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How to use Google Keep: 5 power tips

Productivity moves in Google's versatile notetaking app

Google Keep
(Image: © Future)

There's a dizzying array of notetaking applications in every app store. Google Keep models itself after the familiar PostIt sticky notes from the analogue world and is one of the most low-profile of Google's many free power tools. 

Digital notetaking advantages

As you would expect, the single biggest benefit of using Keep is the ability to have one set of notes shared seamlessly across your PC, your phone and your tablet. As a cloud service you can't easily lose important information and its available wherever you need it. 

On the PC you access the full power of Keep by running it in a web browser window, like you would use Google Docs or Gmail. Everywhere else you run the Keep app. You can easily share your Keep notes with other users too, which makes collaborating on meeting agendas and shopping lists a breeze. 

Why Google Keep?

These features are not unique; all notetaking apps offer something similar, including the Sticky Notes tool built into Microsoft's Office suite, on PCs and phones. But Google leverages its other proficiencies to add unique features to their app. If you're a regular Keep user, you might not have used all these tips and tricks, and if you're still looking for a note taking utility that is as flexible as your workstyle, perhaps Google Keep will fit the bill. 

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Google Keep

(Image credit: Future)

Audio notes in Google Keep

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Google Keep

(Image credit: Future)

Picture turned into text

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Google Keep

(Image credit: Future)

Checkboxes

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Google Keep

(Image credit: Future)

Setting reminders

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Google Keep

(Image credit: Future)

Drawing and scribbling notes

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Google Keep

(Image credit: Future)

App view of Google Keep

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Google Keep

(Image credit: Future)

Hyperlinks as thumbnails

Voice notes

When inspiration strikes and you're on the road, or otherwise unable to type up your thoughts, you can record a voice note directly in Keep. While that's hugely convenient in itself, it's not unique. But Keep automatically translates your speech into text at the same time, so you can dictate your ideas and end up with both text and audio versions embedded in the Keep note.  

Optical character recognition

You can cut and paste an image straight into your Keep note. Again, that's not unique. But you can ask Keep to capture any words in the picture as editable text, using optical character recognition (OCR). 

You may find a myriad uses for this especially for converting hard copy documents back into text to be used in other applications. For example, you can snap pictures of recipes in books and magazines, add the picture to a Keep note, convert it to text and paste the list of ingredients into your shopping note. 

Drawing and scribbling

Sometimes a simple diagram can replace hundreds of words worth of explanation. Keep lets you quickly add hand drawn diagrams and illustrations into your notes, or even scribble handwritten notes directly on screen. There's a surprisingly full-featured palette of tools to help you too, including pen styles, line thickness and colours, and even optional gridlines. Obviously, you can easily move your sketches out of Keep into other apps too.

Keep works well as a lightweight research tool too. Any hyperlinks you paste into your Keep note automatically generate a thumbnail and headline from the actual web page, which is usually far more useful than the plain text link itself. Even if you  remove the hyperlink text from your notes the web page thumbnail remains as a footnote until you remove it.

Global reminders

In a multi-device world it's still surprisingly hard to set reminders that follow you around everywhere. Alarms on the phone might pass unnoticed if you're wearing headphones at the PC, and alarms on the PC won't be heard when you're on the move. Set a reminder in Keep, though, and it goes off on both the PC and the phone. Making use of Google's mapping data in the background you can set a reminder not for a time, but for a location. This way, whatever time you leave the office, your reminder to pick up dinner sounds as you near the convenience store! 

Google Keep

(Image credit: Future)

Using Keep

All these features are available under the options menus in the Keep app. The best way to use Keep on the PC is in a standalone floating browser window where it can be treated like a separate app.