Note-taking apps come in many forms and capabilities. The best versions let you access your stored notes on whatever device you currently have at hand.
But the most important feature in a note-taker is to let you add, clip, and store — and later find — random bits of information quickly and easily. (If speed wasn’t essential, most of us would simply fire up Word.) Two relatively new players are designed to do just that.
I’ll note (no pun intended) immediately that I’m a dedicated OneNote user, both for work and for personal applications. But though it runs on numerous platforms and devices, it’s a bit slow and clunky to use on my smartphone. It’s also somewhat cumbersome for sharing simple notes with others. (I suspect that Evernote, a popular alternative, has similar issues.)
Two simple, free alternatives are Google Keep and Dropbox Paper. Both are designed to make storing and sharing bits of information easy, while keeping the overhead to a minimum. But they also have some important differences. At this time, Keep is probably the more useful of the two for the average Windows user. I’ll start with it.
Google Keep keeps it lean and simple
Keep is somewhat of an odd duck for a Google product. Since its release about three years ago, Google has enhanced it mostly by adding broader cross-platform support. But the overall user interface remains extremely simple and the options are kept to a minimum.
It’s also an app you’re not likely to run across when using Chrome, Gmail, and other popular Google tools. I found out it about while reading a Windows Secrets Lounge thread. Oddly, if you sign in to Google and click the Google Apps icon, you won’t see it on the list — even if you click the More link. But there is a Google Keep site, and you will find it on the Google Products page.
Keep (see Figure 1) is in the tradition of the classic sticky note. It gives you a place to quickly create and post random chunks of information; but it adds the ability to share notes with others. It doesn’t, however, have the deep organizational tools of more powerful products such as Evernote or OneNote.