Posted on Feb 5, 2013 | 5 comments

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A few months back I documented my transition from the world of Apple to the world of Android. It was surprisingly smooth and I have to say that I haven’t regretted switching to my Galaxy S3 (Verizon) a single day. The iPhone 4 was a great device and I loved it for most of two years, there just came a day when I wanted a bigger screen and more customization. Android offered this and much more.

I didn’t worry too much about my personal journal at the time because I was using Penzu Pro which, as you may know, has apps for iPhone and Android. I knew that I could buy any new phone, log in and pick up where I left off in my journal.

This worked great and was a nice plan until I realized that my infatuation with Penzu was fading. Don’t get me wrong, Penzu has a fantastic web service that I highly recommend. Unfortunately, however, Penzu has an Achilles heel-

The mobile versions are awful.

This may not be a big deal if you journal mostly from your computer and occasionally want to add an entry on the go, but I love using my smartphone to write entries because it is so easy to take pictures and then add them in almost instantly. After nearly a year of using Penzu I had a realization- this great online journal had sucked the love out of journaling for me.  (More on my breakup with Penzu in a future post)

As I have developed a more perfect form of journaling (sign up for updates and get the free mini-guide for more info on this) I have learned that if you take control of your data you can detach yourself from one particular app. This was an important moment for me because I now knew I could ‘break off the relationship’ and look for a more fitting partner. I’ve researched the best Android journal apps before, but I didn’t want the top 5, I wanted the top ONE. After some considerable effort trying out many of the top Android journals I found the absolute best and my new daily journal- Diaro 3. img

This Android journal stood out above the rest for four reasons:

  1. Not just PDF export but beautiful PDF export. When I parted ways with Penzu I took a PDF of all of my entries (hundreds) with me. I knew that I could do this from the beginning or else I would never have used it in the first place. When I hit the export to PDF button I was glad to see all of my entries in order along with all of their pictures but unfortunately it looked terrible. Each page of the PDF was a separate entry whether it was 50 words or 500 (it would extend to the next page if it was too long). All of the beautiful formatting and backgrounds were stripped as well. Diaro, on the other hand, makes incredible PDFs of your journal! I tried it after I had used it for a while and it looked great. I can’t wait to have enough for a full book (I usually try for 40k-50k words) so that I can print it out, similar to what I did with LDSJournal. I can also take control of my data by saving PDFs every month or so. This gives me incredible peace of mind and security knowing that I am okay if I lose all of my data OR if a better journal gets developed some day and I want to switch to it.
  2. Online entries. Diaro may not be a web app but it has a web app that you can write in! This is very important to me because I like to mix up my journal with short entries from my phone that have lots of pictures and then wordy entries from a computer where I can write faster and better on a keyboard. The Diaro web app is clean, neat and matches the Android app. It also uses Dropbox as a syncing mechanism which is a nice, nearly universal, option. The only downside to the web app is that I can’t use it at my day job because my employer apparently has something against productivity and efficiency and blocks Dropbox.
  3. Price. If you want to give Diaro a whirl, you can do so absolutely risk free because it free by default. If you try it for a while and like it you can upgrade for $4 USD which will remove the adds and give you some of the features I have been talking about such as Dropbox syncing and PDF export. Penzu Pro is an affordable option at $19 per year (or 37 cents per week) but that has to be renewed every year if you want to keep using the service. Because Diaro is an app it is a one time $4 payment and you are done! That puts it at a fraction of the cost of Penzu and other similar online journals.
  4. The basics. Diaro doesn’t have every feature under the sun but I tend to avoid using emoticons, video entries and prompts anyways. What it does have is a solid picture upload, built in tagging, several fonts and backgrounds, geotagging and categories. These are all executed well and make for a neat interface and clean overall user experience.

The best part about using Diaro is that it has made me enjoy digital journaling again! I now really look forward to discussing what is going on in my life, inserting pictures of my kids and having a place that I can organize and my life. Penzu offered many features (some of which I never used) and gave me a sense of security through encryption but the mobile applications were so bad that it made the entire process frustrating at best.

Diaro also works on tablet versions although I haven’t tried it out for myself yet.

There is only one thing I wish Diaro had- a dedicated email address so that I could email entries and have them inserted automatically into my journal. Penzu, LDSJournal and Everyday Timeline all do this and it is nice to have on occasion, especially if I want to write and entry from work.

See Diaro in action with this video created by the developer, Pixel Crater.

So give Diaro 3 a try, all of you fellow Phandroids, and let me know what you think in the comments! If you think I am wrong, let me know what your favorite Android journal is.

  • Stephen Albert

    OK. It’s June 2015. This stuff was written quite a while ago. I’ve been comparing Day One and Diaro with all of your recommendations and analyses. They have each developed there products since this review was written – especially Diaro’s support for the Apple universe. I use Macs, iPads and iPhones so I don’t need any other computer ecosystem than Apple. I capture moments on iPhone, write more thoughtful entries on computer, include photos, and I use Evernote to save all of my digital discoveries. I also write (yes with pen and paper – fountain pen actually – love it) and often digitize my handwritten notes to Evernote using my iPhone camera.
    With all of this in mind and given developments in the Diaro and Day One worlds since 2013, which product would you lean toward?
    BTW, I love listening to your podcasts. Sam’s discussion of making use of Facebook is the first time anyone has ever convinced me that it is something that I might consider using because of the way he suggests using it. Great stuff.

  • Nathan

    Thanks for your comment, Tsugi & Tsurba. By “alarm” are you looking for a prompt or reminder? I found that the new version does, at least on the phone app. Please reply back if you find differently.

  • Nathan

    Hello Sam, and thanks for the comment and question.

    The newest version of Diaro Online PRO still does not offer this type of posting. The journal-to-blog-post or social media site is not a feature I need or expect in a journaling app. My personal preference is to copy/paste into a draft of my blog, and then edit or fine-tune from there, because it’s rare that I write a perfect (and public-ready) blog post in the privacy of my rambling journal.

    Journey has chosen to allow this in the upcoming release. (I’ve been invited to their beta tester private group, and I’m very impressed with Jeromy Yap’s responsiveness to people’s questions and input.)

    For a full review of Journey, which I have found to be an incredibly easy and secure app as well, see my recent post:

  • Nathan

    Hello Stephen, I appreciate your comments and question very much. With you, I notice that a lot of things change in the app world (in general) and it appears that there is a special class of journal-keeping or note-taking apps that are working hard to stay competitive (or dropping out of the market) all the time.

    Wow. Diaro vs. Day One. I’ve used them both, each for nearly a year, and that’s a tough question. You (probably not coincidentally) happened to pick two of the very longest-running, stable, journaling apps in the history of journaling apps. Not long ago, I was able to say they were about equal in rating because one was for Android, the other for Apple, but Diaro is picking up some Apple customers now, although I haven’t tested that version of Diaro personally (yet)! But since you have stated that Apple is your ONLY platform, and if you were to push me into a corner to share my leanings, I would say Day One, in this case.

    May I ask if you are looking to consolidate all your journaling, writings, notes, etc.? Or, do you like the flexibility of having different platforms for different modes of writing? Do you export to PDF and store somewhere OUTSIDE of the apps?

    I’m so delighted you enjoy the podcasts. And especially that you enjoyed the “Facebook” lessons that people don’t realize. There’s more on the way! Please keep in touch!

  • Stephen Albert

    Hi Nathan. Thanks for the prompt reply. If I were to not push you into a corner would your answer be different? I’m curious. Are you able to (or anyone else who follows this) provide a brief summary of any features, important or not so important, that one has over the other? In my memory of my research I seem to recall that Day One is limited in terms of photos/videos that can be included in an entry while Diaro is not.

    Your questions are good ones and I’ve been thinking about them. I’m not so much interested in consolidating everything into one app as I am in making sure that the apps that I use for different kinds of digital content are able to talk to each other as necessary. One important one would be “Journal App” and “Evernote”. Off the top of my head it would be useful to also have connections to Photo as well. I also expect that as I implement Sam’s suggestions from the Facebook podcast that I’ll want to have a Facebook connection as well.

    As for pdf’s I don’t export to pdf on any consistent basis at the moment. I assume from your question that you do and I’m wondering how and why you do.
    I look forward to staying in touch.