What is Google Keep?

31 December 2013

Google Keep is a free note-taking app for Android tablets and smartphones. Unlike other similar services like Evernote, Google Keep is a super-simplified, nuts & bolts affair. It’s great at providing easy-to-make, short-term reminders for the low-yield user, but can get a little cluttered if you try to use it for anything larger than a to-do list.

Unfortunately it’s not really tied in with other elements of the Google ecosystem like Google Now, Google Calendar or Google Maps. As such it misses a lot of its potential. It’s still handy, but Google could do so much more with a bit of its famous cross-service integration.

How it works

Google Keep uses three main screens: the Notes screen, the Menu screen and the Archive.

Notes is the default view and can be set as a vertical list or a card-style format. There are no Notebooks for further organisation as with Evernote, so in-depth organisation is out of the question.

The lack of depth means there's no learning-curve, making it easy to pick up and use. It’s un-intimidatingly simplicity is and will continue to be its main appeal until it gets tied in with other Google services.

There’s also some handy widgets, one of which lets you create and view notes without ever leaving your device’s Home screen.

Making notes

There are four basic kinds of note: Generic, List, Audio and Picture. You can also write yourself a Quick Note if you’re in a hurry.

Generic: The basic style of note allows for a heading, some text and an alert. Any headings will appear as small bolded font in the notes screen. The basic text is much larger and eye-catching. As such it’s often more useful to skip the heading and just enter a short note in to the text-field.

You can turn any Generic note in to a Picture note by opening it and tapping the camera icon in the top-right.

List: List automatically includes a check-box with every line of text. Tapping to tick the box causes the text to struck-through and greyed-out.

You can also rearrange the order of items in a list by tapping, holding and dragging. It’s often useful to drag the ticked-off items to the bottom so that you can still see what you need to do from the default home screen.

Audio: Audio notes allow you to record voice messages for yourself, or even to record meetings or conversations. Once recorded, you can add text or pictures to the Audio note as if it were a Generic one.

Picture: Pictures can be added to any note, but you can save a bit of time by jumping straight in to selecting or taking an image. If selecting a pre-existing image then you will be asked to choose it from your device’s hard-drive. Unfortunately searching for one online is not an option.

If you decide to take an image, then the camera app will automatically launch. Snap your image and use the Back button to return to Google Keep.

It’s advisable to take a landscape image. If you take a portrait you’ll lose the top and bottom thanks to Keep’s auto-cropping.

Quick Note: The default Notes screen has a text field at the top that displays “Add quick note”. Typing in this field and hitting enter creates a Generic Note with no heading, custom colour, picture or any other feature of Google Keep. If you’d like to add any of these you can by tapping to open, or by tapping and holding.

Reminders and Archiving

All notes can have reminders embedded in them to alert you based on date & time or by location. Unfortunately, the location-based alerts don’t tie in with Google Maps, so even if you’ve set up personal “Home” and “Work” locations you’ll still have to type out the full street address each time you make a new alert.

Notes can be archived if you want to get rid of them from the default Notes screen, but don’t want to delete them. Unfortunately the Archive is just one big jumble of old notes and isn’t partitioned in to different categories as with Evernote.



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