App of the Week | Google Keep

Sticky notes serve a very particular purpose: they’re designed to be small, sticky, and colorful. They have to be portable, and useful for the here and now — for example, an immediate and sudden realization which necessitates some form of documentation. They must stay exactly where they’re put for long periods of time while we’re off conducting research or taking a lunch break. They must attract our attention so that we can find them again after we’ve forgotten that we even wrote them in the first place. They cater to our busyness, forgetfulness, and distractedness.

And naturally, your digital work needs just as many sticky notes as your real-world work. You might be familiar already with Apple’s “Stickies” app, or the online sticky note service Note.ly, but Google Keep, a sticky note app linked to your gmail account, is a well hidden treasure for out digital work. Its capabilities are limited compared to Stickies or Note.ly, but because it is less ambitious, it’s a little easier to use and more down to earth. A totally unpretentious app.

On the internet we are constantly finding material or content that, though not being immediately pertinent, may become useful later–whether it’s a video of Jimmy Kimmel pranks, a Žižek quote, or an Awl article. The great benefit of the Internet is its enormity of resources, but often we find ourselves overstimulated, and may need to relieve those burdens of our exploration by dumping them into a note.

Unlike other sticky services, Keep doesn’t have typical text-editing settings (font, bold, underline, etc), but does have a clean default font whose size and weight is determined automatically by the length of a note–the shorter the note, the more prominent the text. They appear in a simple grid arrangement, and it’s really sharp. Notes can be titled (in case they become long winded), have eight color options, and have checklists. Keep also has an excellent tagging or “labeling” system that allows users to organize notes by user-generated terms, for example, like “cats” or “sweaters”. You can search these tags later, or filter by colors with designated meanings. Best of all, it doesn’t have a tacky-looking cork board background.

Some functions seem a little redundant: for example, sharing your notes via gmail, as if you couldn’t simply email your thoughts; and attaching images and gifs to your notes, which seems to have little application outside of merely seeing photos with particular text.

But all in all, Keep seems to commend to us the virtues of the original post-it: you can add reminders to your notes, hailing back to the attention-grabbing color of paper stickies.  You can archive your notes so that there’s no chance of you misplacing them, like a kind of digital stickiness. And it’s available not only online, but for your mobile device, syncing automatically across devices–supreme portability.

And they never fall off.