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.