Google Keep for AndroidWe’ve come to rely on Google for a lot of our favorite services. We use Gmail for our email, Google Contacts for our address books, and Google Calendar for our appointments. And now, Google wants to help manage all of your digital sticky notes too in the form of a new product called Google Keep. What is it exactly and how will it improve your productivity?

At its core, Google Keep is a quick note-taking app for Android smartphones and tablets, giving you a quick and easy way to jot down reminders and lists. And everything that you add to your Google Keep is then synchronized across your different devices, because it all gets uploaded automatically to the cloud. If this sounds familiar, it should. Google Keep is fundamentally a competitor to other popular apps like ColorNote and Evernote, except it all ties back in to your existing Google account.

Four Types of Notes

As with Evernote and some other productivity apps for Android, Google Keep gives you a few options for the different kinds of notes that you can take:

  • Regular notes let you enter whatever text you want, as if you opened up a tiny digital notepad.
  • Checklists have each individual line of text as an item that can then be checked off upon completion.
  • Voice notes, depending on your version of Android, will automatically go through the speech-to-text system on the smartphone or tablet, transcribing your dictated note into plain text. The audio file also become available.
  • Photo notes are simply any picture that you want to take with your phone and the photo can then be annotated with some text.

Curiously, there are some shortcomings. You cannot combine a regular text note with a checklist into a single item, for instance, but the photos can be added to nearly any kind of note. However, photo notes (at this time) require you to take a new picture, rather than giving you the option of getting something from your existing gallery. This might change in a future update, but that’s how it stands right now.

Google Keep Android App with Homescreen Widget

Google Keep Android App with Homescreen Widget

You can choose between several different colors to help color-code your notes and, within the Android app itself, you can choose between single-column or multi-column view. While it is possible to use the search (magnifying glass icon in the top-right) to look for specific text strings within the various entries, there’s no categorization or tag system. Again, this might change in the future. When you’re done with a note, you can “archive” it rather than completely “delete” it, giving you access to old notes if needed.

Homescreen Widget

In addition to the main Android app, there’s also a homescreen widget for Google Keep. The widget can be resized, but it takes up a minimum of a 2×2 spot on your home screen. At the top of the widget are four quick-access shortcuts to the four different types of notes and below that is a full list of the different Google Keep entries. Like the widget you may already use for Gmail or Google Calendar, the list here is also scrollable and it maintains the color-coding from the main app. Longer notes are truncated, but tapping on any given note will load that note within the main Google Keep app for updates and revisions.

If you are running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean or above, the Google Keep widget can also be placed on the lock screen.

Integration with Google Drive

Web-Based Interface for Google Keep

Web-Based Interface for Google Keep

The entire Google Keep system is integrated with the Google Drive cloud storage system. Every note taken on any of your Android devices, as mentioned above, will be synchronized to your Google Drive. This includes a web-based interface at http://drive.google.com/keep. Just like the mobile app, the desktop version can also be used in either single-column or multi-column view. The color-coding isn’t as pronounced, using just a strip rather than the whole note, but it is there.

The audio notes are available through the web-based Google Drive interface for Google Keep, but the audio file is not playable from directly within the browser. Instead, the 3GPP file must be downloaded locally.

Keeping Organized on the Go

Google Keep is still in its relative infancy, but it is already showing a lot of promise. The ability to take multiple types of notes and have them all backed up via Google Drive is appealing. The hope is that even heavier Google integration is on the way, just like how Tasks found its way into Calendar and Gmail.