WhatsApp as a note-taking app

For short form note taking, WhatsApp is actually the best option I've found. It's fast, secure, available on all my devices, synchronised, searchable and free.

2 min read
WhatsApp as a note-taking app
Photo by Mourizal Zativa

I tend to write two kinds of note: long and short. Long notes I store in Notion - and they are essentially personal documentation. I'm talking recipes, packing lists, code snippets or movie recommendations - things that need to be stored in different formats, with rich text, images, and more.

But the vast majority of notes are short - and for these, Notion is too slow. The best app I've found for short notes is WhatsApp.

Short form note app must-haves:

  • Extremely fast for me to write something.
  • Secure.
  • Available on all my devices and synchronised.
  • Easy to use.

Nice to haves:

  • Searchable
  • Ephemeral
  • Notes can be easily shared
  • Free

WhatsApp checks all of these!

To use WhatsApp for note taking, you need to be able to send yourself messages, which is a weirdly un-straightforward process.

How to send yourself messages on WhatsApp

You have two options, either send yourself a direct message, or create a group. I prefer the group option, but I'll show you both.

To send yourself a direct message, you need to open this URL on any device that can install WhatsApp:


Opening a chat with yourself on WhatsApp

You'll need to replace the end part with your own number, including the country code.

This will prompt you to open a chat with yourself - why you can't select your own contact from the UI, I have no idea. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The second option is to create a WhatsApp group, add a bemused friend or loved-one, then instantly remove them. You now have a private group. I prefer this method for two reasons: 1) You can name the group "notes' or something similar, and set an appropriately note-like icon. 2) When using a direct message to yourself, if you write a note on one device, your other devices get a notification - which can get annoying. This doesn't happen with groups.

Once the group is created, you can create a shortcut to it on your home screen, and even turn on disappearing messages. This means that any sensitive notes are automatically cleared up, and it discourages you from storing anything important in there - as you know it'll be removed in 7 days.