Publish date:

The Personal Journaling Guide to Journaling Software

We rate the best computer programs for personal writing.

A lot's changed since the late 80's, when television's teenage prodigy Doogie Hauser, MD, typed a wise and witty moral of the story into his computer diary at the end of each show. Back then, Doogie's diary was an uninspiring plain blue computer screen. Today, Doogie could choose software that lets him change the screen interface, add photos, custom-organize his entries, chart his adolescent mood swings, schedule surgeries and more. Which software would be right for him—and which is right for you?

At Personal Journaling, we scrutinized today's journal software programs for the following: Does it have standard word processing functions (copy and paste, paragraph formatting); support for rich text format, or rtf (that's different fonts or boldface type); support for graphics and sound bites? What are the special extras? Can users change the interface, or screen appearance; and custom-organize and search entries? What kind of technical help is available? Can people try before they buy? The ten programs we've included in our 2001 guide to journaling software satisfy a variety of needs and price ranges. Most are Shareware downloads, which have a free 30-day trial period; a few are on CD-ROM. Before you buy, take advantage of free trial periods to make sure you've chosen the right software for you. If this option isn't available, consider checking out user reviews at sites like, or

ActiveDiary 3.0
By WinDine Software,
$25 download
ActiveDiary allows multiple users, each with password protection for unlimited diaries, a personalized welcome page with a quote and tip of the day, plus upcoming goal analysis. There's a biography section for your memoir and scrapbook for storing text and graphics. Organize-your-life features include a goal manager; encryption-protected virtual safe for information like passwords and credit card numbers; contact manager for addresses and telephone numbers, and sticky note reminders. Active Diary has standard word processing functions, a search feature and support for graphics, sound bites and Web links. A screen saver locks the program after a specified inactive period, or it can be invoked with a keyboard command. There's a help menu and online tech support. Requires Windows 95, 98 or NT, Visual Basic 6.0 Runtime. Size: 8.26 MB

The Alchera Suite 3.6
By Mythwell,
$39.50 download, $47.50 download plus CD-ROM
Alchera combines dream interpretation and traditional journaling for insight into thoughts and behaviors. Enter a dream in the "Dream" area, title it, and label it according to lucidity (the degree to which you're aware you're dreaming as you dream), theme or a category of your own definition. Terms in dream entries are automatically linked to a symbol dictionary explaining their dream world meanings. Users can create dictionaries of symbols with personal meaning. An analysis window lists interpretation exercises and steps taken (suggestions are in an accompanying manual) to understand dreams. One sophisticated feature performs quantitative dream analysis using Hall scales (more on these on the Alchera Web site). Keep as many journals as you want (one for memories, another for activities, etc) in the journaling area to reveal connections between dreams and daily life. Entries are password-protected and searchable by word or phrase. The informative Web site features program tours and a trial offer. Requires Windows 95, 98, ME, NT or 2000. Size: 3.36 MB

Digital Diary 1.1
Free download
This is the closest program we found to Doogie Hauser's no-frills diary. The interface is a white screen with gray bars, editing functions are minimal and there are no fancy fonts, graphics or searching capabilities. What Digital Diary does that your word processing program doesn't is automatically attach a date to each entry. So, unlike Doogie, you can browse through your diary entries by date, much as you would flip through a paper journal. You probably won't need tech support but it's available via e-mail. It's perfect if you simply need a password-protected place to record your thoughts and don't want to spend much. Requires Windows 98 or better, and the WinZip installation program (free at Size: 3MB

It's My Diary
By JournalTek Software,
CD-ROM $39.95
Pre-teens and teenagers can reap the benefits of journaling with user-friendly It's My Diary. The funky icons and colorful interface options, including Astrologica (stars and moon), pink hearts and tie-dye, have major appeal. The program has standard word processing functions and supports graphics, audio and video files, and just about any file from the Web. Users can categorize their entries with customizable section tabs and search them by keyword or date. Password protection keeps away nosy siblings. There's also a help menu and online assistance. Available for Mac or PC. Requirements for Windows: IBM or compatible PC, Pentium 133 or better, 32 MB RAM, Windows 95,98, NT, ME. For Mac: operating system 7.5.1+, PCU 68LC040 100Mhz. For both: 30 MB free hard disk space, SVGA video card supporting 16 bit color, 800X600 screen resolution, 8bit sound card. Size: 7MB

It's Personal 2.9
By RKS Software,
$19.95 download
This program's organization system includes a series of fun icons you apply to entries for at-a-glance categorization. Seven hundred additional icons are included with your purchase. It's Personal features a notebook-like interface, standard word processing functions, support for rtf and graphics, search by word or phrase and a complete help menu. There's password protection and a hide button to quickly minimize the window if someone enters the room as you're writing. The Web site features a 30-day trial offer. Requires IBM-compatible PC, Pentium processor, 64 MB memory recommended, 2MB free hard drive space, Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000 or ME. Size: 1.15 MB

The Journal 2.4
By David R. M. Co.,
$34.95 download
With the ability for multiple users to create unlimited journaling categories—each with its own default font, color scheme and password—The Journal appeals to writers who manage lots of ongoing projects. The Journal has basic word processing functions; support for storing pictures, spreadsheets and word processor documents in an entry; word and phrase searching, spell check, thesaurus and auto-replace. A calendar lets you easily retrieve past entries and place reminders on future dates. Privacy features include encryption and password protection, a hot-key for rapidly "locking" the program and a security level you can set as high or low as you want. Try The Journal free for 30 days. Requires 3.2 MB, Windows 95, 98 or NT. Size: 3.2 MB

My Personal Diary 8.0
By CAM Development,
$24.95 download
My Personal Diary is a journal and information manager in one. Multiple users can keep as many journals as they want, plus an organizer with an address book, to-do list, notepad reminder system for important dates and virtual vault for important numbers and passwords. There are standard word processing features, spell check, category markers to flag passages for later reference, and support for rtf, graphics, sound clips, charts and even other documents in your entries. Search the journal by date, word or phrase and browse by date or entry title. Your secrets are protected by a password and encryption. There's a help menu and complete online tech support. The informative Web site offers a 30-day trial period. Requires Windows 9X, NT or 2000, Pentium 100 processor. Size: 1.58 MB

Life Journal 1.6
By Chronicles Software Co.,
$39.95 CD-ROM
When you're at a loss for words, LifeJournal helps with inspirational quotes and prompts. There's even a timer for timed writing exercises and other extras such as a daily pulse graph to chart your moods and links to journaling Web sites. The software supports standard word processing functions, rtf, graphics and changeable menu bar and button colors. Title each entry, catalog it by topic, then organize the topics into groups you define. So you could keep, for example, a daily journal, a dream journal, and a life history journal complete with a timeline of recorded memories. Password-protection is optional. Entries are searchable by date, title, topic, word, phrase or daily pulse, and you can highlight sentences for later retrieval. There's a full help menu plus online support. Potential purchasers can download a demo from the Web site. Requires Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000 or ME, CD ROM drive, 486 or better, 20 MB hard drive. Size: 18 MB

VistaWrite 2.0
By Digital Writing,
$39.95 download
This program has fun features like mood and goal icons you apply to entries, and interface options including a peaceful sky, subdued tapestry or yellow legal pad (those who can't part with their paper journals might find this look comforting with a handwriting-style font). It has basic word processing functions, rtf support, a table-making feature, spell check, thesaurus, support for graphics and comprehensive help. You can easily highlight passages for later reference and insert graphics to illustrate your entries. A calendar allows quick movement among entries. VistaWrite allows multiple users, each with several journals for different types of writing such as a diary, poetry or magazine article ideas. Privacy protection includes password and data encryption, plus a command that quickly shrinks the window without closing the program. There's a great Web site and free 30-day trial offer. Requires Windows 95, 98 or NT Size: 2.37 MB.

This article appeared in the October 2001 issue of Personal Journaling.


Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Winning Rhyming Poem: "Anticipatory Grief"

Congratulations to Melissa Joplin Higley, Grand Prize winner of the 90th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Here's her winning non-rhyming poem, "Anticipatory Grief."

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 587

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an On Blank poem.

What to Say When Someone Wants to Kill You | Power of Words

What to Say When Someone Wants to Kill You

Author Gregory Galloway shares an intimate moment in his life that taught him the power of words and reveals why he became a writer.

Writing About Real People in Historical Fiction: What Is Factual and What Is Imagined

Writing About Real People in Historical Fiction: What Is Factual and What Is Imagined

When writing about real people in a real time, how do you distinguish between what is true and what is imaginary? Patti Callahan discuss how to write about real people in historical fiction.

the fisherman

The Fisherman

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, write about a fisherman.

Jenny Bayliss: On the Power of Second Chances

Jenny Bayliss: On the Power of Second Chances

Author Jenny Bayliss discusses the process of writing her new romance novel, A Season for Second Chances.

A Few Tips for Writing Personal Essays

A Few Tips for Writing Personal Essays

Here are a few tips for writing personal essays from the Publishing Insights column of the March/April 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Dispel vs. Expel (Grammar Rules)

Dispel vs. Expel (Grammar Rules)

Let's look at the differences between dispel and expel with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Laura Davis: On the Story That Begged To Be Told

Laura Davis: On the Story That Begged To Be Told

Author and writing instructor Laura Davis discusses the process of starting, stopping, and starting again with her new memoir, The Burning Light of Two Stars.