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Quip 1.5 adds new features, but not the ones I want

I have written with interest about Quip, the social editor (see I want a social editor, but Quip isn’t there quite yet), so when I saw that there was a new version I went to take a look.

The new version is 1.5, and focuses on three new features in particular.

Importing Documents

Quip now imports documents from Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive, allowing Word documents of text files to be pulled in. This works on the web and iOS version, except for Google Drive which is only supported on the web at the moment. Likewise, local files can be dragged into Quip and converted.

I found that complex Word documents — specifically those with internal comments of the sort my editors add to indicate changes to be made — made documents non-importable, although I could sort of make it work with cut-and-paste, except images and other sophisticated elements were lost.

And a more fundamental issue: why import, but not sync? What would be most appealing to me would be to support a general capability for a/ converting documents to Quip format, b/ placing those documents in both the Quip and Dropbox storage (as one example), and c/ allowing sharing in both worlds.

My bet is that this is simply too complex to accomplish. First of all, Quip documents don’t exist outside of Quip, except as PDFs. There is no capability to convert a Quip document to Word, for example. It is a closed world.

It would seem natural to allow the conversion to something like Markdown, but even that isn’t supported.

I understand that Quip is intended to be a coediting experience, with coworkers sharing commentary about the contents and purpose of the documents, but I still would like to at least publish to the web in something other than PDF.

Inbox Filters

Apparently many users of Quip get overloaded by quips from their coeditors, and the tool’s designers have developed filters to decrease the overload. (I can’t find this on the Web version, actually.)

On iOS, this filter can be used to filter out comments and document updates that have already been seen.

2013-11-24 04.27.16

 

Focus Mode

Apparently the designers have provided a mechanism to view documents and work on them without seeing comments of coworkers, but I can’t find it on the web version or on my iPhone, so I presume that it only works on iPad. There is no mention of it in the help files, which is a classic headache for fst-miving start-ups that announce new features and then take weeks to modify descriptions in FAQs and help.

What I Wanted To See

Of course Quip is listening to the folks that are using their tool the most, which doesn’t include me. For me, it’s unworkable.

Markdown — Quip allows, styling of text, tables, hyperlinks, headers and so on, but only through a programmatic interface. For example, to make a paragraph a heading I select the paragraph handle on the right margin, and select a specific size of heading:

Screenshot 2013-11-24 04.41.44

 

It works in a limited fashion but is cumbersome. For example, users have to learn keystrokes for styling text: there are no menus for that.

I’d suggest they should allow two views of the doc, the WYSIWYG view that they already have, and a markdown view, using the well-known text markup language. Then power users could edit the document in a text mode, which is immensely easier.

This solves a number of issues, including a workable, universal export format for Quip documents, which today is limited to cut-and-paste into a rich-text file, manually.

Various Social Features — I still want a richer social experience, as I outlined in  I want a social editor, but Quip isn’t there quite yet, and I am still hopeful that we will start to get there. Note that one of the capabilities I want — attaching comments to specific sections of the text — could be tied to getting granualrity finer than the paragraph.

The Bottom Line

I see Quip as an interesting experiment, but one that has yet to hit the Minimum Viable Product for a full-time writer like me. For others who might be writing the equivalent of memos, Quip 1.5 may be sufficient, and could edge out lower-fidelity, asocial solutions like Dropbox and Textedit. However, if Dropbox and the other file sync-and-share apps continue on their rush toward competition with iCloud, Google Drive, and Office 365, Quip may be squeezed pretty hard, and lacking an export capability won’t be enough to hold onto the users they have gained.