Ben Crowder

Blog: #gate

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Low-effort journaling

This is almost certainly not novel, but the idea came up when I was talking with my friend James the other day and I figured I’d write it up in case it helps someone somewhere.

The idea is this: you set up a new email address (or use filters with your existing email, whatever works for you) and then make a shortcut on your phone so you can easily add to your journal by emailing that address. A private email blog, basically.

It’s low effort in that you don’t have to open, say, a Google Doc and find the right spot to start to write. The corresponding disadvantage is that you can’t see what you’ve already written that day. (That said, this method would also work fairly well as a lightweight way to take notes during the day, to be written up into a full journal entry later somewhere else and then archived.)

I made a sample shortcut for doing this in iOS (and I’m sure there’s a way to do something similar in Android):


From left: the shortcut (using the Text and Send Email blocks), the running shortcut, and the resulting email. The shortcut can be saved to the home screen or used on an Apple Watch or put in a widget.

With this setup, I’d recommend regularly downloading your mail to your computer, through a local mail app or something like offlineimap, so that you have your own copy you can use for exporting or printing or whatever.

Note that I don’t use this myself because I already have a homegrown journaling solution (with Gate and Vinci), but I’m planning to use a variant of this shortcut for emailing notes to myself from my watch.

Anyway, if you try this out, or if you have an interesting system for journaling, let me know and I may do a followup post.

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Gate intro

Yet another entry in the seemingly endless series talking about my personal productivity tools.

Gate is a small quick entry app for my phone. It’s a Go web app, and the name comes from it being a gateway to my other apps. I used to use Drafts, but when it switched to a subscription model I decided to do my own thing (which worked out well for me, since I was able to make other customizations I’d long been wanting to make).


The main screen looks like this:


Just a textbox and some basic controls at the bottom. When I tap the Submit button, it opens up a dialog with options for where to send the contents of the textbox (the payload):


Red buttons go to Liszt, blue to Vinci, green to Slash. And this is why I have the text-based payloads in all those apps.

How I use Gate

I have it saved as a PWA to the homescreen on my phone, nestled safely in my dock. I use it all the time. (I suppose I could use it from my laptop web browser as well, but I have Quill for that use case, so I never do.)

The future

I’m happy with the app itself. There are, however, some recent bugs with text controls in PWAs in iOS Safari where the keyboard either won’t come up or can’t be dismissed, but that’s out of my control. Hoping those get fixed soon (they didn’t crop up until sometime in the last year or so, I think).

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