Dear Diary: A Guide To Free Online Journaling Tools

There’s a reason why those tiny diaries they sell at bookstores have a lock and key.

The same reason that torn, taped, spiral notebook you keep hidden is worth its weight in gold.

Secrets. Dreams. Wishes. Crushes. Terrible thoughts. Brilliant thoughts. And let’s not forget…really BAD poetry.

Even though we live in an age where people will share every minute detail of their personal lives (no matter how embarrassing), there are still some things better kept secret.

It’s ironic – the same interwebz that created the oversharing phenomenon is now THE place to store your most secret thoughts.

Technology…oh how you STILL slay me.

Some random benefits of using online journals:

  • No more worrying about lost notebooks.
  • You can make entries public if you choose.
  • Some free sites have upgrades to more features.
  • Journal on your phone, iPad or laptop. Anywhere, anytime.

Time to burn the spiral notebooks and check out these freebies online.


Despite the fact the name sounds like some obscure tropical vegetation, Penzu has been around for a while and is an easy to use online journal.

Although the free version has plenty of features, they really, really want you to upgrade to the paid version, and will constantly remind you of this on their interface.

That annoys me. So much so that I stopped using them altogether. If you can ignore the sign up reminders, here’s what Penzu offers:

  • No entry limit
  • Downloadable App
  • Automatic save
  • Customizable font
  • Customizable journal cover
  • Locking mechanism
  • Word count
  • Topic email reminders

One unique feature of Penzu is that they allow users to access their previous “classic” version if you liked that interface better.

For free site features, Penzu is one of the best for online journaling.



What decade is it? The interface looks like it was created on Netscape and there’s a hookup vibe to this online journal site, but it’s multilingual and makes a swoosh sound when you check messages.

Diariste is a good site for people who want to share their diary entries with the world. In that way it’s similar to LiveJournal. You don’t have to share entries, but it seems like people here want to share their lives.

This defeats the purpose of online journaling and makes it more of a social networking site – but it’s free and if you hover over the icons on the entries page they come up in French.

Diariste Unlimited features more customized backgrounds and options for audio and video entries. That is, if you can navigate the strange, disorienting interface. As long as you accept that Diariste is a design nightmare, you’ll be ok using this tool.


This site offers an interface for basic, no frills online journaling. If you donate you’ll be included in testing new features as they become available. That said, there are certain features that are glaringly absent such as spell check and custom fonts.

Similar to Diariste, there are quite a few wannabe poets on the site. For example, read a line from the journal entry “Ode To Idleness”:

To idle through the summer days, obscure indie music at my side, is inexplicably a dream come true.

That line made me want to stay on this site forever. The site is drab and behind the curve in features, but it makes up in charm what it lacks in bells and whistles.


Journalate has a crisp white interface and the basic online journal features. Their upgrade option offers some font options and the ability to import from your social media sites.

Many of these paid features are free with Penzu, so the $27 a year cost for the upgrade isn’t that much of a bargain. But the clean simplicity of this site makes it great to use as a free option.

If you’re looking for a sparse, minimalist interface and you’re not fussy about organizing your posts into categories, this site is for you.

Free Online Journaling Tools


Goodnight Journal

This site manages to be even more minimalist in design than Journalate.  It’s basically a simple journal entry box with a dual panel to list entries,

Goodnight Journal is donation based and there are no upgrades to unlock or buy. What you see is what you get. It has an easy to use pull down menu option to flip entries to private or public, and it will import your Gmail avatar into your user profile.

This basic interface allows little room for distraction, which is good for writers who want to focus on just writing. The media library feature and formatting bar look exactly like the blog format of WordPress, and that’s a good thing.

There’s nothing very original going on here, but it’s an easy to use free site to use for private and public writing.


Journalling, whether for yourself or the public, is a great way to process thoughts, ideas and emotions. Keeping an online journal is a convenient way to record your thoughts without needing a notebook or pen. All of these programs offer a free space to get those ideas into writing. Sign up today and start crafting your masterpiece!

What online journal tools do you use? How does journaling help you process your ideas? Join the conversation below.

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