02 April 2013

the castle in the clouds

For the last week or so, the big Google flap on the net has been about how they announced they were ditching Reader and introducing Keep practically in the same press release. Of the several Keep reviews I've read, almost all the feedback boils down to "It's not Evernote" and "How can you trust them if they discontinue everything in three to five years?"

The answer to the first question is, meaning it in the nicest possible way, "So what?". If Evernote is better for you, then use it. It has an excellent track record and I know a lot of people who use it and love it. Go for it.

Personally, I've never started using it, because they don't have a Linux version. I could use it on my phone, but the whole "notes in the cloud" advantage would be mostly lost on me.

The answer to the second question is, "Who keeps notes for three to five years?". As much as discontinuing Reader (and Note, and other apps) sucks, at least Google gives you ample warning. Besides, they do have decent methods to export all of your data from all of their services.

For the novel I'm writing now, I needed a way to get between my phone and my laptop without it being too cumbersome. I do not trust the cloud as a permanent or solo work/storage space, but I acknowledge it does have its advantages, especially if you're using more than one device for a single project.

The spreadsheet and word processing files are primarily worked on in Google Drive (more on that in next week's post), but I needed an easy way to get my note jottings from one place to another easily. Most of my notes are taken on my phone, but the spreadsheet and word processing work is being done on a couple of different devices. I needed a way to jot something down and then delete it quickly when I was done with it.

Google Note is available as a free app for phones, but on a regular computer you can access it via a web site (Google says eventually they'll integrate it with Drive). So on my phone, my current Keep page looks like this:
But on the web it looks like this:
Notice the blue note called Scene Post-Its is blank. That's because I'm just using it as a clipboard between devices — anything that gets written up in S Note on my phone is most easily transferred by pasting it into a Keep note.

Right, S Note, Samsung's native note-taking app. If I've got Keep, then why am I using S Note at all? Two reasons:
  1. I spend a lot of time in mobile data dead zones, like subways and underground places. That might sound strange, but if you know Toronto, you'll know a lot of the city is underground — one way of mitigating Canadian winters and Toronto traffic snarls. There's some mobile support, but it depends on who your provider is and where you physically are. Keep doesn't work offline.
  2. If I'm in a public situation where people might be looking over my shoulder, I will write my note in the Elder Futhark rather than get shoulder-surfed. Why? Because I spend a lot of time amongst people who think writing fiction is weird (even though they know I do it), and I don't want to get quizzed and/or concern trolled every time I realise the antagonist ought to be doing such-and-such in a given scene. Even if people can read runes, it's slower to digest than a regular alphabet because everything is always in the equivalent of all caps. I can type it out in standard English text once I get somewhere private.
Having said all that, one of the nice things about the Keep app is that it comes with a widget. I've set things up so that the Keep launcher is right under the widget:
 The widget only lets you create new lists, so this seemed like the best configuration.

Overall I like Keep. It does what it does and nothing else. I know there's a heap of features people are complaining it doesn't have and that Evernote does have, but since I've never used Evernote I don't miss them. For ephemeral notes it does just fine.


  1. I could probably use Keep w/o too many issues, although I'm slowly expanding my use of Evernote as time goes on and I might start chafing later. Evernote does have a web client, the same way you use Keep on the desktop. I made a (mental) note of that in my "if I ever have to migrate to Linux in a hurry" list. You can also type into the phone client without a signal; it'll sync up when the phone finds a connection (probably works for Keep, too).

    The phone Keep app reminds me of a WP8 display. :-)

  2. I use Evernote a fair bit but I don't have your issues with mobile connectivity. Plus it's handy for me to look up books online using my uni library's catalogue, put their codes in Evernote, then go straight to them when I get to the uni, instead of having to find a computer that works to use their catalogue. At least if I want to write while I'm out in public, I can then just access it at home and copy and paste into Word.

    As for a Reader replacement, I've been looking into Feedly...


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