We really tried to use Dropbox Paper in our design studio as a briefing tool and internal wiki, but it’s just frustratingly non-functional. The design, simplicity, usability of Paper are great, but a whole lot of things make it unusable, at least for our use-case scenario. I’ve contacted Support multiple times but since nothing changes for years I just wanted to share this and hear if someone else had some of these problems.
1. Fist problem comes up when you try to build a document with many links to other Paper documents. Here’s an example:
First link is the one I did using the + command to create a new doc to link to. As you can see when you point you mouse over it - you only see html link.
Below is a link to the same document but after the document was created, using the same + command. When you point our mouse over - it displays a pop-up preview, which is great.
Those are two different kind of links, + sign looks differently, and they even work differently, see next.
2. Second massive issue is trying to share a doc with an “outsider”. Let’s say I want to share a doc with someone to allow them to see our internal wiki or brief (or part of it). If you’re not logged in a Dropbox account (and not everyone out there has one), you can only see a preview of the document… with a print layout. And by the way, this works differently with “older” Dropbox accounts. When you try to click doc links I’ve created earlier - they act differently and open two different login pages (one of them is a file request).
We have files with 5-20 interlinks per document, there’s no way to share each individual document with each individual Dropbox user (and especially external person).
While studying this I found a workaround and you can actually create a link which could be viewed by external viewers. Go to a new doc, create a link for viewing, copy it and then paste in the original doc. This would work, but visually you can’t tell the difference between all 3 of these links. This is messed up. Try it yourself:
3. This Paper doc preview page doesn’t work properly: it often breaks page styling and image galleries just don’t work at all (see screenshot). Or it just doesn’t show more than one image, I don’t know. Videos won’t show up, etc.
4. “Present this doc” feature completely breaks the doc styling, images fly away, text size shifts, half of features don’t display properly, etc. Just try to mix couple of text styles, images, galleries and videos in your document. There’s no way to predict how it will show up on this Present page. I understand it’s built for projector kind of setup, but it doesn’t seem to work predictably at all.
5. For an unknown reason image commenting works differently in the main Dropbox and Dropbox Paper - rectangles vs dots. And if you add an image from your Dropbox and comment on it in Paper, these comments won’t show up in the main Dropbox. Vice versa.
6. When you click on the Copy link button you don’t know what link it copies - for viewing or editing. And if the file is Unshared and you click Copy link (thinking you’d create a sharable link) - it won’t work.
7. Once you click on an external Paper doc link, you can’t go back to where you were previously, you’re lost.
8. And as a bonus, Paper works in a completely different way in “old” Dropbox accounts. I happen to have a personal account which I use for more then a decade and the way Paper docs work there is still completely different (storing, sharing, etc). And there's no easy way to move and exchange Dropbox Paper files between these accounts. When you share a doc from an “old” Dropbox Paper you actually get a nice preview of it, which you can share with anyone on the internet.
And so on, and so on. Dropbox Paper mobile app was barely usable the last time I tried it (it was a while ago). So to sum up, the main problem is the lack of consistency throughout the system. In the end we switched to Google Docs which works perfectly, except it just doesn’t look that nice (Pageless design etc).
We’re looking forward to try Dropbox Spaces to manage projects but quite often you have this “almost there, almost nailed” feeling with Dropbox. It all looks great until you actually start using it.
I’ll rant about Dropbox’s file and folders UI in a different thread.