Sunday, July 27, 2014

Google Keep is becoming my note-taking app of choice

I used to be a power user of Evernote. I was an evangelist for them for years. But I became disillusioned after a series of stumbles (personal experiences) that made the service seem less reliable. I also didn't like the fact that I had created a database silo that was separate and in addition to most of my work within Google Apps for Business.

The search for a viable alternative

I started using OneNote and have really enjoyed the service. (Read a quick outline of why I started to shift toward OneNote and what I initially liked about it.) It feels much more like a notebook to me, and it seemed more intuitive. It solved one problem by offering a viable alternative to Evernote, but it still created yet another database silo that was disconnected and separate from my Google activities.

When Google Keep was introduced, I had high expectations. My first impression was that this was not a tool that would really benefit me. It really wasn't a power-user's tool. Nevertheless, I continued to come back to it time and again.

Getting comfortable with Keep

I'm now using Google Keep more than ever, and I've discovered how to "access" some of those power-user's features that I like. It also helps that I've crossed the great divide from iOS to Android as my daily driver. Having Keep on my lock screen and with quick access through Google Now makes it much easier for this tool to be deeply integrated into my normal personal and business workflows.

Now that Keep is available as a packaged app that can function offline, it is my go to option when I need to take notes. (Note: I usually disconnect from wireless internet when in a meeting. It makes it much easier to concentrate.)

Here are some examples of how I use Google Keep:

  • I collect my thoughts for standing meetings. That way when it comes time to create a formal agenda, I don't have to spend time trying to remember what I was thinking about.
  • I capture context for meetings, projects, and tasks. This helps me transition from one thing to the next faster.
  • I date every note and assign a title that is specific to a task, project, person, or team. This will make it easier to discover when I search for specific notes.
  • I religiously use reminders and coordinate them with my calendar to ensure the note is right in front of me the moment I need it. (I do wish I could set up recurring reminders.)
  • I try not to go crazy with color coding. I use the red color for urgent needs and the yellow for quick reminders. I'm probably not as consistent as I need to be. And, truthfully, sometimes I throw a little color in there just to avoid a bunch of white notes.
  • I take a picture of the hotel room number I'm staying in and the rental car I'm driving. It helps me avoid any awkward moments when I'm traveling.
  • I also use it to capture tracking data for special packages. Since I use Google Apps for Business, Google Now doesn't scan my gmail account in the same way as it does for free accounts. 

Here the devices where I use Google Keep:
  • Macbook Pro
  • MotoX

If Google were to ask me what features and functionality I'd like to see, here is what I would tell them:
  • I'd really like recurring reminders.
  • I'd like to sync my notes with reminders automatically to Google Calendar.
  • I'd like to easily translate my note into a Google Doc much like the "share" feature works on Android.
  • I'd like to organize my notes into projects. (I realize "nested folders" are a passing reality. I suppose I'm mourning a changing paradaigm. Perhaps this extension can help for now, but I haven't tried it yet.)
  • I'd really like a web clipper feature.

What's been your experience with Keep? Has it changed your habits?

Photo Credit: Google Play Store