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It was a diary when you were a kid, it’s a journal when you’re a grown-up. Call it what you want, but it’s healthy to have a habit of regularly jotting down your thoughts, feelings, moods, and experiences. If you haven’t done that for a while, these five apps will help you get started with journaling.
When you’re trying to form a new habit, it’s a good idea to reduce the number of obstacles you have to overcome. Choose an app based on a method you would find most comfortable, and you’ll magically form the habit a lot faster.
Whether it’s an app that sends daily email reminders to write emails or a journal that asks you new questions every day to spark different entries, there’s something for everyone.
Write.as (Web, Android, iOS): No Signup, Just Start Writing
Most journaling apps force you to create an account, which has its pros and cons. An account lets you sync entries across multiple platforms, and access it anywhere. But if someone else gets a hold of your account, they could read your most private thoughts. Write.as is a no-signup way to start journaling without attaching the notes to yourself.
The app works better at storing information locally on your iPhone or Android phone. There’s also a web app (and Chrome extension), but as with all things in a browser, you’ll lose those entries if you wipe the browser cache.
If you ask me, that’s not a big point against Write.as. Journaling isn’t always about going back to see your old entries, it’s as much about letting things out of your system. I think of Write.as more as a tool for expressing thoughts than reading them later. Get it out there.
Tiny Thoughts (Web): New Questions for Journaling Inspiration
If you have just started with the habit of a daily diary, it can seem overwhelming at times. You’ll have days where you wonder, “What do I write about today? Nothing really happened.” Tiny Thoughts has a smart approach to solve this issue by asking you a new question every day.
Questions vary, from things like “What made you smile today?” to “What do you wish you had said today?” Answer with one sentence, and your daily journal entry is done. Much less pressure, isn’t it? This is a more mindful approach to journaling and the kind of simple tactics for happiness that anyone can employ. Like Write.as, you don’t need to sign up for Tiny Thoughts, but it’s probably better if you do.
Apart from the new approach, Tiny Thoughts has all the things you would generally want from a journaling app. For example, you can add tags to your entries, choose to get reminders for entries with Chrome and Firefox push notifications, and even download all your data. Plus it’s fully encrypted to protect your privacy.
The free version of Tiny Thoughts should be good enough for most people. But if you feel like you want to continue with it as your main journaling app, try the premium version that lets you post photos in the journal.
Dabble Me (Web, Email): Email-Based Journaling App
One of MakeUseOf’s favorite journaling apps, Oh Life, unfortunately no longer works. Oh Life sent emails to users, and a reply to the email counted as a journal entry. It was a nice system that worked well. If you’re looking for a replacement, Dabble Me is the best you can get.
The free version of the app is quite limited and not something we recommend, but the paid version ($3 per month) is great for those who want an email-based journal. You can customize when you get the email reminders, add photos and Spotify entries, and get small prompts every day on what to write about.
Unlike many journaling apps, Dabble Me also wants you to revisit what you’ve written in the past. Every email reminder to update entries also comes with a random old entry. It’s a nice system, try it out.
Jarme (Web, Android): A Journal for Live Logging
Some people prefer to write their journal entries at the end of the day, recapping what happened. Others take a live journaling approach, like taking a photo of something you see, writing an entry about it, and chronicling life as it happens. Jarme is better suited for those who want a live journal.
The free version of Jarme has a few limitations, but it’s good enough to get started and try out live logging. Every entry will track the writing date, time, and place. You can add colors and icons, and even post a picture in the entry. Tagging, statistics, mood tracking, and a voice recorder are part of premium version upgrades.
And as the name suggests, Jarme also lets you create memory jars, which is a fancy way of saying you can put your entries into different categories. So you could have an entire jar of experiences in the office or another jar of entries related to a loved one.
ZenJournal (Android, iOS): Minimalist, Endlessly Scrolling Journal
I love ZenJournal’s approach to the idea of the daily diary. Instead of separate entries, it turns your journal into a long, endless scroll. But the writing interface always starts off as a blank page. Here’s how it works.
Open the app and you have an empty space to write in. Don’t think about what to say or how to journal, or what you wrote last; just start writing. When you’re done and tap that plus icon, the entry will be stored and you won’t see it again till you search for it.
As with all other journal apps, you can sort entries with hashtags, but you don’t really need to. ZenJournal’s built-in search is fantastic, digging up old entries in real-time as you type keywords to search.
The app also puts an emphasis on privacy. Everything is stored offline. You can erase all your logs in a couple of taps, and backup or restore entries to the phone’s memory.
Done With Beginner Apps? Try Day One
This list of journaling and diary apps is ideal for those who aren’t accustomed to this productivity technique. No approach is empirically better than the other, the idea of all these apps is to make journaling a habit and guide a beginner in digital journaling.
If you want to move on from a beginner-level app, then there are two to consider above all others. Day One is the best journaling app for iOS and Mac users, while Windows and Android users should go with Journey, or one of the other new apps to track mood, progress, or resolutions.