keep it private, Penzu is an excellent option. You’ll need to spring for the paid plan, though, to get core digital journaling features such as tagging.
Penzu Pricing: Free; from $19.99/year Premium version for multiple journals, tags, encryption, search, and journal customization with design themes
Best for journaling by email
Dabble.me is the journal that comes to you—in your inbox. Once a day, at a time of your choosing, Dabble.me will send you an email asking “How was your day?” Reply with your answer in as few or as many sentences as you want, and the app will record your journal entry in a private web page, much like a personal blog. You can add a photo, tag entries with hashtags, add links to songs in Spotify to play them on your Dabble.me site, and view previous entries on a calendar or in a shuffled random selection.
If you live in your inbox and need that nudge to keep a journal, emailing your memories might be the best option. However, you’ll need a Dabble.me Pro plan to unlock the app’s best features. With the free plan, email prompts are only sent every other Sunday; the Pro plan lets you change the frequency and days that emails are sent (once a day), attach one photo to the entry, edit previous entries, and search past entries. Compared to similar services, however, such as My Evening Post, Dabble.me is more flexible and costs less.
Dabble.me Pricing: Free; $3/month for features like daily reminders, photo insertion, and editing
The Best Low-Effort Journaling Apps
Best for automated journaling from your social media feeds
If you’re already documenting your life online on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Medium, you’re already keeping a journal, so to speak. It’s just spread across the internet. Momento brings all of your shared posts and interactions from sites like these into one place, helping you keep a digital archive of your online interactions. You can also create new journal entries in Momento aside from the social networks, like you would with a typical journaling app.
Momento excels at resurfacing where you’ve been and what you’ve done in the past. You can group separate entries (or “moments”) into “events”—so all of the Instagram photos you were tagged in for a family reunion could live together. The app will show you what happened on a specific date in previous years, so you can see how time has flown. And preset reminders—for example, “what did you dream?” at 7:30 am and “how was your day?” at 8 pm—make it easier to journal when you’re not sure what to write.
Momento Pricing: Free for up to 3 social feeds; $3.99 for premium features such as multiple photos, more social feeds, themes, and app locking
Grid Diary (iOS)
Best for templated journaling
Grid Diary bills itself as “the simplest way to get started with keeping a diary” and MacWorld praises the app for being as easy to keep a journal as filling out a form. Every day, Grid Diary presents you with 8 question prompts, such as “How much money did I spend today?”, “What am I grateful for?”, and “What did I get done today?”, laid out on a one-page grid, so you get both a detailed and bird’s eye view of what’s happening in your life, one day at a time.
There are numerous grid templates you can choose from or customize the grid and questions yourself to focus on the areas of life you want to track. Instead of wondering what you should write about each day, use Grid Diary to write down simple responses that help you reflect on your days.
Grid Diary Pricing: Free; $4.99 for pro features including passcode lock, syncing to iCloud or Dropbox, multiple reminders, customizable fonts and text formatting, exporting to Evernote or Dropbox, and night mode
Five Minute Journal (iOS, Android)
Best for quick morning and evening reflections
Don’t think you have any time in the day to journal? How about just five minutes a day? Five Minute Journal makes journaling nearly effortless, with timed prompts in the morning and evening that only require you to list a few things, such as what you’ll do to make the day great and three amazing things that happened today. That’s it. That’s as simple as journaling gets.
Based on positive psychology research, Five Minute Journal helps support a gratitude habit and self-reflection. You can add a photo for each entry and export to PDF, but other than that, this lean app is as simple as it gets.
Five Minute Journal Pricing: $4.99
Automate Your Journal with Zapier
Maybe you don’t want to set up or sign up for yet another app. No worries! With app automation tool Zapier, you can connect your favorite apps and create your own digital archive of your life, automatically.
For example, you can send your photos and thoughts to a new “Journal” or “Diary” notebook in Evernote or OneNote whenever you post to sites like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, or add an event to the notebook when it happens in Google Calendar to keep track of where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing.
Quickly Append a Note in Evernote or OneNote
If you’re using a single note as a log to track your work projects, health, travel history, and more, getting updated info as quickly as possible into that note is paramount. With Zapier’s Push Chrome extension, you can easily append an existing note in Evernote or OneNote with your new information without having to switch windows. Check out this tutorial on updating a note in Evernote or OneNote from your browser.
As simple as it seems, journaling is a rewarding activity that can reap many benefits. The hardest part is actually sitting down and writing, but the apps above—with their reminders, prompts, and simple interfaces—can help make this the year you actually keep up a journal.
Source: Melanie Pinola