For me, any sort of general purpose note taking and/or keeping solution needs to meet only a few requirements:

  1. Noting something has to be quick and easy (in a terminal and scriptable)
  2. Notes should be available from anywhere… tothecloud!
  3. Notes should be searchable

Now, just to clarify – I’m not talking about classroom notes, those things go in note-books. I’m talking about short little blurbs of information I would like to keep and reference at a later time.

Though, I suppose this could work for classroom notes too…

I’m also not talking about reminders, those are the stuff of calendars, not note-keeping apps.

So what’s my solution? What else, Gmail!


Setting up gmail as a note keeper/searcher is simple. A note is an email from me with the prefix “Note -” in the subject line. Therefore, it’s easy to setup a label and a filter to funnel note-mails into a defined folder:

From:    me@whatever.com
Subject: ^Note - 

I also add “Skip inbox” and “Mark as read” as part of the rule.

I know the gmail filters support some level of regex and/or globbing, but I don’t know where it ends. I’m hoping that the ^ anchor is supported but I’m not positive.

Requirements 2 and 3 done.


So if taking a note is done by just sending an email of a particular consistent format, then it’s easy for me to achieve requirement 1 since I use that awesome terminal mail client mutt.

A short bash function gives us uber-simple note taking abilities by handling the boilerplate of a note-mail:

You could probably also streamline note taking by leveraging mutt’s -H option. I’ll leave reading that man page snippet as an exercise to the reader.

And here’s how that might work out in the day-to-day:

//blue/0/~/ noteit test note
^D to save, ^C to cancel

This is a test note.

< I pressed ^D here >


You could also use sendmail, mailx, msmtp or whatever other CLI mail solution you want for this.

And there it is, ready to be indexed by the almighty google:

Mutt notes shot 

With a few mutt macros, I think this could get pretty featureful without a lot of code.

Let me know in the comments if there are any other simple or out-of-the-box note-keeping solutions you know of.

Oh, and before anyone mentions it – no, you can’t take notes without internet when you’re using this approach. I’m ok with that, I understand if you’re not.

26 Mar 2011, tagged with linux