Dropbox Paper and the art of the project plan template

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I’ve been a fan of Dropbox Paper and minimalist word processors for a while now. In fact, I use Dropbox Paper for many of my personal writing projects. Recently, the Paper team added a Project Plan as a document option.

Dropbox Paper excels at taking a minimalist word processor that’s ideal for non-writers. For example, I’d love to use Dropbox Paper for collaboration among a project team. It’s easy enough for a solution architect or other technical staff to handle, in progress documents could be open to the entire team for comments and revisions. Then a technical writer like me can export the documents into a more palatable format to use in final documents.

Now when it comes to project plans, I was a wee bit skeptical that Dropbox Paper could get my attention. Tools such as Microsoft Planner, Trello, and Asana are at the top of my mind when it comes to project management tools. Well, I don’t see Dropbox Paper’s Project Plan competing with those tools, but I do see it as another ally in the war against spreadsheet project management. The Paper team takes their same minimalist approach to a clean, neat Project Plan template as they do with the rest of the application. Using the Dropbox Paper Project Plan template can also remove the temptations of overly complicated Word or Excel templates or just using email to manage projects.

You share a Project Plan just like you would any other document. It’s simple and easy to move and edit tasks around on the interactive project plan. You can just click inside the project plan to add a new task item and assign it to yourself or a team member. There’s also the option to add a description. So simple, a project lead could put the project plan on a conference room wall screen or share it during a web conference and make changes on the fly without stumbling over menus and commands.

Below the interactive Project Plan, the template includes an area where you can put more project details by inserting Dropbox files, media, tables, another timeline, and lists. There’s also a to-dos list where you can @ team members to let them know what tasks you assigned to them.

Final thoughts

Brushing aside my sheer joy over the minimalism of this project template, I have to say that it would work best with team buy-in. After coming of age using Microsoft Project because nobody on the team wanted to learn the application and Gantt charts in general, I began to see that project management is often best handled at the team level. Training on using the Project Plan would be minimal — a demo at a team meeting — but it means the whole team has to be up and running on Dropbox Paper.

I’m still waiting to hear more stories about Dropbox Paper in the enterprise. In a job like mine, Paper — not just the Project Plan — could serve as a valuable tool for getting information from busy content contributors who don’t want to trouble themselves with Microsoft Word.

Hey there! My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in the Washington, DC area. After spending years focusing on technical and SDLC documentation, much of my work now focuses on thought leadership content and marketing collateral. My articles have been published by DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

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