Dropbox paper vs Google docs

Launched in January 2017, Dropbox Paper is a new rival for Google Docs, the word processor in Google’s office suite. We at Cloudwards.net use Google Docs to collaborate, and it has proven quite capable. Still, Dropbox Paper is a new beast and could tip the balance, which is why we’re doing this Dropbox Paper vs Google Docs comparison (read our Dropbox Paper review).

The two apps are useful because they allow you to leave the offline editors behind and collaborate with others online in real time. Features such as version history, comments and suggestions make it easier than working on a document offline, sending it, receiving feedback, applying it and sending it again.

Once you’re done with your work, it’s easy to share with others or post to social networks. You can also make new versions of a document while retaining the old ones, so it’s simple to revise or roll back. If your hard drive malfunctions or crashes, there’s no guarantee data recovery software will help, so you’ll rest easy knowing your files are safe in the cloud, too.

If you don’t have time to read the logic and just want the answer, Google Docs wins. While it’s not as attractive as Dropbox Paper and can’t embed media, it has more powerful features, including better text editing and page formatting. It can also access an expansive library of third-party add-ons.

For the rest of the article, we’re going to give you an in-depth comparison of the two programs. To learn more about the underlying service behind Dropbox Paper, read our Dropbox review. If you’d like to know about another product Google offers, read our Google Drive review. It made our best free cloud storage list.

The Battle: Dropbox Paper vs Google Docs

With the ring setup, let’s get to the match. We’ve divided this article into several rounds where we’ll see how the two contenders match up.

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Round One: Interface

While there’s no accounting for taste, some things are obvious. Dropbox Paper’s interface looks clean and modern. Google Docs’s look like a clone of Microsoft Word. That said, being similar to Word isn’t a bad thing as users who are acquainted with it won’t have issues adapting.


For usability, Dropbox Paper has a menu that is condensed to a single drop-down list that makes it easier to find some of the features. It also helps that there aren’t many to choose from. Google Docs organizes them into separate menus along the top of the document. You can search for the option you need by using the “help” menu if you can’t find it.

In the bottom right corner of Paper, you can find the keyboard shortcuts link. We love that it pops out from the side, shows you the necessary information in a clear and attractive manner and doesn’t cover the document. Using Docs, you need to go to the “help” menu, then deal with a pop-up window. It’s clear, but drab. You can search through it, though.

While Google Docs’s interface isn’t bad by any means, we’re giving the first round to Paper, if only by a slight margin.

Winner: Dropbox Paper

Round Two: Sharing

You only need one click to get a shareable link with Dropbox Paper, while Google Docs requires you to enter the sharing menu. Docs’s method is handy if you want to set permissions, though. Everything is one place and you can set them separately for each user while you’re inviting them. Paper has a separate menu for permissions.

Docs lets you share directly to Google+, Facebook and Twitter. Paper can post directly to Slack.

Using Docs, you can also enable owner settings, such as preventing editors from changing access permissions or adding new people and disallowing commenters and viewers from downloading, printing or copying your file. You can also make the document public, accessible to everyone with the link or only to select people. Paper can do only the last two.

Google Docs is the obvious winner, as it offers more control over who gets to do what with your documents and it can share them to social networks. If you need to share file types other than documents, read our best cloud storage for sharing.

Winner: Google Docs

Round Three: Formatting Features

Dropbox Paper has a quick way to format text: select the word or text you want to format and a nice-looking toolbar will appear with options to make it bold, add a highlight or strikethrough, change it to a heading, start a bulleted list, create a comment or make it into a to-do list. You’ll have to use Markdown to access the rest of the options, though there aren’t many.

Google Docs isn’t just similar to Word in appearance, but in features, too. You’re able to use Docs’s huge library of fonts, change font size to a specific value, paint formatting over it, increase or decrease indentation, choose alignment and apply other formats that we’ve come to expect from offline editors.

Considering its wealth of text formatting features, it’s easy to see Docs blows Paper away in this round.

Winner: Google Docs

Round Four: Media Integration

In Docs’s case, media integration comes down to placing photos because you can’t embed videos or insert audio links. Paper supports all file types you can preview in Dropbox, including YouTube and Vimeo videos and Soundcloud links. If you’re looking for storage for your media, read our best online storage for photos and videos.

Paper is more versatile, so it wins this round.

Winner: Dropbox Paper

Round Five: General Features

Google Docs and Dropbox Paper share some features, including a to-do list, word count, calendar, document history, export and printing. Google lets you export to seven file types, while Paper only has three. Both use Google Calendar.

The similarities end there.

Paper has a cool feature called “templatize” that lets you set documents to be templates to speed up the creation of new documents. Paper also lets you preview your document in an attractive presentation view, which has a “dark mode,” too.

Besides having a to-do list, Docs integrates with Google Keep, one of the best note-taking apps. It enables you to, say, make notes about work on your phone, then access them while on your laptop.

Page setup lets you set the paper size from letter to size B5, whether it’s orientation is landscape or portrait and individual margins.

Docs also has two features that help with word choice: Dictionary and Explore. Dictionary helps you define words that you don’t know, while Explore lets you use Google’s powerful search engine to research the web. Both pop up on the right-hand side of the screen, allowing you to continue working while using them.

You can set your document language to anything from Afrikaans to Korean. If the document has a different language in it, the translate feature will help you bridge the language gap. If you prefer not to type, there’s voice typing, as well.

Docs can integrate with many apps, including DocuSign, Thesaurus, diagram creators, WordPress for Google Docs and more. Google Slides, for presentations, and Google Sheets, for spreadsheets, go with Docs to make up the Google office suite. You can access all of them using Google, which makes working with documents even easier.

It’s clear that Google Docs has many features that Dropbox Paper lacks. If you’re looking for raw text processing power, this category should settle it for you.

Winner: Google Docs

Round Six: Collaboration

Both apps handle collaboration in a similar way. After you’ve shared your document, invited collaborators can edit it simultaneously and their position is marked by a cursor. Changes made by different people correspond to different colors, so it’s easy to spot who did what. Document history will create versions that match the changes made by different authors.

With either service, you can work in real time, see what others did and go through the history of your documents, so we’re going to call this category a tie.

If you’d like to improve your collaboration experience read about our best cloud storage for collaboration. To make distributed work less painful, read our how to make remote work easy article.

Winner: Tie

Final Thoughts

Dropbox Paper is a fine attempt at taking down Google Docs, but only an attempt. Paper is attractive and intuitive to use, has interesting features and can integrate a lot of media and other file types, but isn’t close to Docs’s text editing capabilities. The same goes for general productivity-enhancing features.

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Google Docs is the winner in our comparison, but what do you think? Do you use something else to work on your documents online? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.

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17 thoughts on “Dropbox Paper vs Google Docs: Which is Better for Working Online in 2020?”

  1. I agree. Stick with Google Docs. Not to mention that if you’re part of the Google app and file storage universe, conversion would be a major headache.

    After experimenting with Dropbox Paper formatting I found it unusable for general business use [which is different, I suppose, then modern ‘team’ use].

    The modern, clean interface must be a popular goal. I write long form essays for my twitter feed using the beta https://bold.io, which has features similar, but more limited, than Paper and opens a similar start screen.

    Although formatting in Google Docs is a faint shadow of MS Word, I have found that steering clear of the fancy bells and whistles makes my work clearer for readers. I used 10% of MS Word capabilities and use 90% of what’s available with Google Docs.

  2. Thanks for this detailed report! I’m curious if Paper has “suggesting” mode, a really cool collaboration feature in google docs.

    One note: regarding offline access, did you actually *try* this with google docs? I have tried it in the past and it was incredibly flakey, to the point where it really was not at all safe to assume you could access your google doc on e.g. an airplane.

  3. The tasks feature of Dropbox Paper is really a game-changer. Google needs this – a task list, with dates and assignments (preferably connected to the google calendar), all inside a google docs.

    Dropbox reminds you each day of due tasks – that’s notably missing from Google docs.

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      Actually, you can use Google Calendar for a similar effect, but I do agree Dropbox’s function is a little smoother.

  4. I have used Google Docs for several years and love it, with the exception of a missing feature for assigning tasks with due dates. Paper has this feature but 1. It rarely triggered reminder emails any more and 2. Paper has No Ability to PRINT a document!
    For me these two problems make Paper unusable.

  5. I personnaly prefer Dropbox paper cause it is not a word processor…
    You can show in your document pdf or images and make comments directly inside even at specific place.
    You can include documents and folders you have in your dropbox and see them directly in your documents and last but not least the task with due dates…
    Paper improved a lot and now it is not really competitor of google docs….

  6. Although Google Doc is rich in features, I still prefer Dropbox Paper.
    It is not about how many features I can use, it is about the overall experience.
    To me, I need a note-taking app instead of a word processor. The cleaner look of Dropbox Paper gives me less distraction and more focus on taking notes.
    I don’t need to have too much formatting for my notes, and what Dropbox Paper provides is just right to me. I can even use the keyboard shortcuts or entering symbols to quickly format my notes (For example “—” for separation, “#” For heading, “>” for quotes). This is my favorite feature!
    I can also easily insert codes or media in Dropbox Paper.
    In conclusion, Dropbox Paper is ideal for my note-taking. It is not an ideal word processing tool at all, I must admit. But in terms of note-taking, I like Dropbox Paper more.

  7. I use both for different tasks. The problem I found wit Google Docs is it’s mixture of formats, which really mess up the document when several people are working on it. Paper’s simplicity make’s perfect sense when you want a clear document that looks always the same on every device.
    If I want to print something with some specific margins or so I’ll use Docs, but for most of the cases Paper does the job just fine

  8. For a time I was torn between the two cloud solutions (Google Drive+Docs vs Dropbox+Paper) and after some thinking+testing I now used g Drive +Docs as my main cloud storage and office (subscribed to google One) but I keep using Paper to write organise long form writing on new business and travel plans -I find its rich media and automatic bookmarking creating (on the left of the page) very useful. Still my bulk of typical cloud writing and all my storage is in google because of more value and flexibility (hugely invested in google ecosystem).

  9. Does anyone out there know of service in Google Drive that acts similarly to Dropbox Paper? I have so many other things on Google Docs / Sheets, but love the formatting of Paper.

  10. I was a little shocked that no mention of security was included. Isn’t Google Docs based on open source format? Isn’t Google Docs more prone to privacy & security threats, especially from state-sponsored agencies and/or foreign governments? I thought Dropbox Paper was more secure, but maybe they’re the same?

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      Neither is particualrly secure in the way you mentioned, so we figured it was a koot point and didn’t include it, honestly.

  11. Can you do a review on the best web editors. Certainly there have to be more than Google Docs and Dropbox Paper?

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      Do you mean like online word processing? Yes, there are a few, we just like those two because they’re free.

  12. As aa non-expert in this field, I would really like to know specifically the issues of security.

    I would also like to know if there is an update to this article or whether new offers are now even better.

    If you’re working with someone with a mac, does the mac suite come close? (I haven’t even checked this, just posting as a suggestion).

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      For specific issues, I’d refer you to our in-depth individual reviews, linked in the article. As for Mac, both suites work fine with it.

  13. A significant disadvantage of Google DOCs is that it tries to tie you into Google products. I have no interest in a program / system that penalizes me for using the products I want use. I do not want to use Gmail or Google drive or Gmail calendar. There are other programs that better suit my needs and better non-google programs may show up next week, so I don’t use Google Docs.

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