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Dropbox Launches ‘Paper’ Beta to Collaborate on Documents

Earlier today, Dropbox unveiled Paper, an evolution (and a not so creatively named one) of the Dropbox Notes beta announced in April. Dropbox Paper sounds like a Google Docs and Quip-like product where you can create rich documents and collaborate with others in real-time.

David Pierce explains at Wired:

Paper feels like a cross between Google Docs and Medium. It’s an ultra-minimal text editor—every new document offers space for a title and a body, and nothing else to look at. You go to (which right now won’t get you anywhere unless you’re in the beta), and just start typing.

There’s some basic formatting in the document—you can write in Markdown, or use sub-heds and bold text. But that’s all obscured, in the hope you’ll turn off your internal font freak and just start typing. You can add images, too, dragging and dropping them around the page or making one full-bleed on the page with a single click. If you write lines of code, it’ll automatically format and style them as code. Or create a to-do list, and assign tasks to other people by @-mentioning them in the document. Or paste a Dropbox-stored file in, and it’ll automatically be available to everyone shared on your Paper document.

I’m curious to see what Dropbox does here. The company is diversifying their offer now that cloud storage has become a feature, and they’re working on a mobile app to access Paper natively from iOS (right now, it’s web-only). Unlike Google, Dropbox gets iOS design and conventions, and they’re usually quick in adopting new iOS technologies every year (Google Docs still doesn’t support iPad multitasking on iOS 9).

The closest service that comes to mind when looking at Paper is Quip (which was also in the news today), but Dropbox has the advantage of building on an existing foundation of collaboration, files, email, and search. On the other hand, I don’t want to see Dropbox losing focus in trying to understand what’s next for them with too many experiments and semi-abandoned initiatives. I’ll be keeping an eye on this.

Side note: if you receive a link to a Dropbox Paper document right now, it’ll open with a Universal Link in the Dropbox app inside a web view. It works okay, but there needs to be a native app for this soon.