Do you find yourself constantly using your phone to take simple notes like grocery lists or “do not forget” post its? Well on smartphones these days there are a plethora of available note taking apps. Each one just a little more complicated than the last. Well now Google has taken a chance to jump into the fold with a simplified note taking app by the name of Keep.
Google Keep is a rather simple looking note taking app. It’s design, much like many of Google’s new or revamped apps, takes a lot of ques from Google Now. The app itself has a slightly grey background with white cards reminiscent of Google Now. The buttons are the darker grey color you’d expect and as usual there is no text underneath the buttons, although they are rather self explanatory. There are six buttons available from the start. At the top we have the typical search and menu buttons in the left corner. Below those buttons sits a bar which reads “Add a quick note” and upon touching this bar you immediately bring up the keyboard where you can begin typing. When pressing the quick note bar, after you begin typing two more options will appear. The first being the option to choose a specific color for the note you are writing (the color choices right now are white, red, orange, yellow, grey, blue, mint, and green). The second option is to expand your quick note into a full screen note. After playing with the app for a bit I must say this is the quickest and easiest way to start a note in a note app. Just two taps and you are off to writing! Below that quick note bar there are four buttons which I mentioned earlier. They are the regular note button, the checklist button, the voice memo button, and the picture memo button. All four are unique in the way they handle taking notes of their specific type, but we’ll talk about that in a minute. Lastly, once you have a note or two up each note will appear as a small card in a sort of feed that can be scrolled up and down. The notes are arranged by time they were created or edited.
Now Google may have had a lot to do with the creation of Android, but that doesn’t mean their apps are always perfect. That being said I’ve only played with Google Keep for a few hours and can’t find anything really wrong performance wise.
The app is smooth and fast, as it should be, because it seems Google was aiming for speed and accessibility with this note taking app. The notes you make appear instantly after being created. They arrange themselves by time created but also appear as the color you chose them to be, which makes them easy to differentiate. Finding a specific note is not difficult as the notes appear with big letter that take up the entire preview image of each note. Google’s typical search tool is present here and it works wonderfully. Before you can even finish typing whatever keyword you might be thinking of results will appear in real time. Different notes related to your search will pop up from the bottom corner (somewhat) just like a Google Now card and just like a Google Now card each note, whether in search or just the home screen can be swiped away. This by default as of right now “archives” the notes. You can also hold each note for for more options. In the more options you can archive, share, or delete a note. Sharing only brings up your typical android share options to other apps. I have yet to see how Google Keep will react with other apps, but I can only assume it will post a link that will lead directly to the note in a webpage or the app it the other person involved has the app installed. Now each particular type of note as I said before has a unique way of working. I’m specifically talking about the checklist and voice memo features. When doing a checklist each item new item is created by not tapping on the next line, but by hitting the “Next” button on your keyboard.
This seamlessly creates another box and another line for you to type in. If you weren’t done making your last check item and haven’t started writing a new line, simply press backspace and you will be brought back to the last line to continue writing without ever dropping the keyboard or re-positioning your hands. This is not a big deal for most but for me doing away with the minor annoyance of having to type, stop, tap, delete, tap and type again just makes my life a little easier. That’s one less first world problem! Beyond that the only other thing I appreciate about it is the standard android tab to the side that lets you rearrange items by sliding them without having to do any extra dialogue.
The voice memo feature is unique to me because of the way it handles your input. When you start speaking your voice memo the usual voice typing icon will appear. At first glance you’d think it was just creating a text version of what you just spoke. But once you finish speaking you’ll see that, yes it does transcribe your words into text, but it also holds a voice recording of you speaking right under the text. My idea on the reasoning behind this could that some people are just difficult to understand. Some people talk to fast, some people have somewhat heavy accents. With Keep’s voice memo feature you can listen to a note you may have spoken out while drunk. Though the drunken voice may be nearly impossible to understand the text could lead you in the right direction if not give you a full written and legible version of what slurred out of your mouth last night.
“Remember to Google ‘can women have Adams apples too’.”
The performance is features are great, really I can’t complain. But there are some things I wish this app had or did better.
Widgets n’ things
Now there isn’t must to be said here. Google didn’t skimp on the widgets though and that’s for sure. There are two widgets available with this app. The first is a simple scroll-able re-sizable home screen widget that allows you to peruse and your notes and create new ones without entering the actual app. The second widget is a lock-screen widget. Since I don’t personally own a device with android 4.2 I can only assume the lock-screen widget does that same, except you don’t even have to unlock your phone.
I’m going to try to keep the negatives about Google Keep short. Mainly because I only see two things really wrong with it.
My first gripe with Google Keep is that it originally appeared as a part of Google Drive. It would have done well to just come in an update with to Google Drive. Instead it comes as a whole new application that I for one had the hardest time ever finding in the play store. I can’t say who’s fault that really is, but most people aren’t going to find it easily right now. Anyway, I hate that instead of being a part of Google Drive I had to download an entirely new app which will cause me to have another icon I don’t really need.
My second gripe is not as bad, but equally annoying as a Google user. As of right now, there is a sharing button but as I said it only really opens that Android app share menu. I honestly would like to see Google have implemented the same kind of collaboration options and Google service integration in Google Keep as it has in Google Drive, Gmail, Google+ and other G services. I currently use a different app to share notes and into with my co-workers. If Google Keep can enhance the sharing experience so people can all see (but not really edit) the same note it would be my only note taking app for sure. I guess i’m really saying it would be cool if you could share a note and receive a Google+ style notification that you could +1.
It’s plain and obvious that Google Keep was not meant to be a huge suite of note taking and sharing options. That is what Google Drive does. Some people don’t like it being so simple, and some people have been wishing for an app exactly like this.
I personally love anything that reminds me of stock Google and the Google Now app. Keep does both of those with it’s simple and elegant design. In my personal opinion, Google Keep would be a perfect edition to stock android as the note/ voice memo taking app it never really had.
There is nothing that should keep you from downloading this app and giving it a try. There are some other note taking apps in the play store that are just as simple (albeit way uglier) and that are some note apps in the play store that have twice as many bells and whistles that you would like to have but may never use. Google Keep seems to be nestled right in that middle niche for people who want a quick note app that is both simple and beautifully designed. A niche that it fills almost perfectly.
Aside from my griping, this app is fast, fluid, aesthetically pleasing and doesn’t take up much space memory wise. This is the kind of app I wish android had already had two years ago. But regardless of how long it took for this to become a reality, it is a well done app. I’d give it a 4.2 out of 5… if we ran by scores here.