Buy an iPad. Throw away the paper planners. The paperless plannersare here to change the planner game. Get an annotations app, pick a PDF planner and get ready to turn your tablet into a mighty digital planner.
Best productivity tool in 2023
Digital planners are the determining factor between organization and pure chaos. They are also a source of calm: an outlet for creativity, thoughts, and future plans. Between beautifully simple bullet journals and intricately designed weekly/monthly digital planners, choosing one can be quite the challenge, but their goal is typically always the same: skyrocketing your productivity.
Turn the iPad (or any tablet) into a paperless planner
The good news is that paperless planners are here to change the note-taking game: they’ve come to revolutionize the way we can use and carry our planners and ultimately, the way we take better notes. But what are paperless/digital planners?
Simply put, digital planners allow you to turn your tablet (Android or Apple) into a planner. You can do this by downloading a note-taking app such as GoodNotes 5, Notability, or Noteshelf, which require a small one-time payment to download. Then you choose your favorite digital planner, import it into your preferred app, and voila: your digital planner is ready to use!
They typically have the same look and format of physical planners (weekly and monthly overviews, to-do lists, scheduling, note-taking, etc.) with many other advantages, which we will talk about later.
Too scared to try something that new?
Don’t be! Digital planners are ideal for all ages and occupations because they are so customizable and easy to use. Outline Planner users are typically between 20 and 80 years old, and range from stay at home parents to students, entrepreneurs, mental health enthusiasts and business owners. If they can, you can use it too!
If you already know how to use a physical planner, you will very easily understand digital ones: no real tech skills are required.
Paperless planners are also extremely convenient as they can easily be saved in the iCloud so that you reduce the risk of losing essential notes. Plus you can share your notes with your remote team with ease.
Put all your paper notebooks, stickers, stamps, and stencils away … and feel the freedom of the digital life!
Let me guide you through the steps of transitioning to a digital planner…
Step 1: How to choose the Right Planner
One of the best aspects of digital planners is the wide range of availability and customization. You may no longer have to purchase a planner for home, work, and journaling since you can choose an all-in-one digital planner. And you’ll no longer need to search for an hour to find that one sticker you need, because you can now store them all in one place using a Digital Stickers Book!
Begin by listing out all of the things you would like your planner to include to have a good idea of what to look for. These can include:
This step can be the most intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Pick up your tablet, which can be either Android or Apple; you can either use your tablet’s keyboard to type things into your planner, or use a digital pen/pencil such as the Apple Pencil for free writing. I actually use both 🙂
Choose which note-taking app you find most interesting: GoodNotes, Notability, or Noteshelf are all excellent choices. I found Noteshelf app to be the most user-friendly, but if you want to learn more, I have written this article.
Warning: it may get addictive to using these pdf planner templates
The Pros & Cons of a Paperless Planner
All great products have pros and cons 🙂 so it is essential to learn about them and make the right decision. I have underlined the most important ones to boost your start into the digital adventure.
— You can keep everything in one planner: from home life to work and everything in between (even crafts planning!)
— Digital planners are very forgiving: easily erase any mistake you make
— Organize and reorganize as much as you want: digital planners allow you to move your content around, even if you have handwritten it. Simply select it, drag it to another location on the same page, or copy-paste it on another page
— Never lose your information: it is very easy to save copies of your digital planner, both locally and if you choose to do so, on a cloud. Stay safe: do weekly manual backups to shared folders such as Dropbox and Google Drive
— Can decorate the pages: decorate it as much as you like, add stickers to it (keeping in mind file size), and organize the tabs. If you’re in love with fancy fonts, learn how to install custom fonts on the iPad before using them inside your digital planner.
— Real paper feel: if you enjoy writing in pen or pencil, using a device like an Apple Pencil to write in your digital planner will allow you to keep that pen-to-paper feel. To improve your experience (and your handwriting), try using a paper-like screen protector
— Extremely portable: it only gets as heavy as your tablet already is, no matter how many pages or digital notebooks you add to it!
— Environmentally friendly: a digital planner allows you to save some trees by going paperless
— Easy to share with others: easily share and send your planner to other people by using the sharing functions in the note-taking app. You can share both images of your pages or the entire planner as a PDF file
— Adapts to you: do you usually use your planner late at night, next to someone who is sleeping? Then choose a dark mode digital planner as a daily companion.
— It allows you to zoom in: it is great if you struggle reading smaller letters or really enjoy making intricate designs in your planners
— Needs charging: tablet’s battery don’t typically take very long to load and last a long time when charged, but it is important to note that unlike physical planners you must remember to charge your table
— Will not sync to digital calendars: like its physical counterpart, a digital planner cannot sync with calendars like Google Calendar or iCal. Your events will unfortunately not sync with Outlook or other appointment apps either
— Requires a (one-time) paid app: you must get a note-taking app to use your digital planner, but this app will also cover all of your other note-taking needs, so it is convenient to have
— Size depends on the tablet: the size of your pages will depend on your tablet size, but since you can easily zoom in or out, this tends not to be a huge problem
Digital notebooks are ready to use PDF files (with/without hyperlinks) or JPEG images (use them to build a digital planner yourself) imported into a note-taking app like Noteshelf, GoodNotes, or Notability. You can use it on any tablet that you can write on, but the iPad Pro + Apple Pencil combo is the most loved by far.
What is the best digital planner?
The winning digital planners are PDF templates designed to plug in and play inside PDF annotation apps such as Noteshelf, GoodNotes, and Notability (available for iOS devices) and XODO PDF (for Android devices). They also include convenient indexes with super-smart hyperlinks to navigate to any date, week, or month, and other sections in your planner. The best digital planners must be small-sized PDF files (less than 8 MB), high-quality layout, and intuitive navigation.
Do digital notebooks only work for iPad?
This type of digital templates work with any app that supports PDF annotations. Noteshelf, Goodnotes, and Notability offer the best handwriting experience for digital planning, but these are for iOS only. For Android, you can try XODO PDF, yet the experience is not the best.
Can I use a digital planner on iPhone?
You can: if you are using Goodnotes or Noteshelf, you can sync the digital planner across devices using iCloud. But an iPad digital planner it’s not 100% iPhone friendly. Writing on the phone can be a bit painful since the design is not adaptable, and your handwriting will not be super visible. However if you have a bigger iPhone (I use an iPhone 11) you can still comfortable check your plans on it.
What are the best apps to take notes on iPad?
You can use Noteshelf, Goodnotes 5 and Notability for iOS. I have chosen Noteshelf, just like many of my clients. Here’s what one of my clients said: “I started off using Noteshelf initially before ever using Goodnotes. Neither app is perfect but there are three things I like better about Noteshelf: 1) the ability to lock down an image layer for inserted planner widgets. I can erase writing and move stickers around without moving the base image. 2) I can copy the setup (highlighter, text, stickers) that I want on each page and paste to another and it will place it in the EXACT same location without realignment which is time consuming in Goodnotes and 3) squared off highlighter. I dislike Goodnotes’ rounded highlighter. AND….I almost forgot to mention one of my favorite features! You can save numerous fonts and text styles as favorites so that you can easily change between them. I have thirteen favorites. Goodnotes does not handle text well.”
Does it Sync with Google Calendar and Outlook
No. This type of PDF planner template does not come with such a feature. This feature needs to be implemented by the annotations apps (Goodnotes, Noteshelf) in order to work. So, at the moment, the digital planners do NOT sync with Google Calendar, any other calendar, or the Outlook.
Does it send reminders or notifications?
No. This type of PDF planner template does not come with such a feature. This feature needs to be implemented by the annotations apps (Goodnotes, Noteshelf) in order to work. So, at the moment, the digital planners do NOT send ANY reminder, notification or alert.
How do I download a single purchase PDF?
If you are NOT a Vault member, and buy a single version of a planner you will get the download links in the THANK YOU page and in the order confirmation email. However, during the checkout you have the option to create an account (or login to your account if you already have one) so all your download links will be stored in the Downloads area on My Account page.
How to import a digital template in Goodnotes 5, Noteshelf, or Notability?
After you have downloaded the digital template in the On My iPad / Downloads folder, go and open the app and import the planner from the Downloads folder using the add new functions: – in Goodnotes tap: New+ > Import – in Noteshelf tap: + > Import Document – in Notability tap: Import > Files
Do I need the internet to access the planner when I’m not connected to Wi-Fi?
Once you have downloaded the planner on your iPad, you won’t need Wi-Fi to use it. However, if you are using the iCloud to sync across devices, the planner will only sync when you have a Wi-Fi connection.
How to get the standard times instead of army time for my DATED digital notebook?
When you get the OUTLINE PLANNER, you can choose between: – Sunday Start calendar planners that use a standard time – Monday Start calendar planners that use a military clock So just make sure that you choose the best option for you.
I’m having some trouble using the hyperlinks in Goodnotes 5. What am I doing wrong?
You must be in the viewing mode to use the hyperlinks and switch to editing mode when you want to write. There is a pen icon inside a circle in the top right corner of the navigation that you need to tap to switch between the two modes.
Does the 2023 digital planner come with instructions on how to use it?
Yes, all 2023 digital planners have tutorial pages included. You will learn how to navigate the planner with hyperlinks, how to fill in the pages, and how to contact me. Just open your 2023 digital planner, go to EXTRA section and look for the “Tutorial”section on the bottom left of the page.
How can I navigate the 2023 digital planner?
All 2023 digital planners use a smart system of hyperlinks: – the main VERTICAL navigation – placed on the right side of the screen ON ALL PAGES, allows you to access the Calendar, 2023 Master plan, Master to do, all twelve Monthly pages, and seven special sections. – the secondary HORIZONTAL navigation – placed on the top right of the screen ON DATED PAGES ONLY, allows you navigate between inter-connected dated pages (eg: connects the same day’s: daily planning page, daily journaling page, and daily meeting notes page) – the yearly calendar page – also has links to any weekly or daily planning page inside the planner – the monthly planning pages – have links to weekly or daily planning page from that month – the weekly planning pages – have links to all seven daily planning and daily notes pages from that week – the monthly habits and workout trackers – have links to planning weeks and days from that month – the weekly meal plan pages – have links to all seven daily planning pages from that week
Can I have several monthly calendars devoted to different areas?
Inside a digital planner, you can always duplicate the monthly planning pages to track different subjects. The vertical navigation’s monthly tabs will still get you to the 1st planning page of that month. Then you can flip the page to see the extra monthly page too. Another thought will be to fit all activities inside one monthly calendar page and use color codes to differentiate them.
Can I delete the pages I will never use?
You can, but be careful what you delete since it will also delete the hyperlinks to those pages. You can’t undo it once deleted. I suggest to duplicate the planner and try to delete these pages from the clone version first. If you like the result, you can then implement this action inside the original digital planner too.
Can I duplicate pages, move them or insert them in any part of the planner?
In Goodnotes 5, Notability or Noteshelf you can move pages by drag and dropping their thumbnails. However, the planner has too many pages, so I recommend to copy a page (or template) and place it in a new location inside the planner.
What can I do if I have more notes in a day?
Go to that day’s notes page and duplicate that exact page. Plus, if you need more space for your notes or daily plans, go to the EXTRA templates section, copy a Notes page and paste it after the planning page.
How to paste a “meeting” on the same day of the week and at the same hour?
There is no fast way to add that meeting other than to copy & paste the text to the next week’s slot using the dotted rectangle or lasso tool. In Noteshelf, if you tap on the dotted rectangle and hit Paste, the text will be pasted in the same location on the page.
How to lock an image sticker and write on top of it?
Locking an image is only possible in Noteshelf (at the moment). To do so, tap & hold the image until an editing menu bar will appear. Tap Lock, and you’ve done it.
Can I use the 2023 digital planner to type vs. write?
Sure. Any PDF annotations app has a “Type tool” that you could use. Just import the planner inside your PDF annotations app and start typing.
Are the Daily Pages already created, or should I add them as needed? Do they have pre-written dates and day names (eg: Monday)?
Yes, in the 2023 digital planner, ALL DAILY PAGES are DATED and inter-connected. So from a weekly page, you can go to the DAILY planning page, or DAILY meeting page, or DAILY Journaling page for the same day (eg: Monday, June 23). Plus, using the “heart” or “meeting” icons you can switch between these inter-linked pages easily. And YES I have already added day names (eg: Monday) to each dated daily page.
Is there a way to create a link from one page in the planner to another page?
Unfortunately, Notability, Goodnotes, and Noteshelf do not have this feature (so far), but I hope they will soon add this to their apps. Playing with bookmarks/tags can help you reach another location in your planner. Or, add a note (like “client name”) on the new page and use the search function to find it.
Do I need to buy a digital planner every year?
All dated digital planners need to be purchased every year. The undated planners are the ones that can be bought once and used many times. But you will need to add the dates to the pages.
Are there any free apps similar to Goodnotes?
While Goodnotes, Noteshelf or Notability are paid apps, there are some free alternatives as well. The two alternatives I recommend are: XODO PDF and CollaNote.
Where to find a downloadable goodnotes planner templates free?
If you’re starting with digital planners, try the FREEBIES Vaultand download 17+ full digital planners, stickers and digital covers, You’ll also get samples for the Outline Planner, the Meeting Book, the People Book, the Project Book and a few more bestsellers.
How to convert my goodnotes planner from .goodnotes to pdf?
When you’ll want to share a PDF copy of your planner you can use the SHARE option (the rectangle with an arrow pointing up) and export your planner as PDF format. If your planner uses hyperlinks and you want to keep them working, just make sure your PDF file is Editable, before exporting it.
When do you launch the dated planners?
Starting in 2023, all dated planners will be available in the Vault once the Vault doors open on September 7th. Planners will also be added to my public shop as individual purchases 5-6 weeks later, and to Etsy 8-9 weeks later.
The Vault is a cozy space with my collection of premium digital planners (37+ so far). Customers buy the 1-year access pass every year, in September. Access to the Vault is limited. The Vault opens between Sep. 7th to Oct. 7th every year. No exceptions. In the first 48 hours EVERYONE can enter the vault for the crazy price of $47 (instead of $97). However, existing customers can claim the discount anytime in the first 7 days after launch. Read more about Vault related questions here.
I turn the iPad Pro into a cozy workspace for goals, thoughts and daily notes✍️. I'm the Outline Planner founder, designing work templates that looks like paper notebooks, but are used on the iPad (these are not apps, they are PDF templates). Want to try them?