Google Keep: Note-taking from an Android’s perspective

Considering the sheer vastness of the Google Play marketplace, one can assume that there are countless apps that cover the realm of note-taking and to-do lists.  So it is not surprising that Google would try to architect a note/task app in their own fashion.  The result of this endeavor is Google Keep; an Android app that is a depository for ideas, notes, and to-do lists.

The app can be found (as expected) on the Google Play Store.  Here’s a breakdown of its inner-workings:

Google Keep

googlenote

The main application menu at first appears like the picture on the left: empty.  The simplest way to add a note in Google Keep is by using the “quick note” option at the top.  Once the note is created, it will appear on the main menu.

Left to right: To-Do List, Photo, and Voice Note
Left to right: To-Do List, Photo, and Voice Note

Underneath the quick note option are the buttons for the four main note types in Google Keep: a simple note, a to-do task list, a voice-to-text note, and a picture caption note.  Each of them are self-explanatory by namesake, so the minor details regarding their operation shall be skipped.

archived
Save those notes for later…
googlekeepdelete
…or not.

As notes get composed, they will fill up the main menu screen.  Existing notes can be modified by tapping once to open them or by holding to select (they turn blue).  Once one or more notes are selected, one can choose to delete them, share them, or archive them for future reference.  Notes that are in the archived folder can return to the main screen by holding and selecting it again and hitting the archive button again in the top right.

googlekeepcolors

If white seems a bit drab for a note color, do not fret; they can be colored to one’s liking.  Google Keep can also be placed as a widget on a home screen for quicker viewing and editing of notes.

The Google Drive Bit

googlekeepbrowser

Now colors are nice and all, but what else does Google Keep have to offer?  Well, very time a note is created, modified, or destroyed inside the Android app, it automatically syncs the changes with your Google account and placed them in Google Drive.  Because of this, notes can be accessed via a browser anytime from this web link here.  Likewise, if notes are modified while on the browser webpage, they are automatically updated when Google Keep is accessed again on Android.

Conclusion

Got a random thought or task that needs retention?  Let Google Keep help you with that.

How Evernote Changed My Life

Evernote has been around a while now, and is a seemingly permanent fixture on the ubiquitous “must have apps” lists that fill technical websites and computer magazines.

Evernote is, however, far from being something just for the nerds. Heavy exposure everywhere from Time magazine to the New York Times has led to it being one of the most consistently popular apps for iOS and Android. There’s therefore a chance you’re using it already. If not, I’m going to tell you why you should.

Despite the hype, I was uninspired by the idea of Evernote to start with. I’m a cynical kind of techie. I have to spend my life not only using tech, but also helping those less technical use it. My interest in anything new and / or popular is less about what it can DO, and more about whether my clients or I will actually consistently use it.

I thought about all the ways I already had to take notes – Mac Mail, Microsoft Outlook, my iPhone’s native notes app, Microsoft OneNote, Wunderlist, my expensive Moleskine notebook. All of these are things I have used at some point with good intentions. All of them also now linger somewhere in my life with a few long-forgotten lists or notes living within. When I want to write a shopping list, I pull a sheet of paper out of my printer. The prospects for my long-term use of Evernote were not great.

OneNote - Forgotten in My Life
OneNote - Forgotten in My Life

However, Evernote’s killer feature is its synchronization. Even the free version allows syncing of a generous quantity of notes, Internet page grabs and camera snapshots across ALL devices: PCs, Macs, iDevices and Androids.

My time with Evernote started much the same as my time with Microsoft’s OneNote. “Right,” I thought, “first off, I’ll start a section for all my blogs and projects, then one for shopping lists and recipes.” I filled a few things in, in my heart thinking that a week down the line I wouldn’t be using it.

Then, however, the next day, I was sitting at a café near my home, and a flood of blog ideas came to mind. Straight away, my iPhone was out of my pocket. I went directly to the relevant lists and added the ideas. I decided to commit to this for a few more days, and suddenly, I had a better list of topics than I had in ages – and it was a click or a tap away wherever I happened to be.

At this point I started to think that Evernote may actually be a keeper, and decided to play around a bit more.

A new takeaway restaurant opened in my town. Wanting to show my wife the menu and suggest we tried the establishment that evening, I walked up to it, clicked my iPhone’s camera and quickly uploaded it to Evernote. All my wife had to do was look on Evernote on my Mac at home, peruse the menu and let me know what she wanted.

Evernote Displaying a Takeaway Menu
Evernote Displaying a Takeaway Menu

This was the light bulb moment. “Hang on,” I thought, “how much easier will life be once I’ve taken a little picture of all the takeaway menus?” No longer will my wife have to call me from the doorstep of a Chinese takeaway read out the menu and see what I fancy. I’ll just have all of them in Evernote.

My Evernote is now filled, as it should be, with idea lists, brainstorms, shopping lists, recipes and, yes, a bunch of takeaway menus. As time goes on, I will be seeing how other Evernote features work their way into my life. Evernote has improved my life, even without text searching of photographed content and the ability to access notes via a browser (in the paid version).

As I said before, to me, software is not about what it can do, but whether I will consistently use it. Well, despite my initial reservations, I now use Evernote everyday – and that’s a win.

Simplify list making and note taking with WorkFlowy

WorkFlowy
WorkFlowy
I used WorkFlowy to outline this blog post

There’s another free productivity tool that harnesses the power of simplicity. WorkFlowy is probably the simplest, most powerful web app you will find. Basically it’s a list maker that can be used as a task organizer and project management tool.

To use it, just start typing. Automatically you’re creating a bullet point. Press “return” and you have a new bullet point under it. Press “tab” and that line becomes a bullet point and your original line becomes a heading. Keep pressing “return” to add more bullet points.

And that is the tutorial. Like I said. Simple. Of course there a few more features (not many) that make this incredibly useful for organizing thoughts, writing outlines and managing tasks. But there aren’t enough to complicate and ruin its elegance. Here’s what you can work with:

  • Notes: Add some subtext to each line
  • Expands/collapses easily: Each user only gets one page so the ability to collapse all the sublists and expand by clicking on a bullet makes the mass of text easier to read.
  • Complete: One click strikes through the line to indicate it’s completed. You also can choose to hide all the completed tasks.
  • Search: The search of your list(s) is incredibly fast. This is key to finding the notes you saved.
  • #hashtags: Using the # symbol turns the word into a linked tag that leads to a page with just the bullet points that have your #hashtag.
  • Daily email: You can get an email with all the changes you made the previous day. If you use it to plan your day, this becomes a nice reminder of what you need to do.
  • Export: This is a bit of a disappointment. It simply lets you copy the bullet points selected for export. Then paste the list into another document.
  • Share: You can share your lists with other WorkFlowy users if you’re looking for a simple project management tool
  • Mobile: This is just a page on your mobile browser. But the tool is so minimal it’s hard to imagine needing more on your phone.

Why I like using WorkFlowy

WorkFlowy is an incredibly easy tool that makes lists. As a writer, I use it  mainly to create outlines and organize notes. The collapsibility and search make it easy to navigate so I can find everything easily. It’s my first step whenever I brainstorm projects or writing assignments.

That said, there are a few things I would like to see added to its features. For example, I would love to add links and clip web pages from a bookmarklet. Think of it as a minimalist Evernote. I also would like to add bullet points or lists via email or text messaging. And not just text – photo and video clips would be handy.

Maybe those are features that will ruin the simplicity, which would be a shame. That simplicity is probably WorkFlowy’s best feature.

Getting Started with Android: Memos and Streaming Radio Stations

There’s a good chance that (like most people) when you wonder “Hey, I wonder if there’s an app for that on my phone…”, you immediately go to the app market and search for it.

Now if you are like me, instead of searching for an app, you will ask one of your friends who knows all about apps.  Except with this method, you have to be ready for a full lecture on whatever app you may be looking for and then some.

To save you from a full on lecture and some time searching, here are a few of my favorite Android apps:

Did you get the memo?

Android app Memo

When I need to take a note on anything (for example, what spark plug type to buy or a part number for something at work) Memo is my go-to app.  I have used this app multiple times and is super easy to use.

  1. Download Memo
  2. Press “Create memo” and start typing.

Simple as that!

As you can see, you can also color code the different notes you take. To change the color of the memo, press the return button on your menu bar and have at it.

To edit an existing memo, press the pencil shown on the left corner. Need to email yourself the memo or to someone else? Hit the Menu button on your phone. The memo will then be mailed  in the form of a .vnt file (Note: This file extension is standard for mobile memos and can be opened with any editor).

Turn up the tunes

Radio stations on Android
Finding radio stations

My next favorite application is TuneIn Radio.  You can use this application to listen to your favorite radio station (as long as they are streaming).  It works great for me because being from a small town is not easy for me to tune into a local station to get the news or listen to music.

To search for a radio station, type the name of the station in the “Search” window. Once you find a station, you can add it in your presets by pressing the “Add to Presets” button that appears on your screen. When you press “My Presets,” you will see a list of all the stations you have added.

You also have the option to search for station based on the other options available:

  • Local Radio
  • Music
  • Talk
  • Sports
  • By location
  • By Language
  • Podcasts

I found the streaming quality to be acceptable on this application. Once you place the app in the background, you have a small menu that allows you to pause or exit the application on the top menu.

Comments or questions on these apps? Let us know in the comments section below!

“Catch” the New Way to Organize Notes with Smartphones and Browsers

We’ve all done it; emailed yourself a note or reminder while at work or on the go, then weeding through your bursting inbox trying to find it. There is the option of a mailbox search with keywords, but it’s pretty much a bust if you can’t find something in 10 seconds.

Catch Notes

With the birth of the smartphone, this act of note-taking has become even worse, as using the inbox search option on your phone is more painful than admitting to liking a certain teen idol with a prepubescent voice and hippie hair.

Have no fear.  You can keep your idol obsession in the closet and manage to stay organized quickly, securely, and all in one place, no matter where you go.

Enter Catch Notes.

Catch Notes is the quintessential note keeper of the universe, and there are several ways to input a note (or an infinite number of ‘em). From basic browser to mobile input, and even an option to email notes to your Catch account for later, this application goes above and beyond the old fashion pen and paper method, syncing your notes and account to any device of your choosing and making it available 24/7.

Available for Android, iPhone and iPad, this free (yes, FREE!) application not only keeps notes, it gives you the option to share those notes (in text or link) through several different methods:  email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter or any application on Android that accepts shared content.

Catch Notes mobile app.

Don’t have a smartphone? Catch Notes also has browser extensions available for IE8, Firefox and Chrome, so now you can “bookmark” your favorite Techerator articles in Catch Notes and have them all in one place versus having to add them to your “Favorites” and sort it out from there.  And for added security, Catch Notes gives you the option to set a four-digit login PIN to keep your notes secret and safe in case anyone tries to light-finger your precious cargo.

There are other note taking applications out there, like Evernote and Springpad, but if you want something light, quick, and easy to use, Catch Notes is your best bet.  Of course, it’s all preference. As an aspiring novelist (but current spotty blogger) I use Catch Notes to “write down” my story ideas. Not only can I write it down, but I can also attach photos, just in case I find something that inspires a project or a piece. The downside is that it only allows one photo per note.

On the brighter side, though, if you have an existing Google or Facebook account you can simply use it to login to Catch Notes versus creating another account you may not use if you find Catch Notes isn’t for you.

Previous logo: 3banana

Lastly, I can’t help but be bummed out that Catch decided to change its name a few months ago (September to be exact). Formerly known as “3banana,” complete with a Chiquita label, the company decided on a name change to better fit its mission and embody the functions of the app. Its current icon?  A simple orange box with a white “C.” Simple and easy, just like Catch Notes.

For more information on Catch Notes, visit their website or their blog to see what progress this app is making. It’s a great way to stay in the loop on upgrades and new features.

Create and Sync Notes on your Desktop, Phone, and the Web with Simplenote

Ever have an idea that you’re sure is going to make you rich, only to have forgotten it by the time you get home? Or how about the time you spent all week making a list of things you need the next time you go shopping, only to forget where you put it when the time finally came?  With Simplenote for iPhone (and other iOS devices like the iPod Touch), that’s all in the past.

Simplenote is a simple text editing service that allows you create, save, and view text notes.  The service can be accessed in a variety of different ways. The easiest way is to simply set up an account online and use the browser text editor. There is also a desktop application that you can download. This application saves your notes to your computer with the option to sync to your online account, which can be useful if you are in an area without WiFi.

The Simplenote app for iPhone and iPod Touch allows you to write and read notes on the go while syncing to your online account. (I’m actually writing this review with my iPod touch.)

Simplenote for iPhone and iPod Touch make it easy to add notes on the go.

A new feature to Simplenote is the addition of tags – these allow you to set one or more tags to each note. These tags can aid in searching for specific notes. Also, it’s now possible to look through older versions of notes you’ve created.

Tags can be useful when searching through lots of notes.

I have been looking to a program/app like Simplenote for quite some time. The whole interface is simple and fast, but it comes with a compromise: you won’t find auto formatting or spell check here. Simplenote probably wouldn’t be the best thing to write your next big novel on, but it works great for quickly jotting down information for use at a later time.