The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Bloat

It’s been sad to watch what started as a very focused and very well designed tool try to be something more. I lamented about this change this week:

Dropbox Paper started off as a focused tool: a collaborative writing tool with version control. Now it feels that features are added for the sake of adding features.
Example: the persistent menu now takes up precious vertical space on my laptop screen: https://dsh.re/b2bcb4

Paper was an excellent tool in its early days, focused on one thing: helping teams write together.

Over the past year to two, the Paper team has added a lot of features that detract from the writing experience. Elaborate timelines, nagging requests to add documents to folders, integrations with dozens of services. And that annoyingly persistent toolbar that takes up precious vertical space.

Maybe there are a lot of teams out there that use these features. Me? I just want a nice environment where our team can work on written materials together. My appreciation for focused tools only increases as the web and all our tooling options seem to grow more complex.

However, a product does not become bloated simply because new (unwanted) features are added. It’s only when those features get in the way of the core value that it’s a problem.

Launchbar is a great example. It’s an incredibly powerful tool with hundreds of different features. I probably use 10% of what it can do. However, my use of it to open applications, manage my clipboard, resize images, and various other things are not hindered at all by all the other features it offers. They’re there if I want to try them out, but otherwise, it all just stays out of the way.

Launchbar isn’t trying to force me to use it more. But the Paper team? It feels like there’s a push to get people to make it the hub of all their work, rather than just write collaboratively. Helping people get more value from a product is fine and understandable.

But it should never be done at the expense of the very thing that got people using it in the first place.

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