Google has officially announced the newest member to its app and service family, Google Keep. The app had been expected after a brief leak earlier in the week, but now the search giant has formally entered into the note-taking fray. But with the recent announcement that Google Reader is shutting down, many users have become skeptical of just about anything Google has done over the past week – Keep included. After all, why get hooked if Google is just going to shut it down?
So can Keep prove them wrong? Well, TechnologyGuide has spent some time with the new service since it was unveiled yesterday afternoon, and thinks Keep will impress most users – as long as they go in with the right expectations. To understand just what that means, here are five things that are TG is digging about Google Keep so far.
Google described Keep as a digital replacement for sticky notes in its announcement yesterday, and a description like that really says it all when it comes to Google’s intentions here. As it is now, Keep is a note-taker in the purest sense of the word.
In fact, it’ll only take about five minutes to figure out everything that Keep has to offer.Power users accustomed to other note-taking apps like Evernote will be disappointed, but TG finds Keep’s unabashed simplicity to be its greatest feature thus far. Keep knows what it wants to be, and it does what it can well.
Google knows that jotting down a quick reminder or creating a makeshift to-do list shouldn’t be a tedious process, so it’s made Keep quick and efficient to use. It’s as simple as having a thought and either typing it or using Google’s proven speech-to-text functionality on mobile devices to note it down. It’ll then save to Google Drive and be accessible both on the Web and on certain Android devices (more on that in a second).
Pictures and GIFs can be added to notes, both of which are viewable inline without having to enter into the note itself (GIFs played inline on the Web at least; TG couldn’t get them to function that way on mobile devices just yet). Archiving and deleting notes is similarly basic.
And, well, that’s about the gist of it. Keep isn’t breaking any new ground here, and again it isn’t going to convert the more fervent note-takers of the bunch, but it’s a project that looks to be fully committed to keeping things easy. Accept it for what it is, and it’ll probably be difficult to complain about.
It Integrates Across Devices
Google Keep is available now for everyone on the Web, and for Android users who have a device running Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 or above. As previously mentioned, notes are saved to the cloud through Google Drive, making it so anyone in the vicinity of a connected computer and newish Android tablet and/or smartphone will be able to take their notes, lists, pictures and GIFs with them on the go, in real time, and whenever an idea pops into their head.
A widget is available on mobile for users who want to take notes right from one of their home screens, and anyone running the latest version of Android Jelly Bean can add quick notes to Keep from a barebones lock screen widget as well. A share menu on Keep’s mobile version further allows notes to be sent quickly to the likes of Gmail and Google+, among other things.
For Android users, this all works great. Keep syncs across devices as quickly as any other service in Google Drive, and could replace sticky notes altogether for even a casual smartphone owner. But without a mobile option, Keep will be virtually useless for the many people still using an Android device that isn’t running Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean. Same goes for iOS or Windows Phone users (or any other OS), although it’s likely that Google will bring Keep to a wider array of devices soon enough.
It Looks Good
Keep’s setup is as basic as it gets. On the Web, a text entry box sits near the top of the screen alongside buttons to either create a list or insert an image. Below that are the user’s notes, which can be aligned either in a single column or a traditional grid view. There’s no way to specifically organize notes other than by the date they were taken, but in traditional Google fashion, a search bar is also there to look up any past ideas.
Users can freshen up their notes with a variety of light colors, but those don’t actually do much besides make things look a little bit nicer on mobile devices. There, Keep sports a clean, tile-based design reminiscent of something like Microsoft’s Windows Phone interface. Uploading images and using speech-to-text on mobile is also a breeze, as one would expect.
The Google Keep mobile widget looks nice and colorful as well. It lays out notes in a single column and retaining the colors and inline pics and GIFs from the other versions of the app, and can also be resized as users see fit.
TG would like Keep to have more functionality when it comes to ordering and organizing notes, and the Web interface could stand to borrow some of the color from the mobile app. But overall Keep’s design stays out of the way, which is right where it should be.
Not much to say about this one. Keep can be accessed right now on the Web or through the Google Play store for the low price of on the house. A service like this is generally expected to be free, but that doesn’t mean it’s not nice to be given something useful at no (monetary) cost.
It’s Going to Get Better
Let’s be clear: from an all-inclusive functionality standpoint, Evernote blows Google Keep out of the water. It isn’t close. And even accepting it for what it is, TG still has a handful of gripes with Keep thus far, despite it does looking like one of the fastest and easiest ways to do what should be a fast and easy task. That being said, perhaps the best thing Keep has going for it is its potential.
Yes, Keep’s focus is on speed and efficiency now, but it’s still a brand new app. There’s plenty of reason to believe that Google could integrate Keep further with its ecosystem of services. It’s hard to say what Google has in store for the app, but what’s keeping the company from allowing increased integration with Gmail? Or making notes collaborative through Google Docs? Or being extended into Google Chrome? Or sending events to Google Calendar? Or accepting pictures (and maybe GIFs, one day) from Google Glass?
There’s a ton of possibilities here, and while a note-taking app will never be incredibly exciting, a cohesive and collaborative ecosystem of speedy and useful software certainly is. Google Keep only seems to add to that, and it could have what it takes to become the note-taker of choice for many users.
Or it could die like Google Reader, and just be used to collect more info for Google’s ad machine. TG will have to wait and see.