A first look at Google's new memo app. Is it really for Keeps?

Hard on its decision that RSS is so out of date that its Reader app needs to be dumped, Google has introduced a new memo service called Keep. A potential rival to established services such as Evernote and Springpad, Keep is still obviously very much in the development stage. It has potential -- assuming it sticks around.

Currently, Keep is available either via your browser as a subsection of Drive (you get there by going to https://drive.google.com/keep) or as an Android app (you need to have Android 4.0.3 or later). 

Google Keep

On first look, Keep is a simple, easy-to-understand app that can be quite useful as a way to take quick notes. The look on both interfaces is simple and boxy; very much in the style of Pinterest and, strangely enough, Windows 8. Notes are shown in either a single-column view or a more mosaic multi-column view; they can be decorated with one of several colors.

With both the browser and Android versions, you can start by just typing your text into a field on top of the window to create a new memo. You can also begin a note in a different format by clicking on an icon.

If you're using the Android version of Keep, these include icons for a checkmarked list, a photo or an audio memo (which both translates your words into text and saves a recording). The browser version has icons that let you begin your memo in list format or with an image uploaded from your computer.

Once you've started your Keep note, you can add other elements later. For example, if you start with a photo, you can then add text. You can also turn a regular text note into a list. Interestingly, the Android app seems to be more flexible than the browser version -- it lets you delete an embedded image, for example, or turn a list with checkboxes back into a simple memo format, neither of which I could do with the browser version.

And of course (we're talking Google here, after all) you can search your notes for any text. With the Android version, any note can be shared to whatever services are available on your device.

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Notes can either be archived or deleted. As of yet, there isn't any way to categorize them or to allow them to be shared (within Keep) or edited by other users.

Keep is a brand new app, and since Google's usual practice is to slowly add new features to its applications over time, I'm sure its functionality will be expanded and refined. Whether it will eventually compete with more established and sophisticated services such as Evernote -- in which users have been storing a lot of content for several years now -- has yet to be seen.

On the other hand, it's possible that Google has no intention of competing in this arena. It has a history of introducing simple and useful applications such as Google Notebook (which performed pretty much the same function as Keep) and then either just letting them sit with only the occasional tweak (as with its Tasks app) or dropping them suddenly. One can hardly blame users of apps such as Notebook and Reader for being just a bit gun-shy at this point.

I'm interested in trying Keep out for now, and possibly even using it for a shopping list or two. But for items I want to hold on to for the long term? That's something I'm not ready for yet.

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