The best note-taking software for your digital journal

There are a few different ways to edit your journal – the option you choose will depend on how you like to work, what device you're using, what platform or operating system you use, and of course if you already have a favoured programme that you know your way around.

However you choose to work with the journal, you will need a note-taking app to view and edit the content.

System viewers such as Preview or the Windows PDF viewer will enable you to annotate the app, but these are designed for the purpose of reading and viewing PDFs, and maybe making the occasional note. As this is an interactive journaling tool, you will likely need something a bit more suited to the task.

Paid vs free note-taking apps

It is possible to enjoy the full functionality of our PDF journal tools without paying for a premium subscription or full purchase.

The apps listed below all come with free versions. Some are open-source and totally free, while others are freemium – meaning that you may have to pay a small amount to unlock all functionality (such as cloud sync, or the ability to keep unlimited notebooks).

But these limitations should not affect your ability to use the journal to its full potential.

Here are a few apps to explore

GoodNotes (free, with limitations)

GoodNotes is my personal favourite – unfortunately, it's currently available only on Apple devices, but we hope to see it rolling out further afield very soon. (In fact, the Windows beta is already open – you can sign up here.)

To open your journal, you can either select 'Open with GoodNotes' after you download the document, or select the import option within the app.

GoodNotes has two modes – edit and view – which can be toggled using the icon in the top-right corner. While you are in edit mode, you can make notes using the text tool or the stylus tool. The app will detect where the lines are on your journal, keeping things nice and neatly aligned as you go.

While you are in view mode you can click on the interactive links within the document to bring you to different sections – months, pages, etc.

Find out more here.

NoteLedge (free, with limitations)

NoteLedge is the closest thing to GoodNotes that we've found for non-Apple platforms. 

It offers you the ability to import documents, annotate either by typing or by handwriting, and also offers a free version with certain limitations (though you should still be able to get full use out of the journal, as the main limitation relates to the number of notebooks you can have at any given time).

Find out more here

Xournal++ (free) and Butterfly (free)

These tools are open-source, meaning they're free to use. While open-source software can sometimes be tricky to download or install, these tools both offer download managers – so you can load it up as easily as any other programme.

For tablets or devices such as reMarkable or iPad, you can edit it with a pen or stylus like a paper journal. But it's by no means limited to handwriting – typing works just as well, normally by using the text function of your software, clicking where you wish to write, and going from there.

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