Posted on Feb 5, 2013 | 20 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.

  • Vince Doss

    I am excited to see there is a Diaro iPhone App on the horizon. The look and feel of the online version is very aesthetically pleasing… this counts for something, right? 
    I mean it gets you in the door looking. 
    I will kick the tires as time permits.
    Thanks for the review!

  • KenC

    I really appreciate all your work Sam. It’s extremely valuable and has benefited me a lot.

    After finding your site, buying all of your books, and chatting with you by email a few times, I began trying out app after app that your new website suggests.

    The first one I tried was Diaro. I absolutely loved it. Only one problem… the pro version is an in app upgrade – only. In other words, you can’t buy it like you would a regular program through the play store but instead you must purchase it through the application itself on your phone.

    (Note: I did contact the developers directly like you suggested. They responded once and
    were absolutely no help. I asked them again for help and they just
    ignored me.) To their credit, to even get a response at all when I had the non-paid version was pretty good. :-)

    For those that don’t know, on app purchases can pose a formidable problem to those that live outside the United States. And was the impetus that caused me to begin to find something that might be as good as Diaro.

    I tried most everything. At least five programs.

    In a way I’m sad to report that nothing comes even close to Diaro.

    I’m left completely agreeing with you that Diaro Is far and away the best journaling app that I have used. It is even better then DayOne which I was using on my iMac and iOS devices. Like you, I made the change from iOS to android and have absolutely loved it.

    Diaro is so good that I no longer use DayOne even on my Mac, preferring to use Diaro via my Note 2 and their online version you get with the pro upgrade. In addition to having all of the functionality that you say a journal app needs to have (and that I want) it’s absolutely beautiful.

    As you can guess, I decided to do some serious maneuvering to be able to buy the pro version of Diaro. I believe in supporting developers and so was pleased to be able to buy from them. Let’s hope their support for registered users is better than the way they treated me before.

    At this point, I am going to overlook the problems I had purchasing the upgrade, being ignored etc. and embrace Diaro full on. The app is just that good.

    Thanks again for this great recommendation and all the work you have done to help keep us all in the loop of the best possible journal apps and strategies.

    As an aside, there maybe others that have also recently switched to android from iOS.

    I for one would really love to hear about the other programs you decided to go with. At least as it relates to critical functions like email, to do lists etc.

    Things on iOS is spectacular and I have not found anything to be at it’s equal. I use Wunderlist which is nearly as good.

    For email, I just installed AquaMail and so far its really good. Biggest gripe is that I can not pinch to make text smaller. You can pinch to make it bigger, just not smaller.

    Anyway, this last section is off topic. Feel free to post it elsewhere or delete if you prefer. But I will bet others would love your opinion too. :-)

  • KenC

    Another interesting thing I just figured out about Diaro. By using it’s “folder” option, you have the equivalent of being able to use multiple notebooks.

    I thought folders were more for organizing entries. In reality, tags do that very nicely. (And tags look phenomenal in this program.)

    The program also give you the ability to see all enteries from all folders at once, or just the enteries from one folder. Like I said, very useful for maintaining separate journals.

    • Sam

      I think you are talking about the Categories Ken? I like that feature as well. It isn’t exactly the same as having multiple journals but close. Multiple journals is a step better because they can be separate from each other. For example, perhaps you want to keep a very personal journal that you can open up in without fear of anyone reading it and then another for your kids. I personally wouldn’t want the two to be ‘together’ but that is just me.

      • KenC

        I see what you mean. For me it works well and is close enough to having separate journals.

        I like that I can see all posts or only in the journal I’m working on.

        It would be nice if Diaro had better security. A 4 number passcode is not much.

        Makes sense if a person wanted them to be very separate. For me, one is really enough, but if I wanted to explore an additional subject for example, like a gratitude journal, this works great.

        • Sam

          Agreed on the 4 digit pin- not good enough! I have a few minor annoyances with Diaro but they are few and far between.

    • Sam

      Another thing I have discovered that I like about Diaro is that it has an option where you can create an entry from the pull down menu. This is extremely convenient if you want to quickly capture a thought or moment.

  • gronek

    Hi Sam,
    Thanks for your professional review of Diaro 3. I like it too and upgraded to the pro version. But after searching high and lo, I can’t figure out how to export to PDF. Probably I am dumb since so many people rave about it and know how to do it :-)
    Could you please give me some help on it?
    Thanks a lot,

    • Sam


      This is a great question. If you log on to the online version of Diaro you can export from there. Just go to where you will need to hit the ‘connect with dropbox’ button. Once you are logged if you click on the button in the top right corner of the screen (looks like 3 boxes stacked on top of each other) then you will get a dropdown menu. Just select export and you are good to go!

      Let me know if you have any issues.


      • gronek

        Sam, you’re great! My PDF export worked as a breeze!

        Thank you so much,

        • Sam

          You are welcome Marek!

          • Peter

            I would love to be able to see an example of the pdf export if possible. A simple “test” entry with a generic picture will do plenty. This would be my main option as to why to purchase this app, but paying before seeing the “result” is not something I will prefer if someone could help me. Thank you.

  • CKF

    Hi Sam,
    After using Diaro on my Android phone, I decided to upgrade to Diaro Pro. I liked the idea of being able to use both my phone and my laptop (using Diaro online) to make journal entries. I have figured out how to get my content from my phone to the online version via a backup foldet on Dropbox, but I cannot figure out how to get entries I create in the online version onto my phone. I’ve tried the Sync option on the phone app, but nothing happens. Can you help? What is the best way to make sure content created in either platform can be seen in the other? Thanks!

    • CKF

      Follow-up: I disconnected and reconnected to Dropbox a few times and sync’ing finally works.

      • Sam

        Good to hear! I love Diaro so much I have switched back to it. I hope that you don’t have any more syncing issues.

        • Daniele

          I can’t sync Diaro App with Diaro Online, altough I’ve connected the app with Dropbox :’(

          • Nathan

            Hi Daniele, I’ve heard others have that same problem. Have you tried their user tech support? I’ve heard if you disconnect & reconnect with DropBox a couple of times, that will often fix it. Let me know if I can help. I have an email with someone at Diaro who is very responsive.

          • Daniele

            Problem solved! Thank you!

  • Tessa Neill

    I just found Diaro recently and love it so far- I haven’t purchased the app yet, but plan to soon. I have a few ideas that would make it perfect, however. I would need an ability to create a template for entries that would include info that is in every entry- as an example, at the beginning of every garden journal entry I’d include info such as the temperature, tasks done, etc. these would be check boxes that I can just tick and be done with it- then a more in depth entry would be below this. Another idea I had would be for uploading local computer files, .doc or .pdf etc. maybe a few links, and maybe mp4s? I take movies outside a lot- something I may want to add to an entry.

    So far though it is the closest to what i need- I needed something I could take out in the field- and Diaro is it!

    • Sam

      I love Diaro as well Tessa. I keep coming back to it even while trying other journals.

      These are great suggestions for improvements. I’ve been in conversations with the developer before so hopefully he will see them and implement some of them.