Evernote, OneNote, and SimpleNote are the note-taking apps that we all hear about. I have accounts with all three and have used them extensively; however, I just cannot get settled with any of them. I initially started out with a free Evernote account; then, Evernote ended up limiting what a free user could do. OneNote, great note-taking app; however, I was never completely satisfied with the app, due to its’ slowness (in loading and performing searches). Simplenote, which is text-based only (with some markup language) is ok if all you want to do is save text-based notes.
After using all three of these, I kept thinking, there has to be a better way. This is when I came up with the idea of creating and using a Gmail account specifically for note-taking (or note-keeping). Think about it. anything you find on the internet can be sent directly to a Gmail account; plus, on my Android phone, I can share (or send) just about anything to a Gmail account (i.e. scanned documents, photos, etc…). Gmail also has the labeling feature built-in where hierarchical note categories can be created (or labeled); plus, it has the ability to create rich text-based notes (using the email editor). The real clincher with this is Gmail’s (Google’s) powerful search capabilities, 15GB of storage, and the ability to attach documents using Google Docs. I have been working with this idea and the key point in making it work is that the account should be strictly used for note-taking (or note-keeping) purposes only; and, not for daily email purposes. In other words, my Gmail note-taking account is a completely separate account from my main Gmail account.
Below are the steps I took to create (in appearance) my own personal note-taking (or note-keeping) app using a Gmail account as the container to store stuff (notes, pics, docs, etc…) that are important to me.
Step 1: Create a new account at Gmail.com. Give the account a name that you will recognize for note-taking purposes.
For example, “firstname.lastname@example.org” …
Step 2: Once the account has been created, one of the first things I did was change the theme so that it stood out. Go to the “cogged gear” icon, at the top right side of the Gmail window and click on “Themes”. The theme I selected was one called “High Contrast”, which gives it the look of a note-taking (or note-keeping) app — (see screenshot below).
Step 3: Go to the “cogged gear” icon and click on settings.
Step 4: Under the “General” tab, scroll down and turn the “Conversation View” to “off” and if you like, scroll down to “My Picture” and add a profile picture. In my case, I used a notebook icon. When done, scroll to the bottom and click on “save settings.
Step 5: Go back into the “Settings” and under the “Labels” tab, hide all labels with the exception of the “inbox” and “drafts” labels. Scroll down to the “Create Labels” section. This is where you can create your own label categories. You can always add or remove labels, in the future, from this section.
Step 6: Under the “Inbox” tab go to the categories section and “uncheck” the categories that are shown; then, scroll to the bottom and and click on “save settings”.
Step 7: Go back into the “Settings” and under the “Labs” tab scroll until you see “Preview Pane”. Once found, click on “Enable” to activate the “Preview Pane”; then, scroll down and click on “Save Settings” which will return you to the main Gmail screen.
Step 8: We’re almost done… Now that you have activated the “Preview Pane”, you will see a toggle icon (for the Preview Pane) with a down arrow. Click on the down arrow and select “vertical Split”.
After completing the aforementioned step, your Gmail note-taking app should look something like this:
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When composing a new note, within your Gmail note-taking account, click on “Compose” to draft your note. When finished drafting your note send the note back to yourself. Once it lands in the inbox, assign a label to it. I also use my main everyday Gmail account and my Android Smartphone to send important stuff to my Gmail note-taking account. Another point to make is that I eventually tag and move items out of the inbox and use the inbox to show items I am currently working on.
To draft an existing note, I search for the note, click on “Forward”, make my changes, then forward it back to my Gmail note-taking account; then, I delete the original. When I see that a note has FWD that tells me at one point it has been changed.
In the end, as I continue to work with this, I am finding that the concept of customizing and using a Gmail account as a note-taking app has far exceeded my expectations… What I have reflected is “my way” of doing this and have changed “my way” of doing this several times since the original posting of this article. You can make this as easy or complex as you want and that is one of the reasons I like using a separate email account for my important notes.