FiftyThree announced that Paper 3.6 is coming out soon, and I’m excited to see the upcoming changes. I use Paper on a weekly basis at my job for sketching quick diagrams and throwing charts together for presentation. The biggest new feature is a re-imagining of the way that content is organized within Paper. We did see an overhaul of the Space metaphor when Paper 3.0 was launched, but Paper 3.6’s sidebar feels more in line with how I want to use the app.
The strength of Paper is in its editing UI. It’s great at making content creation feel very natural. I can mix paints together, cut and move objects quickly, and zoom in with a pinch when I want to do more fine details on a diagram.
However, there is a lot of wasted space in the current UI when it comes to managing different books. It just feels like FiftyThree was a little bit too in love with the metaphor of paper in the digital realm, and the new sidebar looks to be a much more efficient way of navigating my own content. I’m also hoping that the sidebar search will also work to highlight any text I may have attached to a sheet, but since the teaser post doesn’t mention that, I’m not holding my breath.
With that in mind, I do have a few other thoughts on what I’d like to see from Paper moving forward:
Sharing Multiple Images
This one seems like an easy solve on, err, paper. The app can currently share one image at a time, or all images at once. Given the number of Sheets (soon to be Cards in 3.6) within my Paper Spaces, I’d really like to be able to highlight just a few sheets to share at a time. I usually create a Space for a specific area of my life (Work, Leatherwork, Doodles, etc.) so that each Space houses multiple projects. When it comes time to share something, I usually just want to share the three sheets, not the 35 sheets that make up that Space.
Faster Straight Lines
One of the strangely difficult things to accomplish within Paper is just drawing a straight line. It’s easy to draw long straight lines because the app will correct them for me 90% of the time, but drawing a line that’s simply one inch long is still surprisingly difficult. Short lines will sometimes end up as short, curved lines, since Paper will think that I don’t want it to auto-correct them.
I’d love to see a bit more care given to this small feature. I think Procreate has the ingenious “Quickline” featurein v3, and Apple’s own Notes app has a digital ruler. My workaround for drawing small lines in Paper is to either use a real ruler on the iPad’s screen, or to just draw a longer line and erase it until it becomes a shorter one.
Cutting and Pasting between Sheets
One of the best things about Paper is how much time it saves me by allowing me to quickly cut, copy, and paste portions of my sheet. This means I can draw a figure once and then paste it all over the screen to make variants.
One thing I’d really love to do, though, is to cut a portion of the current sheet and paste it into another sheet (or a completely new sheet). This would save me even more time, since I could quickly iterate on versions of diagrams that my team wants to explore.
To be honest, I’m not really holding my breath for sync any more. It’s not that I think FiftyThree has given up on it — but rather that they don’t seem to have a model in place to sustain Paper a platform that can reliably sync my notes and sketches for years to come. I love Paper as it is now, but I see it as a tool, and not necessarily as a long-term repository for my thoughts.
That’s also because I tend to think cross-platform nowadays. It’d be great if my iPhone and iPad Paper libraries could sync up, but that would also leave me out of luck while I was using a Mac or PC. So while I’d love to see other improvements made to Paper, sync isn’t actually even near the top of my list any more. I think this is an app that functions a lot better as a workspace that generates files, rather than a service that will also store thoughts for me.