When you want take notes or write a list, it should be easy and quick. Google Keep, the Internet giant’s note-taking service, is renowned for those two qualities. It’s one of the best apps for notes and to-do lists. But it can be better.
Apart from the Android app, it works great in the Chrome browser and as a web app, but that’s about it—there is no iOS app or desktop version at the moment. Regardless, Google Keep users will be happy to know that you can actually get more out of the app.
A Quick Overview Of Google Keep
If you don’t already use it, you probably want to give Google Keep a try. The app is fantastic to use for its quick note-taking, whether through widgets or by talking into your phone. It’s a clean and colourful interface that is pleasing to use repeatedly.
You can also set reminders for any note or list, either as a time-based alarm or as a geo-tagged note. So for example, your grocery list can be set to buzz when you are next in your local supermarket.
The web app requires you to be online, but you can download the Google Keep app for Chrome to use it in offline mode.
Mark Tasks By Colour For Sections (And Avoid Red)
One of Google Keep’s core features is the ability to add a colour to each note or list. It takes just a couple of taps to choose from eight colours: white, red, orange, yellow, green, teal, blue and grey.
Productivity expert Mike Vardy recommends colour-coding your tasks for easy reference. It’s best to keep it simple. For example, Vardy uses just four colours for four sections: personal, professional, “none of the above” and “finished”. In her article on fantastic Todoist filters to boost your productivity, our own Angela Alcorn recommends a similar approach of colour-coding your tasks.
Colour psychologist Angela Wright has spoken extensively about how colour affects your behaviour. Use her advice, but you should also avoid adding tasks in red. According to scientists, the colour red can keep you from performing at your best.
If you are using colours in your Google Keep notes and lists, you should definitely look at the Category Tabs extension for Chrome. With that, you can assign a category name to any colour, which shows up as a neat listing at the top of your Google Keep app. You can also hide any unused colours (like red, if you’re following what the study above says). This only affects the web app, of course, it won’t have any effect on how Keep looks in the Android app. But hey, it’s still one of the best apps to manage to-do lists on Android.
Add Tags To Your Notes For Easy Searches
Even if you colour-code your notes to split them across categories, you will sometimes have overlaps. Just like websites use “categories” and “tags”, you can do the same.
Google Keep doesn’t have a tagging system built in, but that doesn’t mean we can’t create our own. It’s the same principle, but with a twist.
In Google Keep, the “#” of a hashtag doesn’t really help if you want to search later. For example, if I tagged a note with “#MakeUseOf” and if I had written “MakeUseOf” in some other note, then searching for either term will show the other. This isn’t efficient search. Instead, you have to trick Google. Since it discounts the # character, replace it with a letter.
Tag your notes and lists by prefixing them with “q” instead of “#”. So for example, instead of “#MakeUseOf” as a tag, use “qMakeUseOf”. It’s a small change, but it’s effective.
This idea is especially useful when you realise that Keep doesn’t delete your notes, it archives them instead, so you can always dig through your history to find the right note if you tagged it well.
Turn Real-World Text Into Digital Text, Anywhere
A while back, Google Keep added an OCR feature. OCR, or Optical Character Recognition, lets you take a photo of text in real life, which smart software then turns into digital text. Basically, Google Keep can “read” text from an image and turn it into editable text.
The technology is nothing new, but Keep’s OCR is among the best in the business. Plus, because it’s cross-platform, it actually increases its value.
For example, if you have a business card in front of you and you want to feed its contents into a spreadsheet on your laptop, just take a photo of the card with the Google Keep Android app. In options, choose “Grab image text” and Google will smartly read the photo’s contents to give you the text. The note is automatically saved and synced, of course, so just open Keep in a browser on your laptop and copy it.
Download Voice Recordings On Your PC Or Use It As A Shared Clipboard
The Google System blog actually has a bunch of cool tricks for Keep, one of which stood out. If you want to record voice on your desktop or laptop but don’t have a microphone, Google Keep is a shortcut.
Download voice recordings: Open Keep in a desktop browser, click a note, mouse over the voice recording and click “Download”.
Similarly, you can also use Google Keep as a shared clipboard. Copy text or a link into a note on your PC, open it on your Android phone. Of course, you’re much better off using Pushbullet to sync your Android and PC, but Keep is a nice backup in case of a jam.
Bonus: Put It Into A Panel
If you don’t want Google Keep as a separate tab in your browser, there is a quick fix. You can turn Keep into its own Panel with an extension.
Firefox users need to download GKeep Panel to add a Google Keep button in their toolbar, which gives you a dropdown panel of your notes with a click.
Do You Use Google Keep?
We want to hear from you, readers. Are you a Google Keep user; perhaps switching from another to-do app? What do you love about it? And if you aren’t yet on board (maybe you prefer Evernote), what’s stopping you?