Digital note-taking is all the rage these days. After all, why carry around a Moleskine and clutter yourself when you already have a smartphone in your pocket? Pen and paper may be tactile, but the benefits of digital note-taking can’t be denied.
And after Evernote shot itself in the foot, users have been scrambling for a viable alternative — and one of the best apps to switch to is Google Keep. Of the many note-taking apps for Android, it easily sits among the top three.
If you’re new to Google Keep, here are several features and tips that you should start taking advantage of right away to make your note-taking life easier.
1. Quick Notes with a Gesture
These days, there are so many Android launcher apps that support gesture-based actions that it shouldn’t be hard to find one that suits you, but Nova Launcher Prime is one of the best — and it only costs $1, so there’s no reason not to get it.
Using Nova Launcher Prime, you can set up a gesture action that initiates one of Google Keep’s “activities” — in this case, the one called activities.shareReceiverActivity. When initiated, you’ll get a popup window that you can use to jot down a quick note.
If you’re signed into multiple Google accounts on your device, the popup window lets you choose which one you want to use for the note, which can be extremely handy.
2. Color Code Notes by Type
The ability to assign colors to each note might seem insignificant, but no other feature has as much of a productivity payout — assuming you’re willing to create and adhere to a simple color-coding system. It requires some effort, but it’s worth it.
For example, you can start marking all work-related notes as Green, all home-related notes as Yellow, and anything that’s time-critical as Red. This makes it easy to spot and discern what’s important as you scroll through dozens of notes.
But more so than that, Google Keep can filter notes by color so that you only have to browse through, say, Green notes. This makes it much easier to find a particular note that you wrote when none of your search queries are hitting it.
3. Use Time and Place Reminders
Most note-taking apps have some kind of reminder feature that you can use in conjunction with things like due dates, event appointments, weekly tasks, quarterly tax payments, etc. But Google Keep goes one step further: location-based reminders.
It’s simpler than you’d think. When adding a reminder to a note, change the reminder type from Time to Place. Then type in an address, and when prompted with a map, confirm that it’s the location you meant. Now the next time you visit that place, Google Keep will remind you of this note.
This feature comes in handy for shopping lists and the like, but it’s also nifty when you want to talk about something the next time you visit a certain friend, for example. If you love reminders like this, augment your life with these Google Now reminders.
4. Organize Notes With Labels
Most note-taking apps have a tagging system that you can use, and even though Google Keep hasn’t really innovated in this area, the feature is still useful. You should be using it regularly — except in Google Keep, they’re called labels instead of tags.
There are two ways to add labels to an open note:
- Open the overflow menu and select Labels. Here you can create new labels and mark which ones you want for this note.
- Use a hashtag (#) at any point and you’ll get a dropdown menu for picking a label. The hashtag can be anywhere in the note. Just having it in the note will label it as such.
Labels are great because they offer an inter-categorical way to organize your notes. Use color coding for topical categories (e.g. work, home, entertainment) and use labels for specifics (e.g. project).
But most useful is that Google Keep’s widget displays notes according to labels (the only other options are “All Notes” and “Reminders”). So if you want quick-view access to certain notes, labels must become your best friend.
5. Dictate Your Notes On-the-Go
If you’re a lazy note-taker like I am, then you may want to consider dictating your notes — speaking them out loud — instead of typing them by hand. Once you get the hang of it, it’s truly the fastest way to take notes.
Google Keep has a voice memo feature, which you can access in two ways:
- The microphone icon in the notes list.
- The microphone icon in the widget.
Once activated, you can just speak and Google will convert what you say into text. It’ll create a new note with the text content and an audio recording of what you said. Feel free to keep either or both.
Google Keep also integrates nicely with Google Now, allowing you to add items to list notes just by activating it using an OK Google command:
- “OK Google, add [new item description] to my [note name] list”
So if you have a list note called Shopping and you suddenly have a craving for strawberries, you can just say “OK Google, add strawberries to my shopping list” and it will be done.
6. Write Notes by Hand, Scan Afterwards
As useful as digital note-taking can be, sometimes it’s just easier to use pen and paper, particularly when you’re sitting in on a lecture and don’t have an external keyboard for faster typing.
The good news is that Google Keep has a feature that can scan handwritten text and convert it into digital text.
- Use your device’s camera to capture an image of text.
- Add the image to a note, then tap on the image.
- Open the overflow menu and select Grab image text.
Give it a minute or so and the text will show up in the note.
7. Share Access to Notes and Lists
At first, Google Keep probably doesn’t seem like an advanced enough note-taking solution to warrant sharing and collaboration on notes, but there are a handful of situations where this feature really shines and proves itself useful.
To grant someone else access to a note:
- Open the note you want to share.
- Open the overflow menu and select Collaborators.
- Enter the email addresses of collaborators.
Done! Now those people will also be able to edit the note as if it were their own.
This is fantastic for list notes, such as groceries, where the entire family can add the things they need. And if you’re already out shopping, a collaborator can just add items and it will sync in near real-time, so you never miss anything.
With a bit of ingenuity and imagination, you can use simple features like this in amazing and creative ways.
How Do You Use Google Keep?
Compared to Evernote and OneNote, Google Keep can feel primitive and even elementary, and there’s a degree to which that’s true. Google Keep doesn’t aim to be a complex all-in-one note-taking solution for massive long-term writings.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth using. Indeed, Google Keep is like Post-It Notes on steroids, and when used correctly can enhance your life in ways that Evernote and OneNote can’t.
So now it’s your turn: what kinds of tips and tricks do you use in Google Keep to stay organized and make your life easier? Which features do you love the most? Let us know in the comments below!