A digital planner is an online notebook that helps you plan your days, weeks, months and years. Create to-do lists, checklists, schedules, and habit trackers effortlessly. Make your digital planner feel like a real planner by adding stickers, widgets, and photos.

Digital Planning Benefits

With a digital planner you can hand-write your notes and easily find them by using the search feature. Organize different planners into folders & share your files across all of your devices. On top of that, it can become your creative outlet. Create mood boards, eye-catching bullet journals & memories pages.

A digital planner combines all of your paper planners into one safe place. From diaries to work meetings, you can easily access everything from one planner.

In short, digital planning is great because:

  • Allows you to search your hand-written notes,
  • Helps you save money on stationery,
  • Let’s you be creative without knowing how to draw,
  • Keeps all of your planners in one place.
digital planner page example
Digital planner page example from @helenyinphoto

Digital Planning Drawbacks

Some people simply like the feeling of a pen and paper. It’s basically the same thing between a Kindle and an actual book. I personally don’t buy paper books anymore because I love to travel and live in different countries. So carrying a bunch of books is more of a hassle to me. However, I know some people that only like reading paper books.

If you are one of the people that truly enjoy the real paper feeling, you could try adding paperlike iPad screen protector. A lot of people love it because it makes your handwriting and drawings look more beautiful. However, keep in mind that this kind of screen protector will damage your apple pencil tip more quickly.

Paper planning is better because of the feeling of actual pen and paper.

How Does a Digital Planner Work?

There are two main ways you can use a digital planner: a) create your own planner from scratch, b) buy a premade digital planner:

a) Create your own digital planner

You can just start using GoodNotes and go from there. However, your options will be quite limited. That’s why a lot of people create their own digital planners using external software, for example, KeyNote, Google Slides, Indesign or even Canva. We all have created slides at some point of our lives. By creating a planner this way, you will be able to add hyperlinked tabs. They are essential for a comfortable switch between different pages in the planner.

b) Buy a premade digital planner

From realistic style planners to minimal ones, the selection on digital planners is great and there are new digital planners created every day. You can get a student planner, an undated planner, a specific year planner, goal or budget tracker or even a one in all digital planner.

Which App Works Best for Digital Planning?

If you are shifting from a paper planner into the digital world, it’s best to start with GoodNotes. GoodNotes aesthetics will feel the closest to a paper planner. Especially, if you loved bullet journaling before, this app will make the shift seamless. You can get a hyperlinked digital planner, which will have clickable tabs and objects, its own stickers and widgets.

With GoodNotes, you can choose whether you want to scroll vertical or horizontal, free zooming, easy organization, outline (great for those who want to upload textbooks and make direct notes on them), infinite folder design. Also, right now, GoodNotes are ranking #1 as a productivity app in the app store. There’s a good reason for that.

However, if you don’t care about the aesthetics that much, a really comfortable and free option is Microsoft OneNote.

These two apps are my own personal favorites. I use Goodnotes as my creative bullet journal. However, I do personally prefer OneNote for work related things. The truth is that I like the Goodnotes surface more. You can make it look like an actual bullet journal so it’s really nice when I can just write my diary, create my daily lists, brain dumps and make plans for the future.

That being said, the GoodNotes app, doesn’t allow you to add links. In my work, I use links all the time for references. I also don’t like the feeling of Goodnotes on my laptop. It just works better on the tablet.

In short, Goodnotes is my go to when I use my tablet. & OneNote is my favorite app on my laptop and phone.

Other apps worth checking out:

Even though, I love these apps best, you might like the other ones more. That’s why I would like to add a couple more that I have heard mentioned again and again in the digital planning community:

Xodo – Android users usually choose this one and I do use it to read PDF files on my phone). It’s a free app, so there’s no harm in trying it out,

ZoomNotes – this app has more functions than many others, you can create layers,

Noteshelf – extremely similar to GoodNotes, but you can’t zoom as freely as you could in GoodNotes. Also, Goodnotes has a really nice folder design and a closer feeling to an Apple’s default note taking app.

Notability – it might not have the same folder organization as GoodNotes, but if you need great audio recording, Notability is the right choice. It’s great for quick notes because it has an infinite scroll feature.

Do I Need an iPad for a Digital Planner?

Honestly, you don’t really need a fancy iPad to start digital planning. You can enjoy planning with an iPad mini 2 or even get an Android device. Now, I usually use GoodNotes for my planning, but it isn’t available on Android Tablets. If that’s your preference, check out a free app called Xodo.

Which iPad Do I Need for Digital Planning?

The screen size is a personal preference. I personally use an iPad 11 pro 2020. I definitely wouldn’t want a bigger screen because I like to take my iPad with me everywhere. And I don’t think I would mind a smaller one either.

However, I’d lie if I said that an iPad Pro doesn’t add to the experience. Apple products have their charm and everyone knows their design is spot on. That being said, I might have upgraded a little bit early. Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPad. But it is a pretty costly purchase. So if you aren’t sure, I’d definitely suggest trying an older version first.

Now, GoodNotes 5 works on all iOS devices that run iOS 12 or higher. So technically you can try to use GoodNotes even on your phone or computer. I don’t personally really like using on my computer. One of the reasons why planning is more enjoyable to me with GoodNotes, it because it gives a more realistic feel. Without the apple pencil (or other tablet pencil, I haven’t tried so I can’t say), that feeling would be quickly lost.

Personal Take on Digital Planning

I used to love paper planning. I tried bullet journaling but it just personally seemed like too much work. To me, digital planning combines the two worlds: efficiency and creativity. I love having one designated space for all of my thoughts, plans and memories. I like tracking my new habits and days.

I might go back to paper planning some day. I might not. But for now, I really enjoy digital planning for it’s freedom to express myself in a way that I want.

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