Google Keep: Where Does it Excel?

Recently Google released its new note-taking solution, Google Keep. The competition in this area is pretty stiff with a lot really great apps that already exist — just off the top of my head, there’s Evernote, Simple Notes, Fetch, and OneNote. With these and more already in the note-taking app space, how does Google Keep measure up? After using it for several weeks in real-world scenarios, here’s what I found out.


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I have actually been waiting for something like Google Keep. Don’t get me wrong, Evernote is a fantastic app that really helps me organize thoughts and keep notes together. Heck, I drafted a whole manuscript using Evernote. However, I found that for my day-to-day stuff, Evernote is a bit slow with a bit too much going on. I also found it very frustrating that the widget didn’t refresh automatically — or at least, very often. I really just wanted something lightweight and fast. Finally, I really didn’t like that I had to install an add-on completely separate from the core app in order to get widgets.

I only wanted a simple note-taking app that could be accessed from the web, with great Android implementation — ie a good set of widgets and integration within other areas of the Android OS. Google Keep is definitely that.

Using Keep

As an extension of Drive, Keep allows you to take notes, photos, and recordings and store them into this post-it note/Google Now card hybrid. You can color coordinate the notes, rearrange them, and display them in a nice widget.

All of my brilliant ideas are here!

All of my brilliant ideas are here!

There are two forms of notes: regular notes and lists, and both function as you would expect. This is one of my favorite parts about Keep. A note is free form text that, as you can see, resizes the words based on the amount of writing in the note. A list is an itemized check list where you can actually cross things off. I specifically mention this because it always drove me crazy that in Evernote you could add checkboxes, but not cross anything off — checkboxes served no real function there.

A note and a real checklist.

A note and a real checklist.

You can also create notes with Google Now using the voice command, “Note to Self.” The function was previously attached to Gmail — it would send an email to you, which you would have to confirm — but Android now gives you the choice to assign the function to Keep by default. With Keep, the note and audio file are both saved automatically without any user intervention.

“Note to self” is actually open to any app that decides to tap into the command, somehow acting like the Share button in its availability for third-party apps. For example, if you have Evernote installed, it will also be accessible when you use the note voice command.

Now that we know a little bit about Google Keep, let’s take a look at some situations where it excels.

Scenarios for Using Keep

Even though I was really excited about Google launching Keep, I was a little skeptical of how often I’d use it since I’ve tried several different note-taking apps in the past, all with little to no success. As it turns out, Keep is the app for me. Here’s why.

Quick Notes

Whenever I need to remember something, I open up Keep and put it in there. With easy access to create notes from the widget —which I have on my lock screen and one of my home screens — Keep offers me the quickest way to jot down random thoughts, recommendations, and reminders. The notes are also immediately and automatically synced to the web.

I think what really makes the quick notes scenario work for Keep, besides ease of access, is the ability to color code notes. Easy access + quickly being able to reference what kind of notes I’m looking at really help me stay organized.

Keeping Lists

As I mentioned before, something that I don’t like about Evernote is that the checkboxes function more like bullets and less like checkboxes, so lists are very unlist-like in their inability to be crossed off. That’s not the case with Google Keep.

It’s very easy to create lists in Google Keep — quite similar to Google Tasks as it turns out — and you can check things off without deleting them. So far I’ve kept smaller to do lists like shopping lists, movie lists, concert lists, article ideas and more. While my main task app is Any.Do, this particular Keep feature still comes in very handy.

Google Keep can actually make any note a list, where each line gets its own checkbox. Just open the note, and using the context menu, select “Show Checkboxes”

Picture Notes

Like many of you I’m sure, I like to take pictures of things to serve as reminders or safe-keep of hand-written notes that I don’t want to retype.

I use photo-based notes especially with chalkboards, whiteboards, and ads.

Instead of just having “note” photos crowding my gallery, I will instead take the photo using the Keep widget. It helps that I also really like the way Keep handles images; it displays the image in the top area of the note in a very cover photo-esque way and combines photos together if you have more than one. You can simply press a picture to view it in it’s entirety.

A note with 2 photos

A note with 2 photos

Under the photo(s) you have a normal note area with title and text, so you can annotate, transcribe, or add more details to your photo.

Final Thoughts

Google Keep is a pretty simple, yet solid app that I’ve really taken a liking to. Outside of the three scenarios I list here, there are tons of ways to use the app. In one sentence, Google Keep makes note-taking incredibly easy. It helps me stay organized, it helps me remember, and it has become a part of my day-to-day routine. If you’re looking for a nice Android app that integrates well on the web, Google Keep is it.


Summary

Keep is a simple note-taking service from Google that offers a variety of use case scenarios. It includes widget support, integration with voice commands, and quick checklists.

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  • David Aceituno

    Totally agree with the conclusion! And i’ve made Keep my only note-taking app. With more complete apps i usually end up making notes in my head or on paper because i can’t bring myself to open up some app that takes up all my focus in class, on a meeting or a dinner conversation. I’d rather not pull out my phone at all, and especially, i don’t want to seem impolite by tinkering with my phone for too long when i do have it out. Keep makes note taking so simple and fast that it becomes handier than pen and paper, and therefore it gets used when it matters.

    Also, you can use Keep as a Chrome addon, which you can pin to the start menu: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/google-keep/hmjkmjkepdijhoojdojkdfohbdgmmhki?utm_source=chrome-ntp-launcher

    • william

      Have you tried gnotes? I have been using gnotes for nearly a year. Cant live without it. More functional but still has that simplicity that Evernote does not.

    • http://www.casabona.org Joseph L Casabona

      Thanks David- I will definitely check out that extension.

      William: I have not- I’ll have to give it a look!

  • Andy Bishop

    Get out of my head, Joe! Everytime I download something new, there’s a review of it by Joe Casabona on my Flipboard!

    • http://www.symbian-guru.com khouryrt

      Haha, that’s an awesome comment!

  • http://www.google.com/+BirgitPauli-Haack Birgit Pauli-Haack

    Google Keep has a few quirks that hopefully are fixed in future releases. One particular bug is that you can not move notes around on the browser/desktop version (http://drive.google.com/keep)
    Moving notes works somewhat on Android version. I love the colors but I keep forgetting my “color codes” which color is for what. Would be nice if you could assign tags/categories to the colors…

    I also like that I actually don’t have to remember to “Save” a note on android. Instant save it such a great tool.
    Above review is very thorough and I whole-hardheartedly agree. Evernote is too heavy for quick notes.

  • Vance McAlister

    Good review. On the recent Evernote podcast, they discussed how Keep is not really a threat to Evernote because it becomes an “entry” into notetaking for those who can then graduate to Evernote. For me, I use both Evernote and Keep at the same time, but for very different things. The best metaphor to explain would be that Evernote is a digital file cabinet and Keep is a digital Post-it Note pad. I think you captured that concept in your review.

  • http://twitter.com/toridnyc Scott

    An “Export” function would be nice, either in the Android app or on the Web. One never knows when Google might cancel a service. Not being able to archive or save my notes makes Keep a risk.

  • Donald Cox

    With the pending demise of Catch, I am looking for an alternative and am considering Google Keep. I am a bit nervous using a Google service though as I just recently suffered through hav ing to find a new RSS Reader since Google Reader was discontinued.

  • osozaki

    Be careful when switching Google accounts in Keep. Nothing in archives. I lost everything.

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