Ulysses, a Noteworthy Addition to the iPad

A few years ago I first noticed Ulysses emerging from the dearth of text editors on the Mac. Except for Scrivener, there just aren’t many writing applications that give a writer the types of tools that can help them elevate their game.

Ulysses for Mac stands out and the Ulysses team, for lack of a better word, “gets it”. They have a vision for a writing application that is not a Scrivener clone but yet still follows that same vein of writing tools that ignore things like micro-adjustments of underline thickness in favor or organizational tools that focus on making the words themselves better.

I started using Ulysses on my Mac and was really impressed not only with the initial vision but the developers’ continuous, innovative march. What I really wanted, however, was a way to use Ulysees not only on my Mac but also on my iPad.

Today we got Ulysses for iPad.

The application takes advantage of iCloud to keep keep all of my bits of text organized in its unified library where I can obsess over my precious words and later create PDFs, web pages, and even ePubs with a few taps.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been waiting for an app like this since Steve Jobs first sat in that comfy chair to show us the iPad. Finally, big-boy writing projects can move easily between the iPad and Mac.

Ulysses provides a focussed writing experience with the necessary bits, like footnotes and links, but not the fiddly bits that are so good at getting between you and your best words.

I’ve been using the beta and find it to be a great fit not only for my big projects but even my smaller ones. I’m just so impressed with the power and versatility that Ulysses provides without the messy, intrusive interface that so often shows up in apps with this much muscle.

And best of all, for me, is that the iPad and Mac versions have nearly identical features so I can easily jump between platforms and continue to get work done. The application even supports Handoff so the jump is seamless.

There is a lot more I could say about Ulysses for Mac and now iPad. I am going to cover it in more detail in the coming months. For now, my advice is that if you’re looking for something more from your writing tools and spend your time on the Mac and iPad, head over to the app store and pick up Ulysses for the Mac and for iPad.

Ulysses for iPad

Ulysses now has a public teaser site for the upcoming iPad version. Ulysses for Mac, that has really matured into something special over the past few years, has always been able to sync to the iPad with Daedalous Touch but I’ve never found that experience very satisfying. Giving Ulysses a home on the iPad for us mobile writers makes a lot more sense and it looks like that is exactly what we’ll get. Between this and Scrivener for iPad, 2015 should be a great year for iPad writers. I look at both of these apps as something beyond a simple text editor and I can’t wait to get this kind of power on my iPad.

Fiddling with Ulysses III


I’ve been working on a bigger-than-usual writing project in Ulysses III the last few weeks and there is a lot to like about this app. It looks amazing. There clearly was a lot of thought put into design. It renders text beautifully and embraces plain text. Ulysses is, thankfully, not a Scrivener clone but something different. In my mind the simplicity and organizational tools make it great for projects of medium size and duration.

My biggest dissapointment is the iOS integration with Daedalus Touch. While it works, it doesn’t really feel right and Daedalus is such a different paradigm that it is off-putting for me. I’d really like to see the developer release an iPad version of Ulysses that brings a large part of the experience over with seemless iCloud syncing.

Moving into 2014, I know there is an iPad version of Scrivener in the works and I suspect there is a version of Ulysses for the iPad coming too. If those two apps ship, us iPad writers are going to have some really great options to choose from.

Looking at Ulysses III

I was provided an early release of Ulysses III and my first impression was “wow”. The developers have really created something different with Ulysses and for the first time I was really tempted to try and write a big project with it. I particularly like the baked-in sync with their iOS text editor, Daedalus Touch.

Yesterday Ulsses III went on sale in the Mac App Store and I bought in. (It is on sale, $20 this week and will go up to $40 next week.) I spent several hours yesterday trying to move the next Field Guide’s text into Ulsses III and testing the syncing link to Daedelous Touch on my iPad.

Ulysses III is gorgeous. The way it renders text and iterates on the three pane view is truly remarkable. However, ultimately, I am not going to be writing a Field Guide in it, at least not this version of it. I experienced some wonkiness in syncing tests to the iPad, I really need a global search, and it just feels not quite there yet. I think Gabe Weatherhead’s views are pretty similar to mine.

I don’t regret buying it though. I think this app is on the right track and I really want to see it get better. In my book, Ulysses is definitely one worth watching. I’m going to be keeping up with the updates.