Quip, a new mobile first
word processor, is coming into the tablet market at a unique time a Bring Your
Own Device (BYOD) and enterprise mobility drive increasingly mobile enterprises.
The company is founded by Bret Taylor, formerly CTO of Facebook, and Kevin Gibbs, formerly tech lead for Google Apps Engine, which gives it some serious
street cred and sets the bar high for the Quip app.

You can sign up with Quip using any valid email address. I got Quip working great with
both my regular Google account and my Google Apps for Business account. The basic Quip app is free and supports up to five users. I tested the free version, but
there’s also Quip Business ($12.00/month
per user) and plans for Quip Enterprise.

Using Quip

When I downloaded the app to my iPad and opened it for the
first time, signing in with my Google account brought up the Quip Desktop
(Figure A).

Figure A

The Quip Desktop.

Quip adapts to any screen and brings real-time,
collaborative editing (including support
for offline editing) to the iPad or iPhone. The collaborative angle is
something I have yet to see in other mobile word processors. Where Quip gets it right is in the app’s simplicity. Every document has a chat thread, and every document edit
appears in a document “news feed” on the left side of the app (Figure B). This news feed
is great for mobile workers and others who don’t like following track changes. 

Figure B

A document open in Quip.

You can use the @symbol to link to other people and
documents. This creates a link from which you can start chat sessions or open
linked documents. Figure C shows how messages to another user appear in the
news feed.

Figure C

Message other document collaborators in Quip.

It’s easy to create folders in Quip to organize your
documents. You also have the option to create private folders to secure documents
for your project team or department.

The interactive and shared checklists are still on the
simple side. There is a benefit to centralizing such a function with your
team’s documents, but other companies — like Asana, Do, and Producteev — offer capable mobile apps (tied to
their cloud platforms) that blow away this fledgling task management feature.

Quip’s alerts when edits are made to a document show that these
app developers have some game. It’s simple and common sense enough to be
standard in such word processors, but nobody else offers it — not even Apple Pages (however, I expect the final release of iWork for iCloud might change that).

Quip and document complexity

I’m from a world where documents mean templates and styles.
Quip sticks with just the basics. You aren’t going to be writing a customer-facing manual, but you can certainly write articles, blog posts, or other
simple documents that require minimal formatting, such as headings, bold, and underlining. You can also insert
images and create simple tables.

My first inclination about Quip is that it’s
useful for collaborating on basic content. For example, I can see a team collaborating on
installation procedures or a requirements document in Quip.
Unfortunately, the only way to get documents out of Quip is through PDF output in the desktop browser version. This makes Quip off limits for most, if
not all, external documents.

Quip on PCs

Quip also works on PCs. I like the thought of Quip for team-based
collaborative document authoring, with members using whatever device they
choose and keeping documents out of the email inbox. However, the Quip user
interface looks stretched and tired out on larger monitors.

Quip on Android

A preview version of Quip for Android is available in the Google Play Store. However, at the time of this writing, the app only supports viewing documents and replying to existing conversations. I tried out the preview app on one of my Android tablets (Figure D) and was
pleased to see that it looked very similar to the iOS app, but I’m hesitant to pass a final judgment on the app until I can create some
documents with Quip on my Android tablet.

Figure D

Quip (Preview) app for Android.

Final thoughts

I’ve long been on the fence about mobile word processors for
anything outside of light editing. However, my time writing for TechRepublic’s Tablets in the
Enterprise blog has enabled me to step away from the long documents, templates, and
styles and manuals bias from my work as a technical writer. The fact is, with the rise of enterprise
mobility and BYOD), the age-old word processing model is
due for an overhaul. Such an overhaul is
going to come from nimble startups like Quip, because — as the launch of Office
Mobile for Office 365 shows all too clearly — Microsoft either can’t or won’t launch
a solid mobile Office suite that works across mobile devices.

In my opinion, Quip — with a properly executed roadmap — has the
potential to set the rules for word processing in organizations that depend on
mobile workers. However, Quip needs more time to get there.