Description of App
## The Long Overdue Update ### WordPress Publishing - Added publishing to WordPress.com and self-hosted blogs - Publish as Markdown or HTML - Offers post or draft, schedule, or immediate publish - Includes excerpt, feature image, post type, slug and title link options - Can auto-fill categories and tags based on keywords - Can auto-fill excerpt and feature image based on note and image attachments - Customizable preview using standard CSS ### Accessibility - Ulysses is now fully accessible: Utilize the whole app using VoiceOver commands ### Updates & Fixes - Added line, sentence and paragraph focus mode - Added searching for keywords and group names in Quick Open - Added sheet search for keywords - Updated iOS-style insertion point - Improved dragging of external folders/files to other applications - Added ability to edit color for filename tag - Reworked sorting of markup definitions - Improved introduction, added section on Markdown XL - Updated some PDF/DOCX export styles - PDF export: Reset page numbers after section breaks - Re-added a simplified RTF exporter - Glued sheets are again exported together - Read fenced code blocks as Raw Source in external folders - Fixed errors when creating backups - Fixed crash when editing keywords of an already broken sheet - Fixed crash when trying to register a markup for a sheet - Fixed crash when waking Mac from sleep - Fixed some hard-to-reproduce crashes when working with Ulysses for a longer time - Fixed crash when working under older versions of OS X 10.10 - Sheets can now always be filtered by their filename If you're happy with the app, please rate it, or even leave a review. This is the best way you can support us indie developers. Thanks a lot! group
[update: I cannot entirely recommend this app at present. As I noted i in an accessibility comment above, I discovered that export styes are not yet easy to edit in the app without a considerable workaround, thanks to their decision to code the Styles preference panel in an inaccessible way. Probably will be fixed in the next major version, though the problem has existed for a couple of years now. Also, I was caught in their switch to a subscription fee model. After paying a considerable sum and still not being able to format my documents for export 6 months later, I'll have to start subscribing next year and it will now be 4 years before I break even with the price paid by someone subscribing to the app today. Not really good customer service. I continue to use the app for the present.]
This program is not cheap, and with several other mainstream free options, it's important to understand who might benefit from it. The freee trial should really be lived with for awhile. I read what folks were saying about the app on here, and am glad I purchased it (since I do write long documents, I also purchased Scriviner, only to decide too late that it's just not a tool designed for the way I like to write). Although text-edit and Pages are perfectly adequate for most writing tasks, Ulysses has a couple of interesting advantages. I'll give my take on strengths and limitations below.
1) Its file system is proprietary, meaning that it doesn't store files in traditional folders you can access through finder or other apps. Although that's a limitation, I find that I really like being able to just arrow over to the Finder-like library paynes while I'm working in one document in order to open others. So, for people who flip around among multiple documents as part of a normal workflow, this is a productivity boost, so long as you don't mind staying in Ulysses itself for your writing projects. It's also easy to get other documents into the Ulysses "in box," but complex formatting will often be lost.
2) They aren't files and folders, btw: It calls particular documents "sheets," and folders are "groups." This is significant, because it's entirely up to you whether a sheet is a document or if a group is going to be your document and each sheet in the group is a section. For example, a book can be a group and chapters can be sheets; or, make subgroups for chapters in your novel and then sheets for scenes. Sheets and groups can be rearranged easily, as well as split and merged through the Action menu. The one drawback here is that the "page" is not a Ulysses concept, so page up/down don't do anything.
3) Ulysses upholds the dictim that content should be separated from visual presentation. While you write, you just type on the keyboard, period, using simple MarkDown characters to indicate what will become formatting later. For example headings start with number signs, one # per heading level, and emphasized text is *enclosed in asterisks*. The formatted document emerges when you "export" to pdf, word, html, etc, at which point you can define parameters like font, page numbering, indentation, and line spacing. Here's where you can "glue" sheets together within the library payne to create the document that others will see; but you've dragged each sheet around in the meantime like an outliner as needed.
4) MarkDown is a bit _ugly_ to **listen to**. If you work with documents that have a lot of formatting, this is a major down side. Most of what people write, though, is text, yes? Furthermore, tables are certainly doable in Ulysses, but you can't use VO table cell commands; so, tables read even uglier. Writing inside table cells has its own issues, however, so I've actually often wished for the ability to simply create tables using plain text and have it become a table later (in fact, I generally use "convert text to table" in Word). Insertion of images is also very much possible, even for Voiceover users.
5) Comments are simply ++text surrounded by plus signs++ or %%paragraphs with percent signs. You can also add a separate sheet of notes about a document, similar to Scriviner, and also add annotations that appear in a pop-out Window. Unlike comments, annotations will become footnotes on export. All of this is very nicely accessible. They know they have a lot of Voiceover users, and have made sure to label their special characters that enclose links and annotations.
6) Pressing cmd+8 brings up a navigation list that lets you navigate among headings in the current document, how ever that is defined: if sheets are glued together, it's all the headings in that unit; or, if not, it's only the headings in the current sheet. In version 2.8, there's no way to navigate among comments, and no way to filter which heading levels are displayed (e.g., it's not hierarchical). If you're still reading this, which you apparently are, consider shooting them an email to request that comments and collapsible heading levels be added to the navigation list. They said others had requested it, but they prioritize how soon features are implemented according to how many people request them. I'd also like to see the ability to navigate page up/down, because imported documents, such as OCR scans, will often have hard page breaks.
7) My favorite feature right now is "smart paste," which allows me to copy HTML source code from my Web sites and paste them into Ulysses as MarkDown. I had originally generated that html in Word, so that it's a mess of Word-inserted in-line codes. Pasting as MarkDown strips everything but the essential code. I can then copy the MarkDown to the clipboard and tell Ulysses to convert it to html for pasting back onto the Web.
For me personally, Ulysses isn't just a good way to write, it's the way I've always wanted to write, having cut my teeth in the early 80s when you always had to insert funky characters for formatting. Hearing the formatting characters just seems more reliable, in my experience, than turning attribute/font/indention/spacing announcements from the screen reader on or off. I've used Word since the early 90s--after the blessed WordPerfect 5.1 era ended, along with my productivity and creativity--and started hating it when they introduced the ribbon. It's better on Mac, since Mac OS forces them to retain some menus, but not all aspects of Word are optimized for accessibility and I've found too many glitches to be able to use it for my work. Ulysses is the means by which I can know with 100% certainty how my document will be formatted, and it puts the fewest steps between my writing and moving through my library. It was this program that made me decide that Mac+Ulysses can be at least as good a writing environment as Windows+Word. Even so, it ain't cheap, and I *still* can't avoid keeping a VM around for Windows and Word, since I collaborate with others at work on a weekly basis, if not daily. I do it this way, instead of sticking with Windows, because Ulysses doesn't crash the way Jaws does in Word when I move too fast or am doing too many things at once--conditions under which NVDA may not crash, but always slows down to the point where I lose time with every arrow keypress. I hate for this review to sound so much like a plug for the program. It's not for everybody. HTH, though.
I look forward to the day that I can do these things!
If I could make a small suggestion to the developers, would you want to use the shortcut to move rows, the control command and the arrow up / down also be used to move sheets in the sheets list. It would be much easier than having to simulate the mouse for users of the VoiceOver, and I believe that there are people like among the normal users who prefer to use the keyboard.
Optionally, the same shortcut could work in the list of groups to reposition a group in the library.
This together with the possibility of move sheets to another group by menu context would make my workflow incredibly easier, and, I believe, a lot of people more.
I look forward to the day that I can do these things!
The very limited case for Ulysses
Looking back at the verbose review I posted last year, I'm surprised how positive it was. I stopped using Ulysses almost immediately, though I subscribed to it again yesterday to work on an online course project where I think it will boost my productivity. IMO, Ulysses is only useful under the following conditions.
1. You work alone. Locking all your content in its library makes it very awkward to exchange documents with others to work on collaboratively.
2. You don't care about layout. Ulysses is not a desktop publishing program, since the concept of a printed page doesn't even exist. I found myself abandoning the program because the documents I worked on at the time were destined for PDFs where I didn't want sections to bleed over onto the next page and layout really mattered. Word and Pages are better tools for print- or print-like documents.
3. You don't have a lot of tables. Amazingly, Ulysses hasn't done anything to support tables. I insert a code block and hard code the table as html in my Ulysses sheets. That's ok for blog posts and Web pages, but not for PDFs.
4. You aren't going to need to edit your work further after publishing. For my online projects, I found that I still naturally needed to edit, edit, edit after copying my text and pasting it into the online page editor on WordPress or my course management platform. So, Ulysses is just for the first draft or two. Then, if I wanted to copy it back to Ulysses for archiving, there's something messed up in the conversion, such that headings will now also have bold or italics around the text, blockquotes are not coded as they originally were, and blank lines are missing. These are the result either of my course management platform or the editable Ulysses style template.
5. You don't want to organize your library. I begged them back in version 11 (before that, actually) to add common-sense cut/paste shortcuts for moving library items, because mouse dragging is cumbersome and often unreliable. Just add the items to the right-click menu, for heaven's sake! We're in version 14 now and I once again asked them for this. Their response: no plans, but "consider your vote counted." Ok, so I guess that's two blind people's votes. I don't think we're going to win this election. Accessibility shouldn't be a matter driven by popular demand.
6. You don't also have Windows. You can use an external folder to keep actual markdown files in a location your Windows machine can access, and I do this a lot, but features like notes, annotations, embedding, and any other non-plain-text stuff is lost.
It's a good editor, even at a little over $3 per month, but only for a limited use case. I'm looking forward to using it on my upcoming Web projects.
There have been several forum questions about Ulysses lately, so I wanted to add some updates and additional notes here. Shout out to Earnest Rudak's review of the IOS version.
From the above complaints, the library organization issue has been addressed: command+control+up/down moves sheets up and down in the list on Mac, and there's a rotor action on IOS. Moving things out of groups is done with Command+C and then command+option+V to move, as in finder. Accessibility in the styles preferences panel was fixed a long time back, also. The devs really dig in for VoiceOver support.
The command+8 navigation menu is still not hierarchical, and it still doesn't include other elements like comments. That's minor, and I don't expect it to happen. More significantly, there's still no ability to create a table of contents, and amazingly still no support for tables.
What I wanted to add, though, was a cautionary note about formatting options. When I first started using Ulysses, I was very frustrated by the limited formatting range, based on its markdown implementation, and I kept having to move my projects into Word. If you want a line of text centered, for instance, that's not a markdown character. We need to edit a style sheet to assign centered alignment to some kind of supported text element--probably a heading level. The only way to ad-hock center a particular line of text would be to enclose it in a raw source block using the double @ character to kick it off and hitting enter twice to end the block. This puts everything into HTML or any other code markup that would be processed on export. That is how I insert tables into HTML documents, for example. But no markDown will be processed inside that raw source block, so all other formatting in there will be messed up. In order to format something, then, the style sheet has to be edited and one of the supported text elements must be dedicated to that precise format. This means repurposing semantic elements like blockquotes, headings, or annotations to become something they aren't, which is bad practice. For example, if I were creating hanging indents for a bibliography, I'd have to use one of the elements just listed to have the complex CSS indent formatting pull that off. Or if I am writing a resume that I want descriptions of my job positions to be indented, I will most likely resort to blockquote and customize that element to suit my layout. When I listen to the resulting document, VO will report those as block quotes, which they aren't semantically. Be prepared to play with style sheets, in other words, if you need your docs to look a certain way when others view them; it's not difficult, but does take time to learn.
Finally, it remains necessary to tweak most documents to a greater or lesser extent after export. If exporting to a Word document, be prepared to need Word itself to check it over and fix certain things. PDF exports, meanwhile, will not be tagged for accessibility, so heading levels will be only visual (there's actually no tool currently that does export properly semantic PDFs other than Adobe's own tools, though this is bound to change soon as a result of growing legal pressures for accessible documents).
So, as I noted a few years ago above, Ulysses is great for long-form draft writing. Documents where visual layout, including page layout and complex formatting, are often best done in Pages or the like. Be aware of what this app is before plunking down your cash or getting into a project that'll frustrate you when it's export time, which is what kept happening to me.
IA Writer and ByWord are also great, non-subscription markdown editors for simple files. They offer better MarkDown options through standard MultiMarkDown, and IA Writer has a more expansive approach to CSS styling, but it's also more complex at that level. They also use standard text files instead of a content management system like Ulysses does. I'm working on a book at present, and my Ulysses subscription is well worth it for that. Its approach to content management lets me scribble into multiple parts of the project and flip among them way easier than a word processor's approach, which is to open multiple files or create multiple windows to different parts of a long document. Its approach to this content management system is also far more fluid than Microsoft OneNote's similar structure, while OneNote falls down quickly regarding the editor's usability and when exporting. So, IMO one's enjoyment with Ulysses may in the end come down to whether you're writing documents that benefit from the sheets/groups/gluing approach, designed for long-form draft writing.
How is this now?
Hello. Just wondering what all of you think of this app now? Have things improved recently?
I just reviewed my July update and it all still goes. I haven't noticed any changes. It remains great for its intended purpose of writing a book that doesn't require complex formatting. And, they have put in a lot of niceties for VO users, like recognizing markdown headings as headings when using the rotor. It'll also report text emphasis and images, just like a standard word processor. But markdown makes those things far easier to take control of, since it's all plain text markdown characters. The automatic backups (which are stored locally) have also saved my work when my iCloud was going nuts.
One long-standing problem I have not reported is that, whenever I cut text, VO loses the ability to focus on the text area, so that I have to tab away and back to the app. That's about the only bug I can think of. When my iCloud went wonky, I felt very very nervous about the fact that all my work was locked in a proprietary content management system, I have to say. Using its external folders feature can help mitigate that. I also hate the fact that markdown requires me to hit enter twice (skipping a line) for the exported file to recognize a new paragraph. That's a markdown thing, not Ulysses. Also, last I checked, the code block feature was hard to use, because it does report when you enter a code block but not when you exit the block at the end, so it's difficult to know where the code block ends.
Shoutout to people who push…
Shoutout to people who push threads to the top of the page. These in-depth reviews were very helpful, and I will temper my expectations accordingly.