Dropbox beta tests Paper, a collaborative writing tool

Dropbox has revealed a new collaborative writing tool. It’s called Paper — not to be confused with Facebook’s news reader app, FiftyThree’s drawing app, and likely a dozen other less prominent software products — and right now Dropbox is inviting select consumers to beta test it.
Paper is the next iteration of the Notes service Dropbox previewed earlier this year. It works a lot like a trumped-up version of Google Docs: People can use the service to write together, communicate, and assign each other individual tasks.
Here’s what Engadget, which got a preview of the service, had to say about it:

When asked what differentiated it from the rest of the field, [Dropbox product manager Matteus] Pan pointed to Paper’s focus on building documents that let users work and share multiple content types regardless of what’s used to create them.
He cited Paper as a way to collaborate that keeps things from getting overly ‘messy’ in terms of both clean design and organization. The last differentiator is organization and helping teams find their work quicker. ‘Creation and collaboration are only half the problem,’ he said. ‘The other half is how information is organized and retrieved across an entire company.’

Dropbox picked a funny day to reveal Paper to the public. Another company, Quip, announced just this morning that it has raised $30 million from a number of investors to keep working on its own collaborative office tool. Given the inevitable competition between these services, it wouldn’t be hard to believe Dropbox revealed Paper to try and steal some attention away from its new rival.
Not that Quip is the only service Paper will have to compete against. There’s also Google Docs, Microsoft Office, and who-knows-how-many other tools out there. The service will have to fight an uphill battle to become something more than another interesting service Dropbox introduced only to let it become stagnant. (Say hello to Carousel and Mailbox!) To state the obvious: Odds are against it.
Dropbox users can ask to be added to Paper’s waitlist through the service’s site. The company hasn’t said how many people it plans to allow on the beta service, nor when the service will exit beta and become available to the general public.

FiftyThree’s Paper now comes with a free set of digital drawing tools

What does FiftyThree know about a possible iPad Pro stylus? On Thursday, the company updated popular iOS drawing app Paper, making all of its tools available to anyone who downloads the free iPad app. Previously, several Paper tools, including the watercolor and sketching brushes, were $0.99 in-app purchases.

FiftyThree doesn’t consider this move to be a repudiation of its in-app purchase model, and said it could introduce new premium brushes in the future. The company told The Verge and others that “the in-app purchase model has worked really well.” The company seems to be making most of its revenue from its $50 Pencil stylus, which is currently Amazon’s best-selling stylus. Previously, a purchased Pencil unlocked all of Paper app’s tools, but the idea now is that the free app — complete with a full set of digital brushes — is the hook, and once people start using the app, it logically leads to a stylus purchase.

One potential reason that FiftyThree set its tools free is that Paper introduced a social aspect to its app called Mix last year. Another possibility is that removing the in-app purchases could help Paper break into the education market.

But another major reason why FiftyThree might want more users now at the expense of potential in-app revenue is because of the looming possibility of an Apple-made stylus. Although Paper appears to be a wildly successful iPad app, with 14 million total downloads, an Apple stylus would clearly be a huge issue for FiftyThree’s business model. For now, FiftyThree and Apple look like they’re on great terms — Pencil styluses are sold in Apple stores, and in 2012, Apple named Paper as its iPad app of the year. But that could all change come Apple’s next product announcement, and FiftyThree’s best defense is a big existing user base.

FiftyThree’s Paper-friendly Pencil stylus comes to Europe

FiftyThree, the U.S. startup that produces the designer-friendly drawing app Paper, has now brought out the accompanying Pencil stylus in Europe, 8 months after it was released in North America. Pencil connects with the user’s iPad(s aapl) via Bluetooth to enable features like palm rejection, finger blending and switching to the erase function without needing to change tools in the app. Variable surface pressure will be added with the upcoming release of iOS 8. In the U.K., the graphite version of Pencil is priced at £49.99 ($85.64) and the walnut version at £64.99 ($111.34).

Creativity tools: The next wave of iOS apps?

Snapguide and Paper had successful iOS debuts last week. Both appeal to the creative side of mobile users, and it’s these app that are going to provide a roadmap for more iOS apps to come that appeal beyond entertainment, consumption-oriented or specialized productivity apps.

3 occasions when the pen is still mightier than the gadget

There is no shortage of collaboration and productivity tools to help you get more done, but just because so many cool new tools are available doesn’t mean the old standbys are completely obsolete. Is there still a place for pen and paper in our lives?

Sustainable Printing: The Environmental Impact of Your Printer

Much of our communication and documentation is still conducted via a paper trail. Not only does this leave piles of paper to manage, there’s the economic cost of all of that ink and paper and, importantly, there’s also an environmental cost involved with printing that we all bear as a society.