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How to use a digital planner on iPad & Android

This is everything you need to get started with a digital planner on your iPad & Android devices. I provide a free digital planner to try out, instructions on importing your planners, app recommendations and suggestions to community resources.

Enjoy 🙂

1. What is a digital planner?

Digital planners are digital versions of paper planners, diaries and journals and can be used on tablets, computers and phones. They are best used on a touchscreen tablet with a stylus so they can be used in the same way as a regular planner but have additional functionality such as duplicating pages instantly, inserting photos and copying images.

Check out the videos which gives an example of how to use digital planners on Goodnotes and Penly.

GoodNotes plan with me:

Penly plan with me:

2. Digital or paper planner?

I discovered digital planning in 2017 and have loved it since, although I still have my beloved Filofax. Having used both digital planners and regular planners, here’s a summary of the pros and cons of digital planning:

Advantages Disadvantages
Easier to be creative by adding/copying digital stickers. Miss the feel of the planner in my hands.
Simple to undo mistakes and restart a page Some prefer writing on paper over a screen but there are paper feel screen protectors that can help with this.
Lots of different colors, styles and layouts to choose from. Bookmarking with tabs in paper planners help you flip to those pages quickly. You can though add digital bookmarks and use hyperlinks to move through digital planners.
Adding photos to your planner is straightforward to do. Worry about damaging the planner and the rings
Bring multiple planners with you anywhere you go.

3. Where can I try a free digital planner?

Before purchasing a digital planner, I strongly recommend trying a free version. There are various free versions available on the internet so you can see if digital planning is for you. Many shops do not provide refunds due to their digital nature, so trying out a free planner ensures that it works on your device.

Check out our free digital planner for Goodnotes, Penly and other PDF annotator apps:

It is best to buy from a shop which has a returns policy. I provide a 30-day money back guarantee on all products in our digital planner shop as I want all of our customers to be happy with their purchase.

4. How to learn digital planning?

There is a learning curve when starting out and it can take some time to get to grips. As digital planning involves using your tablet device, it is useful if you are comfortable with (or willing to learn) how to download files onto your device and install apps.

The best ways to learn are to:

  • find a digital planning guide (good job so far!)
  • check out video tutorials (see some below)
  • try a free planner
  • join Facebook groups (see ours here) and ask questions
  • The more comfortable you get, the more options you have to use other tools such as using cloud storage to sync between devices, using drawing apps to create decorations for your planner, cropping images and using unzip tools so you can download and collections of stickers.

    5. Which is the best digital planning app?

    The digital planning app best for you will depend on how you will use it and what functionality you need but I provide some brief recommendations below depending on your device.

    iPad: Apple currently have the best apps for digital planning. Goodnotes is my favorite digital planning app and was awarded Apple's iPad app of the year. Another popular app is Notability and there are many articles which explore differences between the two. However, these are both only available on Apple devices so if you need to use your planner cross-platform, I recommend Microsoft OneNote.

    Android tablets: Android's digital planning apps have improved a lot over the last few years and my favorite is Penly, which comes with a few of my undated happydownloads planners.

    Windows tablets: Windows doesn't currently have as many great digital planning apps but I do suggest using Microsoft OneNote on Windows tablets and works great when using devices cross-platform.

    Cross-platform: If you want to use your digital planner app across devices, OneNote is the best app to use. It is free and can be used on Apple, Android and Windows devices.

    6. What can you do in digital planning apps?

    Nearly all digital planning apps have the following standard functionality:

    • Ability to write with stylus
    • Highlighting
    • Erasing
    • Inserting text
    • Inserting pages/templates
    • Inserting photos/images
    • Reposition items
    • Copying items

    However, there is some functionality only included in certain apps:

    • Hyperlinks (limited functionality in OneNote)
    • Ability to use cross-platform (mainly OneNote)
    • Recording audio
    • Selecting multiple images (Xodo is not able to copy multiple items but not move)
    • Pulling in information from websites
    • Using GIF animations

    Its important to understand the differences so I've created a few videos which explores the functionality of each in more detail below:

    6.1 Using OneNote for digital planning

    Check out the video below which goes through the OneNote functionality, which covers:

    1. Zoom in and out of the digital planner using the page width tool or by pinching the screen.
    2. Use the navigation panel to jump to the different sections and pages within the planner.
    3. Populate the undated version of the planner.
    4. Undo or redo changes in the planner, as well as how to use the eraser tool.
    5. Use the stickers that come with the planner. To use the stickers, you need to go the stickers section, tap on text mode, select the sticker, long press and copy it, go back to where you want to paste it, long press and tap paste. You can then rotate, drag, and resize as needed.
    6. Using templates and talking through the index page of all the different template pages. You can tap on them to jump to the relevant template and then copy these pages and paste to a new section. You can do this by long pressing on the page in the navigation panel and selection Copy/Move. You can then rename the title of the duplicate page as needed.
    7. Using the divider pages to create your own tailored sections of templates.

    6.2 Using Goodnotes for digital planning

    Check out the video below and our Goodnotes digital planning guide.

    The video above shows how to use your digital planner in Goodnotes 5 and goes through:
    1. Navigating through your digital planner by swiping left and right.
    2. Using the home page hyperlinks to go to the templates you wish to use.
    3. Using the hyperlinks throughout the planner, including the tabs and weekly hyperlinks.
    4. Setting up undated planners so you’re able to use it year after year.
    5. Using divider pages so you can create certain topics and copying/pasting templates as needed.
    6. How to use the stickers pack in Goodnotes and how to copy/paste stickers as needed.
    7. Using the Goodnotes bookmark tool so you can jump to the relevant pages as needed.

    6.3 Using Notability for digital planning

    Check out the video below:

    6.4 Using Xodo for digital planning

    Check out the video below. Xodo has less functionality and has a few more bugs than the other apps but it is still a decent free digital planning app:

    7. How to choose your planner?

    Before purchasing any planner, have a think about what type of planner you want to use.

    a. Purpose of your planner

    Make sure you have thought about the purpose of your planner. The type of planner you need will depend on how you plan to use it and how often.

  • Are you using it for a specific purpose? If so, there are niche planners that will provide more targeted schedules.
  • Are you after a more practical planner? Then make sure you select one with more space to write.
  • Are you wanting to use it on different devices (e.g. iPad, PC and Android devices)? If so, perhaps consider a OneNote planner which works cross-platform.
  • b. Landscape or portrait

    If you prefer writing your planner more like a physical notepad, consider whether you would prefer a portrait planner.

    c. Dated or undated

    If you are new to digital planner, I would strongly recommend a dated planner. The dates are pre-populated so it saves you time setting it up and you can focus on the more fun aspects.

    Undated version have the benefit of being able to use year after year but take more time to populate.

    d. Templates

    Having the right templates for you can make a big difference on how useful the planner is for you. We have different planners for so they have more relevant pages:

  • Students
  • Teachers
  • Moms
  • Work
  • Self-employed
  • Faith-related
  • Health-related
  • e. Pre-cropped stickers

    Make sure when you purchase any stickers that they are pre-cropped, have transparent backgrounds and can be imported into your app. It can make a big difference to how your planner looks.

    Other items to consider:
  • Single or double page spreads
  • Vertical or horizontal weekly spreads
  • Monday or Sunday start
  • Hyperlinks or navigation panels
  • Planner color and design
  • Paper color
  • Covers

  • 8. Importing your planner

    The import process will depend on your device and the file format you are provided. Check out our importing guides for our planners.

    8.1 Importing into OneNote

    Check out our OneNote importing guide.

    8.2 Importing into Goodnotes

    Check out our Goodnotes importing guide.

    8.3 Importing into Notability

    Check out our video on how to import into Notability.

    8.4 Importing into Xodo

    Check out our video on how to import into Xodo.

    9. Customizing your planner

    My favourite part of digital planning is decorating and customizing it! There are so many choices when deciding how you want to set it up and working out what will work best for you. Consider the following items:

  • Choosing your templates and pages
  • Inserting stickers and images
  • Creating sections
  • Setting your cover
  • Making your own decorations
  • I'll be expanding on this section shortly to provide digital planning tips.

    See some of the spreads sent to us by our customers below:

    Digital planner stickers

    10. Where can I find planner inspiration?

    The best place to find examples of planner spreads are in Facebook groups. You can see what others have made and ask questions from other users. We have our own Happydownloads Facebook planning group here if you would like to join.

    Pinterest and Instagram are also great places to see what others have made.

    11. Where can I find planner freebies?

    We have hundreds of free digital planner stickers and overlays. Just sign-up to our newsletter at the bottom of this screen for the password.

    You can also have a look at digital planning hashtags and boards on Pinterest to find freebies from other creators.

    12. How can I write nearly on my tablet?

    We have a free writing tool PNG for neater handwriting, which can help when writing on plain paper, in our freebies vault.

    13. How to sync digital planners

    Digital planner apps will usually allow syncing between devices, so you can use different devices to make changes. I love OneNote for this as changes are almost immediate and you can share your notebook with others to contribute changes through OneDrive.

    GoodNotes and Notability use iCloud storage to enable syncing between devices. It takes slightly longer to sync changes but still sufficient in nearly all situations.

    Xodo syncing also is possible by saving your file on cloud storage. You can access the file from other devices but I do have a warning! I have encountered bugs where changes either take a long time to save or do not save at all. I recommend saving a different version of the file on your Cloud device when you do not want any risk of losing the changes you have made.

    Check out the video below for syncing on OneNote, Goodnotes and Notability:

    I hope you have found this digital planning guide for beginners helpful. Please feel free to reach out and let me know if there is anything specific you want like to see added.

    Check out our planners and stickers in our digital planner shop. We do offer a 30-day money back guarantee and aim to make all out customers happy.

    Happy planning!