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Free vs Paid Journal Apps of 2021

Journaling apps can help you track your mood, explore your emotions, be more productive, and remember the moments of your life, big and small. We tested ten journaling apps to find the best value.

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Free vs Paid Journal Apps of 2021

We're living in historic and challenging times. Keeping a journal can document your life or manage the stressful emotions you may be feeling. A journaling app can help, so we tested ten to find the best free and paid choices.

Our favorite journaling app was the feature-rich Day One Journal, but beginning journalers might prefer the simple, quick, and effective Five Minute Journal, our runner-up. We also loved the emoji-based Daylio, the coaching templates provided in Journey, and the video diary 1SE. Here's how we chose:

Our Pick

Best for keeping track of your whole life

  • Personal journal, diary, notes, photos, locations. The perfect daily journal
    4.7 Ratings 86K+ Reviews 100K+ Downloads
    Free In App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases


No matter you want to use your journal for, Day One can do it and do it well. This feature-rich app can help you capture and organize ideas, thoughts, and moments. 

Why we chose Day One:

  • Free app with $34.99/year premium upgrade for voice memo and robust notebook features
  • The app has a simple and intuitive interface that makes it easy to quickly add notes, pictures, videos, and other memories from your day.
  • Day One also collects metadata, so you can effortlessly track your location, how many steps taken, and other details from the time of each entry. This can assist your memory and also help you learn more about your patterns (if your mood improves if you’ve moved more in a day, for example).
  • Powerful tool for productivity and self-discovery when combined with the web app. You can augment multimedia and short text notes from the app with longer more traditional journal entries on a real keyboard
  • The basic version has a lot to offer, but we recommend the upgrade here

Best for: remembering every single detail. 

Read Day One Journal's Full Review
Runner Up

Best Return on Your Time Investment

  • Guided gratitude journaling, happiness tracking, and daily stress relief.
    4.4 Ratings 19K+ Reviews 50K+ Downloads
    Free In App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases


If you want to reap the benefits of journaling, but don't have a lot of time and/or appreciate structure, Five Minute Journal is for you. 

Why we chose Five Minute Journal:

  • Only a $4.99 one-time purchase for a daily journal that anyone can get into
  • Simple and effective. Answer prompts in the morning and evening and upload an image every day. It takes five minutes (or less) but can have powerful effects
  • Designed based on principles from positive psychology, the prompts help you think about what you're grateful for and how you can make your life better. 
  • Just a few minutes can improve mood and productivity.
  • Notifications remind you to make your entry, and the low time commitment and easy-to-use interface make it easy and rewarding to return each day
  • If you're looking for lots of features or the ability to write free-form journal entries, this is not the app for you. But if you're looking for a quick and simple way to reflect on your day and boost your mood, Five Minute Journal is worth the money

Best for: those who value efficiency and structure.

Read Five Minute Journal's Full Review
Also Groovy

Best Templates for Wellness and Personal Development

  • Journal for your Mind & Soul. Google Editors' Choice
    4.5 Ratings 90K+ Reviews 1M+ Downloads
    Free Fresh In App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases


With this richly-featured app, you can make text and photo entries or journal in a more structured way with a large library of guided prompts.

Why we chose Journey:

  • Free version with an upgrade for $3.99/month, $29.99/year, or $89.99/lifetime.
  • Premium version features include expanded coaching features, email entries, and syncing with Google Drive.
  • Journey is a richly-featured journaling platform that helps you record your life through notes, photos, and video entries. The app works especially well in conjunction with the web app.
  • Journey has a rich library of guided prompts that help you on your wellness journey. 

Best for: living your best life and recording it all.

Read Journey's Full Review
Also Groovy

Best Mood Tracker

  • Self-Care Bullet Journal with Goals - Mood Diary & Happiness Tracker
    4.7 Ratings 366K+ Reviews 10M+ Downloads
    Free Fresh In App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases


Don’t want to type? With Daylio, you can track your daily moods and activities without touching the keyboard.

Why we chose Daylio:

  • Free app with upgrade for $2.99/month or $23.99/year
  • If you want to track your mood and activities but don't want to write, this is the app for you
  • Make entries by selecting emoji that correspond with your mood and what is contributing to it. This quick (and fun) practice helps you track how you feel and why, and can lead to powerful insights
  • Tracks stats to see how your moods change over time. This is a powerful tool for understanding the patterns of your moods
  • Fun interface awards badges for accomplishing different things to make mood tracking rewarding
  • The premium version includes a passcode lock for privacy and an expanded emoji library. While this is not a significant improvement over the free version, the extra emoji options are delightful, and the price might be worth it for a smile. Still, you definitely don't need to upgrade to get the main value from this app

Best for: visual thinkers and emoji lovers.

Read Daylio's Full Review
Also Groovy

Best If You Don't Even Have Five Minutes/Best Video Diary

  • Create your life movie
    4.7 Ratings 47K+ Reviews 1M+ Downloads
    Free In App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases


The most efficient journal on our list, 1SE brings your memories to life, one second at a time.

Why we chose 1SE:

  • Free app with PRO upgrade for $49.99 per year.
  • With 1SE, you record your life one second a day, creating a kind of time lapse video as you go.
  • While you lose a lot of detail with this method, it provides a quick snapshot that over time reflects the texture of your life -- and it's fun.
  • The app is easy to use and requires very little time for a lot of enjoyment.
  • The upgrade allows you to take slightly longer videos, make more projects, and collaborate with others. For most users, this is probably not necessary.

Best for: hitting the highlight reel of your life.

Read 1 Second Everyday's Full Review

Everything We Recommend

  • Our Pick
    The popular, award-winning journaling app is now available on Android! Our daily journal app will keep track of every chunk of your memory in a convenient and secure way… and it’s versatile too. It can be your calendar journal, memory journal, travel journal and it’s great for everyone.

    💡 Simple Memory Calendar
    From once-in-a-lifetime events to everyday moments, Day One’s elegant interface makes journaling about your life a simple pleasure. Keeping calendar & journal of every day of your life with photos has never been easier & more enjoyable.

    ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ “Day One makes keeping a journal delightfully easy.” — Wired

    👆 Create Habits
    Easily make journaling a part of your life:
    ✓ Reminders
    ✓ In-app and System Notifications
    ✓ Calendar, you can go through your online journal in a glance

    📒 Life-Enriching Benefits
    Reap the rewards of your consistency:
    ✓ On This Day flashbacks and Nearby entries.
    ✓ On-the-spot memory enhancement. A memory journal book that will always remind you of the best moments.

    📳 Preserve Every Moment
    There’s no limit to the memories you can save in Day One:
    ✓ Unlimited photo storage (Premium only)
    ✓ Unlimited journals (Premium only)
    ✓ Social media with Day One's IFTTT integration

    🔒 Secure Your Memories
    Day One Sync provides peace of mind:
    ✓ Passcode and Finger Print lock, ultra secured journal app
    ✓ End-to-End Encryption (coming soon to Android)
    ✓ Sync/Backup across all your devices (Premium only)

    ✍️ Focused Writing Experience
    Day One’s clean, distraction-free interface makes it easy to write down what’s important:
    ✓ Powerful text formatting with Markdown. One of the best journals for editing & writing
    ✓ Cross-platform support (mobile, desktop, and web)

    📒 Recall Every Detail
    Metadata automatically records the finer points of life:
    ✓ Location journal, keep exact location of your memories
    ✓ Time and date
    ✓ Temperature and weather

    🗓️ Organize Your Entries
    Finding any memory is fast and easy:
    ✓ Powerful search through your journal diary
    ✓ Multiple journals (Premium only), great for everyone
    ✓ Tags to find your daily journals easily
    ✓ Star favorite entries
    ✓ Browse by calendar, timeline, maps, or photos

    📲 Share Your Memories
    Our export options make it easy for you share your journals:
    ✓ Export to JSON and plain text (PDF Coming soon)

    “If you’re looking for a fantastic journaling app, or a great app for logging and recording various events and milestones of your life, then by far and away the best pick is Day One.” —The Sweet Setup

    Also available from Day One:
    Day One Premium
    ✓ Unlimited Photo Storage
    ✓ Unlimited Journals
    ✓ Cloud sync to all Day One apps
    ✓ Unlimited encrypted cloud storage
    ✓ Automated Entries (IFTT integration)
    ✓ Prioritized customer support
    ✓ Android Launch special: $2.99/monthly and $24.99/yearly (US Dollars)

    Premium FAQ: dayoneapp.com/premium/faq

    Start appreciating life more & get Day One Journal.
    Don’t ever say “I don’t remember” or “I can’t seem to remember that day”.
    Perfectly be aware of your great memories & remember every detail and great day of your great life.
    Download Day One Journal now for FREE and start a positive and lasting change in your life.

    For technical assistance or other inquiries, email: support@dayoneapp.com.
    In-App Purchases
    $2.99 - $34.99 per item
    $0.99 - $34.99 per item
  • Runner Up
    The Five Minute Journal uses proven principles of positive psychology to make you happier in 5 minutes a day with the guided gratitude journaling format

    “There are plenty of benefits to journaling, whether you take time to write out your full thoughts or just spend a few minutes jotting down the things you're most grateful for every day or lessons you've learned. Five Minute Journal makes this process easy enough to do on the go.” —Lifehacker

    “Not only do I love the simplicity in the design, but the fact that it takes only a minute to update the entries means this is something I’ll actually use. This app really gets you thinking about the positive things right before you start your day.”

    Beautiful, Intuitive Journaling Experience: The Five Minute Journal app has been designed to capture the physical Five Minute Journal experience. Getting around the app is a breeze and adding entries is easy with a guided flow for both your morning and evening entries.
    Easy Journal Entry Navigation: Quickly cycle through previous journal entries by scrolling your timeline or by tapping on a specific date in calendar view.
    Guided Journaling Flow & Prompts: A new guided process to help you get the most from your gratitude journal experience.
    Reminders: Set daily notifications to keep up with a rewarding journaling habit.
    Timeline View: Access previous journal entries and view short daily excerpts. Tapping on an entry leads to a full day review.
    Daily Quotes & Weekly Challenges: Receive daily inspiring quotes and weekly challenges, and share them across social media.
    Passcode Protection: Keep all your journal entries private with secure passcode, or Touch ID protection.
    Dark Mode: Use your journal in either light or dark mode, which is especially great for late night journaling.
    Compatible With Any Device: Use it on the Android app, Android tablets, iPhone app, Mac app, iPad app and Apple Watch companion app.
    Streaks: Track your personal progress and get some insights on positive changes in your life.
    Backup/Export: Easily backup your entries and export all your treasured memories and media to PDF, HTML, Dropbox, and more. You can select a date range or export all of them.

    Five Minute Journal App offers an optional monthly or yearly subscription with free trials or lifetime license.

    Here is what you get when you unlock the Premium:

    Photos and Video: Capture and view your magical moments with a daily photo or video. Attach media to any of your daily prompts.
    Personalized Practice: Create your own custom questions, tailored to your mood and goals.
    Mood tracker: Express how you feel and gain insights into how your emotions influence your days.
    Space for Notes: Clear your thoughts and write freely in the new notes section.
    Look Back Reminders: Get reminded of your memories with the “On this Day” feature.
    Timeline Photo View: See a photographic timeline view of all your daily photos.
    In-App Purchases
    $4.99 - $74.99 per item
    $4.99 - $74.99 per item
  • Also Groovy
    Join millions of Journey users and create a healthier, happier mind. A sanctuary for your mind and soul, Journey will help increase your positive energy, be more grateful and a calmer mind by building healthy thinkings through journaling.

    We’re more than just a journal, or a diary; we’re your own motivational coach and happiness trainer. Let's embark on a fabulous journey of self-improvement today.

    Top Reasons You Need Journey:

    ⁃ Want to find a place to keep daily reflections privately
    ⁃ Want to pour your feelings/brain dump
    ⁃ Want to keep a affirmation and gratitude list
    ⁃ Struggle to maintain a journaling routine
    ⁃ Want to get out of depression
    ⁃ Have anxiety and cannot calm the thoughts in your mind
    ⁃ Track the achievements you've made in life

    Journey Benefits:

    ⁃ Focus and Concentration
    ⁃ Better Sleep
    ⁃ Managing Stress
    ⁃ Calming Anxieties and Meditation
    ⁃ Happiness
    ⁃ Healthier Mind
    ⁃ Better Habits
    ⁃ Motivation

    Integrated Coaching:

    Ready for a healthier mind? Take your life to a new level by using our integrated journaling prompts by Journey coach:

    ⁃ Inspire Me
    "One good quote is worth a book". Receive daily inspirational quotes by famous people. Think and write how the idea applies to your life.

    ⁃ Gratitude 365
    "Whether you appreciated and give thanks for will increase in your life". Write 3 things you are grateful based on a topic of the day.

    ⁃ Love & relationship
    Reflect on your romantic relationship and identify habits that you need to build, problems that you need to fix, and the issues that you need to prevent in your relationship.

    And More...

    Journey Features:

    ⁃ Sync to cloud via Google Drive
    ⁃ Passcode and fingerprint protected
    ⁃ Available on mobile, desktop and web
    ⁃ Integrate Journey coach: a daily/weekly journaling prompt
    ⁃ Beginners step-by-step guide to journaling
    ⁃ View entries in timeline, calendar, map
    ⁃ Advanced search: Activity, mood, favorites
    ⁃ Compose entries via email
    ⁃ Link to Zapier

    To learn about Journey, please visit this page:

    Permissions Required
    ⁃ ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION: Determine precise location to retrieve places and weather
    ⁃ READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE: Import diary entry
    ⁃ WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE: Export and share journal entry
    In-App Purchases
    $0.99 - $169.99 per item
    $3.99 - $99.99 per item
    Daylio enables you to keep a private journal without having to type a single line. Try this beautifully designed & stunningly simple micro-diary app right now for FREE!


    Daylio is a very versatile app, and you can turn it in whatever you need to track. Your fitness goal pal. Your mental health coach. Your gratitude diary. Mood tracker. Your photo food log. Exercise, meditate, eat, and be grateful. Take care of your mental, emotional, and physical health. Good self-care is a key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.

    This is the time for your well-being, self-improvement, and self-care. Use Daylio as your daily bullet journal or goal tracker. We build it on three principles:

    ✅ Reach happiness and self-improvement by being mindful of your days.
    ✅ Validate your hunches. How does your new hobby influence your life?
    ✅ Form a new habit in an obstacle-free environment – no learning curve. Daylio is super simple to use – create your first entry in two steps.

    For anxiety and stress relief, make sure to include activities that help you to cope with negativity. Everybody can use a mood boost! You can measure their impact on your mood in stats.


    Pick your mood and add activities you have been doing during the day. You can also add notes and keep a more traditional diary with photos. Daylio is collecting recorded moods and activities in the statistics and calendar. This format will help you to understand your habits better. Keep track of your activities and create patterns to become more productive!

    You can review all entries in the charts or the calendar and share them with your friends.

    To make it even better, Daylio allows you:
    ⭐ Make reflection a daily habit
    ⭐ Discover what makes you happy
    ⭐ Use a big database of beautiful icons for your personalized activities
    ⭐ Relive your memories via a photo diary
    ⭐ Mix and match your own moods using funny emojis
    ⭐ Explore exciting statistics about your life on weekly, monthly, or yearly charts
    ⭐ Deep dive into advanced statistics for every mood, activity, or group
    ⭐ Customize color themes
    ⭐ Enjoy nights with dark mode
    ⭐ See your whole year in 'Year in Pixels'
    ⭐ Create daily, weekly or monthly goals and motivate yourself
    ⭐ Build habits and collect achievements
    ⭐ Share statistics with your friends
    ⭐ Safely back up and restore your entries via your private Google Drive
    ⭐ Set reminders and never forget to create a memory
    ⭐ Turn on the PIN lock and keep your diary safe
    ⭐ Export PDF and CSV documents to share or print your entries


    Daylio is by principle a private journal since we do not store or collect your data.

    At Daylio, we believe in transparency and honesty. Your data is stored locally on your phone. You can optionally schedule backups to your private cloud storage or take your backup file with you anywhere. Data are entirely under your control at all times.

    Data stored in the app's private directories are not accessible by any other apps or processes. Your backups are transferred to Google Drive via the secure (encrypted) channels.

    We don't send your data to our servers. We don't have access to your entries. Also, any other third-party app can't read your data.
    In-App Purchases
    $0.99 - $32.99 per item
    $2.99 - $23.99 per item
    1 Second Everyday is a video diary that makes it easy to take your day-to-day moments and create a meaningful movie of your life. It’s a home for all your notable memories, not just the Insta-worthy. Get started with 1SE today!

    REBUILT FROM SCRATCH: This is an entirely new generation of the 1SE app, rebuilt from the ground up to deliver the best possible experience to our Android users!

    2x winner of the “Best Use of a Mobile Camera” WEBBY Award.

    Featured by Apple, BBC, TED, CNN, Fast Company and more!

    "For over 6 years, I've been recording 1 second every day, so I'll never forget another day ever again. This project has had such a positive impact on my life. This lead to the development of 1 Second Everyday; which makes it easy for anyone to do this too. Being able to relive every single day has provided me with a treasured perspective on life. It holds me accountable for making each day notable. When I turn 40, I'll have a 1-hour compilation that encapsulates my 30s. If I live to see 80 years of age, I'll have a 5-hour video that summarizes 50 years of my life."

    - Cesar Kuriyama, 1SE Founder

    Why 1SE is awesome:

    - AD FREE: 1SE is free to use without ads!

    - ROTATE & FILL THE FRAME: Pesky vertical videos? Begone! Lopsided videos ruining your mash? No more! You can rotate and fill the frame to your heart's content.

    - UNLIMITED MASHING: Make 1SE videos of any custom length. Monthly, seasonal, or the past 5 years. You're in control.

    - 2 KINDS OF PROJECTS: Start out with two different styles of projects, ‘Freestyle’ for events or trips and ‘Timeline’ for a classic day to day video diary.

    - NOTES: Take note of your day and leave a private message for yourself.

    - REMINDERS: Set up friendly creative reminders, so you never forget a day!

    - PRIVACY: Your seconds are never shared with anyone unless you decide to do it.

    Our core app is free to use but if you want to help support our growing team while gaining access to more features try 1SE Pro!


    - Unlimited backup: Secure your life’s most precious memories and never lose them again!

    - Unlimited projects: Create as many Freestyle or Timeline projects as you want.

    - Multiple snippets a day: Up to two separate snippets in a day.

    - Longer snippets: Capture up to 3 seconds per snippet!

    - Add music: Gain access to royalty-free songs and add some music to your mashes!

    - Brightness: Edit the shadows and exposure with our updated snippet selector.

    - Remove 1SE Branding: Remove the date and logo at the end of your videos.

    Pro & Subscription FAQ: https://help.1se.co/pro-faq

    Privacy Policy: https://1se.co/privacy/

    Terms of Use: https://1se.co/terms-service

    We love your feedback and appreciate your reviews. Reach out to us at support@1secondeveryday.com

    Follow 1SE on:

    - Instagram: @1SecondEveryday

    - Twitter: @1SecondEveryday

    - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/1SecondEveryday
    In-App Purchases
    $5.99 - $49.99 per item
    $0.99 - $49.99 per item
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The 411 from our Appventurer

  • well done ... thanks

Caroline Rothnie
Written by:

Caroline Rothnie

Free vs Paid Journal Apps of 2021




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