What’s the right journaling app for you?

A survey of available iOS journaling apps.

Ana Mason
Ana Mason
Feb 7, 2016 · 5 min read

I recently wrote about the benefits of keeping a diary and mentioned how tech can foster the habit. I’ve been testing four journaling apps for a few months now and I’ll cover their pro and cons. If you have any recommendations for other apps, please comment below!

I am in no way associated with these apps, or their corresponding companies. The following opinions are my own.


I’ve been test driving the following apps on my iPhone: DayOne, HeyDay, Grid Diary, and Momento.

I created a comparitive chart with metrics that I personally look for in a journaling app. Be sure to read on for a detailed assessment of each app.

1. Day One

DayOne is the most robust option out on the App Store. It is cross-platform (mobile, iPad, and desktop) but you have to pay for the mobile/iPad app and desktop app individually. It’s well-designed and has unique features the others don’t.

The Good

  • DayOne has cross-platform support which makes it easy to create entries, wherever you are, whatever device you’re on.
  • I also really appreciate the text styling options available, a unique feature that I haven’t discovered in any other app.
  • There are plenty of features to keep the newbie and seasoned users engaged for a while.

The Bad

  • You have to pay individually for each platform app (App Store:$1.99, Mac Store: $9.99).
  • The app doesn’t auto-populate your information, which could definitely be a plus for many people. I appreciate my privacy, but I’ve grown to like how other apps pull in my photos and location information for the day.

Who’s DayOne for?

The eager, serious and/or enthusiastic individual who wants to start journaling.

Surprise Note

As I was editing this post, Bloom Built, the developer released Day One 2. I’ll be tinkering with this update and edit the article with any new findings.

2. HeyDay

If you take a ton of photos and lean more towards visual documentation, HeyDay is for you. If you give the app permission, it will automatically import photos and your location information (HeyDay calls this feature Moments). This is HeyDay’s strength over the competition.

The Good

  • HeyDay creates “Moments” which means it automatically pulls your pics and location info. The pictures can act as prompts for writing (either as captions, or inspiration to start from).
  • I really love the photo collage feature that you can create for each day.
  • Weirdly enough, HeyDay has a social network and you can browse other people’s entires they decided to publish. It’s voyeauristic but in a sweet and comfy way.
  • Free!

The Bad

  • HeyDay is no longer supported, so it’s a legacy app. It’s still the best option for those who take a lot of photos, but it’s not a viable long-term option.

Who’s HeyDay for?

People who document more through photos than words.

3. Grid Diary

Grid Diary distinguishes itself from the market through its grid of writing prompts. This pleasing, minimal focus on the writing experience allows you to dive right in to typing.

The Good

  • There’s a grid of prompts that’s very flexible, both in amount and content. You can adjust the number of prompts on the grid and you can customize the prompts from a list or write your own.
  • A delightfully minimal visual design, that really shines in the reading view of an entry.
  • Grid Diary has a cloud sync feature, where you can type your answers on a laptop/desktop and it syncs back to your mobile app. I honestly didn’t use this much, but if I became faithful to just Grid Diary, it would be a huge perk.
  • Also free!

The Bad

  • Ironically, I found the grid and number of prompts overwhelming. But you can easily overcome this by remembering this is for your eyes only. You don’t need to fill out every box, every day!
  • Privacy features don’t come default. You have to pay for the Pro version to lock your diary via passcode or thumbprint.

Who’s Grid Diary for?

Individuals who are all about writing, appreciate multiple prompts, and don’t want anything getting in the way.

4. Momento

I’ll be honest, I did not use Momento as much as the previous apps. The app gears itself towards people who are heavy social media users (which I’m not). So if you have a lot of pics and writing on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, this is the app for you.

The Good

  • If you allow it, Momento can bring a ton of pre-existing content into the app for you to work with via its Feeds (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Uber, Moves, Swarm).
  • Has sophisticated features such as tagging, backup, and search.
  • With all the access to your social accounts, Momento then groups all the information into each day. This way you can see everything you posted, across all social media, sorted by individual days.

The Bad

  • Initial setup can take a while, depending on how much content is being synced. And by a while, I mean hours.
  • If you don’t use social media a lot, this app is not for you.
  • It’s not free. You’ve got to pay $1.99.

Who’s Momento for?

People who have a ton of pictures, posts, and checkins on social media and want to use them to start a journal.

Also, Momento has the benefit of letting you post an entry to your linked social accounts. So, one could potentially use it as a staging app to post across all social accounts. The only downside would be the Momento branding that shows up in the post.

An app will never replace my physical diary keeping. The range of emotion that I can convey by my handwriting, either by writing quickly, neatly, in BOLD, ALL CAPS, just can’t be substitutued. I love the slow pace of handwriting since it forces me to slow down and think. Typing on a phone or on a laptop makes it much to easy for me to speed over my thoughts.

But, I recognize the perks of keeping a diary digitally. It’s insanely convenient. The privacy is potential better, since you need my thumbprint or passcode to access my thoughts (instead of just cracking open a notebook while I’m not looking). And diary apps have a richer experience by importing a ton of photos and other content you probably already have on your phone.

Through this survey, I came across the app I’ll be using to document my thoughts, ideas, notes, and anything else while away from home. And I hope this article helped you find a good fit too. Keep journaling!

P.S. If there’s interest for a survey of Android apps, I’d be happy to conduct it. Just comment below so I can gauge interest!

Writing Ourselves

A publication exploring the ways people document and tell their stories.

Ana Mason

Written by

Ana Mason

Product Designer. Loves tools that help tell stories. Doodles, bikes, reads. http://www.anamason.com

Writing Ourselves

A publication exploring the ways people document and tell their stories.