Your Personal Information Database in the Cloud–Quick Tip

by Stephen Mills on November 9, 2010


What do you do when you read a great article, run across a marvelous quote, read an insightful paragraph, or find any other piece of information you want to save?  I’ve tried many things like bookmarking and none of them work anywhere near as well as simply using my Gmail account.  In seconds, I can save, label, apply keywords, and create a permanent searchable database in the cloud that I can access from anywhere.  I hope you find something useful in my system whatever email system you use.

Saving Information in Your Gmail Database

  1. I have a Gmail filter that looks for a keyword in the subject line of “MYDB” (my database) and is from me.  The filter files the email immediately and skips the inbox so I don’t have to process it.  It applies a label called “MYDB”.
  2. Whenever I encounter something I want to save, I copy it into an email and send it to myself.  I even copy whole articles and web pages for future reference.  The first word in the subject line is MYDB and then I simply add other keywords to the subject line that will make it easy to find in a later email search.

That’s it.  In seconds I’ve saved potentially valuable information that is easy to find.  Let’s say you run across a great quote by Lao Tzu on simplicity and you want to save it:

  • Copy the quote into a new email addressed to yourself.
  • Type the following keywords into the subject line: MYDB, Lao Tzu, quote, simplicity (or however you want to keyword it).
  • Hit send and your done.

You can save virtually anything you want to easily find in the future using this method.

Searching Your Gmail Database

By putting keywords in the subject line, you can search for things you’ve specifically tagged without worrying about picking up junk that is elsewhere in your email.  For example searching on just the word “simplicity” would return any email that had “simplicity” anywhere in the text.  That may be what you want but it might also return a bunch of stuff you aren’t interested in.

If I want to search all tagged quotes I simply type the following search in my search box on Gmail: subject:quote (you can add label:MYDB to restrict it further)

If I want to find all quotes also tagged with Lao Tzu I type: subject:quote subject:”Lao Tzu”

If I want to find all quotes on simplicity no matter who authored them I type: subject:quote subject:simplicity

By default Google combines your keywords into an “and” condition.  If I want to find all email tagged “simplicity” or “minimalism” I would type: subject:simplicity OR subject:minimalism (type the “OR” in upper case)

By leaving off the subject: tag you will be able to search the content as well as the subject line: simplicity OR minimalism

I don’t want this article to be a Gmail search article and there is an excellent list of terms and operators at How to Search Mail in Gmail.  There are many different ways to go about saving and searching information in Gmail and I hope this article gives you some ideas on how you can use this powerful tool.

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Henway November 10, 2010 at 7:43 am

Whoa, what a great tip. I never thought of using Gmail for this purpose… creative trick 🙂 There are apps out there like Evernote that are good for this type of stuff too.
Henway´s last blog post ..Weight Loss


Stephen Mills November 13, 2010 at 9:03 am

Hi there Henway, I used to use Evernote, but Gmail searching is so far superior and in Gmail my clipped information as well as my mail is all in one place.


Matt Clark November 10, 2010 at 8:46 am

Nice idea, one thing I have started using is Evernote. This is a cloud based note taking tool. You can use it for anything and it works on most mobile devices as well.

The great feature is it has a clipping tool for Firefox, so if I like an article I can grab the whole article and save it with one click.

Thanks for sharing.
Matt Clark´s last blog post ..4 Project Management Solutions Reviewed


Stephen Mills November 13, 2010 at 9:03 am

Hi Matt, I used to use Evernote as well. However Gmail searching is so far superior and in Gmail my clipped information as well as my mail is all in one place.


Lori Krolik November 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I appreciate your useful tip and use Evernote in a similar way that you are using Gmail. My issue with the Gmail methodology is yes, you get a label, but can you set it to automatically go to a folder as well? If not, your inbox is still clogged with messages that you don’t necessarily want to look at until you need to. Would love your feedback on this.


Stephen Mills November 13, 2010 at 8:59 am

Hi Lori. I used to use Evernote but the searching in Gmail is so much superior. Further, there is so much valuable information in email as well so it’s nice to have it all in one place.

Labels are essentially folders in Gmail, but better than folders because with labels you can have an email be in multiple “folders” at the same time. If you want to manually push something to a label that is not automatically labeled you can use the “Move To” button. It will label it and remove it from the inbox in one action. Also you can automatically apply labels with filters. If something already has a label you can click the “Archive” button and it will remove the “inbox” label and remove it from your inbox. I use filters to automatically label incoming email. By checking the button that says “Skip the inbox” it never shows up in my inbox and goes straight to the label/folder where I can review it later.


Reiki February 15, 2013 at 7:17 pm

This is a very good tip particularly to those new
to the blogosphere. Short but very precise information… Appreciate your sharing
this one. A must read article!
Reiki´s last blog post ..Reiki


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Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects?
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Michelli August 25, 2014 at 7:19 am

Help, I’ve been informed and I can’t become igrtanno.


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