Hide and secure notes in Microsoft OneNote and Google Keep

If you lend someone your phone, if only for a minute to do something, what could they see if they opened your notes app? Let’s see how to secure notes in the OneNote and Keep notes apps.

Your phone is probably locked with a PIN, password, fingerprint or face, and this makes it tough for anyone to access, so information stored in your Microsoft OneNote or Google Keep app are secure right? Well, maybe. Sometimes when we are with a group of friends, we put our phone down and someone could pick it up, perhaps to post a joke or photo on social media. While doing so, they might be tempted to take a peek at other apps on your phone.

Sometimes we lend our phone to a friend “I’ve no minutes/data left, can I borrow your phone to make a call?” Sometimes we give our phone to our kids to play with to keep them quiet while we do something else.

You may lend your phone to a partner or they may know your PIN. Could they be tempted to look at your notes app? Maybe. There is also what your notes app developer can see – are your notes accessible online, such as by Microsoft, Google or whoever the notes app is from?

For various reasons, you might want to keep some notes private and not have them easily accessible to someone you lend your phone to

Secure notes in OneNote

I will be using an Android phone here, but the OneNote and Keep apps are both available for iPhones as well. The work pretty much the same way.

1 Create a OneNote notebook

Open a OneNote notebook on a phone.
Open a OneNote notebook

To hide notes in OneNote, open the app on your phone. If a notebook does not automatically appear, select the Notebooks tab and then open your OneNote notebook by tapping it.

2 OneNote sections for notes

Microsoft OneNote on an Android phone showing the sections.
OneNote stores notes in sections

You can make any or all OneNote sections places where you can store secure notes and you can see in the screenshot that I already have one secure section called Locked – it has a padlock on the right. I will add another secure notes section so you can see the process. Press + Section.

3 Create a section for secure notes

Create a new section for secure notes in Microsoft OneOne on an Android phone.
Create a new section and name it

You don’t have to create a new section and existing ones can be secured. However, It is useful to create a new one just for private notes.

On the Sections screen, tap the + Section button to create a new section. This will be a place where we can store secure notes notes. Enter a name for this section. It can be anything you like and I will call mine Private.

4 OneNote section menu options

The section menu in OneNote.
Open the section menu in OneNote

Press and hold on the the name of the section you just created and then tap it to select it. Now press the three dots button in the top right corner to open the section menu.

Press Protect section on this menu. There can be any number of protected sections and the padlock to the right of Notes in the screenshot above shows another protected section I have.

5 Password protect OneNote sections

Add a password to a OneNote section to secure it.
Secure notes in this OneNote section with a password.

Enter a password for the protected section, and enter it again to confirm it. There is no way to get into a protected section if you ever forget the password, so write it down, save it in a password manager, keep it safe! Lose your password and you will lose the notes stored in this section.

6 Unlock a OneNote section and notes

Use a fingerprint to unlock OneNote notes.
Add the option to unlock OneNote notes with a fingerprint

Locked OneNote sections are just like any normal section, except when you try to access them, you are asked to enter the password to unlock them. It is just one extra step to get to your notes.

When a section is unlocked, there is an option to unlock it with a fingerprint for face ID the next time, which makes it a whole lot easier. This is a phone function, not a OneNote function. If you have set up your phone to unlock with a fingerprint or face, then it can be used in OneOnote.

If you have not set up fingerprint or face recognition on your phone, go and set them up in your phone’s Settings app in the lock screen or security section.

7 Lock notes, change or remove password

OneNote menu for locked notes on an Android phone.
The OneNote menu for locked notes

On the sections screen in OneNote, press and hold on a section and then select a section notes section, indicated by a padlock. If you just followed this guide and created a new secure notes section, it will be unlocked. Press the three dots in the top right corner to open the menu and then press Lock All to lock all notes.

Select a secure notes section and there are options to remove the password and make it a regular unprotected section or to change the password. Whatever you do, don’t forget the password.

Hide Google Keep notes

Google Keep does not allow you to protect notes with passwords or fingerprints and anyone that gets their hands on your phone can open the Keep app and see your notes. It really needs some way to protect notes.

The only option available to you is to hide notes you don’t want people to see to the Archive. This takes them off the home screen, so they are not immediately visible. Notes can be placed somewhere else less obvious, but without security, which is a limitation of Keep.

1 Archive Google Keep notes

Google Keep notes menu on an Android phone.
Select a note and open the menu in Keep

There are no security options in Google Keep and anyone can view your notes. However, if you want to hide a particular note from the notes home screen, press and hold on it and then press the three dots in the top right corner to open the menu.

In the screenshot you can see I want to hide my bank details stored in a note. Press Archive in the menu and the note disappears from the Keep home screen and so it is not right in front of anyone tempted to look at your notes.

2 Google Keep sidebar menu

Google Keep Android app sidebar menu.
Open the Google Keep sidebar

To view archived notes, ones you don’t want people to see, tap the hamburger button in the top left corner of the Google Keep home screen and press Archive on the sidebar menu that appears.

3 View Google Keep archived notes

Archived notes, text and images, are displayed and they can be browsed, opened, deleted and so on, just like regular notes. This is the weakest and worst security ever, but at least private information is not right in front of someone’s eyes if they open Google Keep on your phone.

Google Keep archived notes on an Android phone.
View archived notes or unarchive them in Keep.

If you want to move a note back to the Keep home screen, press and hold on a note to select it and then press the three dots in the top right corner to open the menu. Press Unarchive.