Is Google Keep a keeper?

I’ve been experimenting with Google Keep but at this stage, I’m undecided. It has a heck of a lot of positives, but it has a major issue for those of us needing an old school task manager.

First let me say that Google Keep is pretty, and it’s great with free-form notes and lists. As the notes appear as ’tiles’, it’s fantastic for visually inclined people. You can attach files, and change the color of the tiles. I’ve experimented with including emojis and, and yes, it works. You can also assign tags to the tiles and that allows you to categorize your notes, lists and reminders. Impressively, it allows you to draw in a tile, take voice notes, or a photo. You can include collaborators on a tile by tile basis. It also does location based reminders, which means that when you wander into the supermarket, Google Keep displays the grocery list you created the night before. And more importantly, Google Keep is free, which is a win for anyone on a tight budget.

However, it’s not so great from a pure task management perspective. I discovered that Keep carries over a Google Calendar trait. Google makes a clear distinction between an ‘event’ and a ‘reminder’. In Google land, an event can have a notification set to occur before the due date and time.  This is great for important things to remember–like birthdays.  This is because you want time to buy a card and a present so that you don’t look like a moron on the day. Or you’re going to be clear across town in another meeting and need an alarm to give yourself time to get to your next appointment.  Alternatively, in Google land, a ‘reminder’ has a due date and time, but doesn’t need a separate notification to occur before the due date and time.

To summarize: if you want to record an event (such as a birthday) that repeats every year, and you want an alarm to remind you one week before the actual date (so you can buy a card and present and not look like a moron on the day), then you create an event in Google Calendar. If you just need to know that it’s about time you phoned your mother, or you need to line up at the post office and post some bills, then you can set up a reminder in Google Keep. If you have to queue at the post office to pay bills on a regular basis, then you can set up the reminder to repeat itself.

And now onto an even more confusing aspect. Google Keep has two views: Notes and Reminders. The Notes view displays ALL tiles (tiles with or without a due date). The Reminder view displays tiles assigned a due date and time.  And here’s where it gets annoying–in the Reminder view any tile past it’s due date and time disappears from this view (whether marked as ‘done’ or not) and can only be found again in the Notes view. Things get even more confusing in the Notes view as the tiles are presented as an unsorted lump. To sort the tiles you need to manually drag and drop them.

On the positive side, if you go to Google Calendar on your phone, you can see a combined list of your Keep reminders and Calendar events, correctly sorted by date and time. But just like in Keep, the reminder disappears from the Google Calendar app as soon as the date and time passes, even if it was never marked as ‘done’.

From my perspective, I have a greater need for a pure task manager. I need to know what’s happening for the next seven to 30 days, and I need to get this list sorted by due date and time. I need reminders before the event occurs. If I missed a date and time, I need to scroll back to the date, and reschedule. I can do this in Keep but it involves going into the Note view, and locating the tile again.

Google Keep seems more like a notebook for non-urgent lists and tasks. I wouldn’t want to keep a critical appointment in it. For that, I still need to use Google Calendar.

At the moment, having to consciously decide what type of appointment I want to create, and then decide whether to create it in Keep or Calendar seems like an annoying overhead. Then again, it’s a freebie and I can learn to love a freebie. Only time (and due dates) will tell.


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