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If you don’t already know it, Google Keep is the company’s intuitive, colorful, cross-platform note-taking app. But look beyond the bright rectangles and you’ll find plenty of useful functionality that can do a lot more than setting reminders or serving as a collaboration tool. 

We have a couple of tips to make the most of it.

1. Share notes

You don’t have to keep notes to yourself: you can share them with other people too, which is handy for making shopping lists or doing some vacation planning. When you’re creating or editing a note on the web, click the collaborator button (it’s a small figure with a plus icon on top of it) and enter the email addresses of the people you want to give access to.

[Related: Google integrated its other apps into Gmail. Here’s how to best use them.]

The collaborator button doesn’t show up when you’re creating or editing notes on mobile, so you need to tap the three dots (lower right) to find the option. Collaborators will have full access to the note and will be able to change its contents, color, and everything else you can edit as the note creator.

2. Change backgrounds

Color-coding your notes is a useful way of bringing some order to your Google Keep experience. But there’s also the option of adding background images to those notes you really want to stand out.

Tap the background options button (it looks like a painter’s palette), and alongside the standard choice of pastel colors you can also pick from nine images, each designed to fit a particular theme, like recipes or music.

3. Convert notes

Sometimes a Google Keep note just isn’t enough to hold all of your ideas—or maybe you just want to be able to format the text as you enter it. For these and other situations, you can convert a note into a full Google Docs document ready for editing in Google Drive. This will automatically create a copy, so you’ll still have your original note in place.

On the web, you can click the three dots at the bottom of a note then choose Copy to Google Docs. On mobile, you have to press and hold on the note on the main view, then tap the three dots (top right), then select Copy to Google Docs. Note that background colors or images aren’t copied over.

It’s also possible to drag and drop notes into an existing Google Doc. Open the document on the web, and then open the Google apps sidebar by clicking the small arrow in the bottom right corner of the interface. Click the Google Keep icon to see your notes, and you can drag and drop them right in.

Google Keep can set reminders as well as take notes. On mobile or the web, click or tap the Remind me button (which looks like a bell icon with a plus symbol inside it) next to any note, and you’ll be able to attach a reminder to it.

You can set a specific date and time for your reminder, or you can set it off based on your location. That means Google Keep will ping you when your phone or laptop reaches the specified location.

5. Nest items

Your lists can be a little more sophisticated than you might have realized because Google Keep allows you to nest items underneath each other. One of the advantages of doing this is that when you check the top item, all the items nested underneath it get checked off as well.

To nest an item on the web, click and drag it via the six-dot handle just to its left, then drop it on top of another item and slightly to the right to create a nested list. In the mobile app, swipe any list item to the right and it will indent and nest under the item on top of it.

6. Add labels

Labels are a really useful way of keeping your notes organized, especially as you add more and more notes over time. You’ll be able to click or tap on one to see all matching notes and search for specific topics. 

[Related: Seven apps and tools to help organize your life]

On the web, tap the three dots at the bottom of a note then Add label to do just that. On mobile, tap the three dots then Labels. Google Keep will put your labels on the left-hand sidebar for easy access, and you’ll be able to edit them directly from there. To do this on mobile, tap the menu button (three horizontal lines in the top left-hand corner) to display the sidebar.

7. Create doodles

Don’t neglect the doodle option—it’ll allow you to create a new note with a drawing, or append an artsy take to an existing note. Click the three dots next to a note on the web or tap the plus button in the lower-left corner of a note on mobile to get to the drawing option, which looks like a paintbrush.

You’ve got a variety of brushes and pens to pick from, plus a selection of different colors. Even better, assuming your handwriting is neat enough, Google Keep can scan any handwritten text included in your drawings so you can search your doodled notes for specific terms.

Correction January 28, 2022: An earlier version of this story said you could not nest items in the mobile app. You can.

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