Mobile word processor Quip is all about sharing

An app designed to work best on mobile has taken cloud-based word processing and given it the sharing capabilities of Evernote.

An app designed to work best on mobile has taken cloud-based word processing and given it the sharing capabilities of Evernote.

(Credit: Quip)

Let's face it: word processing on a tablet still has a long way to go before it's up to desktop standard. Two internet giant veterans — former Facebook CTO Bret Taylor and former Google software engineer Kevin Gibbs — haven't exactly reinvented the wheel in terms of actual word processing, but they have created a word processing environment that is based on collaborative functionality.

Their app, Quip, is actually a thing of beauty; sleek, simple and with enough basic functions for creating a variety of documents, collaborating across multiple platforms: iOS, Android and desktop.

When you open it up for the first time, you'll notice straight away how bare bones it is. Aside from the keyboard, you have three buttons: one for formatting, indicated by a pilcrow; an "Insert" button for inserting external elements into your document; and a "Done" button that puts the keyboard away.

The formatting is minimal, too. When you tap on the pilcrow button, you get three options: Paragraph, Heading and List. There's only one font and font size, and headings are limited to three sizes. To change the formatting of any given paragraph, you tap anywhere in that paragraph and tap the corresponding formatting option, but those four are it; for bold, italics and underline, you double-tap a word to highlight it and select the relevant option from the box that appears. The List option allows you to create either a bulleted, numbered or checkbox list.

Finally, the "Insert" option allows you to add an image, table, link to another Quip document or folder, or person. That last is because word processing isn't really what the app is about. It's about the ability to work together.

The app has several features that facilitate this. You create an in-app contact list (pulled from your iOS contacts) and chat with them in-app, using a chat messenger built in to the app's desktop. You can share your documents or folders with any of these contacts using the contacts icon that appears in the top right of the screen, and together, you can edit them in real time — using the chat box to communicate, seeing each other's edits using a similar function to "track changes". You also get a push notification whenever there's a change in one of your documents.

Navigation is pretty simple, although the app could use an interactive tutorial for new users. However, because Quip seems to have been built on the idea of keeping things simple, it's pretty easy to figure out what everything is for by tapping around a little.

This is all fantastic, but there's still a few key features missing. For example, the app can only export documents as PDFs, and you cannot import other documents, although you can paste copied web content. There's also no option to easily duplicate documents, in case you want to preserve an earlier copy of a collaborative document — you'd have to copy and paste into an entirely new document. There is also, as far as we could tell, no "Undo" button, which we found vexing when we accidentally bolded a bunch of text and deselected it.

The app has also not included a "find and replace" feature, something that has been sorely lacking in iOS-based word processors since day one.

There's a lot to like about Quip: its clean interface, its well-integrated collaborative editing functions, its user friendliness. However, we get the feeling that there's still a little bit of work to be done on the "word processing" part. Until then, if you're looking for word processing and just word processing, your existing word processing app will possibly serve you better.

 

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