Google Keep may not be the most robust note-taking app you’ll find on the Play Store, but for me, that’s a virtue rather than a drawback. When I need to make a grocery list or jot down a quick idea, I want to use something easy and fast, like a digital Post-It note for my phone. That’s Google Keep in a nutshell.
Of course, just because Google Keep is relatively simple to use doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any tricks up its sleeves. Indeed, once you know what you’re doing, you can perform tricks like having your latest Keep notes appear on your Android or iOS home screen, or make your shopping list pop up the moment you arrive at the grocery store. You can also add narration to a doodle, color-code your notes, share a note with a friend, save selections from a webpage, and more.
Put the Google Keep widget on your home screen
One of the best ways to make the most of Google Keep is to install the Keep widget on your home screen. Once you do, you’ll be able to create new notes with a single tap, and if you use the larger version of the widget, your latest Keep notes will appear right on your home screen.
To add the widget on an Android device, tap and hold an empty space on your Android home screen, tap the Widget button, scroll down to the Keep widgets, then pick one to install. The 3×2 version will let you preview your latest notes, while the 3×1 version will only let you create new notes.
For iOS, swipe down from the top of the screen to open Notification Center, then swipe from left to right to open the Today view. Tap the Edit button, then tap the green plus button next to Google Keep. The smaller version of the Keep widget only lets you create notes; to see your most recent notes, tap Show More on the widget itself.
Color-code and label your notes
The Post-It analogy for Google Keep will become particularly fitting once you start adding some color to your notes. There are only eight colors to choose from, including white, but the bright hues will instantly bring Post-It notes to mind once you apply them to your scribbles.
To color-code a note, just tap it, tap the three-dot “more” button in the bottom corner of the screen, then tap a color from the palette that appears.
Another way to organize your Keep notes is to give them labels, like “Home,” “Work” or “Deep thoughts.” Open a note, tap the three-dot button again, then tap the Labels button. You can then see all the notes with a specific label by opening the main Keep menu and tapping a label.
Add a reminder to a note
Just as you can with calendar events, you can add reminders to Keep notes. You can, for example, set a time-based reminder for a note you scribbled earlier in the day—or, even better, create a location-based reminder, perfect for making a grocery list pop up on your phone when you arrive at the grocery store.
To set a reminder, tap the Reminder button (the one that looks like a finger with a string tied it) in any Keep note, specify whether you want a time- or place-based reminder, then set a time or a location. To manage your various Keep reminders, tap the main-menu button in the top-left corner of the screen, then tap Reminders.
Bonus tip: You can set reminders for multiple Keep notes at once. Start by tapping and holding a note until it turns gray, tap any other notes you want to select, then tap the Reminder button. While you’re at it, you can also color-code, pin, and label a batch of notes at once.
Share a note with a friend
Keep doesn’t just have to be a place for jotting down notes to yourself; it can also be a handy way to collaborate with a colleague or a loved one.
Sharing in Keep is a simple affair; there’s no chatting or commenting as there is in Google Docs or Slack. But if you just want to share some to-do’s or a shopping list, Keep’s basic sharing feature might be just the ticket; indeed, my wife and I share a grocery shopping list that we’re constantly updating.
To share a Keep note, open it, tap the three-dot button in the bottom corner of the screen, then tap the Collaborator button. Keep in mind that anyone you’re sharing a Keep note with has full read and write privileges.
Mix and match your note items
Whenever you create a new Keep note, you start by picking the type of note you want to start: a text note, a list, a drawing, a voice memo or an image.
Keep in mind, though, that once you’ve made your choice, you’re not committed to it. For example, there’s nothing stopping you from adding a voice note to a drawing, or a list to an image post.
Within an open Keep note, just tap the plus button in the bottom-left corner of the screen, then tap an option: Take photo, Choose image, Drawing, Recording, or Checkboxes.
Bonus tip: When you tap the Recording button as you’re creating a new note, Keep won’t just record your voice; it’ll also transcribe whatever you say, handy for making a quick hands-free note.
Save a selection or image from the web
If you’re browsing the web in Chrome and you come across a passage or an image you want to save, there’s an easy way to toss it directly into Keep.
Just select the text you want to save (or tap and hold an image), tap Share, then tap Keep from the sharing menu. (If you don’t see Keep as an option in the iOS sharing menu, tap the three-dot button, then make sure Google Keep is enabled.)
Before you tap the Save button, you can (if you wish) give the note a title and a label.
Quickly rearrange and archive your notes
By default (and with the exception of “pinned” notes, which always appear above your other notes), Keep arranges your notes according to when they were last edited. If you want to shuffle an older note to the front—or anywhere else, for that matter—just tap and hold it, then drag it wherever you want.
Once you’re finished with a particular Keep note, you can file it away it by opening the note and then tapping the Archive button. If you want to clean up a bunch of notes at once, tap and hold one, tap any other notes you want to select, then tap the Archive button.
You can also (if you’re using the Android version of Keep) try this: just swipe a note off the screen. When you do, Keep will automatically archive the note and (if necessary) unpin it.
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Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices.