Hackpad, where have you been hiding?

Despite the frequent mention of Dropbox — and its acquisition spree — on these pages, somehow I completely missed the announcement last week that Dropbox acquired Hackpad, a co-editor tool something like Quip (see Quip 1.5 adds new features, but not the ones I want), Draft (see Draft is a small and simple co-editor), or Editorially (that recently shut down, see Editorially is the co-editing solution of my dreams).
Unlike some of the other Dropbox acquisitions, like Loom, Hackpad is not being shut down. This is not a pure acqui-hire, so I logged in. Turns out I have tried using the tool a few years ago, but I don’t remember doing so. Now I wish I had keep the company in my sights, because it offers a broad and clever set of co-editing capabilities, and integrated into a very well-designed and sophisticated approach to sharing.
from How to use Hackpad:

A Pad is an editable content page.
A Collection is a label you can use with your team to stay organized. Click the name of any collection to see a full list of that Collection’s Pads.
A Workspace is a place where you and your teammates can share knowledge and collaborate.
  • Each Workspace has it’s own Collections and Pads. Easily create a new Workspace by clicking “+ new workspace” at the the bottom of the workspace navigator pane.
  • You can easily identify what Workspace you’re in by glancing at the URL of your page – i.e team.hackpad.com is the Team Workspace.
 A Workspace Member has access to all Pads in a workspace set to “all workspace users”. You can add a Member to a workspace by asking an Admin to use the “Manage this Workspace” link found on your homepage.
A Pad Guest is invited from the right side of any Pad. If this person has not been invited to join a Private site as a Member, they will have access only to this single Pad. If they have been invited to a Public Site, they will have read and write access to all of a Workspace’s Pads, just like any member of the public.

I’ve started to dig into Hackpad, and there are capabilities something like wikis — any text in a pad can be selected and used as the title of another pad, and the original text then serves as a link to the child pad. This can also be accomplished by typing an ampersand and then some text, as shown here:
hackpad.com_mlZvEsJykI5_0nH0NGPrz51_p.76052_1386290371029_@_childpadfromparentpad_4The text in the pads can be styled in many obvious ways, including means to add tasks, comments, lists, indented text, tables, embedded files, and images, and all the while Hackpad is tracking changes so that earlier versions can be pulled up. Lines that are bolded serve as headings, and are displayed in the right hand margin as navigation to various locations in the document. Here’s a hackpad:
Screenshot 2014-04-20 15.27.06
The talk balloon accompanies comments added to the text (using the comment icon in the tool bar or starting a line with ‘//’ makes a comment).
When shared documents are edited, you get an email showing the changes:
Screenshot 2014-04-20 13.43.48
Making a Switch
Hackpad is extremely rich, and it will take me some time experimenting with it to test all of its numerous features. More importantly, I have grown weary of the limitations of Workflowy, a personal information management tool I’ve been using for some time, especially with regard to text styling (see Small pieces, even more loosely joined).
Workflowy is an extensible outline, where sections can be shared with others. However, the sharing is based on a branch in the outline and all subordinate information, and not just a single line, which becomes impractical for many of the information I’d like to share.
I am going undertake a recasting of the research information I have been accumulating in Workflowy into a publicly shared Hackpad workspace (read only!), open to anyone who is interested. Also, in parallel, I am going to investigate how Hackpad might fit into the work of my Gigaom structured research activities, such as interviews, report drafts, and the like. So, this may serve as a the first of a series of posts investigating Hackpad’s applicability to various use cases, like sharing a research repository, drafting reports, and keeping track of notes from meetings and calls.

Hemingway Mode is on

It’s unusual that I celebrate the description of a new feature in a social tool. But this, The Hemingway Mode in Draft as described by Nathan Kontny, warrants applause.

Hemingway Mode

The best advice about creativity I’ve ever received is: “Write drunk; edit sober” – often attributed to Ernest Hemingway. I don’t take the advice literally. But it points to the fact that writing and editing are two very different functions. One shouldn’t pollute the other. It’s difficult to write if you’re in a editing mindset and removing more words than you’re putting on the page.

So I’ve added Hemingway Mode to help.

To turn it on, when writing a document, use the keyboard shortcut SHIFT+CTRL+ALT+RightArrow.

Draft will turn off your ability to delete anything in your document. You can only write at the end of what you’ve already written. You can’t go back; only forward. To return to normal mode, use the same shortcut to turn Hemingway Mode off.

It’s helpful in creating that rough first draft.

I’ve looked at Draft (see Draft is a small and simple co-editor), and it seems to headed toward a “writer’s friend” sort of product, like Scrivener and Ulysses, as opposed to a superficially similar tool like Quip, which is really about group sharing of documented information.

Kontny announced other features that support this “writer’s friend” orientation: a daily quota feature, where you can remind yourself how many words a day you are supposed to be writing, and an integration with iDoneThis (see iDoneThis is betting on batch — not streamed — status updates), a batch task management tool.

Draft is developing real character, or taking on the character of Nathan Kontny, who now joins the list of people I am looking forward to having dinner with someday.