Bullet journaling has become popular recently—it’s great for relaxation and mental health and can also help with productivity and organization. While paper bullet journals are common, bullet journal apps are also gaining popularity, as they are a more convenient, private, and easy way to write.
The Benefits of Bullet Journaling
Bullet journaling is similar to general prose journaling but has its own style and goals. It’s highly organized, with a focus on tracking various things rather than paragraphs of unstructured thoughts. For example, your bullet journal could have sections for tracking your daily mood, exercise routine, meals, finances, or study or work habits. You can also record everyday life experiences alongside your habit trackers.
Millions of people have discovered all they can gain from adopting journaling as a hobby—it’s estimated that one in six people are currently active journalers. It has long been recognized as a highly effective tool for improving mental and emotional wellness and is proven to provide an array of physical and mental health benefits, such as improving mood, promoting problem-solving, and encouraging personal growth.
Bullet journaling, in particular, adds increased productivity to this list of benefits. It can help you build good habits and stay in touch with where you have been and where you want to go, using organization to help you get there.
What to Look for in a Bullet Journal App
Maybe you’re not familiar with bullet journaling or the tools involved yet, and that’s OK! Apps are great because they offer highly organized ways to explore new habits and modes of thinking. Here are some features you should look for.
- Customizable: The best bullet journaling apps offer personalization and ways to tailor the writing environment to make it comfortable and productive.
- Welcoming: The design should be attractive, intuitive, and welcoming. You should want to use it.
- Affordable: Free is always best when it comes to apps, but when you find one you like, it’s reasonable to expect to support the folks who crafted it. Bullet journaling apps should not carry heavy subscription burdens, however.
- Syncable: Like any text-based or productivity app, you want to know that everything you enter will still be there, no matter which device you’re picking up to journal with.
- Cost: Every app should provide decent features and functionality for free and not lock any vital functionality behind a premium paywall. Likewise, any premium features should also be worth the upgrade — though pay close attention to whether the required payment is a one-time transaction or a recurring monthly or yearly charge.
The Closest-to-Paper Experience: GoodNotes (iOS)
GoodNotes (Free, with in-app purchases) is ideal for those who want a completely freeform digital bullet journaling experience as close to paper as possible. GoodNotes 5 is one of the top note-taking apps in the entire App Store — plus, its premium option only requires a one-time fee rather than monthly payments.
You can create as many digital notebooks as you want and set up custom page spreads, just like on paper. You get the convenience of easily copying your page spreads or pasting in digital photos and stickers. It even works with your Apple Pencil to create one of the most versatile journaling experiences available.
GoodNotes also has a helpful search feature that can even recognize your handwriting, so you can quickly and easily search for keywords throughout your journal. GoodNotes offers endless custom pen and highlighter colors and delivers the ultimate digital-paper bullet journaling experience.
Great Multipurpose App: Elisi (iOS/Android)
Elisi (Free, with in-app purchases) is a note-taking, goal-planning, task-tracking, and daily-journaling app that will meet you wherever you are, whether on iOS or Android. It’s billed as a “one-stop-shop” for everything you need to invest in personal growth and achievement, and it’s easy to see why.
Elisi offers a robust weekly planner that lets you take as much or as little control over your future appointments and priorities. Rounding out the app are its habit-tracking, fast note-taking, and “workspaces” features. Workspaces is particularly interesting since it lets you subdivide your thoughts, notes, and lists into separate domains, like “work” and “home life.” With broad compatibility and a thoughtful feature set, don’t be surprised if Elisi takes the place of two or more apps in your current digital loadout.
Best Security Features: Day One (iOS/Android)
Day One (Free, with in-app purchases) is the best option for you if you want a great digital journaling app with comforting security features. It’s available for Android, iPhone, iPad, and Mac, with a bonus app for Apple Watch.
What’s great about Day One is that it is completely secure. You can protect your journal with biometric or pin passcodes so no one but you can access your journal. This allows you to feel free to write down whatever you want without worrying that other people might see it. Day One has a clean, relaxing aesthetic and helpful organization features perfect for bullet journaling.
One of the app’s marquee features is its uncluttered, minimalistic design. The clean aesthetic fits with the spirit of bullet journaling, which is to surface and explore information about your life rather than get distracted by the tool you’re using to do it. User-friendly menus make text and media customization effortless, and you can scroll back easily through past entries just like you would your camera roll.
Fantastic Additional Features: Journal it! (iOS/Android)
Journal it! (Free, with in-app purchases) is a multi-platform bullet journaling app with a clean, colorful aesthetic. It’s worth noting that while the mobile apps are free, using the web app requires a premium-tier upgrade. It features a flexible pricing model with its premium version, which allows you to access features like the web app, the ability to sync across devices, a dark mode, end-to-end encryption, reminders, markdowns support, and comments and reminders.
Journal it! has gained popularity in the digital journaling community for its unique organizational features, such as the ability to color-code your entire journal, additional statistics for habit tracking, personalized “journeys,” and built-in tools like Tags, People, Categories, and Activities. If you love habit tracking, it’s hard to beat Journal it!
Best for Minimalists: Journey (iOS/Android)
Journey (Free, with in-app purchases) is a great option for those who like a minimalistic, functional platform. Some people can find bullet journaling intimidating at first because photos online can make it look art-intensive or time-consuming. This doesn’t have to be the case, though. There are endless ways to bullet journal. It really comes down to deciding what you want to track and finding a helpful way to organize things.
Journey is perfect for simple, straightforward digital journaling. The entry timeline feature makes it easy to view your entries as weekly spreads or any other layout you like. You can even add geo-tags to your photos and entries— an excellent feature for those who enjoy traveling. Journey has security features so you can keep your journal private.
There’s even a helpful “Journey Coach” feature that can offer you inspirational quotes and encouragement. However, this feature is exclusive to the Monthly or Annual membership tiers. A one-time upgrade to the Premium license unlocks other features, too, including a rich text editor, dark theme, additional “export to” options, Apple Health or Google Fit integrations, and much more.
Useful as a Mindfulness Tool: Grid Diary (iOS/Android)
Productivity isn’t the only purpose of bullet journaling—it’s also a superb tool for self-reflection and mindfulness. Grid Diary (Free, with in-app purchases) is a stellar choice for those looking to focus on these aspects of bullet journaling.
Grid Diary gives you prompts or questions to journal about every day and organizes them inside the app. It has a calming, minimalistic design that makes it easy to focus on your journaling. You can create your own prompts, which are perfect for working on specific goals, or use app-generated ones. You can also add photos to your entries to enhance your experience.
Daily journalers will find the paid Membership Tier upgrade worthwhile. It includes multi-platform syncing, unlimited journals, tags, templates, custom prompts and quotes (the Free Tier limits these), additional font and text personalization, app themes, “export to” tools, higher-priority customer support, and other helpful features for power-users.
Best for Work and Collaboration: Trello (iOS/Android)
Try Trello (Free, with in-app purchases) if you’re looking for a bullet journal that will help you maximize your productivity, especially at work. This digital option is especially popular as a business-oriented journal, but you can use it for professional and personal journaling. Trello is great for making lists, which are organized into “cards” and then “boards.” You can use these organization layers to set up your journal in days, weeks, months, or whatever system works best for you.
Trello has a two-factor authentication security system, and the base version of the app is free to use. It’s great for collaboration and integration with other apps, like Google Docs.
Most individuals will likely find the Free tier of Trello sufficient for their uses. Upgrading to the Standard paid tier unlocks additional boards (capped at 10 per workspace for Free users) and adds support for teams in the form of custom project fields, advanced checklist features, unlimited storage, and more. The Premium paid tier is for teams of 100 or more.
Greatest Versatility: Taskade (iOS/Android)
Taskade (Free, with in-app purchases) is a great bullet journaling app for those who want simplicity without compromising features. It has a clean, nondistracting layout and comes with a library of templates to choose from, including one specifically designed for bullet journaling. Taskade is great for freeform notes, as well as for making lists and outlines. You can use tags and calendar features to search through your journal easily, and Taskade allows you to add photos, attachments, and comments to your entries.
Taskade is free to use, and you don’t even need to make an account to try it out. However, premium plans are available for those who want more features. The paid plan includes version history, support for larger file uploads, advanced permissions and calendar integration, and other power-user features.
Plus, the app is readily available on just about every platform you might want to use, including iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows.
Additional Options: Any Notes App Will Do
Truth be told, almost any note-taking app will do the trick when it comes to bullet journaling and generally taking charge of your life.
Some of the best options are those that come pre-installed on your desktop or mobile devices and those designed for close integration with your operating system of choice. Going with something familiar and baked-in has the benefit of “getting out of your way” and providing a no-nonsense journaling experience with nothing to configure. Here are two strong contenders.
Microsoft OneNote works on Windows, Macs, iPads, iPhones, and Android devices, so you can access your journal across multiple devices. And since it’s free to use with a Microsoft account, it’s easy to get started without hassle.
OneNote blends typed text capability with digital pen handwriting. You can easily switch between writing and typing if your laptop has a touch screen or you write in OneNote with your Apple Pencil. Different tabs within notebooks make organization easy for those who like to set up their journal in sections. If you’re already used to Google Docs or Microsoft Word, you’ll feel right at home with OneNote.
Apple’s Notes app enjoys the benefits of close integration with Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems. Whether you use an iPhone, iPad, or Mac — or log into iCloud.com on Windows — your entire Notes library will be waiting for you with the latest updates you’ve made. iCloud integration makes sharing and collaborating on notes easy, too.
The Notes app is pre-installed on macOS, iOS, and iPadOS, making it a cinch to begin. You can configure Control Center with a shortcut to create a new note or open your last-edited note, too, which places the app just a swipe away. That alone makes it an excellent choice for iOS users. When a thought strikes you, you can record it with fewer button presses. Other features include web clipping, graphs, lists, checklists, and other text-formatting options. Like OneNote, the iPad version supports Apple Pencil.
Start Your Digital Bullet Journaling Adventure
Bullet journaling apps are an effective yet convenient way to accomplish your goals and track your habits. They are perfect for those who want to take up journaling but aren’t interested in art-intensive paper journals.
There are various bullet journaling apps available today to fit all kinds of niches, whether you favor lists, habit tracking, or something completely different. Taking a little time to research your options will help you find the perfect journaling app for your goals and bullet journaling style.