Email, the ultimate note-taking platform (for me).

2022 Update

I'm now using Obsidian and it has worked well for my note capture workflow.

A few years ago I gradually stopped using note-taking applications and switched to email for my information capturing needs and it has worked well. I'm mostly interested in saving observations, interesting links, diagrams, quotes, and project ideas (not using it for structured notebooks).

My initial approach was to use my personal email account and have an automatic filter that added the tag "notebook" to any email sent from myself. Later I switched to having a separate email account to use as my note vault.

This is not innovative in any way and that's the point, we have battle-tested technology and can use it in creative ways.

Some things I like about this:

Simplicity #

Email is simple, the user interface is well known and it just works. If I find something useful on the internet highlighting and sending it to my email will always work, it's fast and reliable.

Email is a boring technology that works.

Available everywhere #

Email is everywhere and will always be. Clients have offline capabilities by default and the interface is standard, everyone can use it from any device.

Send notes from my kindle device #

Even from my slow kindle device, I can send notes with book quotes I want to keep. I made a mistake of using the native kindle notes feature but later discovered kindle highlights and note manager and export options are very limited. Now I just send everything to my notebook email account.

It's just simpler and available everywhere. Every platform has email client applications and the interface just works.

Search is powerful in email platforms and clients, I care more about powerful search than having notes organized in hierarchies so it fits well with my process.

Filters #

Email platforms have powerful ways to automatically filter messages so you can add tags based on keywords. I don't care much about organizing notes in folders but it's an option if you create a simple convention for the email subjects.

Append-only #

You can't modify messages and that's ok, you can easily reply to the message and add new information if needed.

Some tips #

Have a separate email account #

After some months using my email account I realized I'd prefer to keep my notes and quotes in a separate vault. A space that is isolated from all the distracting topics of a normal email inbox. I created a new email address only to use it as my note vault.

Use the native client of your platform #

If you setup your windows or mac email client now you have offline access to your notes.
For normal email I tend to use the web interface more, but for the "notebook" mailbox there's advantages to setup the native client of your platform.

For structured notes, traditional note apps are better. #

This approach fits better for collecting data. I don't have organized notebooks and my data collection patterns are more chaotic so a vault with good search works for me, but for study or other type of structured data collection activities this approach may not be great.

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