How to use Google Keep for web research

When it comes to fast, informal online research, the Google Keep Chrome extension could be the ticket. Just save a link—along with a label and note—then export your Keep notes to Google Docs.

Photo of Chromebook, with Google Keep Chrome Extension having just been selected on the TechRepublic.com home page, with a note open and text entered "Useful to save links with your notes and labels, then export to a Google Doc."

Photo: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Informal web research, whether for professional or personal purposes, often involves a small set of repeated tasks: a web search followed by a review of the results, saving of relevant links—often with notes—and then sharing your findings and thoughts. As a technology consultant, I repeat this process every time a client seeks advice as to what hardware or software to buy. The sequence is similar for students who gather web resources for academic reports or travelers who seek sites to visit and places to stay or eat: Search, review, save and share.

Three Google tools—Chrome, Google Keep and Google Docs—streamline the web research process. The Google Keep Chrome extension, specifically, lets you save, annotate and categorize web links, then export a selected set of saved Google Keep notes to a Google Doc. In my experience, the Keep extension eliminates the need to select a site's URL, copy it, paste it into a document, add a note, then return to browse additional search results.

To streamline the whole process, make sure you have Chrome installed and are signed in with your Google account. The steps below cover how to install the Keep extension (a one-time process) as well as the routine research sequence.

SEE: How to quickly add to Google Keep from Chrome (TechRepublic)

How to install the Google Keep Chrome extension

First, go to the Google Keep Chrome extension page, then select Add To Chrome (Figure A, top). When the prompt displays, select Add Extension (Figure A, bottom). This adds the extension to Chrome. 

Figure A

Screenshots that show the Google Keep Chrome Extension web page (top) with Add to Chrome circled, and (bottom) the Prompt that seeks confirmation ("Add extension").

Install the Google Keep Chrome Extension, as shown here. First, select Add To Chrome (top), then select Add Extension (bottom).

Next, I recommend you pin the Google Keep extension, so that you may access it without having to review the list of all installed extensions. To do this, select the Chrome extension icon (the puzzle-piece shaped icon in the upper right), then select the pin icon to the right of the Google Keep extension (Figure B, left). The Keep icon should now display in the area to the left of the extension icon (Figure B, right).

Figure B

Screenshot that shows the Extension menu with the Keep extension pin circled (left) and the Keep icon then displayed (right).

To always display the Keep extension, select the extension icon (left image: arrow), then the pin next to the Google Keep Chrome Extension (left image: circle). This displays the Keep extension (right image).

Web research: Search, review, annotate, label and save

As you search and browse the web, anytime you want to save a web link, select the Keep extension. This automatically captures the URL for the page, creates a Keep note with the link, and places the cursor in the Keep Note field (Figure C). Add any relevant text in the note (e.g., why this link is relevant, important items about the page or any commentary on the contents). Optionally, you may add a title to your note.

Figure C

Screenshot that shows the Keep extension selected on an HP printer detail page, with the link in the top portion of the note, text added by the author in the note "About $650, but not currently in stock" and a title also typed in, "HP Color LaserJet Pro". Two labels added: All-in-one and Printers.

Select the Keep extension to create a note with the link to the web page. Optionally, you may add text, labels, and a note title.

You can use labels to categorize Keep notes. Select the label icon, then either type text to create a new label or select a previously added label from the list that displays. You may apply more than one label to a Keep note (e.g., for printer research, I might apply not only a "printers" label, but also an "all-in-one" label for devices with a scanner).

SEE: How to use Google Meet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

On every web page you want to save, repeat the process: Select the Keep icon and add text and labels.

Go to keep.google.com to review your saved links and notes. Select from the list of labels (displayed on the left) to filter your Keep notes and only display those with the selected label (Figure D).

Figure D

Screenshot that shows Printers label selected at keep.google.com, with two of three notes selected.

At keep.google.com on the web, select a label to show only notes with that label.

You can export a set of Keep notes into a single Google Doc. There are several ways to filter and select notes. Select a label (along the left) to display all notes with that label. Press Ctrl+A to select all displayed notes. Or, move the cursor over a note, then click near the circle with a check mark in it (in the upper-left section of each note) to select or deselect it.

Once you have selected the set of Keep notes to export, select the More menu (the three-vertical dot menu in the upper right) and choose Copy To Google Docs (Figure E). Choose Open Doc (in the lower left, as shown in Figure F) to display the Google Doc created from your selected Keep notes. At this point, your Google Doc contains the links, notes and titles from your selected Google Keep notes (Figure G). Now you can edit your Google Doc and publish (File | Publish) to the web or share it (File | Share) with other people.

Figure E

Screenshot with the Copy to Google Docs menu item displayed and an arrow pointing to the option.

After you have chosen notes to export, select the More menu (three vertical dots in the upper right), then Copy To Google Docs.

Figure F

Screenshot that shows the "Copied to Google Docs" message (lower left of the screen) with an arrow pointing to the Open Doc link.

Select Open Doc to access the Google Doc created from your selected Keep notes.

Figure G

Screenshot shows four URLs to printer-related pages, with text notes added by the author to three of the web pages, and one note title added.

The resulting Google Doc includes complete URL details and links from the saved Keep notes, along with any text and titles you added.

What's your experience with Google Keep notes for web research?

Do you use the Google Keep Chrome extension to save web links? If you've used other methods to save, annotate and export links, how does the combination of Keep notes exported to Google Docs compare? Do you have any tips for creating and using labels to organize Keep notes? Let me know your tips for conducting and organizing informal web research, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber). 

Also see