It’s a rare occasion that we review productivity apps which have been around for two years, but the fact is that some apps are like wine. They get better with age. The fact that Google Keep has topped 50 million downloads in the two years since its launch gives credence to the fact that it runs circles around other apps that claim the same capabilities. Here’s what we have (re)discovered.
In case you aren’t already familiar, Google Keep is a free note taking and reminder app available for Android devices that works a lot like Evernote – only in our opinion, it’s a lot simpler to use. If you’re already dialed in to the Google/Android ecosystem, it’s practically automatic and comes with a learning curve equivalent to taking baby steps.
To get started, all you do is tap the intuitive “plus” icon on your mobile device. From there, you’ve given four choices: microphone dictation, camera view, bulleted list and document entry. Tapping the microphone icon launches Google’s speech recognition, which automatically translates your spoken words into text and also saves the audio, albeit in poor quality. Speech entry also works for creating bulleted lists or documents, which can alternately be created manually using your smartphone’s keyboard. The camera icon lets you snap a picture or import an existing one from your gallery, after which you can tag it with a related note.
All of these note taking options enable you to set timed reminders – but it’s the location reminder option that really rocks a bit. When you set a location reminder, you’re basically programming your mobile device to pop up with a notification once you’ve reached a certain destination. Like the grocery store. Or work. Or home. Or anywhere else that can be recognized by your GPS. It’s like telling Keep, “Remind me when I get there and not a moment sooner.” Reminders can also appear just about anywhere you have Google, including your browser, Google Now, and your Android smartphone.
Saved notes can be color-coordinated, all the better to separate your professional to-dos from your personal ones. Notes can also be labeled for easier categorization, or searched by keyword. As if keyword searchability weren’t enough, finding your notes is further simplified by the ability to filter by list category, assigned color, recorded audio files, or photos. You can also filter your search by notes that have had reminders attached to them, and notes you’ve shared with others.
Which brings us to what just might be the app’s greatest perk: sharing and collaboration. It probably comes as little surprise that any note, document, audio recording or snapshot you take in Keep can be easily synced to your Google Drive account. Tapping the “send” option in your preferences also lets you forward a note via email or any other installed platform on your mobile device. But beyond that, Keep is also capable of facilitating real-time sharing and collaboration with anyone on your contacts list. Simultaneous note editing is possible – and the best part is, you can unshare at any time or remove yourself as a collaborator.
Another selling point of Google Keep is its cross-functionality with other platforms and devices. Like the other popular note-taking services, Google Keep gives you the freedom to add and access your reminders from practically any location.
Say you’re on your computer and you suddenly remember that you need to pick up a bag of dog food before sundown so the pups don’t starve. All you do is navigate to keep.google.com and create a reminder. That note will then automatically sync across all of your Android devices with Keep installed. It will also sync across to any computer on any browser – the only catch is that you have to be logged in to your Google account. If you’re already a Google Chrome user, you can add the Keep app to make note taking even easier when you’re browsing the web.
In testing, we discovered that syncing occurs in real-time and were able to watch the words we typed into our laptop magically appear on the mobile app interface. The reverse also worked, with notes added on an Android mobile device immediately appearing on the browser-supported portal. The only drawback is that you can’t add audio or photo notes using the online portal.
Other cool features include a feature called “grab image text” which uses OCR to digitize text from images, and homescreen and lockscreen Android’s widgets to make the app faster to access. Google Keep’s appeal is aided by a minimalistic design and ridiculously simple ease-of-use. Although it’s available only for Android mobile devices, there are third-party apps available to iOS users who prefer coexistence over disharmony. Apps like GoKeep and TurboNote help bridge the gap, and you can also access Google Keep through your Safari browser. If you’re an Android user, pick up Google Keep for free at Google Play and let us know what you think.