Fans of Evernote and its note-taking app, take note: Google has its own productivity app it would like you to try. After announcing it will shutter the Google Reader app this June and close Google Notebook in 2011, Google has released the Google Keep app for both the Web and Android devices. It's a small step in the right direction, but one that doesn't measure up to the power of other options.
I'm already a big fan of the concept. Part of the reason is that I can't seem to remember my own name after a busy day of writing. Apps like Evernote, SimpleNote, and SpringPad are designed to help you collect your thoughts (or photos, or audio clips) in one place, then access them on the Web, a tablet, or your phone.
What You Get With Keep
I should confess this right away: I like Google Keep. I've been using it for a few days, and it fits right into my daily routine. On the Web, I can quickly jot down reminders about my upcoming articles in a clean, intuitive interface. Google Keep has a "less is more" approach.
You can customize the color of notes, and I like that Keep auto-saves (currently this works only on the iPhone and not yet on Android). The interface is uncluttered, so it's easy to focus on making a quick task list, dictating a message (which gets converted to text but isn't saved as audio), and snapping a photo.
One of my favorite features: As I visited sites on my phone, I could click a "share" link and save the site, including a preview image and the link, to Google Keep. That makes it a powerful bookmarking tool, even if that functionality only works currently for the mobile app, not the Web app.
Google Keep lets you see all of your notes in a thumbnail view, which makes them easy to organize and find. On my Samsung Galaxy SIII, there's also a widget that makes it easy to create a new note or task list, snap a photo, or record a memo.
How It Compares to Evernote
Evernote has nothing to worry about... yet. While I do prefer the clean interface of Keep, since it looks so much like Google's daily organizer Google Now, there's no question that Evernote is more powerful and useful.
For starters, Evernote lets you share notes with others; you can't do that with Keep. Evernote also lets you save Web links right from your browser (many sites, including Inc.com, offer an Evernote button), and you can add multiple images and audio clips to a note (in Keep, you get one or the other). And, for the big win, Evernote lets you place notes into notebooks. With Keep, it's strictly one-off notes that cannot be grouped together in any way.
Keep has other problems. You can't format text, drag and drop images into a note, scan unrelated notes to see for common themes (and then unite them), or work in offline mode, say, with a Chrome plug-in or a desktop app.
Still, unlike many of my colleagues in the tech world, and despite all of these limitations, I plan to continue using Keep. For me, the uncluttered interface is the best feature. I really need a tool that helps me keep track of my day but also lets me jot down a note on one device and access it from another. Part of the beauty of Google Keep for me as a writer is that it removes the complexity, auto-saves everything, and works reliably.
I'm also constantly living in the Google world anyway--with Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Calendar. Google Keep works for me.
Does it work for you? Try it out and let me know in the comments.