JR Raphael

Google Keep or not to Keep? That is the question

March 20, 2013 7:13 PM EDT

Google KeepGoogle's stepping into the note-taking game with a new service called Google Keep. Announced late Wednesday, Keep adds a visual interface to Google Drive for memos, lists, and photo-based reminders.

Like everything in Google Drive, content stored in Google Keep is automatically synced and available on any connected device. A standalone Keep Android app lets you get at your stuff on the go, while the Keep website works (as you'd expect) from any desktop browser.

A lot of people seem excited to see Keep launch. Me? I have mixed emotions.

In the big picture, it feels a little strange that Google's launching a new supplementary service just days after announcing the death of Google Reader -- a death justified by the goal of achieving better focus within Google and preventing the company from becoming "spread too thin."

It feels even more strange when you consider the fact that a Keep-like service called Google Notebook existed and was killed off before -- a mere year and a half ago, at that. Given the context, it's hard not to wonder: Is Keep actually a long-term committed project? Or is it another random service we'll become invested in as users only to find on the Google "spring cleaning" list a few years later?

Broad misgivings aside, Keep does have a sleek Android interface, complete with excellent home and lock screen widgets. The integration with Google Drive is also a nice plus for anyone who uses Drive already.

But the service doesn't bring much new to the table -- and it lacks some basic features we've come to expect in note-taking utilities. Android Power TwitterAbsent, for instance, is the ability to organize notes with labels, tags, or folders. Also missing is a way to easily import existing notes from another service or even from Drive itself (short of manually cutting and pasting them in one at a time, of course, which isn't exactly a fun task).

All considered, I find myself asking why Keep is here -- and if it's something we can actually count on Google to keep around.