11 ways to get the most out of Google Keep on Android

Turn Google's note-taking app into a powerful mobile productivity tool with these easy-to-follow tips.

google keep tips main

I really need to upgrade my brain's internal storage.

I'm only partially kidding: Just like a hard drive, I'm pretty sure my mind reached maximum capacity at some point in the past decade. The only way I can remember anything these days is by making and maintaining a million notes, both physical and digital. (My wife can confirm this. "I told you that a week ago" is an all-too-common phrase around these parts.)

I'm still waiting for Western Digital to start selling SSD implants for the noggin, but in the meantime, Google Keep has become my repository for notes of the non-sticky variety. I like it because it's simple to use and yet packed with features that make my life easier. Plus, it works as well on my desktop computer (via its Web interface or more fully featured Chrome app) as it does on my Android device -- where I tend to use it most frequently.

If you, too, rely on Keep's Android app to supplement your gray matter, check out these practical tips to make sure you're taking advantage of all it can offer.

1. Remember to set reminders

One of Keep's most powerful features is its native integration with Google's cross-platform reminder system. When you want to remember to look at a note at a particular time or place, just tap the little string-around-a-finger icon in the upper-right corner of the note-editing screen.

That'll allow you to pick a date or location for the note to pop up as a notification on your phone. The reminder will also appear in Google Now as well as in Google Inbox, if you use it -- and marking it as done in any of those places will cause it to be dismissed everywhere.

2. Check in on your pending reminders

Can't remember what reminders you have pending? What a predicament!

The simple solution: Tap the hamburger menu (the three horizontal lines) in Keep's upper-left corner and select "Reminders." There, you'll see a list of every note you've snoozed and exactly when and/or where it's set to alert you.

You can also access the same info within Google Now or Inbox -- or simply by typing "show me my reminders" into any Google search prompt.

3. Label yourself organized

In typical Google fashion, Keep relies on labels rather than folders or notebooks to make your info manageable. You can add a label to a note by tapping the menu icon in the lower-right corner of the editing screen and selecting "Labels" -- or by touching and holding the note in the main list view and then tapping the label icon in the upper-right corner of that screen. You can also just type a label directly into a note by prefacing it with a hashtag (e.g., "#BusinessIdeas").

If you want to browse through existing notes by label, tap the hamburger menu in the upper-left corner of the app and then select whichever label you want to view.

4. Get colorful

In addition to labels, Keep lets you organize notes by color. Maybe all of your work-related notes are green and your personal notes are blue -- or maybe urgent notes are red while all others are gray. You can come up with any number of systems to make the colors useful either on their own or in conjunction with the regular text labels.

To change a note's color, tap the menu icon in the lower-right corner of the editing screen and then touch whatever color you want to apply. From the main list view, you can also touch and hold any note (or combination of notes) and then tap the palette icon in the upper-right area of that screen.

Want to browse your notes by color? Tap the search icon in the app's upper-right corner, then tap the palette icon. You can then select any color and filter your notes to see only those with a certain hue attached.

google keep image1

Left: One of Keep's most powerful features is its native integration with Google's cross-platform reminder system. Right: You can label or color-code an entry.

5. Speak up

You think of something important while driving -- or maybe get a brilliant idea while walking down a city street. What do you do?

Next time, instead of looking at your device (when you should be looking at where you're going), just speak your thoughts aloud. Keep works with Android's native voice command system, so as long as your phone supports always-listening voice control, you can simply say: "Okay, Google, note to self" -- followed by whatever it is you want to jot down. (If your phone doesn't support always-listening voice control, you can still dictate notes into Keep; you'll just need to tap the microphone icon on your home screen or in Google Now first to start the process.)

Keep will transcribe your words into regular text and also attach an audio file of your voice.

(Note that you can choose to use apps other than Keep for this voice command function. If you give the command and your phone doesn't ask what app you want to use, tap the menu icon in the upper-right corner of the "Note to self" box to select from a list of available options.)

6. Take your voice control up a notch

Notes aren't only made up of regular text, of course; you can also use a note to create a list. And you can do some handy things with lists using voice commands.

When you want to add a new item onto an existing list, say: "Okay, Google, add to my To Do list" (where "To Do" is the actual name of the list). Your phone will prompt you to speak the item or items you want to add. When you're all done, say: "Finished!" or "That's it!"

You can also combine steps and say something like: "Okay, Google, add 'Mow the lawn' to my To Do list." Either way, if the list you named already exists in your notes, Keep will add the items onto the end of it; if the list doesn't yet exist, Keep will create a new note and place the items inside it.

When it's time to check your list, say: "Okay, Google, what's on my To Do list?" Your phone will take you right to that note so you can get started.

google keep image2

Left: You can use voice commands to add new entries to an existing list. Right: You can add an image to an entry by snapping a  photo or selecting an existing image from your phone's gallery.

7. Turn any note into a list

Speaking of lists, you probably know you can start a new list by tapping the list-like icon in Keep's floating action bar -- but did you know you can also convert any existing note into a list with a couple quick taps?

While editing a note, touch the plus icon in the lower-left corner of the screen and then tap "Checkboxes." That's it; you can now check this off your list.

8. Get graphic

Got a document or other visual you want to hang onto for future reference? While editing a note, tap the plus icon in the lower-left corner of the screen and select "Image." You can then snap a quick photo or select an existing image from your phone's gallery.

What's especially useful is the fact that Keep can grab words out of the image and turn them into regular text; all you have to do is tap an attached photo and then select "Grab image text" from the menu icon in the upper-right corner. You can also edit or draw on an image by tapping an image and then selecting the pen icon in the upper-right area of the screen.

9. Win, lose or draw

If you ever have a visual idea you want to jot down, touch the pen icon in Keep's floating action bar (or tap the plus sign and then select "Drawing" while editing an existing note). You can sketch away on your screen and store your result along with any other note elements.

10. Team up with a friend or colleague

Want to brainstorm ideas with a co-worker or maintain a shopping list with your significant other? Open a note, then tap the menu icon in the lower-right corner and select "Collaborator." Start typing the person's name or Gmail address, then select it from the list of suggestions that appears.

Once your partner is connected, you can both edit the note on your own respective device(s) -- and you'll both see all changes and additions as they're made.

11. When a note gets lengthy, call a Doc

Let's face it: While Keep excels in many basic note-taking areas, the app definitely has its limits. Once a note turns into more of a document -- with lots of text and the need for advanced editing tools -- Keep isn't the place you want to be working.

Luckily, there's a dead-simple way around that: When a note exceeds Keep's capabilities, just tap the menu icon in the lower-right corner of the editing screen, select "Send" and then "Copy to Google Doc." That'll beam your entire note over to Google's more fully featured word processor, where you can edit away to your heart's content.

If Docs isn't your cup of tea, you can use the "Send via other apps" option in that same menu to send the full text of your note to any other app that can handle it -- like Gmail, Dropbox or even Evernote.

This story, "11 ways to get the most out of Google Keep on Android" was originally published by Computerworld.

Download the CIO October 2016 Digital Magazine
View Comments
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies