'We want Quip to feel like two people writing on the same piece of paper'

Interactivity - Most documents are now read on touch-screens rather than printed out. Because of that, Quip documents aren't just fixed words on a page — they're interactive. On Quip, you can also turn a bulleted list into a checklist, transforming your meeting notes into an interactive, shared task list. You can @mention other documents to link between them. You can create a table of sales data, and your entire team can edit and type data into the table at the same time.

Simplicity - Back in the early days of GUI development, there was a popular saying: "Easy is hard." When designing a user interface, it's much harder to remove something than to add in something new. We've worked hard to simplify the Quip interface, to leave you with a minimal, elegant design that helps you focus on writing — not ribbons.

Technical challenges

TRP: What were the technical challenges of making Quip multi-platform?

BT: Android fragmentation itself is a very challenging problem to overcome. Every OEM and device on Android seems to be a little different, and there are far more devices than anyone realizes. There are even three different, equally used keyboards on Android, so the number of variations that you encounter and have to handle is somewhat mind-blowing.

But for us, beyond fragmentation, the real challenge is ensuring that your documents are always available on whichever device you choose to use and that they're always up-to-date. Sync is particularly challenging when you combine it with collaboration. Most services just choose not to handle the collaborative case (like Dropbox or Evernote) and just create multiple versions of the document and let you manage the conflicts.

With Quip, we want to ensure that you never end up with conflicts, even when you're editing collaboratively or when you're editing offline. That is an incredibly hard technical challenge and has been very fun to solve.

Apple or Google

TRP: If Android is the most widely used platform, how come Quip was developed for iOS first?

BT: This was influenced by the tremendous growth of tablet use, both for consumers and enterprise. When it comes to tablets, iOS has close to 80% of the tablets in use in the world. Also, iOS has been favored by companies, accounting for around 70% of enterprise activations.

That said, we know that 'bring your own device' doesn't really just mean the device - it means the platform too. Android represents a huge audience and is growing quickly in offices too. We recognise this so wanted to get a version of Quip built specifically for Android out as quickly as possible. It's also been one of our most requested products since launch. Overcoming Android fragmentation is not an easy feat, but we're so happy to say that Quip is now available on 76% of the world's smartphones and tablets.

Previous ventures

TRP: How has your background with Facebook and Google Maps influenced or shaped how you approached and developed Quip?

BT: My background has certainly given me an international mindset. People work more and more as global teams, and are looking for their technology to make that easier. The software that many of us are using was born in the 80s, when a lot of the problems we currently have in collaborating across borders and devices couldn't even have been imagined. Throw mobile into the mix as a defining global trend and it was clear to me what needed to be built to help.

The importance of different regions, languages and countries cannot be overlooked in Facebook and Google's success — that's why international expansion in very high on our list of priorities. Quip is currently available in 11 languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, simplified Chinese, Russian, Turkish, Brazilian Portuguese, and our newest language to launch, Korean.

And that's why we're particularly excited about this Android launch — Android accounts for about 50% of the smartphones in the US, but it accounts for 81% of the smartphones shipped in the world.

Generating value

TRP: Can you give us some tips for making the most out of Quip (businesses and consumers?)

BT: People love to tell us how they use Quip so we have tons of examples. We hear of people using Quip for joint grocery lists, writing their applications to university, and planning family vacations.

At work, we get feedback all the time from companies and teams using it to communicate across continents and get work done. People are so forthcoming with their stories, and we take all the feedback on board. In fact,a lot of the most asked-for features were included in version 1.5 of the iOS app.

We've found that it's easiest for folks to get started when they do two things: First - have have a specific project or document in mind — a house renovation, a collaborative to-do list, a product launch, a customer pitch, etc. Ideally the project is collaborative — people have told us that collaboration is where Quip really shines.

Secondly - use Quip both on desktop and on your iPhone/iPad or Android phone/tablet. Quip works great on desktop but it really shines on phones and tablets, and one of the magic moments is having access to your documents across all your devices, wherever you are.

Kane Fulton
Kane has been fascinated by the endless possibilities of computers since first getting his hands on an Amiga 500+ back in 1991. These days he mostly lives in realm of VR, where he's working his way into the world Paddleball rankings in Rec Room.