Google Keep: Worth Trying, with Caution

As expected, Google has flipped the switch on Google Keep, a dead-simple website and Android app for recording notes, checklists, images and audio

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As expected, Google has flipped the switch on Google Keep, a dead-simple website and Android app for recording notes, checklists, images and audio.

Also as expected, there’s no shortage of tech pundits — still sore from Google’s decision to shut down Google Reader — telling you to stay far, far away. As we witnessed with Reader, you can’t trust Google to keep products around anymore, even popular ones, if they don’t fit the company’s long-term strategies.

So maybe Google Keep won’t exist in five years — it’s still worth trying.

The service seems designed for impermanence, with hardly any structure compared with rivals like Evernote and Catch. Everything shows up in reverse chronological order, and the best you can do to manage old notes is archive them so they don’t show up on the main page. You can search for words or phrases, but you can’t create directories. You can color-code individual notes, but you can’t group those notes together or sort them in any other way.

As someone who’s shied away from Evernote, I find this simplicity appealing. My notes tend to be transient anyway — things to do, a few sentences to remember, where I parked my car and so on. The fact that Keep brings all that information to the surface, rather than burying it in a file structure, makes it a useful alternative to meatier note-taking services.

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Keep’s Android app also has a killer feature: it automatically transcribes audio, so you get text and sound in a single note.

Still, there’s room for more features. You can’t create audio notes on the desktop, nor can you move an older note to the top of the pile. Google+ integration seems like a shoo-in, but it’s not available yet, nor is the rumored ability to save Web pages. It’d also be nice to see native apps for iOS and Windows Phone, though the latter seems unlikely. (Both platforms can access Keep through the Web, at least.)

As for trusting Google Keep for the long haul, that depends on what’s in store. Brad McCarty argues that the service could eventually tie into Google Now, helping the virtual assistant learn more about you so it can serve better information (a prime example of creepy-yet-useful). One could imagine Keep turning into a full-blown reminder service, not just a place to jot down random notes. The Verge’s David Pierce sees the potential to hook into other Google services, like Gmail and Drive. The less of an island Google Keep becomes, the less dispensable it will be.

The biggest concern right now is that your data is somewhat trapped within Keep, particularly if using the Web app. From there, you can’t e-mail or download your notes, so if you want to take them elsewhere, the only way is to select, copy and paste, and to save photos or audio files individually. Also, you can’t create a downloadable archive of notes in Google Takeout, nor can you share multiple notes at a time in the Android app. (Clarification: The sharing options are better on the Android app than I originally stated, so I’ve tweaked this section accordingly.)

As a quick way to record disposable notes, Google Keep has its advantages. But until there are better ways to export your data, and until Google shows that Keep is more than just an experiment, it’s not worth using for important, long-term note taking.

15 comments
ellismeret
ellismeret

Very agreeably put, sir. Keep is more like quick digital note-taking. At the moment, it is apparent it's not trying very hard to compete with evernote. Google is great because it's one place you can pool many apps. Part of what those apps were lacking was a little side-note app alternative to notepad or others. If you need to remember a temporary phone-number or something, google keep is a good place to put stuff like that. It's simplicity works to it's advantage, and for more intense note-taking I use evernote, if I need to organize them or hold on to them. Frankly i'm happy google launched keep, and I hope it sticks around. I also heard something about audio transcription for it, but maybe i'm just buzzed.

ukjb
ukjb

I'd be interested in the rumored ability to save Web pages, then I could get rid of pocket and roll it all into one service. Only problem is i'm still rockin an ole g droid incredible. So this won't help me much til this summer when i upgrade my phone.

NetApex
NetApex

"it’s not worth using for important, long-term note taking."  But isn't that the point of Note taking apps?  They aren't meant for long term notes.  Keep is a post-it note gone digital. You "shouldn't" have long term post-its (I know a lot of people who do, but again.. they shouldn't)  If you have something you have to hang onto for a long time you don't write it on the back of your hand. You don't put it on a post-it. Keep is for something you need to jot down (ahh good ol' jot), not necessarily hang on to for long term.


Read more: http://techland.time.com/2013/03/21/google-keep-worth-trying-with-caution/#ixzz2OGmFvszy"

drsol
drsol

You can share all you want from your PC with the automatic storage on Google Drive.

girlsrevil
girlsrevil

What is this idiot writer talking about?  Can't export data?  Has he even tried the app?  There's a "share" button when you click on a note; to sms, mms, email, google+, dropbox and every other service you have on your device.  Total idiot and bad writing.  

newmanjb
newmanjb

@NetApex I have a huge folder of Notepad notes on my computer that I fill up while working on feature stories, etc. Evernote is seen as a solution for that type of note-taking, where it's more for long-term work/research related things that you might want to go back to and access from across devices. I agree that Keep is more like a Post-It kind of mentality but it's also seen as an Evernote competitor, though I think it's not as well-suited for that.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@drsol Not sure what you mean. Keep notes aren't being backed up to Google Drive.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@girlsrevil Yep, I'm a total idiot. I've updated that section but pointed out that the sharing options you mentioned aren't available on the website, only in the Android app. The point about not bulk exporting things still stands. Cheers!

chad24taylor
chad24taylor

@newmanjb nice write up. I too enjoy the simplicity & speed with which you can store simple notes and reminders. I also think it's a little ridiculous how hard some tech pundits are coming down on the service just because of the impending demise of Reader. Only time will tell how the service will fit into Google's core apps - but if it suits your current needs, why not use it? Also, the Android widget is great - very functional. 

drsol
drsol

@newmanjb @drsol all notes, pic, audio, etc. from keep is automatically put on Google Drive. I am not sure if it is live as you type through their new API, but it is there right away.




newmanjb
newmanjb

@drsol @newmanjb That's what I'm saying. It's technically on Google Drive but you can't use that Website to transfer your notes in anyway, like you can with other Drive files. Maybe it will be more integrated shortly. We'll see.

drsol
drsol

@newmanjb @drsol try drive.google.com/keep.  I am sure it will be more integrated shortly.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@drsol @newmanjb Are you seeing something I'm not? I mean, I know Keep is technically part of Google Drive, but I'm not seeing Keep notes anywhere in my main Google Drive folder. No sign of them on my PC with Google Drive installed either.