Journaling might seem silly on the surface, but a journal is extremely useful as both a permanent record of your thoughts and as a cathartic release. Regardless of how you plan to use a journal, our favourite on the iPhone is Day One.
- Support for multiple journals
- Inline photos
- Map and Calendar views
- Customisable reminders
- Timeline filters to change views and sort notes in a variety of ways
- Passcode and Touch ID protection
- Exportable backups with support for plain text and PDF exports
- Apple Watch support
- Share extensions
- Markdown support
- Automated metadata, including location, weather, motion activity, step count, and currently playing music
- Day One syncing with Mac App
- TextExpander support
- Support for If This Then That
Where It Excels
Day One was one of the first great journaling apps for the iPhone and over the years since its initial launch, it has remained firmly at the top. It strikes the perfect balance between features, usability, and design.
Day One knows that journals aren't always just about text, they're often about capturing a whole moment. When you create a new journal entry, Day One automatically pulls in a bunch of metadata, including your location, the music you're listening to, how far you've walked, the weather, and more. From there, you can add in up to 10 photos per entry or just start writing. What's nice about Day One is that while you can add in a ton of extra data, it's still perfectly usable as a text editor. None of the extra features get in the way of what it's supposed to be, a journal.
Day One is packed with features if you want them. First off, it supports multiple journals, which means you can create up to 10 journals, each with their own set of entries. You can also set up custom reminders to help you fill that journal with text every day, filter your journals by a variety of different metrics, and passcode protect them to keep your notes away from prying eyes.
Day One supports IFTTT, which means you can automate journal journal entries from any other service that IFTTT supports, like saving the tweets you like to Day One or cataloging every article you favourite in Pocket. It's also really nice that Day One doesn't lock you into their system. You can easily leave the service and export your notes at anytime as PDFs or plain text files.
Where It Falls Short
Day One doesn't have many downsides when it comes to features, but it's impossible not to talk about the asking price of $16. If you want to sync up with the Mac app, you'll also need to shell out another $US40 ($55), which is a lot, but we don't think the Mac app is necessary for most people. We also think that considering the amount of features and ongoing support, Day One is well worth $US10 ($14).
The only major complaint we have is that Day One only works with its own syncing engine and you cannot backup with Dropbox or iCloud. The custom sync engine is a benefit since it means faster syncing, reliable backups, and your notes are fully encrypted, but if you prefer to use another service, you're out of luck.
Diaro (Free/$US3.99 ($6)) is the best alternative to Day One for anyone who doesn't need Day One's more advanced features. In fact, Diaro looks a lot like early-era Day One. With it, you get one notebook filled with all your entries, a powerful search, and the ability to access your notes from a browser. The free version of Diaro also includes ads, so you'll probably want to shell out $US4 ($6) for the Pro version if you actually plan on using it. If you're just looking for a simple journal app without good organisation and not a lot of fluff, start with Diaro.
Momento (Free/$US3.99 ($6) per year), is all about automating your journal. You can hook it into a variety of different social networks and Momento pulls data to create journal entries. Of course, you can manually add notes too, but the main focus is on automation. If you keep a journal to capture specific moments, Momento is a good choice, but it's not great for longer form writing.
Of course, you don't necessarily need a journal-specific app. Though it's nice to have an app made specifically for journaling because it makes organisation much easier, any other notes options, like Simplenote (Free), Bear (Free), Evernote (Free), or OneNote (Free) will work perfectly fine. Most of these apps sort files by modified date as opposed to creation date, so they don't really work well as a journal by default. Still, they're fine and if you don't mind bending them a bit to fit your needs, they can do the job of a journal.