Quip–the collaborative word processor for iPads, iPhones, Android devices, and the web–is expanding into spreadsheets. But it isn’t becoming a suite à la Microsoft Office or Google Apps. Quip tends to do productivity in its own contrarian way, and it’s putting spreadsheets inside its word processor.
In some ways, this functionality, which is available starting today, is similar to what other word processors do with embedded tables. But Quip’s version is a real spreadsheet, with formulas and number formatting and the ability to add rows and columns as far as the eye can see, all within the same interface you use for processing words. (If you want, you can also flip into a full-screen spreadsheet mode, which is a little more Excel-esque.)
The approach is particularly useful if you’re working on a project which involves both the sort of text you’d create in a word processor and the numbers you’d stick in a spreadsheet–or several spreadsheets–since it lets you see everything in one place. You can even type a cell reference into the word processing area, such as =F2, to create a dynamic link to a spreadsheet cell which will show whatever’s there and auto-update if it changes.
As with the word processing features, it’s easy to list things that Quip’s spreadsheet can’t do. The most notable no-show–the ability to create charts based on your data–is in the works and should show up soon. The spreadsheet also doesn’t let you change the color or size of numbers and text in cells, and I couldn’t paste a formula across a range of cells in the way I’m accustomed to doing in Excel and Google Sheets.
Quip cofounder (and Google Maps cocreator and former Facebook CTO) Bret Taylor told me that the idea isn’t to replicate all the features in more conventional word processors and spreadsheets. Other apps, he says, cling to design principles that date from the days before email, when formatting documents to look good on paper mattered more than anything else. Quip, by contrast, is designed for information sharing that is less about production values and more about multiple people working out an idea together, in a document that changes over time.
The single most distinctive thing about Quip remains its chat window, which appears to the left of every document. It’s persistent, so the conversation you have there with coworkers is an integral part of anything you create in the app. (You can also attach a chat to a specific element, such as a spreadsheet cell.) But the app also has one of the nicest interfaces of any productivity-oriented mobile app or browser-based service; it’s well worth checking out even if you just plan to use it in solitude.
Most of what Quip does, it does for free. The paid version, Quip Business, adds features for managing documents and users for $12 per user per month.
Here at Fast Company, we store much of the knowledge we need day-to-day in Google Sheets and have lately begun using the Slack workgroup chat service to discuss those spreadsheets. For at least some of our work, Quip might provide a more convenient, all-in-one-place way to talk amongst ourselves about the work we do. Remind me to see if I can convince my coworkers to give it a try.