The 10 Best Journal Apps for Your Mac

Gone are the days of pocket notebooks, or journals that people threw their many emotions and adventures into, or little metal-bound notepads that bear many lists, from wishes to tasks. A new era is upon us, the age of digitalisation. With it, traditional scribblers are called to conform to the rules of modern note-taking, journaling, and really, writing anything at all down. Because in this age of high-definition displays and shiny new phones that appear on the shelves of our favourite electronics store every few months, there’s not time to pull out the little notebook when the smartphone is right there.

This isn’t a mobile blog though, so where am I going with this elaborate point? Well, the Mac has applications for all these things too. Whether it be for journaling or jotting down a quick thought, the Mac App Store is full of solutions to help you make these tasks easier. It’s definitely a big market, and if the developer knows what he’s doing, a New and Noteworthy app can end up being your daily tool. Let’s take a look at the best ones there are for putting your thoughts in the safe confines of your Mac’s hard drive, or iCloud, or just some other cloud.Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.

Journals

If it’s a good day you had, put all the details in your digital book. If you have more than just words, throw in some pictures.

Day One

It seems appropriate that Bloom Built’s fine app, Day One, be first in the journals section. It’s not one of your normal apps that gets updated once or twice a year. Instead, the developers keep this one looking refreshed with new features consistently flowing in. Right now, it supports iCloud or Dropbox sync to keep everything backed up, has the ability to add photos to entries, has little inspirational blurbs to get you thinking, supports Markdown, is password protected (but not encrypted yet), has a really handy menu bar mini-app that lets you jot down some thoughts quickly, and is overall very simple in both design and functionality. It’s also scriptable, so there’s many extras for Day One to help you record everything you do, if you want. It’s only $9.99 on Mac and $4.99 on iOS, so feel free to carry it with you and keep everything in sync.

Price: $9.99
Requires: OS X 10.7.4 or later with a 64-bit processor
Developer: Bloom Built LLC

Diary by Michael Göbel

As an app by Michael Göbel, Diary takes a different approach to things: it’s extremely simple. At times, it can even seem too simple, lacking even the most important of features. Overall, however, the user interface is nicely polished, it supports Dropbox sync and encryption, you can import entries from a previous journaling app, photos and videos are supported and embedded into a quick-look system, and there are lots of filters to find what entry you’re looking for. One of the most distinguishing features about this particular app is its support for recording video with your Mac’s built-in iSight camera without leaving the app. With this kind of functionality, it doubles as a video diary, in case you didn’t want to have one of those hosted on your YouTube channel. All this for $2.99 is a great deal, too.

Price: $2.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.8 or later
Developer: MOApp Software Manufactory

Capture 365 Journal

Now for something a bit different. With apps of the same genre, it is hard to find a different selection. However, Capture 365 Journal is a sort of mix between Day One and a skeumorphic calendar with a large + button in the top right corner that uses the same ribbon as MacStories. Despite its lack of unique design — for the most part — this app sports some good features like tagging, iCloud sync, Retina support, photo attachments, password protection, and more. It’s only $4.99 too, so why not try it out as an alternative to Day One?

Price: $4.99
Requires: OS X 10.7 or later with a 64-bit processor
Developer: Sockii

Diarie

Apps up to this point have all centred around the same design concept. This one is much more skeumorphic than the others though. Instead of a native digital journal, it’s the same one you’ve always used in your daily life, only brought to its proper place in this age. It looks like a simple book with a timeline on the left and an entry on the right. There’s password protection too, in case you decided to keep your top-secret files in a digital journal. Care to add a photo to your happy memories? That’s also as easy as a drag and drop. Try it out for only $1.99.

Price: $1.99
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Jakub Klen

Memoir

The last entry to this section is more focused on security than anything. It’s a simple, focused app rather than one that has diverse features. Some see this as a good thing and others may think it’s over-focused. Regardless, this app has Spotlight integration for quick searching, drag and drop support for photos and text files, a helpful calendar to aid you in finding your entries, and base 128-bit encryption to keep it all locked up safely. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay $7.99 for such a minimal app, and that might be a turnoff since its user interface is far from modern.

Price: $7.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Voltimac Software LLC

Notebooks

Whether you need to write down a quick thought or organise a plethora of them, one of these apps will get the job done.

Yellow

Apple replaced Stickies with Notes in Mountain Lion, causing a lot of dedicated users to find an alternative, like Yellow. It may not sound all that great by name, but when you download the free app and use it, you’ll understand why it’s so nice to have. If you missed Stickies when it left the Mac, this is the perfect replacement. It supports rich text formatting and has that fun minimal interface — the one that looks just like a real sticky note. For free, how can you pass such a useful tool up?

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.7 or later with a 64-bit processor
Developer: Fernando Serrano Carpena

NotesTab

Coming to your menu bar, well, anytime you want really (it’s free) is an app of skeumorphism and functionality. The colours may be a bit vibrant at first, but you’ll get used to that extra bright and saturated leather feel. This app has time stamps so you can find out when you had that great thought, a sharing feature so you can send your friends an email of the note, search, and a star feature to mark special notes. Everything is right there in your menu bar and if it seems to good to be true, try it out for free.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.6.8 or later with a 64-bit processor
Developer: Fiplab Ltd

Notefile

Most note-taking apps are dull reiterations of Apple’s own OS X app. Once in a while, though, you will stumble upon a jewel that’s useful in its own special way. That’s how Notefile has become for me. At the start, it seems like an extremely basic note-taking application that can only be used by certain people. That’s true, but it’s also a good reason for you to become a member of the niche group. When I first reviewed it, I saw Notefile as a feature-lacking minimal app. Now, however, I use it for storing my items for roundups like this one. It’s useful for the little things, like shopping lists and quick thoughts. For something more powerful, refer to the next few apps.

Price: $4.99
Requires: OS X 10.7 or later with a 64-bit processor
Developer: Junecloud LLC

Noteworthy+

Here’s another menu bar app, but this time it comes with a twist. I mentioned that there would be some advanced note-taking apps coming, and this is the first of them. Supporting full rich text formatting and using a pleasant interface to display it all, this app has a lot more going for it than the other menu bar alternatives. Noteworthy+ even has support for text colouring, headers, different notebooks to act as folders, and large windows that are completely resizable. (It may as well be its own app, but the menu bar integration is better.) For free, it’s the most powerful menu bar notes app there is.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.7 or later with a 64-bit processor
Developer: Vervious

Evernote

Say hello to the elephant: the benchmark of all note-taking. Evernote has been around since 2008 when it launched with a public beta. It’s consistently improved since then, adding support for more platforms and eventually coming to the Mac App Store. The app is free, but there’s always a premium subscription if you want to contribute to the developers and get offline access with more cloud storage. Basically, this isn’t an app, it’s a service. There are apps on every major platform, from Chrome OS to Windows Phone, and everything is automatically synchronised into Evernote’s safe servers so you don’t have to worry about losing anything. In addition to that, it has sharing, note creation with PDFs or just plain text, allows for photos to be uploaded, and much more. It’s a journaling app as well as a note-taking one.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Evernote Corp.

What’s Your Favourite?

These are just some of the nice journaling and note-taking apps available for OS X. Among the many others, there might be one of your preference. Don’t just sit there and read this paragraph; tell us all about it. We’d like to know why you use your set of journaling or note-taking apps and what makes them unique. If you’re a developer who has a journal app in your plans, be sure to contact us about it.


  • Chiller

    I use Day One as my journal app. Not only has it a gorgeous UI and all the features I need (more than one picture per entry would be nice though) more importantly it has what many other apps don’t: a fully featured iOS version. I’m not at my computer all day so its nice to be able to make a journal entry on the go. Everything syncs so if you make an entry on your phone you can edit it on your computer later and vice versa.
    I can’t recommend Day One enough!

    For note-taking I use Notefile. Its very simple and minimalistic but that’s what I like about it. For me that’s enough. I’ve never felt the need to use Evernote. Even here, one of the major advantages over other similar minimalistic note-taking apps is that Notefile has an iOS version. Being able to make notes wherever I go and sync them is very important to me.

  • http://theNogblog.com Stuart Noggle

    I prefer Notational Velocity. http://notational.net/

    It is free and fast.

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      I was going to mention that, but I limited things to five and five (half for journals and the other half for note-takers). It’s definitely a great app compared to Justnotes or another Simplenotes Markdown editor.

  • Dmitry Nikolaev

    Honestly, I think almost all of them (except Day One) looks like a crap.

    PS

    I talk about journal apps, not apps that author mentioned to found anything similar to journal app, to write some sort of “the best 10 XXX apps for your mac” for SEO purpose. Ok. Honestly, the article itself like a crap (sorry, Jacob Penderworth).

  • http://www.aske.ws David

    Evernote runs my life!

  • Ian C.

    I’ve used MaxJournal since 2010 when iPad appeared and the first journal Apps were written. But it’s not been updated for over a year, has no sync, etc.
    I did some research (could have done with this article two weeks ago!) and bought Day One both for iPad and Mac.
    Manually copy/pasting 6000+ entries from MaxJournal to Day One took some time, but went ok. But as I’ve proceeded, Day One is not (yet) quite good enough.
    The Mac version doesn’t support tags (yet). Neither version supports multiple photos. Worse, the iPad version has slowed down massively with all the entries – load time is 10-20s I’d guess.

    Capture 365 looks interesting, suggesting better tag support and just like Day One the ability to sync between Mac and iPad. But the question unanswered is usability – will it slow down hugely with 6000 entries? Is it hard to change the date to make entries in the past?
    I’m really not ready to pay another bunch of $$$, only to discover that Capture 365 also isn’t really ready.

    I will agree that Day One support / response has been excellent in communications terms; maybe I just need to hope that they will update their App soon to be faster and have easier tagging.

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      I’ll let you know how Capture 365 does soon in a full review. Until then, I’d say to stick with Day One as I have all these years.

  • Dave

    Guys, these kind of roundups are all well and good but useless without screenshots of the actual apps. Are you reviewing apps that you don’t even have? Please show screenshots of the actusl apps!

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Actually, we’ve been transition to that format with some of our roundups, and we’ll see if we can do that more. It’s not very practical to include screenshots of every app when we’re rounding up, say, 50-100 apps, but it’d sure work with a roundup like this.

  • Leon

    Day One!

  • Nathaniel

    I tried Evernote for a while but never got in to it. I got Chronories from the App Store, and I love it. It has been updated in a while, but it still has all the different features I like having with standard journal writing.

  • Dude

    Macjournal. It’s the only one that has enough serious features for my use.
    I also got Day One. It’s beautiful, but quite limited , although tags is probably the one lacking feature i need the most.

    • timothy515

      Mac Journal WAS by far the best journaling app for the Mac. However, when the iOS app is so horribly flawed it is unusable. It is EXTREMELY easy – almost unavoidable – to delete the images and formatting of your entries while synching between phone and mac. This app just fell from best to worst in my opinion.

      Use extreme caution if you choose to implement both iOS and OSX apps.

  • http://[email protected] Taka Iguchi

    I love Day One. I used to use Evernote for journaling and Mac Journal before that, but have moved over to Day One because of:

    -PW protection
    -Gorgeous UI
    -Time, date, and weather stamp from pictures
    -Full screen, distraction free writing

    I still use Evernote for all my other archival and writing, but for a strictly journaling app, you cannot beat Day One.

  • http://shortofstories.wordpress.com Phillip Gruneich

    I’ve tested Noteworthy and NotesTab more than once. They’re slow, even though practical: slow. That’s a common issue from menubar applications.

    Notational Velocity is my way to do so.

    And if i ever write a diary, it will certainly be in Day One.

  • http://www.halogenic.com Ricky

    For note taking (as in research notes) I really like DevonNote http://www.devontechnologies.com/products/devonnote.html

    • aerifal

      agree. really clean, fast, small memory..

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  • Ligea

    I love Journler, but the developer can’t keep it going so I’ll have to find another one. I prefer to keep my journal safe within the confines of my laptop.

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  • Paul

    Look at Matilde ( https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/matilde/id623382857?ls=1&mt=8 ) also. It’s free and allows to save notes with unlimited photo and video.

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