Day One Journal App review

Hardeep Nagra
Hardeep Nagra
Day One Journal App review

Day One is one of the best journaling apps for iOS and Android. Here are my favourite features of the app and why it's become the only way I journal!

I'm back with a new app review. This time, I take a look at one of the best journaling apps - Day One.

First let's take a look at why journaling is something you should consider doing if you're not already.

Why you should journal

Journaling is a great way of capturing your thoughts, memories, and ideas at a point in time. You can then look back in the future and see how it was you were feeling during certain times of your life.

If you look back through history, there are plenty of famous journal keepers, from Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Anne Frank. Modern journal keepers include the likes of Barack Obama and Tim Ferris. It's clearly something of value when you look at this list of people that keep a journal. And it's not surprising when you list a few of of its benefits:

  • It helps you get things out of your mind and on to paper and therefore freeing up your mind so you can focus on what you need to get done.
  • It helps you to remember things in the future which you can later look back on.
  • Research suggests that expressive writing can have a healing impact, as it reduces stresses by allowing people to consider their lives with a fresh perspective.

How to journal - paper & pen vs. An app

There are a number of ways you can journal. From classic paper and pen to using an app like Day One. Each has its own benefits.

With paper and pen, it's as easy as opening a blank page and starting to write whatever it is that is going through your mind. I find there's something calming about physically putting pen to paper and once you start you can quickly get into a flow of writing.

The problem I had with carrying around a notebook and pen was that I'd forget one or the other behind. As a result, I found it difficult to maintain a regular journaling habit. The other problem is that I think it can be difficult to go back in time to find certain memories or journal entries unless you're super organised.

After several failed attempts at paper and pen journaling, I began the search for an app that might help instead. There are key benefits of using an app to journal over paper and pen:

  • Your journal is always with you as nowadays we don't leave the home without our mobile phone in our pockets
  • A digital journal can be stored in the cloud, so you don't have the same risk of damaging it or losing it somewhere as you'd have with physical notebooks.
  • Finding past journal entries is easy with apps letting you tag journal entries or automatically adding metadata such as time, date, and location.

What is Day One?

Day One is a journalling app for Apple and android devices that has been around since 2011 and is the no. 1 journal app for IOS. It has over 10 million downloads and has won Apple's editor choice, app of the year, and Apple design awards.

It lets you create new journal entries, edit old ones, have different journals for different parts of your life, you can upload photos, add metadata...the list goes on!

What are a few of its best features?

  1. Prompts - Day One's solution to help keep a consistent habit of journaling is prompts. Each day I get prompted to write in the journal with short and quick questions which are designed to lead to a more detailed journal entry once the user starts writing. An example of a question might be 'what was your favourite childhood cartoon character' or 'who was your best friend when you were younger'. Day One has this handy widget that you can set up on your iPhone or Android home screen which will show you the daily prompt. I find myself reading it and responding to the prompt when I'm spending time aimlessly scrolling my phone.
  2. Markdown editor - I started using Markdown when I started the blog, but now I can't imagine writing any other way. Day One uses original markdown as created by John Gruber of Daring Fireball. I prefer writing in markdown because it saves time and you can focus on writing rather than spending time going back to amend formatting. I'm writing this post in markdown using iA writer.
  3. Add photos to journal entries - The cameras on our smartphones are excellent today and we snap over 1.2 trillion photos a year using them! Day One automatically links to your photo library if you give it access, allowing you to add photos or videos from your camera roll straight into a new journal entry. It's a quick and easy method of adding detailed captions to your photo and video memories that you can later look back on with fond memories.
  4. Automatic metadata tagging - When you create a new entry in Day One, it automatically assigns metadata like time, location, weather, and even step count or what activity you were doing at the time if you connect it to your Apple Watch. It's useful information to see when you revisit these entries in the future or if you went on a trip and wanted to see all journal entries from that location.
  5. Search (Indexing) - Day One has a few different ways of finding your journal entries. By default you see entires in a list, but you can view them by photos, location, or by calendar. You can go a step further by filtering your entries with all the metadata that Day One automatically captures or with tags you've created manually. The search is powerful and not limited to metadata - as soon as I start typing in the search bar Day One automatically finds all my journal entries that contain the relevant information and will display it. This includes any words I've typed which is great for when you're looking for a specific memory but don't remember the details.
  6. On this day - I think one of the most important things about having a journal is having the ability to go back in time to see what you were doing and how you were feeling during different times of your life. The 'On this day' feature in Day One helps with that. Day One automatically shows you your historic journal entries you've made on the current day. You can get notifications for this which is a nice way of being reminded about your past journal entries.
  7. Multiple journals - In Day One, you can create multiple journals for different areas of your life. For example, you might have one for family related journal entries, or others for specific trips you've been on. Shawn Blanc of The Sweet Setup uses Day One for Productivity Journalling, where each day he'll write what's he's accomplished in the past 24 hours, any notable conversations he's had, and anything noteworthy he's read. He also uses it as a travel log as it automatically captures your location when you record an entry, so he can look back on certain trips easily. He also uses it for weekly reviews, which is something i've started doing. I use a weekly reviews to reflect on how I felt during the week, what I accomplished, what challenges I faced, and what i'm grateful for. I do this using a template...
  8. Templates - Templates are a great way of capturing similar information on a regular basis, such as my weekly reviews or even a shopping list. They're easy to set up and I can pre-attach tags. I've added a weekly review tag, and then created a journal for Reviews so that I can quickly see all of my weekly reviews in one place.
  9. Security - Day One offers encryption, password protection, and automatic backups for your journals. Just as you'd want from a private, physical diary, you want to keep it safe and away from others. Day One is privacy protected with end-to-end encryption which means no one or no company will see your journal. You can lock your app with a passcode or with Face ID and Touch ID on the iPhone. Day One premium automatically backs up your journals so you don't have to worry about losing all your memories in the event of a disaster.
  10. Physical memory books - A nice feature that I hope to use one day is the ability to create physical memory books from your journal entries. You can select specific journals, a time range, or even include or exclude certain tags. Then customise the cover and order your physical book and it gets delivered to you in a beautifully designed book or you can download a PDF as a digital version which is super handy.

Where does it lack?

If you wanted all features, such as the ability to add more than one photo or automatic back ups, you'll need premium, which costs $35 a year. But in fairness, depending on how much you write and how fancy you want to make your journalling, a few fancy notebooks and a nice pen would probably cost you more each year. I think automatic back ups alone is worth the cost for Day One.

I wish Day One automatically added photos I'd taken that day when creating new journal entries. On the mobile app I can go to the Today view and it will show photos you've taken that day and this works fine. But, I dislike writing new journal entries on my phone because it's a pain to type long entries on the small keyboard. I tend to use the mac app and unless I'm being thick, if I've already created a new journal entry and then want to select more than one photo, I can't - I have to select one photo at a time.

I mentioned that I enjoy using markdown to write, and my favourite writing app is IA writer. One of the best features of IA Writer is its focus mode, which gets rid of all the toolbars leaving you with a clean, blank canvas allowing you to focus on writing. This is especially something i'd want to do when recording a new journal entry - avoid distractions and just capture my thoughts, memories, and feelings at the time. I'm disappointed then that Day One doesn't have a focus mode. The best I can do is hide my journal list, but that isn't distraction free.

End Note

If you haven't tried journalling before, or you've tried but haven't been able to keep at it, Day One is a good app and I recommend you try it out. They offer a free 7 day trial so you can always try it out first.

If you've got any experience with Day One or a different app, or if you have any tips or advice for me on good journalling habits, please leave a comment below.

Until the next one, H 🙂

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