Day One: a Gorgeous, Synchronized Journalling App

There’s something romantic about cataloguing our own lives. Thinking through our day and choosing the important parts, reveling in our successes and coming to grips with our failures, expressing thoughts that we wouldn’t even whisper to our closest of friends; those are the opportunites that a journal offers. Journals have been, traditionally, paper books that we hide in nooks and crannies, writing in ink by a flashlight so no one could see what we told to our inner selves.

Now, with the devices that we all carry in our pockets, on our nightstands, or on our desks, the journal needs to evolve. Why not make it easier and more secure to journal? That’s what Day One is for.


The first thing that will strike you about Day One is how gorgeous everything is. Each element of the application was clearly thought out, with not a pixel misplaced or a color off-hue. Why is this important? Because a journal is a deeply personal thing, something that we are meant to confide in and share our deepest thoughts.

Day One's starting screen, for the first time (left) and subsequent launches (right)

Day One's starting screen, for the first time (left) and subsequent launches (right)

By having such a well thought out interface, Day One is at once inviting and comforting. The blues are bright and friendly, practically begging to be touched and trusted, all while the dark, textured grey instills you with the feeling that Day One is a vault that no one can enter without your permission.

The interface led me to enjoy Day One. Make no mistake: that is key to this application. If you don’t enjoy journalling you won’t journal, and there are far too many benefits to keeping track of your thoughts for this opportunity to be wasted.

From Your Mind to the App

Adding an entry into Day One is simple. All you need to do is tap that huge Add button that I mentioned earlier and you’re taken to a writing screen. Day One shines here as well, giving you multiple options for your writing.

Another distraction-free writing app? Ha! This is distraction free journalling. Totally different.

Another distraction-free writing app? Ha! This is distraction free journalling. Totally different.

First is the default screen, which allows you to not only write your entry, but also decide what date the entry belongs to if, say, you forget to create an entry one day but decide to catch up on the next. There’s also the option of Starring an entry and just deleting it entirely, which might be used but will probably be tapped infrequently.

Second is the full-screen mode. Instead of showing you all of the options and interface elements that are present in the default mode, the full-screen writing mode just presents you with the iPhone’s keyboard, a white canvas, and your words. This can be useful if you want that extra bit of space to see what you’re writing or if you find yourself distracted by the icons and other elements present in the default view.

Markdown? You Bet.

One of the more popular markup syntaxes to take text editors by storm is Markdown, a project from John Gruber. Markdown is a markup language that allows you to create a human-readable document that will also create valid HTML. This comes in handy for Day One when you want to add emphasis to what you’re writing without having the ugliness of HTML tags interrupting your thoughts.

Let’s say, then, that I’m particularly excited about something, so I want to make it bold. Instead of typing text I could type **text**, which is easier to read and much easier to type.

Writing with Markdown on the left, the output on the right.

Writing with Markdown on the left, the output on the right.

While most people won’t take advantage of Markdown within Day One, for those of us that already use the language it’s a nice addition that makes the app feel more complete.

An Archive of the Past

Writing down your thoughts is only half the battle. Often the point of a journal is not only a sense of peace and reflection in the present, but also the opportunity to study our thought processes and emotions with greater detail than we would normally be able to recollect.

Day One lets you get to your old entries in a few ways. First is with the All Entries view, which can be useful if you’re relatively new to journalling but cluttered if you’ve been faithfully adding an entry (or more) every day. This is where Starred entries and the ability to view your entries by year might come in handy.

Viewing your Starred entries.

Viewing your Starred entries.

Starred entries are fairly self explanatory. You mark an entry with a star and it shows up in this view, giving you a chance to review something that you knew was important at the time or marking something that you don’t have the time to read at this very moment for later. I’d recommend being conservative with your stars though, as what seems important enough to star today might seem trivial tomorrow.

Viewing your entries by year could be a fun exercise.

Viewing your entries by year could be a fun exercise.

The ability to view your entries by year offers a unique opportunity, though. Let’s say that each day I want to know what I was doing that same day the year before; Day One makes this possible, offering me the chance to view the previous year with a new light and allow me to reflect on the current year more clearly.

Synchronized and Secure

One of the great things about Day One is its portability and its scope. By having a journalling app in my pocket I can record my thoughts as they happen or when I have a spare moment, making capture easy. Let’s say that I have something longer to say though, that I don’t want to tap out on my iPhone’s keyboard. This is where Dropbox comes in.

By syncing with Dropbox, Day One allows you to keep your journal up-to-date across your Mac, iPhone and iPad, giving you easy access wherever you are. Unless you happen to be doing something that would put your devices in danger, you’ll probably have one (or all three) within arm’s reach at all times. A few years ago this would have been a nightmare, with entries in different states across all the devices.

Through Dropbox, Day One feels seamless. Syncing was fast, and I never lost any entries. As with any journal though, the question of security may be more important than portability. Thankfully, Day One has you covered.

And you thought a lock screen could never be sexy.

And you thought a lock screen could never be sexy.

You can optionally set a passcode within Day One’s Settings page, allowing you to require the passcode’s entry upon each launch of the app. I’d recommend choosing a fairly complex or unique passcode, but even if you choose something relatively simple, if whoever is poking through your iPhone guesses incorrectly they are immediately booted from the app, hiding your thoughts from their prying eyes.

Inviting, Simple, Synchronized, Secure: Day One

I can’t recommend this app highly enough. If you have even a passing interest in journalling your thoughts, Day One is worth a try. Not only is the application all of those adjectives that I listed above, it’s also affordable and being actively developed.

Try Day One today.


Day One is a journalling app that, through a combination of a gorgeous interface, ease of use and security, allows you to catalogue your deepest thoughts and have them across all your devices.

  • Cal

    I wouldn’t hold my breath for the promised features that are “coming soon”. The developer has been promising iCloud support for quite a few months now, but has not delivered on it, along with quite a few other features.

    It does have a lovely simple and clean interface, however in the face of constant delays in delivering what the developer said they were going to, I really don’t see how you can give this app a score of 10.

    • Nathaniel Mott

      It’s an excellent app. While it might not be developed at the pace that we may like, the existing product is an excellent offering that shouldn’t be discounted because of its failure to deliver on future promises. Dropbox sync is still the norm, and I don’t think that at this point not supporting iCloud is unacceptable.

      In fact, given how often I fail to get what I want from iCloud on the Mac, I’m glad that Day One has been using Dropbox. If Photo Stream is any indication, iCloud is great on iOS but slow and not mature on the Mac.

  • Rob Reale

    I’m going to agree with Cal that the program doesn’t deserve a 10/10. Part of that is that literally the program seems to have some unacceptable shortcomings, like the absence of tagging, categories and um, /encryption/, and part of this is that if you are going to write a credible review for a program like this, you can’t review it exclusively of the desktop client, and the desktop client is very basic. I have 1.0 and there is no help file, no “check for updates”, nothing. This program really isn’t practically used exclusively of the desktop client, so it earns double the deductions for the missing required features of a journaling program.

    In reality though, why are you reviewing any app so positively that is so void of any connectivity? Let’s adjust for reality: Developers are a dime a dozen and they come and go. This guy gets a job offer tomorrow and suddenly the app never gets any updates and people are stuck with their 2011 journal entries in this app, or worse yet, in a [RTF/TXT] document. How hard would it be to create an export to a format easily imported by any other program? Do you commonly use programs that have no ability to transfer data to any other program? If you had done your research you would have seen that there was a relatively longstanding complaint about the lack of export ability with this program, and it’s not clear what one gets with version 1.2 because all the developer wrote was “export to a text file” – I’d be looking for you to clarify that for me, the reader.

    The fact that the app doesn’t connect to any other program in any other way certainly makes for a good private diary, but just how useful is that in the end if the idea is to put information in this program that one would not put anywhere else? Well, it would be possibly basically useful if it encrypted that presumably private information, but it doesn’t do that at all. I mean for gosh sake, I could password protect a word processing document…. And what format is it in now if it’s not actually encrypted, is it just sitting on text files for anyone to read who sits down to my computer where my dropbox is logged in all the time?

    [5 minutes later] Well with 1.0, the results are fantastic! The file itself is stored in plain ol’ XML and viewable to anyone who wants to, with just a text editor. You can view a sample copy of a diary entry on my blog:

    As for iCloud support, I’m also in agreement with Cal on that one because haven’t developers had iCloud docs and access for at least 6 months now? I’m not totally sure that the delay in implementing that feature would be the developer’s or Apple’s fault – because as far as I can tell so far, iCloud is yet another iDisaster, the randomness of problems across every app, device and feature I’ve seen to date has been perplexing and a major downer.

    As for features being slow in coming, that’s entirely relevant, and for you to ignore it is unacceptable. Could you not simply sit down and objectively look at whether or not the app met the basic [objective] requirements of a personal diary keeping program? You’re reviewing a product as opposed to the developer, but those considerations are important because on one hand the Developer could indeed be weighed down with Apple’s problems (and that’s relevant to all users, right?), but on the other hand at $12 a pop for the matched set, this Developer should be able to achieve a basic feature set appropriate to the app he’s selling – in particular, encryption, tags and categories are extremely important. Venture funding? Probably not. Some part time coding help? Gosh I’d hope so. The point is – because you clearly missed it – if the developer isn’t reinvesting in the program then it’s a high risk of take the money and run, and although you might disagree, the program is not even feature equipped enough to be rightfully considered beta software yet.

    I’m sorry but more than the app, this review is a major and thorough fail.

    You know, I’m becoming more wary of the Envato logo when it pops up on sites I didn’t previously realize were Envato owned. The more I look at Envato owned sites with a careful eye, it’s becoming a concern that Envato publications and properties are first and foremost concerned about generating revenue, and carelessly so: generating revenue /from volume/, and quality is just an afterthought. This review is honestly so over the top in giving any endorsement to this app, and it’s made me think AppStorm is simply not trustworthy for tech related information.

    -rob the computer guy

    • Cal

      Well said sir.

    • Nathaniel Mott

      I can’t speak as to your comments on the Envato network, but I believe that you’re over-reacting based on the fact that I gave this application a 10/10 score.

      + 10/10 means that an app is enjoyable to use, does what it’s meant to, and doesn’t have any game-breaking issues. I don’t necessarily agree with a number-based rating system anyway, as I find that no matter how long a review is the number score is fairly arbitrary. Getting angry about this rating is silly.

      + If you have someone that wants to break into your Dropbox account, grab the XML file, open it, and ignore the code to read your actual entry, I’d say that you have bigger problems than Day One not encrypting your data.

      + Saying that this couldn’t even be considered beta software is damning of the developer, not myself. In my limited contact with him he has seemed to be genuinely passionate about the project. Whether or not he can keep up with software updates doesn’t matter if the current version of the application is functional (which, for most people that don’t call themselves ‘the computer guy’, it is). I’d bring TextMate 2 into this but they actually had to start development, breaking all of our world-class analogies.

      + I have yet to see a negative review of the application, and I’ve actually seen it in several ‘best of’ lists, featured in the App Store numerous times, and just generally praised. Even MacStories, who you (and I) recommend published a favorable review of the application.

      Are there issues with the app? Sure, for some people. Might the developer be a bit behind on his promises? Possibly. At the end of the day, though, Day One is going to allow the people that don’t know what XML is to keep a journal with low complexity and enough features to be worthwhile without being overwhelming.

      • Sterling W.

        If your article did not put the word “secure” in bold heading then maybe you’d get a pass for not thinking a journal needs to be encrypted.

        Yet you claim that Day One is a sound method of keeping your thoughts and plans and experiences from “prying eyes”. This is completely false.

        Additionally, I notice — as of today — that the list of features “coming soon” no longer includes encryption. Obviously the ball has been dropped.

  • Dan

    I respect that you may not like the app. I’m just giving my opinion.

    I think all of you are being too critical. Different apps work for different people. I use the unencrypted files to my advantage, so I can easily edit a journal entry on any text editor. And iCloud doesn’t always seem to work. Besides, just go to You’ll see that both the iOS version AND the Mac version update WITH iCloud support has been submitted for review, if iCloud is that important to you. But honestly, Dropbox sync is more widely supported.

    I’m not just in favor of the app. I’d like tags. I’d like other features the developer has been promising. But in my opinion, they’re not important. I just need a simple app, where I can write down my thoughts with no distractions.

    • Rob Reale

      Dan, I can respect that, but at the very least, the points cement the point of how it should no way no how be rated a perfect 10/10 score and it still behooves the writer of the review to use some common sense in saying “Well this app is for your private thoughts, but don’t put them in here thinking they’re being shielded from prying eyes.” As for iCloud support, why isn’t the writer telling us this? Well maybe because he just doesn’t care enough to take the time to follow up. It also occurs to me that Envato is an Australia based corporation. In the USA, we have laws that require a media publisher to make clear that they are reviewing a product that they make a commission of the sale on. I think if they were taking ad revenue from that publisher or an affiliate of that publisher they’d be required to disclose that as well. If it wasn’t the law, it’s certainly customary practice. The link in this article is an affiliate link.

      This entire episode is just too shady, and I suggest we go elsewhere to get our product reviews.

      • Kevin Whipps


        As the editor of the site, I can tell you now that we didn’t do this review because of any financial compensation. Nathaniel came to me because he enjoyed the app and wanted to review it, which is ultimately why we do things here.

        For more info on the topic, feel free to check out this post:

        Ultimately, if you pull anything out of that article, this is where I’m coming from:

        “For me, I find the best type of review is written by someone who uses — and hopefully loves — the program. For example, I’m a huge fan of Instapaper for the iPad. I use it every day — usually multiple times a day — and I really think it’s not only helped my productivity, but also the way I consume websites. As such, I wrote a review about it for our sister site, and gave it a 10 out of 10. You may not agree with the score, but at least you know that I have a strong opinion about it, which means that at least one person out there thinks it’s worth the money. Why not listen to someone who’s passionate about the program, instead of hunting and pecking in the App Store to find something that just works OK?”

  • Sarah

    Wonderful days wins. Seriously? It’s got the same features plus more. I wouldn’t give wonderful days a 10/10 either though, it doesn’t have tagging or iCloud support, but it’s more customizable and looks like more than just a note-taking app.

    • Nathaniel Mott

      I’ll check that app out, then. I’m interested in seeing how it differentiates itself.

  • Dan

    Yes, I agree, it’s really not a 10 point app, maybe an 8 or 8.5, because it IS missing some features. I understand the points that you are saying. But, now I think you are straying from the main topic a little bit.

    Anyways, I think I’ll stay out of this for awhile.

  • Chris

    I have Momento, and enjoy the tagging and support for that product. Day One looks nice though.

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