My latest at ProfHacker: Rediscovering Ulysses

Screenshot of Ulysses applicationA few weeks ago, George suggested using a blogging client as a backup method.

I’d actually stopped using one some time ago. It wasn’t really a conscious decision; I simply had fewer occasions for cross-posting and after my 2012 experience of a plugin gone bad, I got a lot more careful about redundant backups.

George’s post piqued my curiosity, though. What blogging clients are available these days? I knew about MarsEdit, of course, but I didn’t know what else might be out there, so I did a little searching. I didn’t come up with another blogging client, because I got distracted by a writing app for Mac and iOS whose name I recognized: Ulysses. I think it popped up in my search because they recently added the ability to publish to WordPress. (That ability seems to be limited to posts; if there’s a way to publish a WordPress page, I haven’t found it yet. Users looking for a full-on blogging client will need to look elsewhere.)

I’d tried Ulysses a few years ago, and I just couldn’t quite get my mind around it. At that time, I was relatively new to working in Markdown, so that might have been part of it. I also couldn’t quite get the hang of Daedalus Touch, the mobile companion app — which was quite different from Ulysses visually.

In the meantime, Ulysses has been updated and made available for iOS — and the user interface on the Mac and iPad is nearly identical. (The iPhone interface is adapted a bit to account for the much smaller screen, but it’s very intuitive; if you’ve used Ulysses on a Mac or iPad, you’ll have no trouble with the iPhone version).

Ulysses is pricey compared to many applications: $44.99 for the Mac version, and $24.99 for iOS. Fortunately, there’s a demo available for Mac. I already had a license from the last time I looked at the software, so it was a simple matter for me to try it out again. (Apparently I must have tried an earlier version of Ulysses for iOS, too, though I don’t remember that.)

This time, I was hooked. Maybe it’s because I’m more familiar with Markdown, and use it for most of my writing now. Maybe it’s because the iOS version is so very close to the desktop version. I’m not sure.

What I can say is this: Ulysses’ organization makes sense. Sheets form a group. Groups can be organized into folders. It’s possible to export one sheet at a time to one’s preferred format, or to treat several sheets as one large project. (And to explain how it all functions, Ulysses includes (in the Mac app, at least) four groups of sheets that introduce the user to key features of the software. Everything syncs seamlessly via iCloud.1 I can start a piece of writing on my Mac at home, and pick up where I left off when I get to the office. If I have an idea for a piece of writing while I’m out and about, I can just make a quick note on my phone, and it will be in my list of sheets, ready to work on when I get back to a proper keyboard. It just works.

Ulysses can export to plain text, HTML, ePub, PDF, and DOCX formats. It can also, as noted above, publish posts to WordPress blogs (both self-hosted and those hosted at About the only thing I’ve found that Ulysses doesn’t handle well is Markdown tables. But, because Ulysses uses plain text, there are easy solutions. One possibility is to use Marked2. Or one might just take a page out of Lincoln’s playbook and use Pandoc.

It’s only been a few weeks, but I really don’t see myself going back to other applications for my day-to-day writing tasks.

What about you, though? Do you have a favorite writing application? What do you like best about it? Let us know in the comments.

[CC-licensed photo from a screenshot by the author.]

from ProfHacker » Amy CavenderProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education

  1. It’s possible to add “external folders,” including folders from Dropbox, if one prefers —- though those folders have to be added on every device. 

Leave a Reply