If you’re thinking about dabbling in a bit of digital planning you have plenty of options! Here are 10 things you should check before choosing a digital planner.
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1. What Platform?
How / where do you want to use your digital planner? On a computer, on a computer and linked to your mobile device. On a tablet? All three?
There are digital planners like the Artful Agenda that you can enter tasks on your computer or device when you’re at home and then take it with you via the app on your smartphone. However the phone screen is so small it’s very difficult to add things on the go. I find this is the case for most digital planners other than to do list apps.
One of the perks of programs that are integrated with a phone app, is that they might send you reminder notifications that pop up on your phone’s home screen (Artful Agenda does this).
If you want a digital planner that you can write on (e.g. using an Apple Pencil), then a phone app is probably not going to be the right fit. If you want to take your planner with you, you’ll need to take a photo on your phone or take your tablet or iPad with you.
Read more: Artful Agenda digital planner review
If you want to be able to write on a planner on your iPad or tablet, you’ll need an app that allows you to annotate PDF files (such as the Goodnotes app). Annotate PDF just means being able to type text, write text or insert images (e.g. digital planner stickers) to the file.
Some digital planners are a one time purchase and others are subscription based.
There are many more out there, these are just a few apps and their prices:
- Artful Agenda (see my detailed review / trial in this post). $4 USD per month or $35 USD for an annual subscription
- Monday.com (if your entire family want to plan everything in the one place and see each other plans). Price depends on how many people. Starts at $33 USD per month. Note: to me this is more for managing a business, not so much just for planning personal life, family, school etc. there are more affordable apps out there for that
One Time Purchase
If you want a digital planner that mimics a paper planner, you’ll need an App that allows you to annotate (write on using a pencil) and hyperlinks such as Goodnotes. The only time you’d need to spend more money on the App is if they come out with a new version and you choose to upgrade.
- Goodnotes = $13 USD
- Noteshelf = $10 USD
- Noteability = $14 USD
- Most list making apps
- Google Keep
- Google Sheets
- Todolist (there’s also a paid – premium – version for $4 USD / month)
- Any.do (there’s also a paid version if you want the ability to setup recurring tasks $3 USD / month)
- Asana (free version is probably enough for most people but there’s a premium version as well for $15 AUD / month)
- Evernote (although to be able to annotate PDF’s you’ll need a paid plan which costs $10 USD / month)
- Cozi (aimed at family scheduling)
- Google Calendar
- Click Up (moreso intended for managing a business but you could use for personal planning as well)
- Habitica (if you need some extra motivation to complete your tasks, this app gives you ‘rewards’ each time you complete one)
- Reminders app for iPhone (this one comes pre-installed on iPhones. I use this for reminders for things that don’t happen very often and / or are a long time into the future. Like renewing my annual Photoshop subscription, dentist appointments etc.)
Related post: Week 11: How to plan your week using Trello
3. Hyperlinked pages
Hyperlink just means you can tap on something e.g. text, a shape, a tab in the planner and it will take you to another place in the planner. Some convenient hyperlinks:
- Shortcut to a contents page from any page in the book
- Tabs for each month
- Hyperlinked boxes on the calendar spread which, when you tap on the screen, take you to that week or day’s page in the planner
- Quick reference tabs like lists, misc, meal planning etc.
You can find this digital planner in my shop
4. Compatibility with a pencil
If you’re not sure if your device is compatible with a pencil pen, Google the model. About 5 years ago I bought a Samsung tablet intending to use it like an iPad. I never really ended up using it so when I decided to try digital planning in Goodnotes I thought great, I can finally get some use out of it.. But the tablet wasn’t a model that was compatible with any pencil (or stylus) pen. Most probably are these days but just check before purchasing, especially if you’re buying one with the majority of the purpose being for digital planning.
Stylus pens allow you to tap on the screen (basically replaces your finger), but you’ll need a pencil if you want to write on the screen. You can also get screen covers that make it feel like your writing on paper.
I did end up buying an Ipad (6th generation when it was on clearance) and the 1st generation Apple Pencil.
5. Ability to add extra pages
This isn’t applicable to all digital planning programs, some apps (like Artful Agenda, Evernote, One Note) allow you to create as many extra pages as you want.
For digital planners to be used in programs like Goodnotes, most of these will let you add pages but they probably won’t be hyperlinked. To get around this, you can resize a printable and insert it into a blank notes page.
6. All in one or just for one thing?
Do you want your digital planner to be the all in one place for daily planning, meal planning, health, fitness, kids schedules, bills, cleaning etc. or are you only using it to manage your to do list and appointments?
If you want an all in one tool then try:
- Digital planners made for Goodnotes (particularly look for one that has extra tabs and notes pages OR you could pair a digital planner with a digital notebook)
- Artful Agenda
7. Do you want to decorate your planner?
If you want to add digital planner stickers and washi tape to mimic a real-life paper planner, then apps like Goodnotes, Noteshelf and Noteability are the way to go.
You can insert images
Digital planner stickers, washi tape and sticky notes.
I talk about Goodnotes often (see all my posts about digital planning here) because so far it’s my favorite of the (admittedly few) digital planning apps that I’ve tried.
In Goodnotes I can:
- Insert extra pages including resizing printables
- Duplicate pages (so if there are tasks I want to carry over to the next week they will appear and I can erase the rest)
- Choose any color (and color match with the colors of the planner)
- Use hyperlinked tabs
- Create multiple notebooks and planners
- Rearrange pages
- Zoom in and out (using my fingers on the screen pulling inwards or outwards to increase or decrease the size)
- Use my Apple Pencil
- Erase text
- Add digital planner stickers (via PNG file format)
- Resize planner stickers and my own handwriting
- Add images for journaling or digital recipe books
- Quickly and easily color code (including changing the color of text after I’ve written it)
If you aren’t sure what layout you need, look for a digital planner with dot grid pages – then you can bullet journal digitally and store lists.
8. Do you need a keyboard?
Some digital planners are designed to work with typed text (Artful Agenda) while others are better used with handwriting (Goodnotes). You can get keyboards which are attached to an iPad or tablet. I purchased one… and never use it. Not sure how much they are now but when I bought one about 5 years ago (to go with the Samsung Tablet I was talking about earlier in this post) it was $150 and surprisingly heavy – as heavy as carrying a laptop around.
If you’re using a digital planner with a pencil, you won’t need the keyboard as well unless you are using your device for other things (like schoolwork).
The other thing to be aware of, is choosing a case with a slot to store your pencil like this.
An Apple Pencil is so you don’t want to lose it!
Do you want to access your planner offline? If so, I recommend a digital planner in Goodnotes, Noteability or other app for your iPad or Android device. Once you purchase and download the app, you don’t need an internet connection to use it.
10. Do you want to make your own pages?
Some digital planning tools you can use them, but there’s very little customisation. Others you can move things around, see a mix of notes and checklists on the same screen, change colors etc.
Not very customisable
- Artful Agenda
- List apps
- Digital planners designed for use in Goodnotes, Noteshelf, Noteability etc. (hyperlinked PDF files) – you won’t be able to customise the existing design, but you can add to it using colored text, digital planner stickers, washi tape, photos etc.
- Google Sheets (I have a tutorial for making a weekly planner in Google Sheets here).
- Trello (can make custom boards)
If you’re interested in learning how to make your own digital planners and notebooks for use in Goodnotes, Noteshelf or Noteability, click here to find out more about my ecourse.
More digital planning
- How to add digital planner stickers into Goodnotes (2 ways)
- How to get started digital planning: the tools & resources you need
- 10 Useful Tips for Digital Planning using Goodnotes
- 50 Expenses to track in your planner (and different ways to track them)
- Planning Tips: 10 Ways to Plan Your Week Faster
- 50 Tips for writing a better to do list that will make you more productive
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