Dropbox announced Dropbox Paper in 2015 and launched in 2017 as a new way to organize and collaborate with team members anywhere in the world. Basically, he wanted a piece of the web collaboration pie that was mostly held hostage by Google Drive and Office 365.
For Dropbox Paper, it has been a long and winding journey in a short period of time. What is Dropbox Paper and did it hold up to the competition, or crashed and burned under the weight of its own hype?
What is Dropbox Paper?
Dropbox Paper is a drag-and-drop co-authoring service. It is an incredibly flexible solution that allows groups of all sizes to come together to create, analyze, adjust, manage and organize creative ideas. Think of it as a giant virtual board that all team members can interact with at the same time.
It has been praised for its collaborative functionality, including task assignments, comments and revision history, as well as support for media integration. The product doesn’t seem to crash because it lacks formatting options and editing functionality.
Paper was recently integrated into Dropbox itself, no longer considering it a separate service. This means you need a Dropbox account to use Paper. However, anyone currently using Paper will save any documents they create, only now they will appear in Dropbox in .paper format.
Dropbox vs competitors
Compared to Google Docs
“When you come for the king, you better not miss.” This phrase seems too appropriate when adding Dropbox Paper to Google Docs. In this comparison, Peiper should have spent more time at the range.
In all fairness, direct comparison shouldn’t be a discussion. Apart from working together, in many ways they are not even similar. Google Docs is a styling and editing tool for word processing, while Paper is something more akin to note-taking collaboration software.
If anything, Dropbox Paper seems to mimic Evernote and Microsoft OneNote in a lot more than anything you’ll find on Google Drive.
Compared to Evernote
Evernote has always been and should be a note-taking tool. You think over an idea, and Evernote gives you the ability to write it down and save it for later. You can then categorize these notes using tags for organizational purposes.
Dropbox works a little differently. Saved documents are stored in folders. This is one of the similarities with Google Docs and Microsoft. This system allows you to create as many folders in folders as you need. A significant improvement over the limited capabilities of Evernote.
Both options provide basic text formatting (bold, italic, bullets, and so on). Some points Evernote earns for being able to support image editing through Skitch. Paper also requires a third-party editing service, but does not directly support it, which means you choose the search options yourself.
Both services have similar exchange methods. Paper uses an Invite button, while Evernote has a Share button. Both allow you to control who can edit and view.
When it comes to collaboration, Paper stands out the most. This allows you to draw attention to a specific note using @mention. You can then create to-do lists and assign individual tasks to different members of your team.
Both are great, but Evernote was never designed to be collaborative. While their teams share a common vision, Paper is a winner in this regard.
Compared to Microsoft OneNote
OneNote lets you create notebooks. Each notebook has sections for creating text, sound and graphic notes. You can also use tags to organize the same notes across all your notebooks. Paper, as said, uses a folder system.
OneNote crushes Paper in the formatting department with a ribbon interface not unlike Google Docs. With Paper, all you get is a minimalistic, handicapped popup. This is said to help keep the UI uncluttered and more accessible, but a few more options can be added.
The sharing capabilities of Paper are superior to OneNote, but not by much. OneNote uses a similar format for exchanging documents, but doesn’t have advanced options like permissions. This means that anyone who receives your link can edit your document with impunity. It’s best to leave the document open to only a few email addresses to avoid this kind of trouble.
OneNote has many quirky features not commonly found in note-taking apps. It can perform simple math equations, has a built-in thesaurus and language translation tool, and allows you to convert and send notes in PDF and Word formats. It also comes with advanced OCR features to turn scanned images into sticky notes.
This is not in paper. However, Paper is still better suited for collaboration. OneNote is the best option for a digital notebook that has deep integration with the Microsoft Office Suite.
Who is using Dropbox Paper?
Creators, contributors, and presenters can benefit from Dropbox Paper, albeit in small numbers. It looks like an endless sheet of white paper and provides a great workspace for brainstorming and embedding various forms of media, including Trello, YouTube, Spotify, and Vimeo.
You can not only add media files, but also make them interactive. This means you can use Dropbox Paper to create lesson plans for students or video and audio presentations for employees, and share a copy with everyone.
One of the best things about Paper compared to the competition is the block checklists. This feature allows you to create tasks, assign them to participants, set a due date, and mark them as completed. This can be a bit of an awkward feature, as tasks are only shown to those to whom they were assigned, even though everyone can see the due date.
You can add Trello cards to Paper, which will update in the doc as they update in Trello. Any organization currently using this service may find it more beneficial than a checklist box.
All in all, Dropbox Paper is a decent alternative to most note taking services, but there are still ways to compete with the likes of Google.