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Ulysses Review

So when I discovered Markdown, I quickly became a fan. The ease of creating content and not having to worry to much regarding the style of the content until after the writing was finished reminded me of LaTeX but allowed a much easier syntax to be used and it was also cross platform and compatible with Mac, Windows and iPad.

But as someone that writes a lot, not only for my work (try writing a thesis!) but also in his free time, I’m constantly trying new software to try and make it easier or to help me write better.

So I tried Scrivener a few months back and whilst I thought it was reasonable, I couldn’t see it fitting in with my workflow (especially considering it was already established for my thesis).

This time, I decided to try Ulysses as it was recently in the $2 Tuesday deal (which is well worth checking out).

Ulyssess

So Ulysses has been around for a while (it’s website says it originally released in 2003). I’d not heard of it until I got a Mac and seriously looked at writing and then I decided to investigate it. It describes itself as:

a semantic text editor that borrows concepts from Setext and LaTeX

Sounded promising, as separating the writing and layout is something I agree wholeheartedly with when writing.

When opening, you’re presented with the following screen:

Looks fairly similar to the Scrivener screen and I believe that Scrivener was based off a similar idea to Ulysses so that would make sense. You have the project window which shows your documents within the project and then document window where you enter the text. Lastly, you have the notes panel where you can make notes for the project.

Usage

I may be unfair on this product because the more I tried to use it, the less I could see it working as I wanted it to. Maybe I’m just stuck in my ways with my Markdown editing but I struggled to remember the language that Ulysses uses to represent emphasis and strong elements. I could possibly change these to match Markdown in which case it may improve – at the minute it seems similar but sufficiently different enough to confuse. All my not be lost though as v3 might appear to treat Markdown as it’s own language if the beta is anything to go by. source.

Storing data as a proprietary file format is a pain as well but I can see why they do it and to be fair, you can export as a plain text file so all is not lost. However, you cant edit the file on an iPad (as there isn’t an iOS version yet).

I tried to create a template file that I could use for writing Micro Mart articles by creating a project, then creating a document for each section that I needed to write (such as headline, standfirst, body, drop quotes and images) but the export options made it actually a pain to export them (I repeatedly exported just the document I was working on, not the project). I found it much easier to use my Textxpander snippet to populate a Markdown document with the template and then fill that in. Mainly because I didn’t find a place for the Ulysses and Scrivener note taking section because Evernote covers that nicely. The fact I can also edit Markdown files on the go is also a big boon.

Overall, Ulysses might be a polished product but I just couldn’t find a use for that suited me – I did however like the individual documents word count which would make it easier for tracking word counts in a Micro Mart article but at the end of the day, that can be done in other ways (less easily admittly).

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