Dropbox kicked off its 2017 product launches with a pair of major announcements Monday aimed at improving users’ productivity at work. The cloud storage company announced the general availability of its Paper document collaboration service, along with the closed beta of a Smart Sync feature that gives users easy access to every file shared with them in Dropbox.
Paper , first announced in 2015 , gives users a shared workspace to work with one another on documents. It’s designed to be the product people use for collaborative tasks like brainstorming and taking meeting notes.
A screenshot shows how Smart Sync looks in the MacOS Finder.
Smart Sync is the official name for a feature that Dropbox unveiled last year as Project Infinite . The idea behind it is simple: users store more files in Dropbox than they want to sync to each individual computer they work with.
Rather than requiring them to use the storage service’s web interface, Smart Sync shows users placeholder versions of those files in the MacOS Finder or Windows Explorer. When a user goes to open a file that’s not stored locally, it’s downloaded from Dropbox’s servers.
Monday’s announcements are part of Dropbox’s overall push to make its product more useful and appealing to business users, as it competes in the crowded cloud storage market.
Rob Baesman, the head of product at Dropbox, said in an interview that the company thinks people will reach for Paper as a tool to help collate information from different sources and kick-start their process of working on an idea.
“We see Paper really being this place to allow teams to collaborate across all their information,” he said in an interview. “When we look at the challenges many of our customers are facing, we see so much information fragmentation and it being difficult [for them] to not only locate but collaborate across all these different sources.”
Baesman said that Paper isn’t meant to replace a traditional productivity suite like Microsoft Office or Google Drive. Instead, he sees it as a starting point for a “lifecycle of ideas” that includes other applications.
A screenshot shows enhancement to Dropbox Paper's task management functionality, including support for assigning tasks and due dates.
To that end, Dropbox launched new task management functionality in Paper that makes it easy for users to assign people to tasks and set due dates for them, all within a Paper document.
Dropbox isn’t the only storage company pushing a live document collaboration service to its users. Last week, Box unveiled a new standalone version of Notes, which offers much of the same functionality Paper does.
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