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The Best Electronic Journaling Tools: Offline

Yesterday I talked about online journaling options. Today I’m going to cover some of the tools you can use for electronic journaling that don’t require an internet connection. If you’re still torn between electronic and paper journaling, read the Benefits of Electronic Journaling and the Magic of Journaling By Hand for arguments on both sides of the coin. Or, you can do like I do and use both!


If you’re one of the cool kids, you probably have an iPhone. There are a million apps for the iPhone, and several for electronic journal writing. You can get some pretty great stuff for under a buck. I can’t vouch for these apps myself, since I’m not one of the cool kids and I don’t have an iPhone.

MyDiary for iPhoneIf you’re looking for a handy, feature-rich journaling app, MyDiary will likely fit the bill. It features password protection, paging by months, and a mail function that allows you to send entries to yourself by email. Personally, I can’t imagine it being very easy to type a significant amount of text. But it could potentially be helpful for small-scale notetaking and tracking daily journal items like food intake or exercise routines.

AlphaSmart NEO

AlphaSmart NEODuring National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I learned about the AlphaSmart NEO. The AlphaSmart has a cult following among NaNoWriMo participants. It’s a light, portable word processor with absolutely no bells or whistles. There’s no graphics to distract you, no internet access to tempt you away from the task at hand. Just you and your words, words, words (50,000 of them, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo).

This little guy will run 700 hours on a couple of AA batteries. Can your laptop do that? I’ve seen the AlphaSmart listed on eBay for wicked cheap (in the range of $40). The AlphaSmart might be a good option for you if you don’t want to sink a couple hundred bucks into a laptop but you’d like to journal on the go with a full size keyboard.

Palm OS

The Palm has been around in a variety of forms for over a decade, so there’s lots of software available for it. I’ve had several incarnations of Palm, the most recent being the Zire. It’s so pretty and plastic and white.

It’s handy for short entries, once you learn the Palm-specific writing alphabet called “Graffiti.” There’s not much to it, but you might find that a roadblock if venturing into PDA territory is already feeling risky to you. There are little fold-out keyboards available for the Palm, too. But at that point, it might make more sense to just pick up an Aspire One (reviewed below) like I did.

Day Notez for Palm OS

Day Notez is colorful and feature rich an easily integrates photos. Day Notez also has a desktop version, which enables you to easily type on your desktop computer and then sync to your handheld. (Don’t mind me – I’ll be over here trying to get over my grammarian pet peeve with the spelling of “notez.”)

Pocket Diary allows you to spruce up your entries with clipart and sound. If you’re into that sort of thing, Pocket Diary will be a blast. It also offers password protection and encryption. This program reminds me of a digital version of my eighth grade diary. In a good way.

Aspire One Notebook Laptop

I skipped all the PDA/handheld business and went straight to the tiniest, most adorablest little laptop ever in the history of the universe. It’s an Acer Aspire One and you can get them for about $200 on eBay. Oh, and they come in bubble gum pink.

Acer Aspire One - actual size
The Page modeling my Aspire One for you. Doesn't he have beautiful forearms?

This thing is absolutely incredible. It’s the size of a softcover novel, weighs about a pound, has a six hour battery, and mine is running a full version of Windows XP. The keyboard may take some getting used to, however. It’s an 85% keyboard, so the keys are slightly smaller than a normal laptop and they’re closer together. I don’t have a problem typing on it at all but the first minute or two can feel a little clumsy.

The Aspire One has wireless internet and a built-in webcam, so it’s a piece of cake to get all multimedia and add video to your journal entries. Or use it with web based journaling tools. It’s so tiny that I never have to think about whether or not to bring it with me. It’s always in my bag. So I can journal on the run, at the cafe, in the car, or even side by side my work computer if I want to get creative. I can’t say enough about this little munchkin.

The Journal 5

The Journal software screenshotI run the The Journal 5 software on my Aspire One and I absolutely love it. I’ve been using it for over two years. It does everything I need it to, including automatically backing itself up so I don’t have to remember to. The Journal is rich in features, and the interface will feel very familar if you’re used to standard PC applications. I like being able to pick icons to represent certain days on the calendar, for example, a butterfly to mark the first day of a new undertaking. This couples a visual record with a chronological one. I also like how the Journal is so customizable. The only bummer is that it doesn’t run on Mac OS. But you can use the Journal software on your Mac if you’re running a Windows emulator like VirtualPC or Parallels.

With all the stuff it does, the price is a steal (and there’s various discounts available if you need one). Check out some screen shots and read the FAQs on the Journal 5 website. You can also download the free trial and give it a shot for 30 days to see if it works for you. I highly recommend it!

Open Office

If a simple word processor will get the job done, Open Office is a free, open source suite of programs similar to MS Office. “Open source” means that the code is openly published and not owned by a corporation, so programmers are free to customize and improve upon the software. It’s free and there’s no licensing requirements. I have this on my laptop and it’s great. It’s also leaner than MS Office, so it runs more quickly, doesn’t hog resources, and lacks the beautiful array of bugs and crashes.

So these are some of my favorite tools. Do you have any electronic journaling tools you can’t live without? Do tell!


  1. I have been using MacJournal since I switched to Mac 3 years ago. It rocks. Not only is it nice to look at and has all the bells and whistles that The Journal has, but it’s also got a black screen view (blots our everything else on your screen). It also has a way to post to blogs, either immediately or scheduled for later, which is fantastic. I still would rather handwrite my journal entries, but MacJournal is a good alternative if all I have is the laptop.

  2. I’ve recently started using the Momento App for the iPhone and I’m enjoying it. I love that it can pull your posts from Twitter and Facebook along with pictures from Flickr and love tracks from Last.fm. You can also add your own moments with or without pictures and all moments can be tagged. You can get more info from their website here http://www.momentoapp.com/

  3. Those both sound great – thanks so much for the recommendations!