Keep Is A Keeper

Good Options

What do an elephant and a light bulb have in common? They’re both logos for jotting down your thoughts to help you remember or process them later. There’s much good to say about writing notes by hand, but if you’re into digital note-taking, then there are several good options to talk about. The one I wanna focus on is Google Keep (the light bulb!), because as much as I like Evernote (the elephant!), I keep coming back to Keep (you know I had to do that).


Weighing The Two

Last year when I ditched my iPad and switched to Chromebook, I upended my workflow. I had used Apple Notes and Ulysses to write all my “stuffs.” Both were great, but they were pretty much Apple-only. And when you go Chrome, you’re going Google

The first obvious new choice for my notes was Google Keep. But its differences from most digital notes apps made the transition uncomfortable. Or maybe not noteworthy. So, for journaling, I ended up settling with Journey. And for the rest of my note-taking, I landed on Evernote. I was so enamored with Evernote, I blogged about it!

After the shiny newness of Evernote wore off, I began to encounter some challenges. First, as I wrote my draft of a Novella for NaNoWriMo, I had quite a bit of frustration with simply typing into the Evernote web app. The cursor would jump randomly and inexplicably to the top of the page or seem to disappear for a moment. My flow of writing would derail. After this happened across many days, my confidence in Evernote’s reliability was shaken.

The other thing about Evernote that trips me up are the multiple interfaces. The web interface has three possible setups: an old one, a new “Classic Editor” one, and a beta version of that. Then there’s the Android app sprawled out on my Chromebook. Finally, there’s the iPhone app version. Not only do they look quite different from one another, they do not have feature parity! One version will have “word count,” for example, but another won’t. So I had trouble sticking to one version.

Over several months of using Evernote, Google Keep was ever present on my Chromebook and iPhone. For certain types of notes, Keep works best. Mostly, it excels at short temporary notes like digital Post-It notes. Also checkbox lists! That makes Keep sticky. It’s simplicity gives it utility. So I kind of ended up using Keep and Evernote, plus Journey, to record my thoughts. Of course, I also use Google Docs for blog drafts. This spread of apps and services is a bit much.

I don’t know if it’s Keep’s simplicity or something else; somehow I kept getting drawn to it. Weird? Maybe. But true. Keep’s simple interface is totally consistent across my iPhone and Chromebook: web app, iOS app, Android app. And although Keep is simple, it has some super handy and powerful features. But maybe the biggest advantage it employs is its omnipresence – its integration into Google’s other apps.

When in Google Calendar, or Gmail, or Docs, you will also find Keep. Off to the right side, in a consistent and persistent slide out column, Google Keep’s notes appear. You can read or copy text from them and vice versa. One surprising ability lets you save an email from Gmail into a Keep note as an attachment. One more great feature lets you automatically turn your Keep notes into Google Docs. Like I said, super useful stuff!

So I found myself at a strange yet not surprising switch on the track. Stay on the Evernote train, or go all aboard the Keep locomotive. Using both is simply too much for me. I need simpler. And while Google is notorious for killing off some of its products or services, I believe Keep has proven to be an indispensable part of Google’s platform and is here for the long haul.


Pick One

The Evernote app is still on my iPhone and Chromebook. But I’ve slowly started to transition fully to keeping all my notes in Keep. But it’s hard to let Evernote go because it still has many strengths. Yet this is what I do. I try different techy things, I rely on some for a long time, then I switch things up, keep things fresh. For now, Keep is a keeper.


Do you switch things up, or have you stuck with one tech solution for many years? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Journey To A Journal

Destination Journal

If you do a little Googling, you’ll find a lot of sites that cover the benefits of keeping a journal. In sum, journaling’s good! Besides my blog, which is sort of a public journal, I’ve written in a private journal for years. I’ve always used different note-taking apps, and I’ve tried a few dedicated journaling apps. Now I’m trying out one that’s new to me: Journey.


Journey Is The Destination

Somehow, Journey had slipped under my radar. I found it by searching the Google Play Store for journaling apps. Since I rely on a Chromebook, I wanted an option that worked in a web browser in addition to using an Android app. Journey covers those bases, plus there’s an iOS app for Apple’s mobile devices.

So Journey is a cross-platform app made by a third-party, meaning it’s not an Apple, Google, or Microsoft product. That said, it utilizes Google Drive for all its backup and cloud sync tasks, so it should be dependable. The advantage of using a third-party service is that it works on all the major tech-ecosystems and isn’t trapped inside a walled-garden.

For me, that means switching between an iPhone, a Chromebook, or a Windows PC won’t be a problem. There’s no need to migrate all my journal entries from one app to another; I just log-in to Journey and get all my stuff! I could have my iPhone in my left pants pocket and an Android phone in my right (because I’m a nerd-geek like that); my journals would be in sync just the same.


Pros and Cons

My first impression of Journey is that it’s a lot like the Day One app (a highly acclaimed journal app made for Apple devices, now also on Android), even using almost the same shade of blue. It’s got your main section that shows all your entries in chrono-order (Timeline), newest at the top. There’s also a calendar view, typical in many journal apps, that shows which days of the month have entries.

You can also view journal pages by photos and by location. Finally, there’s a section called, “Today.” There you can view overall stats for your journaling, like how many entries you’ve made, how often you journal, and what your average mood is over time. It even shows you what entries most reflect your various moods.

This section also offers more (journal coaching, entry prompts, fitness tracking…) if you upgrade to one of the paid versions. There are a few coaching prompts in the free version, which is the one I’m trying now. In fact, it is not even ad-supported. There are zero ads in the app, except for the repeated nudges throughout, which remind you that there’s more offered if you buy or subscribe. So far, those elegant “ads” have not been nagging; time will tell if they wear me down.


There’s a lot to like with Journey. I’ve been trying it in three places: iPhone app, Android app on my Chromebook, and the web version in the Chrome browser. And I’ve encountered zero sync issues. All my entries made on each interface appear everywhere without fail.

The look-and-feel of the smartphone apps is consistent and pleasant to use. You can ‘tag’ and ‘favorite’ entries (still in the free version) for easier searching later. And despite there being a lot of features, the app isn’t cluttered or convoluted. Journey is simple, neat, and easy.

I’m finding that the more I use Journey, the more I like it! I didn’t think the calendar feature would really be important to me. But now with several days of usage, I can easily see my journaling streak visualized!

After depending on note-taking apps for years to do my journaling, at first I found it hard to get into Journey. I was not comfortable with the idea of using yet another app to do what I have always done. But I have found that Journey’s singular focus on journaling has allowed me to quickly and easily jump into the app and let my thoughts flow. The date and time is automatically recorded and displayed prominently. I can even back-date journal entries in the free version!

Then after more use, I found something really cool about Journey that I never had in my note-taking apps. When viewing an entry, you can swipe the page left or right to see the adjacent day’s entry, which also shows the tag, weather for that day, and your mood. I love it! I can thumb through my journal like a physical journal and casually browse my thoughts over time!


Of course, nothing is perfect. Journey is an ideal app yet with one minor drawback. The web version is functional, but it does not have feature parity with the phone apps. The only section available is the overall list view (Timeline) with all your entries ordered by date. At first, I felt this was a limitation. But it’s grown on me already because it looks and feels a lot like a social-feed (for better or worse).

At the top of the web site for Journey, there’s a big box for entering text with a formatting bar and all the features you need, although a few seem to be missing, like the ‘favorite’ option. It’s easy to type what’s on your mind and also easy to go back and edit in-place.

The online version has a web-chat feature that lets you talk with the friendly people at Journey to get help. I had some initial questions and they were answered via the chat. Nice! The journey folks have also emailed me helpful tidbits, including the chat transcript with follow-up links to help resolve my queries. Impressive!


Happy Journaling

Overall, Journey is proving to be a robust and reliable journaling service that’s very inviting to use. It’s got some kind of ineffable zen mojo thing going on.

It will take more time to decide whether or not I want to stick to a dedicated journaling app. My tried and true method has always been to use a note-taking app like OneNote or Apple Notes. As of now, I’m checking out Evernote as another alternative for journaling.

And as for other dedicated cross-platform journal apps, there is also Penzu. I tried it a few times in the past week. It is nice, interesting, and full of useful features. But it’s free version is limited compared to Journey. And overall, I like Journey better because of the way it’s laid out. Penzu tries a bit too much to replicate a physical journal. It’s a preference.

If you want or need a place to keep your private reflections, I say give Journey a try. It’s a good destination to help you along life’s journey.


Do you journal? What is your go-to place to write your mind’s musings? Chat below, or write me here! Thanks for reading!