What is Google Keep and Why Use it in Your Writing?

My daughter just bought her first house (though it went on hold several times as the Navy threatened/offered to move her). We wanted a simple way to share a ToDo list that would be available on phones, iPads, and computers, and would auto-update with our ideas. I looked at a variety of options but found something wrong with each of them.

Until I found Google Keep. It is marketed as a note-taking app — which it is — but trades sophisticated note-taking tools (like formatting) for simplicity. It is similar to iPhone Notes, but is more visual, syncs across all devices, and allows collaboration. You can add thoughts by typing or speaking (mobile devices only), as a narrative note or a bullet list, and include images from your collection, your camera roll, or by taking one with the native camera (mobile devices only). The title is auto-formatted to stand out from the rest of the note. You can organize notes by category or color, search for a particular note, pin the most important to the top, and re-arrange the collection by dragging-dropping. As in Google Reminders, you can set a location-based reminder to pull up your grocery list when you get to the store or a time-based reminder to make sure you never miss a parent conference.

It requires a Google account and — as with other Google Apps — the amount of space you get for saved notes depends upon your Google Drive size. It works on iOS, the web, Chrome (with an add-on), and Android.

google keep


Because Keep doesn’t include a lot of (rarely-used) tools, it is intuitive to learn, simple to use, and really quick to start up. Just tap the icon to open the program, tap to start a new note. That’s it. This is ideal when you want to quickly jot down a phone number or email address, or take a photo. You don’t need to fumble through an armload of start-up functions while whatever you wanted to note down disappears or is lost in your short-term memory. If you’re driving or both hands are busy, simply tap the microphone and talk. Keep records your audio and adds a text version of the message.

One of the most amazing features of Google Keep is that it will pull text from images (such as pictures of pages from a book) into typed text.

For Android users: You can add a drawing to your note and/or draw on an image that you took or is shared with you.


There are few formatting tools available (all you can do is color the note and add checkboxes) and no audio recording ability in the Web app. While Android users can annotate images, no versions at present allow for PDF annotation.

Writing applications

Many of my colleagues consider Google Keep an easy-to-use, easy-to-deploy note-taking option for students. Here are nine suggestions for using it in the classroom:

  1. Bookmark interesting links. While researching a topic for your next novel, copy-paste the links to a Keep note for reference. Most links show a preview in a list below the link collection so it’s easy to see what’s covered on that site.
  2.  Write notes to yourself. Because it’s easy to take and categorize notes, this is an ideal way to jot down quick notes and reminders like an appointment or phone number.
  3. Share information with others. Because notes are easily shared, this is great for group projects. Data that can be shared include links, images, screenshots, videos, camera shots (mobile only), and more
  4. Color-code a note for “WIP” and pin it to the top of the Keep canvas. This makes it quick to add ideas that come to mind anytime and then make sure you blend them into your WIP.
  5. Set time-based reminder alarms for notes and bookmarks. This alerts you to meetings, group projects, or anything that is based on a due date. It might even be to remind you to take a break from your writing and pet the dog!
  6. Set a location-based reminder. This reminder goes off based on the GPS location of the user (and their phone) in relation to whatever event you programmed the alert for. For example, you may set a reminder to bring a flier to your book club meeting that is tripped when you leave your home.


Overall, Alan Henry over at Lifehacker said it best:

Comparing Google Keep to Evernote is a bit like comparing a screwdriver to your favorite cordless drill. One is a generic, basic tool that can be used in multiple ways, but has its limits. The latter is a tool that can be used in place of the former, has a broader set of use cases, and is admittedly more powerful.

In short: Google Keep is an uncomplicated note-taking tool that allows users to take notes quickly, intuitively, and share them with others without the sometimes confusing mix of optional tools available in Keep’s more robust cousins

More on digital notetaking:

How to go Paperless in Your Classroom

5 Programs That Make Digital Notetaking Easy

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.


12 thoughts on “What is Google Keep and Why Use it in Your Writing?

  1. So, as your friendly neighborhood anti-Google guy…. I’ll admit I’ve never actually seen, used or even heard of this tool. I’ll check it out.

    That said, Microsoft OneNote is pretty awesome at doing much/most/all of this. It is also free, I believe, and runs on Windows platforms as well as iphones and androids. Matt Robb actually wrote an article some time ago about OneNote (https://todaysauthor.com/2014/07/10/how-i-use-microsoft-onenote-as-my-writers-notebook/) and it has come light years since that article was written.

    I’ll check out this Google Keep tool, though, as I like to see what’s available.

  2. Another Google tool I’ve not heard of. I general don’t use these kinds of things, but it’s useful. As a Mac user, mostly I fall back to google tools when I need things like this.

  3. Congratulations on your daughter’s new house! That’s cause for celebration!

  4. i love google keep — I use it to list everything from shopping lists to ideas for date nights, packing lists, etc. It’s so useful. I also like that I can share lists with others, which is what my husband I do with the shopping list so that we can both add to it. 🙂

    • You and I seem to be the rarity. I haven’t met a lot of people who use Google Keep–which is why I wrote the article. Like you, it’s how my husband and I keep up on the shopping list!

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