My favorite writing app, Ulysses, now has an iPhone version, announced today. To mark the occasion, the developers, The Soulmen, sent a small gallery of photos of beautiful people writing in scenic locations and on clean desks.
Not one person in the gallery was a middle-aged man in need of a shave and a haircut, wearing a wrinkled T-shirt and cargo pants, pounding on a tea-stained keyboard while a dog stared at him.
But I love Ulysses anyway.
I use Ulysses all day to write all my articles for Light Reading, some of my meatier personal blog posts, and for creative writing. I’m writing this post on Ulysses on the Mac.
I did an in-depth review of Ulysses last year. The app hasn’t changed a lot since then, so go read my review if you want to know a lot more about Ulysses.
Here’s the tl;dr version:
- You write in Ulysses in a format that The Soulmen call “plain text enhanced.” That means you’re not fiddling with margin widths, layout, insertable spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides, and other distractions not having to do with writing. You’re just typing. If you’re familiar with Markdown (an extremely simplified version of HTML), Ulysses’ native formatting is very similar to that. You can do italics, boldface, bullet lists, footnotes, section headers, annotations and comments, and that’s about it. You can drop images into a Ulysses document (Ulysses calls each document a “sheet”) and they show up as icons that you click on to view.
- Ulysses is a nice-looking app.
- It’s uncluttered. Not a lot of buttons and menus and dinguses to distract you while you’re working.
- Ulysses uses its own built-in database for storing and managing documents, which is a powerful organization tool. It makes it easy for me to keep my source materials, notes, and articles all together, and to refer to source materials and notes as I’m writing.
The use of a built-in database made me nervous last year, and led to my abandoning Ulysses August through December. I worried that if I abandoned Ulysses, I’d lose access to my information and documents. But I found no other tool let me be as productive or was as nice to write with. And I also found that it’s actually quite easy to get your information out of Ulysses. Just drag it out of the app and drop it on your desktop or in another folder. Pow. You’re done. You can now open your documents with any text editor.
One great attraction of Ulysses is that it’s available on both the Mac and iPad, and it’s the same app in both places. If you know how to use one, you know how to use the other.
And now it’s on the iPhone too. Same app, all three devices.
I’ve been a beta user of the iPhone app for a few months now. I haven’t given it a heavy workout, but it’s nice. It’s polished and easy to use. Despite the small screen space of the iPhone — I have an iPhone 6 — Ulysses for the iPhone is quite usable. It’s the same app in all three places. I don’t use it every day or even every week, but when I have used it, it’s been quite convenient. If I get a few minutes of unexpected downtime during working hours, I can review notes for an article or fiddle with a headline. I can even thumb-type interview notes into my iPhone for short interviews, and do that right into Ulysses.
I wouldn’t want to write a whole article in Ulysses for the iPhone, or work on a novel in it—
Well, actually, why the hell not? Yes, the best place to write is at a full-scale desktop or laptop computer. But sometimes that’s not practical. And sometimes you want to get away from looking at a computer screen, but you’re quite willing to look at some other screen. Those situations are what the iPad and iPhone are for.
Writing tools are very personal choices, and Ulysses isn’t for everyone. But if you think you might like a very simple writing app that lets you do basic formatting, but not a lot of fiddly formatting, and that excels at organizing your documents, then give Ulysses a try.
The Soulmen say the new version, with iPhone support, will be available in the next few days, priced at an introductory rate of $19.99 for a Universal iPhone/iPad app, with the full price of $24.99 kicking in later. It’s $44.99 for the Mac. So it’s not cheap, by the standards of iOS and Mac apps, but if you get as much out of it as I do, it’s worth it.
There’s a free trail version available for the Mac; as I recall, the trial period is long and generous, and by the time it’s done you’ll either be glad to pay for it or you’ll feel like you’ve given it a thorough workout and decided it’s not right for you.
Find out more and get links to the apps at the Ulysses web site.