Well over 370 million iPads have been sold since the tablet’s debut in 2010. Congrats, Apple. The versatile device is indeed an electronic jack of all trades, but can you bullet journal on an iPad?
Yes! An iPad is the perfect platform for creating and maintaining your digital bullet journal. Along with a stylus such as the Apple Pencil, a robust note-taking app such as GoodNotes, and a drawing app like Procreate, you can make an amazing BuJo without wasting paper.
Environmentalists and tech nerds – rejoice and unite!
Is There an App for Bullet Journaling?
Perhaps you’re really digging the BuJo concept but are reluctant to get started because of the inconveniences inherent to analog. No worries! There are more and more apps across multiple platforms that incorporate the bullet journaling system as designed by Ryder Carroll.
For example, if all you need is a bare-bones, no-fuss app for rapid logging, here are a few excellent options:
- Elisi (for all platforms)
- Trello (for all platforms)
- Taskade (for all platforms)
- Dynalist (for all platforms)
- NotePlan (for macOS & iOS)
But – and I can already sense it – you’re more of an AmandaRachLee, right? If you’re gonna be loyal to your BuJo, you’d better infuse some artistic sense into it. And the apps above? Unfortunately, they’re too rigid for this intent.
Are there better bullet journaling apps out there for Apple fanatics who are creatively inclined? Absolutely, there are!
What is the Best Bullet Journal App for iPad?
The best note-taking app for the iPad, in our books, is GoodNotes. However, we also supplement it with Procreate for maximal creative leeway. Together, Casey and I feel these two apps combine to form the ultimate bullet journaling suite on iOS – a dynamic duo of sorts.
Perks of Using GoodNotes
What is GoodNotes? GoodNotes is a handwriting app exclusive to iOS and macOS. It turns your touchscreen into a digital piece of paper and any registered contact, such as from a fingertip or stylus nib, into an electronic pen stroke that isn’t confined to a “text box”.
GoodNotes is ideal for an iPad bullet journal because
- it lets you freely mark up and annotate your documents (PDFs, JPGs, PNGs, etc.) without restrictions;
- it has a staggering amount of typography options that can transform your stylus into any kind of writing tool imaginable;
- it lets you draw freeform lines and shapes, which are the necessary building material for custom layouts, trackers, and spreads;
- it enables you to import new creative elements such as fonts, templates, stickers, images, and so much more;
- it is stupidly easy to use;
- it is backed by a large, active community that loves to share;
- it is well-supported by the developer, streamlined for accessibility & security, and up-to-date.
Perks of Using Procreate
What is Procreate? Akin to Photoshop for the iPad, Procreate is a deceptively powerful illustration app. When Casey first bought the app, I thought it would be a mere toy like Microsoft Paint. But I’ve since learned that Procreate’s immense capabilities allow digital artists to create stunning works rivaling those of the Photoshop breed.
Procreate lets you
- efficiently create custom graphics such as backgrounds, spreads, stamps, and templates;
- design things as you would in Photoshop (think of layers, blend modes, filters, brushes, levels, masks, etc.);
- seamlessly import your work into GoodNotes, with just a tap of the stylus.
Why use GoodNotes and Procreate together? GoodNotes provides you with the functional aspect of a bullet journal and Procreate provides the artist’s outlet. This means unparalleled, synchronized organization along with spiffy visuals.
How to Make a Digital Bullet Journal on an iPad
Things you’ll need:
- Apple Pencil
- GoodNotes (one-time cost of $7.99 USD)
- Procreate (one-time cost of $9.99 USD)
Once you’ve got GoodNotes and Procreate, play around with their features for a bit. It should take you no time at all to understand how GoodNotes works. It will take more time to familiarize yourself with Procreate because of all its tools, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.
The concept of making a digital bullet journal on the iPad is very simple. You’ll be creating a new “Notebook” document in GoodNotes, in which all of your BuJo ideas will go. And, if you’re unable to realize your ideas with GoodNotes alone, that’s what Procreate is for.
Set Up Your BuJo in GoodNotes
- To create a brand new bullet journal in GoodNotes, navigate to the Documents tab within the app and click “New…” followed by Notebook in the dropdown menu.
- A “New Notebook” pane should pop up, allowing you to customize your digital project. You can choose to include a cover; select the paper size, color, and template; adjust the orientation, and input the title.
That’s all there is to getting started! Like a three-ring binder, you can add or remove pages at will.
Also, you can change any property of your notebook at any time. However, once you accumulate many pages of annotations and doodles, changing the underlying template might visually displace your content and make it tedious to align everything to the new setup.
Give Your Digital BuJo a “Realistic” Feel
Bullet journaling on an iPad is certainly convenient, but sometimes I do miss the nostalgia of paper. Here are two ways to bring back the analog touch – sort of.
The “Open-book” Template
This illusion effectively creates a notebook that appears to be opened, with a two-page spread. The design could be as simple or sophisticated as necessary, since all it really is, is a background created in Procreate or another illustrator. Usually, these templates are in PDF format.
A quick tip: Open-book backgrounds work best in landscape orientation. Also, to make the templates look realistic, many incorporate shadows, especially down the middle seam and edges. Some even appear to be placed on a table surface with props along the side.
Index Tabs with Hyperlinks
Many background templates are also drawn to include index tabs. Oftentimes, the designer adds hyperlinks to these tabs so that clicking on them navigates you to the appropriate section within the PDF file.
Once imported into GoodNotes, these tabs function aesthetically just as they would in a paper notebook. Many templates have blank tabs so that you can label them yourself. How?
- Open the page with the index tabs in GoodNotes.
- Make text labels for each tab. For example, you could write individual labels such as “Index”, “Daily”, “Weekly”, “Monthly”, “Future”, etc. depending on how many tabs there are and what you need.
- Drag each text label over its matching tab, then resize and align it to fit.
- You’ll have to repeat these steps for each page. To streamline the process, get the style and positioning of your labels right on one page first, then copy & paste them together onto subsequent pages.
Design Things in Procreate, Then Import Them Into GoodNotes
Getting the hang of designing your own spread layouts or other illustrations in Procreate won’t be too frustrating, I promise. Casey and I both learned how to use the app from watching helpful YouTube tutorials such as these:
- How to Make Digital Stickers by Million Dollar Habit
- Intro to Procreate by Bardot Brush
- How to Create a BuJo Page in Procreate by Holly Pixels
For tons of design inspiration, Pinterest and Instagram are wonderful sources. You could even improve your creative eye by taking screenshots of designs you like, import them as a layer into Procreate, then trace over them as a form of practice. Be wary of copyright infringement, however. Don’t publish other artists’ work along with your own without taking the necessary steps to gain permission!
Importing designs from Procreate into GoodNotes is a breeze. You can use either of these two methods:
- Once your design is done in Procreate, tap the Toolbar icon on the top left of the app.
- Under Actions, select the “Share” icon. You may export your design to any of the listed file formats. For background templates, it’s best to save these as a PDF file. However, for illustrations with a transparent background, it’s important to save these in PNG format.
- Once you’ve selected the file format, the iOS Sharing panel will pop up, giving you a variety of options. You could either save your work as a file or directly import it into GoodNotes.
- Open both Procreate and GoodNotes in Split View mode. To do this, while one app is already open, swipe up from the bottom edge to show the Dock. Touch and hold the other app, then drag it to either the right or left edge of your iPad screen. Both apps should now simultaneously be open.
- In Procreate, load up the design that you’d like to import into GoodNotes. Double-check the layers, ensuring you’re only selecting the necessary components. For instance, you might have to turn off the background and any solid elements that interfere with transparency.
- With your design component selected, drag it across into the GoodNotes document. And, there you have it!
Free GoodNotes Bullet Journal Templates
Many artists in the digital BuJo community are talented, tech-savvy, but more importantly, so generous with their abilities! That’s why there’s a trove of freebies for digital bullet journaling on the web.
I ventured into the thickets of Pinterest to unearth a couple of these freebies. I guarantee you’ll be as ecstatic as I was in knowing that the authors are donating their creations out of goodwill.
The following links go straight to the artist’s intended page, where you can either download the freebies directly or subscribe to a newsletter for them. I tried all the links and they’re legit.
Complete Notebook Template
Free Digital Planner from Life is Messy and Brilliant – Jenniffer, a digital artist who runs the aptly-named blog, went full-on “sharing-is-caring” mode. Scroll down to find the download link to the planner – no signups, no obligations.
Doodles, Stickers, Overlays, & More
HappyDownloads Freebies Vault – After the hassle-free newsletter signup, you get access to an arsenal of cute, beautiful stickers and overlays – all ready to be imported into your iPad bullet journal. Thank you, Rina!!!
What about using the app Notability for your iPad bullet journal?
Like GoodNotes, Notability is a superb note-taking app for iOS that can also house your BuJo. At $8.99, a slightly steeper price tag compared to GoodNotes ($7.99), Notability seems particularly designed for the academic note-taker. Its organization and function feel more “sleek”.
But GoodNotes definitely has more creative options for that extra artistic flair, which is important to a freeform bullet journal. Many, including my wife and I, also prefer GoodNotes for its “book-like” interface.