If you have an iPhone, a pre-installed app is Notes. Like most nascent users, I started storing quick bits of information as notes. However, I found a free, fully-functional app that I prefer: Google Keep, launched in 2013.
Below are ten reasons I like Keep.
Accessible from any device
Apple Notes work well within the Apple ecosystem of products. However, I occasionally need to view my notes from my work computer, an HP running Microsoft Windows 10. Keep is web-based and is app and platform agnostic. It works with any browser on any operating system as well as via the downloaded apps (in my case, iPad and iPhone).
Keep, like all Google apps, allows for multiple accounts, and it is easy to switch from one to another. I have a Google account for personal email and other for blog related activities.
I take a lot of visual notes for work and use a variety of colors and icons in my paper-based planner. Keep has twelve colors to apply to notes that makes visualization easy.
For both my personal and blog accounts, I created categories of notes based on color. White is the default color, and I have not assigned it to a category since notes start as uncategorized.
In the image above you can see “Legend” in each block. Another dimension of categorization in Keep is labels. I prefer to use a small number of labels to use as categories, otherwise the list would be too long and more detailed than needed. Categories for my personal account are …
By using a color and a label, I’ve achieved two different ways to organize notes. Below is my vocabulary list for 2020, derived from words I encounter while reading books and blogs. The note is blue because of the category – books – and labeled with “reference” since vocabulary is a textbook definition of reference.
Two ways to hide notes that you no longer need are to swipe either right or left to move the note into the archive or click the note settings, choose “Delete” and confirm the deletion. It is easier and faster to archive a note than to delete it. Click on the small square at the left of the search bar (at the top of the app) to quickly access the archive. You can restore notes from the archive when needed.
Google brings the search technology for which the company is famous to Keep. You can search by text, a color or a label. If you first select a color or label, you can then search a second time after the color/label filter has been applied. I can easily find blue notes (book related) and then search “reference” to display blue notes with the reference label. I could also filter for blue notes and specific words to return other book-related notes.
Within a note you can start numbering and Keep will continue the sequence. This works for numbers (ordered list) and dashes (unordered or bulleted list).
Related to auto-numbering is the checklist feature. As you mark items complete, they are moved to the bottom of the list as checked items.
In addition to text-based notes, you can add images by either taking a photo or by adding one from the phone’s camera roll. You can also make a drawing. I often include photos with notes. You can use multiple photos and drawings in a note. A nice feature of images is the option to “grab image text.” The image below on the left is a picture of notes in my field notes notebook. The image on the right shows the text extracted from the photo.
Below is an example from a drawing. I wrote “Notes for Learning” on my phone with my finger. On the right you can see that the handwriting was converted accurately to text.
You can also add a voice recording to a note. Keep automatically extracts the text from the recording and stores the recording as well.
I use Keep primarily for myself. If I need to share a note, I can easily text it to someone. The ability to collaborate on a note, such as a task list, could be useful. I have not explored this feature to see how many individuals can collaborate or how it works. I expect that Keep’s collaboration feature works as well as it does in other Google apps like Docs.
IBM defines knowledge management as the “process of identifying, organizing, storing and disseminating information within an organization.” Keep is a essentially a personal knowledge management system. By planning categories and colors, and then applying these to your notes, you will be able to find information quickly.
Numerous free and paid notes apps exist, and you may already have a favorite. If you don’t, I encourage you try Keep.