Google Keep Notes might be the most underrated of Google’s services. It’s more than just a place to jot down your thoughts—it’s also the missing link to bring Docs, Calendar, Photos, and the rest of Google’s services together. Here are 10 tips and tricks to unlock the full potential of Google Keep Notes:
Take a voice memo
While most people use Google Keep Notes to type quick notes to themselves, you can actually get your thoughts down even quicker by using your voice. In the bottom menu on the main screen, you can tap the microphone icon to speak your note to Google Keep. It’ll both record and transcribe everything you say, so even if Google’s dictation engine misses a word, you’ll still have a record of it.
Transcribe text from a photo
Audio isn’t the only thing Google Keep Notes can transcribe. If you import a photo with words on it, Keep Notes can grab that text. Tap the photo to open it, and then tap the three-dot menu in the top right corner and select Grab image text. Go back to your note and you’ll see the words that were in the pic pasted below it, in the proper order, capitalized appropriately, and ready to edit.
Draw on (or off) your photos
Transcribing text isn’t the only thing you can do to a photo in Google Keep Notes. You can also highlight, color, and draw on them to your heart’s content. Just import or snap a pic and select the paintbrush icon to be taken to the mark-up screen. There you can select your pen style and annotate the image without affecting the original file. And if you just want to doodle on a note, you can do that too, by choosing the paintbrush icon in the main menu.
Sync with Google Docs on your PC
If you’ve ever emailed yourself the text of a note just so you can use it in a document or a presentation, this will save you some time: Google Keep Notes is fully integrated into Google’s office suite. And it couldn’t be easier to get them in sync. When you have a file open in Docs or Slides, just tap the Keep logo in the sidebar at the right to see a list of your saved notes. Tap one to open it, and you can copy, cut, or edit anything that’s inside. Of course, any changes you make will be synced back to Keep Notes on your phone. And if you simply want to create a Google document out of a note, just long-press on a note and select Copy to Google Docs.
Collaborate with a friend or colleague
Most of your Google Keep notes will probably be for your eyes only, but it’s also easy to invite someone else to collaborate. First you’ll need to turn on sharing inside the Settings in the sidebar. Just tap the three-dot menu at the bottom of the screen when you’re in a note and select Collaborator. From there you’ll be able to select anyone from your address book to link your note with their Google Keep app. Whenever it’s edited, you’ll be notified (and vice versa).
Get the Chrome extension
While any browser will let you log into Google Keep Notes to get work done, only the Chrome extension will let you use it like a digital locker. Download it from the Chrome Web Store, and it will put a small Keep icon next to your address bar that provides a direct link to your account. While you’re browsing or working in Chrome you’ll be able to save URLs, photos, and text, and of course take notes.
Organize your notes with labels, colors, and pins
If you take a lot of notes, your Google Keep home screen can quickly get as cluttered as your inbox. But just like Gmail, you can easily organize it. If you long-press on a note, you’ll bring up a series of options to help you find it later, including the ability to color-code it, pin it to the top of the list, or apply a custom label.
Set a time or location reminder for a note
Google has a dedicated reminders app called Tasks, but if you don’t want another app on your phone, you can set alerts for your notes so they act like reminders. Just tap the bell icon when you’re in a note and you’ll be able to set a reminder for a specific date and time, or a location, like if you want to remember to pick up milk at the grocery store.
Recover a deleted note
OK, this isn’t exactly a hidden feature, but you might not have noticed it before. If you accidentally delete a note—or just realize you needed something in it—you can still recover it from the trash within seven days of deletion. Or, if you’re unsure whether you’ll need a note later but still want to get it off the home screen, you can just use the Archive feature instead of delete. That will remove the notes from your library and store it in the Archive folder, which is accessible in the sidebar.
Create a note out of an email
If you want to create a note out of an email, you can either copy the text and paste it into a new note, or use the handy shortcut in Gmail on the web. Here’s how to do it: After you open an email, click the Keep Notes icon in the sidebar to the right. Then click the Take a Note button, and your email will appear as an attachment inside your new note. Give it a name, select Done when you’re finished, and you’ll be able to jump right to your email with a tap.
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Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.