Google Keep vs. Evernote vs. other notetaking tools?

What's the best app if you want the simplest way to jot down random notes? Other than pen and paper?


Some people email themselves notes or carry around a notepad to remember everything. Others swear by Evernote, Google Keep, OneNote, Simplenote and a myriad of other apps whose names are all variations on the word "note." And then there are people like me who are using a combination of all these tools because none seem perfect yet.

Google Keep today added two useful new features: labels and recurring reminders. Labels make organizing your growing number of notes much easier; before, Keep was just like looking at a giant wall of sticky notes randomly posted wherever. Recurring reminders bring notes back to our attention when we need them.

This brings Google Keep a bit more closer in functionality to Evernote, another beloved note-taking tool among productivity geeks, without sacrificing the sleek and simple UI that makes Google Keep so attractive. The more features an app adds, the greater the likelihood of the app becoming more complicated and difficult to use. On the other hand, the more notes you add to Google Keep, the harder it is to make sense of them.

I'm a big fan of Evernote as well, because of its strong organizing options--tags and saved searches, notebooks and stacked notes--but it can be overwhelming for simple note-taking. It is, however, cross-platform and, unlike Google Keep, more likely to stick around (former Google Reader users might be afraid to sign up for a new Google app that could be pulled suddenly).

This is part of a larger discussion on the balance between features and usability and design. I bring it up in part because of Google Keep's upgrades today, which I think are great, but also because like calendar apps and email apps, we all need a notes app. 

The other day my daughter, who just turned nine, wanted to jot down her place in a YouTube Minecraft video. Usually, she scribbles it on a scrap of paper or a nearby notebook, but since these weren't around she thought the best option would be to write a comment on the YouTube video that she could find later. Whoa. YouTube comments are not places to take notes for yourself for future reference (though perhaps now I understand some cryptic YouTube comments).

In haste, I showed her how to use Google Keep, because she was already signed into Google on Chrome and it's the simplest option I could think of at the moment. She quickly created a bookmark for it and renamed it "notes" on her bookmarks bar, and that was it.

To show her Evernote or one of the other note-taking tools would've taken too long, but now I'm thinking of better options. Doug Belshaw suggested TiddlyWiki, a tool my kid would probably get into easily, but might be too plain for her. Jared Newman prefers TXT files synced with OneDrive. 

The funny thing is, back in the day I would've started with Google Notebook--an app that Google shut down in 2012. It was one of the easiest ways to take a note in your browser, since there was just a little notepad that lived at the bottom of your screen. When Google shut down Notebook, I had to export all my notes and bookmarks to Evernote.

And now the next generation is here and also needs a note-taking app, so what should we recommend to them?

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