One of the main features of a smartphone is note taking. Previously, users had to rely on a notepad and pen to jot down random thoughts, ideas, and inspirations. With the advent of smartphones, apps like Google Keep, Dropbox Paper, and even voice note-taking apps are replacing good old paper.

Although all note-taking apps have a purpose, the way they work and the features they offer differ significantly. Take Google Keep for example. I moved my notes from Evernote to Google Keep because it's free, easy to use, offers only essential features (no clutter), and integrates deeply with other Google apps.

I recently started paying more attention to Dropbox Paper after a fellow tech blogger kept talking about it. Dropbox Paper is also free, integrates with Dropbox, offers rich formatting, and lets you view just about anything on the web.

Let's see how these two note-taking powerhouses differ from each other and what their target audience is. Which to use and why?

Let's start.

1. Create Notes

Google Keep helps you take notes quickly. So when you first open the app, you'll see the cursor right in the new note section. Start typing what you have in mind, label the note, color code it, and forget about it. There is no way to create folders.

Dropbox Paper vs. Google Keep 1

Dropbox Paper follows a hierarchical system where you can create folders and notes within it. Kind of like how Google Docs works. As such, it's not the fastest note-taking app, but does let you organize notes differently, and for some users, better.

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You can export notes created in Paper to PDF and Markdown. Many users will certainly appreciate this.

2. Formatting notes

Creating notes and jotting down ideas is one thing, but digital notes are so much more than that. Keep and Paper take a different approach here.

Keep has no formatting options. You cannot use bold, italics, or even indentation. Just enter a title, take notes, and add links or images. Notes can be of two types: with or without checkboxes. You cannot have paragraphs with boxes on the same note.

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On the other hand, Paper takes things to the next level. You can use formatting options like bold, italic, indent and add checkboxes in the same document. The newspaper calls them documents instead of notes and I understand why. They work as one too.

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But Paper's real strength, and where it leaves Keep behind, is its ability to work with many file types. You can add YouTube videos, live images and even entire galleries, snippets, live audio files from many platforms including SoundCloud, and much more.

Paper's ability to work seamlessly with so many services using the API makes it a powerhouse, more than just a note-taking app. All you have to do is copy and paste the link. You can embed just about anything and even use drag and drop to drag and display elements.

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Paper also provides free templates to work with. Each template has been designed to help you get started as quickly as possible with meetings or brainstorming ideas. You'll find tables, bullet points, checklists, main points, and more in each template, ready to fill out and expand on. An impressive feature is the ability to create custom templates using the Templateize option.

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Keep was never meant to be what Paper is. Its strength lies in its simplicity and deep integration with Google Drive. Google Docs will give you formatting options and a folder hierarchy system that we saw earlier in Paper. You can convert Google document to Keep note or vice versa with one click.

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Yes, that means using two apps instead of one. But you have the choice and more flexibility on which do you want to use and how. Although Google Docs is a powerful word processor with many formatting options, it cannot read live videos or other media files such as Paper.

Google Keep lets you colorize notes and add tags so you can find them faster using Google's robust search features.

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Other notable features of Paper include the ability to present any document as a slideshow using the Present option. Dropbox also remembers document history so all your previous edits can be found and managed efficiently. And you can use dark mode when presenting the document.

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Keep is smart when it comes to taking voice notes. You can easily record your thoughts and Keep will transcribe them into text and attach the audio file to the same note – very handy when you want to edit something. Paper does not have this feature.

3. Collaborate on Notes

Google Keep and Dropbox Paper will allow you to invite others to collaborate and add notes and documents respectively. The process is quite simple.

In Keep, click the Collaborator icon to send an email invitation using your Gmail ID. The person will then be able to view and modify notes. Useful for planning road trips, creating and managing shopping lists, and brainstorming ideas. When you check off an item in the list, Keep moves it down, which makes a lot of sense.

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In Dropbox Paper, click the blue Invite button to send email invitations. You'll notice there's another option at the bottom. You can directly share the document in a Slack channel. Another example of how Paper works with different business and enterprise solutions.

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You can also control permissions in Paper so that the guest can only comment and share or also edit. You can limit an invite to those who received the invite or anyone with a link.

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Paper supports comments on individual images, paragraphs, and other elements you may have in your document. Facilitates the assignment of tasks and the call of collaborators in real time.

4. Integration

I'm not talking about integration with third-party apps. Dropbox Paper has already won this round. For some odd reason, Paper doesn't integrate directly with Dropbox. Yes, Paper's folder structure will be separate from Dropbox's, meaning your files and documents (notes) will have different locations.

To note:

I am talking here about documents and folder structure.

Google has decided to do the same with Keep and although Keep works with all Google apps such as Docs, Slides, etc., it is a separate product and not part of Google Drive.

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Keep and Paper work with Google Calendar. Additionally, Paper also works with the Office 365 calendar.

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Google Keep will let you create reminders based on time or location. Location-based reminder is useful if you have trouble remembering errands that need your attention when you pass by a specific location like a gas station or ATM.

Dropbox Paper vs. Google Keep

If you're looking for a quick note-taking app that's compatible with Google apps, Google Keep is pretty powerful. If you want an enterprise-like solution where you'll be working with multiple collaborators on projects and apps, Dropbox Paper is a better fit.

Paper's ability to integrate and play with so many third-party apps earns it brownie points. The real question is – Which one are you going to use? Maybe try both.

Next: do you use Google Keep? Want to create a nested list in a note? Here's a quick and easy way to do it.