Yesterday Google launched a new service called Google Keep. After playing around with it a bit last night, I have a much better idea of what it can and can’t do, and what it really is. Will it be good enough to replace Evernote? Is it even close? In a word, no.
Google Keep Phone Interface
The phone interface is reminiscent of the Google Now interface; each note appears as a card. There’s a Multi-column view and a single column view. Across the top is the bar you interact with to add notes. tap the note to create a note, the check mark for a checklist, microphone for an audio note and the camera for a photo. You can use any photo on your phone or take a new one. The phone app is only available for Android 4.0 and above with no iOS interface currently. It also works fine on tablets with a tablet optimized interface.
Google Keep Desktop Interface
The desktop interface is almost the same as the phone interface, but bigger of course. You can access it from any web browser on any operating system. It looks like you cannot add audio notes from the web interface either.
Google Keep Compared to Evernote
At first, on the surface, it seems that Google Keep is an Evernote like app. After I dug into it a bit further, I discovered that it’s actually nowhere CLOSE to being as functional as Evernote. First, it’s missing tagging, organizing into folders, indexing text in pictures, web clipping and more. It’s only like Evernote if you’ve only ever used Evernote to take notes. On the one hand, I can see why Google left tagging out when search is much easier to implement. Tagging in Evernote is very nice, but when you can search for the text in any note you really don’t need to tag. But on the other hand, tagging in Evernote does makes it easy to pull up EVERY note for one tag with just a click, and that’s impossible to do with a search currently.
Google Keep Compared to Sticky Note Apps
Google Keep is best compared with a sticky note app. You can choose the color of your notes which could be used for some sort of organization, but you can’t reorder or organize your notes by color. Since there really is no organization at all in Google Keep, you have to search for everything. I can see the appeal of that, but neat freaks need not apply when it comes to Google Keep.
What can you do with Google Keep?
Google Keep allows you to have notes, checklists, upload pictures and audio notes and that’s about it. It is very basic. Since it is so basic, I see myself using this for all of those temporary notes that just don’t matter. For example, a grocery list, maybe a packing list for an upcoming trip, or jotting down a phone number — stuff where the overhead of Evernote might be too much. However, if you already have a nice organization system setup in Evernote you probably already use it for that kind of stuff and everything else. So what would you use Google Keep for then? Not much. If your needs are simple, then I can see how Google Keep might be a good system for you. For me, I will probably continue to look at it and use it, but for the serious note taking it is still going to be Evernote all the way.
One cool feature that I see as useful is how you can send any note to the Android sharing interface by tapping and holding the note. So you can share notes to Google+, Facebook and any app that uses the sharing interface.
Google Keep’s Future
I see a lot of potential for Google Keep. Google Keep is very basic like almost every Google product ever introduced at the beginning of Google. Search and Gmail were good examples of this. Google Buzz, Wave and other Google failures were a lot more complicated at launch and in some cases really left people scratching their heads on what to do. Google Keep is not nearly as complicated as some of these failed services. It’s tied with Google Drive, which means it should be around for a while. So, I look at Google Keep not so much what it can do, but what it could do in the future. I think Google Keep will definitely be a launch app for Google Glass. Imagine looking at something and telling Glass to keep this, and it’s now stored in your Keep. Google must add some organization to Keep, though — tagging and folders at a minimum. Google should also take full advantage of Android’s sharing features and let you add anything from sketches, web pages, pdf files and more in Keep; Keep should also do some OCR on images stored so you can search — only then would it even begin to compete with Evernote.
Should You Use Google Keep?
That’s mostly up to you. For me, I don’t put anything that’s critical in a cloud service like this yet, but even for the basic things I am a little leery of getting used to it and working it into my daily life because what happens when they decide to kill this? I am sure my notes can be exported if I need to, but then I would be searching for something else to replace it. You should actually worry about this with ANY service you use INCLUDING Evernote. You never know when a company is going to shut down as service you use and love. So, in some cases, it may actually be a good idea to use more than one of these services, so if one goes away the transition may be easier? I’m not sure.
While it’s not up to replacing Evernote, I see the future is bright for Google Keep. It’s got a lot of potential, and it will only improve as they bring out new versions. Soon, we could be at another crossroads trying to replace Google Keep. It could also die a quick death like Google Wave and Buzz — or an extended death after millions have come to rely upon it, like Google Reader. So no matter what you choose to do, be aware that any service you use could go away. Make sure you keep only what you need in it, and if your data is really important, keep it on your hard drive for now or in a paid service.
What I liked: Simple to set up; easy to use; your info is always in the cloud
What I didn’t care for: Lack of organization; too limited; Android only