Google Keep – Productivity Friend or Foe?

I’m a fan of Evernote. In fact I’m so much a fan of Evernote that I have been known to tweet to the effect of “For those of you not using Evernote, how do you cope?”.  But for those of you who don’t know Evernote, it’s note-taking app… It’s a note-taking app in the same ways as the Mona Lisa is a pencil sketch: it’s a masterpiece!

You can check it out here. And if you like it, there’s a whole string of videos to help out by the incomparable Steve Dotto and my friend Carl Pullein. (Full disclosure, I’ve done a video for Carl on how I use Evernote as a presentations trainer.) I love Evernote so much I wrote pretty much the whole of my last book using it as both a research tool and where I wrote the first draft of many of the chapters. (You can look into a copy on Amazon here.)

So why after declaring my love for Evernote, why look at Google Keep?

Well it can’t hurt, so long as I don’t spend so much time looking at it that I stop being productive, right? Besides it might actually be even better than Evernote. And to be honest, evaluating an app doesn’t take long to form the basic opinion. So much of an app’s use-ability comes from it’s interface that it’s not hard to make the snap judgement “Do I want to use this app?

Get on with the review, Simon!

Errr… okay.

What does Google Keep do?

At its core, GK is a note capturing app. The idea is that you capture each and every bright idea you have, on whatever device you have, and then have it available for ever, on everything.


First things first, you need to be logged in with a Google ID. Surely not a problem for most of us?

I don’t have a new SmartPhone – I’m still on the iPhone5se. Because? Why not! 😉 Installation there is via the App Store and it’s just as easy as any other app. Sorted.

Using it

Oh. My. Word.   Just do it.

Notes are simple. That’s all they are – just notes – nothing fancy… but as a tool for capturing simple notes such as checklists and short ideas it’s fantastic.  It doesn’t even think about challenging in the same market as Evernote, for example, or productivity planning apps such as Asana – but what it does, it does well. That shortage of functionality needs to be traded off against the easy and beauty of use. Let’s take an example… on my old iPhone5SE, I can have booted up Keep and made a note faster than Evernote can boot up. Literally… and by quite some margin. In fact, for a few of the times I tested this, Keep had even finished the sync! The overhead of all the other things that Evernote can do drags it down here.

As you’ll see from the image, there’s some flexibility in how you note things. For example, the graph you can see in the top right corner of my screengrab is drawn. Other options are voice recordings and short speech-to-text notes.  I found the accuracy of this pretty good, to be honest – certainly good enough to work as a simple idea-capture place.  I didn’t need 100% accuracy, just enough to mean I had something to work on when I came back to it and it was very much above that!

Other notes are simple idea captures but the coloured note is checklist.  By the way, one of the more ‘fun’ features of keep is that as you tick of the things on the list it doesn’t delete them – just puts a line through them and slides them down to the bottom of the list. Personally I find that a nice record of what I’ve done!  Look at me! Look at how many jobs I’ve done! 😉   (Yes, you can turn this off in the Settings if you’re a grown up who doesn’t need this level of self-praise! 🙂 )

Oh, by the way, there’s also an option to see your notes in a list layout and to change a few other things, but not many. That’s kinda the point.

So how am I using it, and integrating it into my workstyle? I’m sticking with Evernote for anything I want to keep and for anything complicated. It’s got more functionality and in any case I’ve got so much invested there there’s no easy way to leave. What I doing with Keep however, is using it alongside Evernote – particularly when I’m out and about such as on the street and need to capture something quickly.  If it’s important enough to save it goes to Evernote but generally Keep is fantastic at the quick-and-dirty capture.

Anything cute?

Well as you asked nicely, yes?  You have a bit of a search function and you can colour-code.  Combine that with the Tags you can create and with a bit of invention, that covers a lot of things.  You can capture from your phone and your web browser. Sync times are great, too… probably because it’s not having to synch anything heavy-duty.

2 thoughts on “Google Keep – Productivity Friend or Foe?

  1. thanks for the above simon. i never really got away with evernote – don’t ask! but this i like. the idea of low friction simplicity is cool – will have a go

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