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Five Best Journaling Tools

Public declarations and diatribes have their place, but sometimes you need a private space for your thoughts, dreams, and ramblings. Whether you crave a digital or analogue tool, you’ll find it in this Hive Five.

Photo by Barnaby.

This week’s Hive Five is a mix of online and off, digital and analogue, and a rather interesting sample of how Lifehacker readers like to record their thoughts for future reflection and posterity.

Microsoft Word (Windows/Mac, $US99)

Many a person has started journaling by simply opening up the default word processor on their computer and setting to work. Microsoft Word is a fixture on hundreds of thousands of personal computers, and many Lifehacker readers found it more than adequate for their journaling endeavours. On top of creating documents in a commonly used format, most of us use Word at work and at home and are already quite familiar with the interface, formatting, and shortcuts. Being comfortable with your journaling tool of choice goes a long way towards encouraging you keep at it.

Pen and Paper (Analog, Variable Cost)

Long before people were pecking out their missives on typewriters, let alone keyboards, they were quietly scribbling them onto paper. In an age of instant sharing and easy digitization, many of you showed a strong affinity for recording your most private moments with the solidly analogue and difficult to share medium: pen and paper. For many Lifehacker readers there is no substitute for the privacy and ease of use that comes with keeping an old fashioned paper-based journal. Among the variations of the pen and paper motif you submitted, readers showed a distinct passion for high-quality pens and Moleskine notebooks. Rich paper and smooth flowing ink is apparently the icing on the cake of analogue journaling. Photo by MShades.

Microsoft OneNote (Windows, $99)

Designed as a sophisticated note taking tool, Microsoft OneNote can easily do double duty as a journaling tool. If you like to drop photos, music, and other media into your journal entries, the file integration of OneNote makes such journal keeping tricks a cinch. The app can also easily link together your journal entries by text links and tags. OneNote’s Windows Mobile client and hand-writing recognition make it easy to record your thoughts during the day and dump them into your journal when you return home. If you’re unfamiliar with OneNote, our review of OneNote 2007 is worth a peek.

Evernote (Windows/Mac, Free-to-$US5/month)

Evernote is a wildly popular application for capturing and organising all manner of information thanks to its trifecta of desktop application, web-based interface, and mobile client. For many readers, it makes sense to simply work their daily reflections into the tool they already have at their fingertips. If you’re using Evernote as your personal journal, you can leverage the text recognition and tagging to make your journal entries available and easily search friendly. If you’ve avoided journaling because you consider it antiquated and hardly something a busy modern person takes the time for, Evernote makes it easy to write when you have the time, since it’s almost always with you thanks to a web and mobile phone presence. The free account can easily handle basic journaling, but if you find yourself needing more storage or use of the multimedia functions, there is a $US5 a month premium account.

WordPress (Web Based, Free)

While blogging is usually intended for a larger audience, many of you used blogging software to maintain a personal journal. Among the blogging tools used, WordPress was a clear favourite thanks to its ease of use, ability to keep entires completely private, and a free-as-in-beer price tag. Using blog software as your journal tool has several benefits: You can log into your journal from anywhere, tag your entries, use text and calendar-based search, and take advantage of WordPress’s vast extensibility to customise and tweak your journal to include all the tools and information you desire. WordPress will run on your own web server, or you can sign up at WordPress.com for a basic account.

If you’re aghast that your favourite method of journaling—cuneiform tablets anyone?—didn’t make the Hive Five, or you’ve just got a great journaling tip burning a hole in your pocket, share your thoughts in the comments below.