Evernote has some extremely robust features which make it great for the workplace and in many ways makes it a superior platform to Microsoft’s OneNote. But if you find yourself overwhelmed by Evernote’s many features, Google Keep is a much simpler alternative.
1. A Simplified Interface
Google Keep simplifies your workflow, and places everything you need front and center at the top of the page — tools to create new notes and search bar. The menu on the left makes it easy to access labels, reminders, your archive, deleted notes, and settings.
Rather than divide your notes into notebooks, the organization in Google Keep comes down to just two simple things: labels (tags) and colors, clearing the way for what really matters — the ideas you want to capture.
2. Quick and Easy Note-Taking
Note taking in Google Keep is streamlined across platforms, where you can create various types of notes. In addition to jotting down text notes and lists, you can add images or scribbles to Google Keep, making it a great option for anyone looking to create a digital creative journal or notebook.
Keep really excels in its mobile experience. Adding new notes to Google Keep on your phone is just a swipe away if you enable Google Keep’s widgets on iOS or Android. Tapping and holding the Google Keep on both iOS and Android pulls up a context menu with the same options.
In addition to creating the same notes you can in your browser (text, checklists, photos, and doodles), you can also create a new note using your phone camera or as a voice recording that is immediately transcribed with a native speech-to-text tool, albeit one that only works with brief notes.
Another really cool Google Keep feature is the ability to upload a screenshot of text and Keep can convert it to an editable note.
Android users also have the option of using a third party app launcher that incorporates gestures into how you open apps. SwipeUp Utility, for example, is a free option that allows you to launch Google Keep by pressing and holding the home button.
3. Find Whatever You’re Looking For
Clicking in the search bar takes you to a page where you filter your notes by keyword, color, or even note type (image, link, list, reminder, audio, etc).
As you use Google Keep, you’ll find that it also identifies types of notes. If you have a grocery list, you’ll find options to filter down to groceries or food. If your notes include book titles, you’ll find an option to filter down to books. Other items that are identified include those related to music or travel.
If you’re fastidious about labeling, this will also prove to be an easy way to find your notes.
There are two ways to add labels in Google Keep.
With a note open, click the More button and select Add label to type it in. Or you can type the label in the body of your note as a hashtag to automatically label it. The second method is actually better because it affords you some refined search options.
While you can simply filter down to specific categories by clicking on or searching for a label, let’s say you want to find all the notes labeled work that include the term MakeUseOf. If you use #work as your label, your search results will only include notes labeled work that include your search term. If you don’t use the hashtag, any notes that include the word “work” in the body of the text may also show up in your results.
4. Simplicity = Creativity
Google Keep’s simplicity also lends itself to flexibility and creativity. Because it’s so simple, you can mold the service to suit your needs. In its simplest form, Google Keep can be transformed into simple to-do lists. Create a checklist per day or per week to keep a running log of what you’re doing.
Or you can use Google Keep to create a visual bucket list, use it as a digital sketchbook, transform it into flash cards, or use it for grocery shopping and meal planning.
5. Great for Visually-Oriented Creatives
Many of the examples above are extremely visual. The use of images or visuals, coupled with the color coding makes Google Keep a perfect choice for anyone who is visually oriented.
Google Keep notes can be color coded using one of eight colors. Once you set up a specific color coding system, you can tell which notes belong in which category at a glance.
This color coding system can also be carried over into an analog system such as a bullet journal or planner, creating a direct link between your digital notes and your physical notebook.
6. Google Integration
Everyone has a Google account, but not everyone has an Evernote account. This makes it much easier to collaborate on notes with just about anyone. Anyone you share the note with can edit text, lists, images, drawings, and audio recordings.
Google Keep is also well integrated with Google Docs. You can export Google Keep notes to Google Docs if you need more robust editing or collaborative features, or if you need more extensive text formatting. And while in Google Docs, go to Tools > Keep Notepad and your Keep notes will appear in a sidebar next to the document, and you can create a direct link between Google Keep notes and Google docs. To see the feature in action, check out the video below.
In addition to working well with Google Docs, Keep also integrates seamlessly with Google Calendar. If you add a reminder to a Google Keep note, that item will also show up in Google Calendar.
7. One App to Rule Them All
Google Keep allows you to keep everything in one place. Unless you use labels and color coding religiously, it could get a little unwieldy. But if you do take care to keep Google Keep organized whether it’s with labels, or by archiving notes you no longer need, you can use the app for note-taking, brainstorming, audio and photo notes, bookmarking, and even for your to-do or shopping lists.
Google Keep’s checklists coupled with the reminders feature, which brings a level of much-needed productivity to any to-do list. You can also check off items at the top of your checklist without actually opening up the app, and checked items are automatically pushed to the bottom of the list.
While Evernote has similar features, if you’re drawn in by Google Keep’s simplicity and its visual features, its productivity features will definitely encourage you to stay.
There are some drawbacks to using Google Keep, particularly if you are migrating from a different note-taking system. Chief among them is the fact that you can’t import your notes. That said, you could look at it as an opportunity to start with a clean slate.
Another odd choice on the part of Google is the inability to sort your notes by any particular criteria, but you can drag and drop notes to rearrange them, and you can of course use the search function to drill down and find the note you’re looking for.
What do you think of Google Keep? Do you think it could serve as a decent Evernote alternative? What’s your favorite digital note-taking app?