Quip (which we recently wrote about in our Startups section) is billed as a “modern word processor that enables you to create beautiful documents on any device.” However, from what we've experienced in our testing of the product, it doesn't quite live up to that lofty statement.
The free iPad app does let users create collaborative, editable documents on Apple's slate (or via an iPhone or web browser), but it lacks numerous features that one associates with a word processor, as well as basic saving and sharing abilities.
Quip takes you to its home screen – ironically referred to as the "desktop" – after logging in with your Google credentials. Despite tapping the Big G as a login, Quip doesn't sync with Google Drive.
The desktop is divided into two sections: A left-aligned column that gives you fast access to documents, and the main area that houses folders. A few sample documents and folders are included so that you can play with the app a bit before leaping in wholeheartedly. In fact, the "Introduction to Quip" document is one you should eyeball right away to learn about the app's feature set.
Tapping the "+" icon in the lower-right corner opens a blank page so that you can begin working. Quip's interface is clutter-free, but there's a reason for that – a dearth of features. The style menu (which is part of the virtual keyboard) lets you tweak the heading size, create bulleted lists, insert images, add a table, and create links to another document or folder. The default font is very legible, but you can't change its size or text colour. Google Drive for iPad, on the other hand, lets you change the font size, text colour, and background colour – features that Quip lacks. That's not all that Quip lacks – there’s no word count, grammar check, and other traditional word processing features are M.I.A.
Quip also lets you leave messages for others within the document using the "@" symbol, which assists in the collaboration process. And, frankly, collaboration is the one area where this app truly shines.
It takes two (or more) to tango
As you add messages, words, tables, and images to your document, Quip's excellent Inbox – and saving grace – becomes populated with your changes, too. Think of Inbox as one part instant messenger and one part track changes. When two of my colleagues, Max Eddy and Will Greenwald, tweaked my Terminator/The Matrix fan fiction by adding transforming robots and magical ponies via the browser-based Quip, I could see their text being added in real time. Very cool.
Quip even posts the time when the text was added, the platform (web, tablet), and highlights new text (green) and deleted text (red). Quip does a good job of letting users know when and where changes occurred.
Keeping an eye on Inbox instead of the actual document page yields another advantage: Inbox sometimes updates faster than the document itself. On more than one occasion I would see Max and Will's changes in Inbox several seconds before they appeared on the page. That's not a huge issue, but it should be noted. You can also leave Inbox messages for the other document editors (such as my "needs more ninjas" suggestion) and this helps to make collaboration a breeze. Documents and folders, thankfully, are set to private by default.
You cannot, however, save a document to the iPad or iCloud. If you want to do that, you must fire up the browser-based Quip that lets users print documents or save them to their PC’s hard drive as a PDF file. Yup, it lacks Word support. It's very disappointing that users can't do that from within the app itself.
Like Google Drive, Quip has an offline mode that lets you continue working in a document even when a cellular or Wi-Fi connection isn't present. That said, offline modes negates Inbox's ability to broadcast messages and edits, but they sync when you connect to the net again.
Quip lacks a major feature that Google Drive possesses – the ability to upload files for general use. Quip, however, lets you snap a photo (or pull one from your iPad's Camera Roll) and use it as an Inbox message or document insert.
Quip, oddly enough, recalls the late, great Google Wave – a real-time collaboration tool with some head-scratching feature selections (or in this case, a lack thereof). Whether or not you should use Quip instead of Google Drive depends on how entrenched you are in the Google ecosystem (and whether you're willing to part with the font/colour tweaking that app delivers). Despite tapping your Google credentials as a login, Quip doesn't sync with Google products – or any others.
Quip is a decent first attempt at a cloud-based word processor. The collaboration tools are neat, but the app still needs refining. If you have lightweight team-based word processing needs, Quip may be worth exploring. Otherwise, we’d advise you to wait for version 2.0 of Quip.