Forest App Essential: A Complete How-To Guide

Main poster for article
Forest – Starter Guide For You

When I first downloaded the Forest app, it took me 2 minutes to learn how to use it.

It took me another year to learn the not-so-obvious features that made gamifying my productivity more enjoyable.

You don’t have to spend 1 year to learn what I’ve learned because this Forest app how-to guide will share with you almost everything you need to know, including:

  • Getting started with using the Forest app
  • Setting up Forest for maximum usefulness
  • Mastering the use of the Forest timer/stopwatch
  • Analysing Forest Statistics
  • Making your forest on Forest look good
  • Spending your Forest coins wisely

How To Use The Forest App (Quick Start Guide)

If I had to define what the Forest app is, it is this: a timer/stopwatch + a game. For now, we will ignore the game part and just learn the very basics of using the Forest timer/stopwatch.

You can use the Forest app by first deciding on whether to go with timer/stopwatch mode and then tap on “Plant”. If you have chosen timer mode, you may want to take the additional step of selecting how long you want to plant the tree.

Screenshot of the Forest app homepage.
The homepage on the Forest App
Screenshot of choosing between timer/stopwatch.
Switching between timer/stopwatch on Forest

You can switch between timer/stopwatch mode by tapping on the top middle hourglass/fire icon on the homepage of the app and then selecting between the timer or the stopwatch.

Screenshot of the timer mode on Forest app.
Timer mode on the homepage of the Forest app

If you’ve chosen the timer mode, start by setting how long you want to plant a tree.

This can be done by sliding on the green dot on the circle surrounding the tree.

Once you’ve selected a suitable timing, you can tap on “Plant”.

Screenshot of the stopwatch mode on Forest app.
Stopwatch mode on the homepage of the Forest app

If you’ve selected the stopwatch mode, then all you need to do is to tap on the “Plant” button.

How To Set Up Your Forest App – Step By Step

Now that you know the basic functions of the Forest app, we will go more into the intricacies of setting up your app in the settings.

Going through this process will fine-tune your user experience and make Forest as useful as it can be for your unique situation.

Step 1: Navigating To The Settings In Forest

Screenshot of the Forest app homepage.
The homepage on the Forest App
Screenshot of screen shown after tapping on the 3 lines icon on the homepage
Screen shown after tapping on the 3 lines icon on the homepage

From the homepage of the app, tap on the 3 lines icon at the top left side of the homepage.

From the list of options, select “Settings”.

After you go into “Settings”, you will see that it is further split into 7 sections:

  • Planting and Timer
  • Forest Overview
  • Social and Friend
  • Sound and Notification
  • Other
  • About Forest
  • About Us

I’ve bolded those sections that when tweaked can help you make full use of Forest.

Of the bolded sections, we’ll first take a look at setting up “Planting and Timer”.

Step 2: Setting Up “Planting and Timer”

The “Planting and Timer” section is all about setting up the timer itself and what you see as you are planting your virtual forest.

Here’s a summary of the each setting in “Planting and Timer”:

SettingSummary of setup
Custom PhrasesAdds custom phrases to motivate yourself whenever you’re growing a tree or when you’ve successfully/unsuccessfully planted a tree
Keep Screen OnToggling on keeps the screen on at all times when in-app
Extend Time Limit to 3 hrThe default Forest timer has a time limit of 2 hr. Toggling on this setting extends the timer time limit to 3 hr
Summary of “Planting and Timer” settings
Screenshot of main settings page on Forest
Main settings page on Forest

As you are planting your virtual tree, you will see motivational/reminder phrases coming up on your screen.

The default phrases are phrases like “Don’t look at me!” and “Put down your phone”.

These phrases can be customised by tapping on “Custom Phrases”.

Screenshot of custom phrases setting on Forest
Custom phrases on Forest

Rather than going with the default phrases, here, you can add quotes/thoughts that are inspiring to you.

Add custom phrases by tapping on the plus icon at the top right of the screen.

You can choose to have these custom phrases displayed as you are growing your tree, when you’ve succeeded in growing a tree or when you’ve failed in growing a tree.

In my custom phrase settings, I’ve added one of my favourite quotes from Marcus Aurelius.

“Keep Screen On” is a setting you will want to turn on so that you don’t have to keep turning on and unlocking your phone whenever you want to check how much time you have left in a focus session.

“Extend time limit to 3 hr” is a setting I would recommend turning on as well.

Turning this setting on will allow you to increase time spent away from your mobile device.

It will also serve you well even if your primary use of the Forest app is to time and improve your focus sessions.

Step 3: Setting Up “Forest Overview”

Setting up the “Forest Overview” section will improve the viewing of historical data of your focus time.

Here’s an overview of the settings under this section:

SettingSummary of setup
First Day of the weekYou can choose between Mon-Sun, the first day of the week for you
Display Focused Time in HoursTurning this off will display your focused time in minutes
Don’t Expand Forest Land Unless it’s FullTurning this on will result in a more clustered view of your virtual forest
Arrange Trees by Planting TimeTurning this on will arrange the trees in your virtual forest in a chronological order
Summary of “Forest Overview” settings

Screenshot of main settings page on Forest
Main settings page on Forest

For your “First Day of the Week” setting, I’d recommend syncing this between your calendar app and Forest.

For “Display Focused Time in Hours”, I’d suggest turning it on as that will likely give you more clarity.

For the “Don’t Expand Forest Land Unless it’s Full” and “Arrange Trees by Planting Time” settings, I’ve found that it doesn’t make much of a difference whether you turn them on/off.

Step 4: Setting up “Social and Friend”

Setting up “Social and Friend” will help ensure that you’re all set to be productive with your friends.

SettingSummary of setup
Hidden from Global RankingTurning this on will hide your profile from the global ranking under the “Friends” tab
Allow Friend Requests Sent Through ProfileTurning this on will allow people to add you as a friend through your profile
Allow “Plant Together” NotificationsTurning this on will allow friends to invite you to a plant together room
Summary of “Social and Friend” settings

In my experience, toggling on/of “Hidden from Global Ranking” doesn’t really impact the user experience of Forest.

If you want to compete in the global rankings though, then make sure you leave it on.

Screenshot of how a profile looks like on Forest
Example of how a profile looks like on Forest

If you turn on “Allow Friend Requests Sent Through Profile” then you will see the “+” icon at the top right of the screen.

In any case, it is unlikely that anyone will find your profile unless you’re in the running on the global rankings (only the top 100 in the running are shown) so to me, it doesn’t really matter whether you leave this setting on or off.

Either ways, you are unlikely to receive a friend request and you can choose to reject the friend request later as well.

Moving on, you will find that the Forest app has an interesting feature where you can plant virtual trees together with friends and if one fails to plant the tree, everyone fails to plant the tree as well.

A pre-requisite to planting a tree with your friends is that you must be in a “plant together room” with your friends.

So if you’re intending to take a collaborative approach by having friends do focus time together, then make sure to turn on “Plant Together” notifications to make sure that you don’t miss out on this awesome feature.

Step 5: Setting up “Sound and Notification”

“Sound and Notification” is where you set up reminders and where you toggle on/off sound effects/notifications.

SettingSummary of setup
Planting ReminderSet up reminders for when its time to plant some virtual trees here
Sound EffectTurning this on will enable all sound effects within the app (ie. when you’re tapping on an option)
NotificationTurning this on will enable notifications from the app to be displayed on your phone
Summary of “Sound and Notification” settings
Screenshot of Planting Reminder setting on Forest
Planting Reminder setting on Forest

Tapping on the “+” icon will add a reminder.

1 case where I’ve actually set up a planting reminder was when I found myself very distracted with using my phone even though I should be sleeping.

I set up a reminder for me to plant a tree right before I was due to go to bed and that helped ease me into a better sleeping pattern.

Both “Sound Effects” and “Notifications” are fairly straightforward.

While straightforward, if you’ve turned on “Sound Effects” and “Notifications” yet find them not turned on in the app, you may want to check your phone settings to see if it agrees with your app settings.

Step 6: Setting up “Other”

The “Other” section in the settings of the Forest app contains some miscellaneous settings that you can set up to increase your enjoyment when using the app.

SettingSummary of setup
Change LanguageChange to any of the 14 languages available as your main language on Forest.
Store Data to HealthKitTurning this on transfers your focus time on Forest to your Health app on your phone
Connect Only on Wi-FiNot sure what this function does, the app seems to work just normal even if this is turned off
Automatically Send Usage and Crash ReportsSelf-explanatory
App Allow ListThis will determine what apps are allowed when you’re planting a tree on Forest in deep focus mode. Not available on iOS.
Summary of “Sound and Notification” settings

As “App Allow List” is not available on iOS, you will have to turn off deep focus mode (a feature we will talk about more later) if you want to use apps while planting a tree on Forest.

Mastering The Forest Timer/Stopwatch

We’ve already covered in a general sense how to use the Forest timer/stopwatch, but, there are 6 more features that you can set up to your advantage:

  • Deep Focus Mode (Only on timer mode)
  • Plant Together Mode (Only on timer mode)
  • Count Exceeded Time (Only on timer mode)
  • Choosing a tree to plant
  • Tags
  • Favourites

Deep Focus Mode

Screenshot of additional timer settings on Forest
Additional timer settings on Forest

Toggle on Deep Focus Mode if your focus time has nothing to do with your phone or if your goal is to spend less time on your device.

Android users have the additional option of adding allowed apps when in deep focus mode under settings>other>app allowed list.

Exiting Forest when Deep Focus is on will cause your tree to die which will cost you 60 Forest coins should you want to remove it.

Plant Together Mode

Screenshot of Plant together mode on Forest
Plant Together Mode on Forest
Screenshot of managing friend list on Forest
Managing Friend List on Forest

When you toggle Plant Together mode on, you will be able to plant trees together with your friends on Forest.

Adding friends can be done either by adding your friend’s email address or by referring your friends to Forest.

Count Exceeded Time

When you toggle on count exceeded time on Forest, it will continue counting time after your timer has ended.

In my experience, turning this setting off has resulted in a more accurate analysis of my focused time as the timer is not always accurate in counting exceeded time.

Choosing a tree to plant

Screenshot of tree selection on Forest
Tree selection on Forest

You go to this page by tapping on the tree itself on the homepage of Forest.

You start off with only 1 type of tree that’s available for you to plant. But as time goes, you will earn Forest coins that will allow you to unlock nicer trees.

While the planting of different trees will make an aesthetic difference in your virtual forest, you may want to plant different trees based on different areas in your life.


Screenshot of Forest homepage menu selection
Forest homepage menu selection
Screenshot of tags setup page on Forest
Tags setup page on Forest

You navigate to set up your tags by tapping on the 3 stripes on the top left of the homepage of Forest.

Here you can add/edit/delete tags.

Another way you can add tags is right on the homepage, by tapping on the tree.

Screenshot of tag adding/selection on Forest
Tag adding/selection on Forest

Here, under tags, you can assign your tree to any of the tags that you’ve created.

Although you can also add a new tag if you wish, you cannot delete/edit tags on this page. For that, you will have to navigate to the tags setup page that we’ve just covered.


Another thing you can do to save time when planting your virtual trees is to preset and save to your favourites the type of tree, duration of planting and tag.

Screenshot of adding favourite presets on Forest
Adding favourite presets on Forest

On the timer mode, you can add your favourite presents by first selecting your choice of tree to be planted, duration to be planted and by assigning the tree a tag.

On the stopwatch mode, you add your favourite presents by selecting your choice of tree to be planted and by assigning the tree with a tag.

After ensuring that all your selections are in order, you add a favourite preset by tapping on the heart icon at the bottom left corner of the screen.

Screenshot of selecting your favourite presets on Forest
Selecting your favourite presets on Forest

After tapping on the heart icon, you will find all your favourite Forest presets on this screen.

Analysing Statistics On Forest App

Screenshot of Forest homepage menu selection
Forest homepage menu selection

You access your statistics on Forest by tapping on “Forest” from the main menu on the homepage.

Screenshot of statistics view on Forest
Statistics view on Forest
Screenshot of selection of tags to display on Forest
Selection of tags to display in Forest

There are 2 main settings that will help you have a good analysis on the focused time you’ve spent.

  1. Toggling between day, week, month and year.
  2. Choosing which “trees” to view based on tags.

Making Your Virtual Forest On Forest Look Good

You can make your virtual forest look better if you have more types of trees available to plant.

You can unlock new types of trees to plant in the Forest store, through Forest events and by referring 5 friends to the app.

Screenshot of virtual tree store on Forest
Virtual tree store on Forest
Screenshot of News page on Forest
News page on Forest

If you’re intending to purchase new types of trees through the Forest app, you will have to accumulate Forest coins through the planting of trees in-app, by unlocking achievements or by referring friends to the app.

Trees that can be earned through Forest events are mostly free, so do keep a lookout for new events through the Forest News page.

The Wise Spending Of Your Forest Coins

Concerning the spending of your Forest coins wisely, know that there are only 3 ways you can spend these coins:

  1. Removing withered trees
  2. Purchasing new types of trees to plant
  3. Purchasing a real tree to plant

Depending on what your priorities are, 2/3 may both seem like wise ways to spend your Forest coins.

In order to maximise your Forest coins though, try not to whither your trees so you don’t have to spend any unnecessary coins removing withered trees.

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