The perfect text editor doesn’t exist

macOS and Mac Apps

Yes, you read it right, you can’t find one app which have all the features you want. I have personally learned if I start to compare several apps in the same area, for example podcast apps, RSS readers etc. I will just end up in endless searching and scrolling, wasting my time and energy for applications which doesn’t have all set of features on board.

Criteria for a good text editor

This part will be based on my subjective opinion.

  1. Accessibility This one will maybe sound obvious, but under accessibility I do not only mean support for VoiceOver, but also how easy it is to navigate in the app, how much time you need to spend to find out different editing tools and how much does the app costs?

  2. Keyboard shortcuts Today modern text editors for the most have powerful selection of keys combinations which can make it more enjoyable to write your text.

  3. Sync and platform options People have various needs. Someone can use a text editor only on Mac, and therefore the user might not be disappointed if it’s not available for iPadOS or Windows. Many users have multiple devices and people often look for cross platform solutions. If you’re only in Apple ecosystem and don’t need to collaborate with people outside, you will for the most find iCloud sync enough. However, if you’re not only a multiply device owner, but also use different platforms it can be more difficult to find something that suits you.

Different apps, different reasons to choose the right one

I will share my experience of using Ulysses on Mac. I have tried several text editors, but want to cover this one because it has some specific VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts which I haven’t yet discovered in other products.

When I first heard about Ulysses, I got the impression that it is a complex editor for professionals only. I have downloaded it on my Mac and was surprised how simple the app is, how intuitive it is to navigate around the interface if you have never used it before. On the left side you got your groups, it’s like a folder, but more flexible and have a ton of filter options. In the middle it’s a list of sheets and this is what they call files in traditional programs. And on the right side you have the editor. To switch between these 3 tabs you can use arrow keys or just VoiceOver keyboard shortcut VO + J. Another one of my favorite feature is to navigate with headings when you’re editing text. If you write in markdown you can simply press VO + command + H or VO + command + shift + H to jump through headings..

If you want a more informative review of Ulysses, drop a line bellow.


I don’t think that I have covered a lot of new perspectives in this post, but maybe it was useful for someone! I would enjoy if you wrote below in the comments your text editor of choice and some favorite features as well!



Submitted by ericwhittencool on Sunday, May 10, 2020

I have not used Ulysses before, but I have it on my mac. Is there a way you can do a podcast on it? As far as text editors, I use text or pages most of the itme. When I need to use windows, I use jart.

Submitted by WellF on Sunday, May 10, 2020

I've never used Ulysses, because it's paid and I don't know if you can test it for free. My choices by now are:

  1. Notebook, it's like evernote but you can actually use it with voiceover. I'm using it as a diary, and it might come handy for college notes and stuff.
  2. Drafts, because you can just open it and start writing. It's good for insights, but the free version limitations are a bit annoying for me.

Submitted by Siobhan on Sunday, May 10, 2020

Hi. I agree you can't find the perfect editor. Then again, we can't find the perfect device. I like Mac, she likes windows, he likes Android, so to each his or her own solution. the one thing i will disagree about is the cross platform capabilities. Granted it would be a great world if we all used say Pages across the phone and Mac and Word would do fine in windows. but as long as there's such thing as comparable file types, I see no reason why if someone uses word, and i don't, i still wouldn't be able to open the file, make the changes i see fit, then send it back to the creator. Yes this takes time if formatting is stripped, but we'd run into that anyway. I never heard of Ulyssies, and I'm unwilling to put down money for an unknown application. Pages works for what I need it to, so does text edit. If I needed something more sophisticated, then I might check into something like it. Thank for the thought.

Submitted by Justin Philips on Monday, May 11, 2020

This is also a feature that should be available in a text editor.

Submitted by Daniel Angus MacDonald on Monday, May 11, 2020

ulises is great but there is not much aawarness sarounding it for VoiceOver users in particular. I hear about on podcast(s) such as Mac Power Users, but not enough mainstreem people use it. it'swith VoiceOver. a subscribtion, but as with all other subscribtions, theres a free tear. a podcast demenstrating it would be helpful, as most people who descrover AppleVis for the first time, say, getting their first mac, might not know enough to navagate to this post. and for experienced users, we'll have yet another tool we could use if we wanted.
thanks for this post,

Submitted by Tangela on Monday, May 11, 2020

I have written in depth reviews of numerous writing apps on blind bargains which may be of use here. See the reviews of See the app on IA Writer:
Voice Dream Writer:
and Scrivener:

A review of Ulysses is forthcoming. If there are any other apps you want reviews of please let me know.

Submitted by Tangela on Tuesday, May 12, 2020

That depends on your use case. I outlined a lot of the pros and cons in the article of some use cases and reasons it might not be a good fit. I find that Voice Dream Writer and scrivener are probably the 2 that I reach for most often depending on the complexity of the project.

Submitted by Voracious P. Brain on Sunday, August 30, 2020

I purchased ulysses for both mac and ios right before it turned subscription, making it an expensive waste for me personally because it didn't fit my needs at the time. Maybe it would serve as a good tool on IOS/Ipad OS today for my non-MS-Office-required writing. Can anyone say if navigation by headings within a sheet works on the IOS/IPad version? Back around version 14, I found Ulysses on IOS pretty poor compared with a Windows laptop experience, and this is one of the reasons. Unfortunately, markdown in Windows is pretty much limited to plain text editors lacking any advanced text editor functions, and I really prefer working in markdown.

Submitted by Devin Prater on Monday, August 31, 2020

I tried it, and its support for Language Tool makes it great; no more double spaces and uncapitalized sentences! But, it messes up my regular markdown files so nope, not for me.

Submitted by Remy on Monday, August 31, 2020

All I want is a text editor where I can transfer .docx files between it and my PC without losing my headings and other formatting. I want to be able to navigate through the headings of my novel's chapters with ease and I don't want to break it down into smaller files. It's tedius. I also want to read by sentence and paragraph. (This at least can be done now with custom voiceover gestures, but it took forever to implement.) It would be nice to have paragraph and sentence roter options too. And I want to do all this while the keyboard is open already. I hate having to switch between writing and reading in things like Word and Pages on the IOS platforms, because more often than not, if you minimize the keyboard reading commands get weird, and if you put voiceover's cursor on a word then double tap to bring the keyboard up, it ends up putting you somewhere you don't want to be. I actually found Voice Dream Writer to be quite good, but you can't import .docx files, so it's kind of useless in my current situation.

Submitted by Matthew Whitaker on Monday, August 31, 2020

Loved reading this post. I do agree with your list of what should be included in these types of apps. If it's possible, can you please do a review on the app you mentioned?
Thank you

Submitted by Dave Matters on Monday, May 10, 2021

I enjoy Ulysses. It is the only app I have seen/found that allows you to navigate headers while editing. I know I can do this when using markdown. And, yes, it works on both the Mac and iPad/iPhone. This feature is excellent.
The problem I’m having is the .pdf docs created when exporting cannot be navigated using headings. I can export to ePub and html with the header tags intact, but not .pdf. I have tried various style sheets and keep coming up empty. I’m currently trying to figure out the Ulysses style sheets as I’m guessing I’m going to have to create my own. Unless, someone knows of or has one.

Dave ...

Submitted by Bruce Harrell on Monday, May 10, 2021

Without question, the best word processor I've ever used since the late 790's is WordPerfect 5.1 for MsDOS. It had absolutely all the features I needed for my law practice in an extremely efficient user interface, plus a few bells and whistles I have yet to see anywhere else, such as incredibly easy to record and use macros. I'll give you a clue. Want a macro to fill in an inside address in a letter? Great! Push the start recording macro function key to start recording your new macro; then execute any macros you want the new macro to execute, such as automatically opening a blank law office letterhead, entering today's date at the appropriate spot centered under the letterhead, and putting the cursor where you need to enter the inside address; type the inside address; press the stop re cording macro function key; enter the name of your new macro (in this case, I would use the name of the person addressed inside the letter); press the stop recording macro function key again, and voila! The next time you want to send a letter to that person, you simply press the start macro function key, type their name, press the start macro function key again, and voila! A blank letterhead has opened, filled in today's date, and filled in the inside address. Smile.

With only a small investment of time, I had hundreds of macros enormously improving my efficiency many times every day.

Submitted by PaulMartz on Monday, May 10, 2021

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Not to be a pedant, but I think this thread is about word processors. Text editors are more of a developer tool.

Most word processors fail to provide a usable accessible interface for document comments and track changes. I'm surprised because this seems to be a universal problem,. It's as if all the word processor developers met in a dimly lit back room, agreed they would never produce a consistent, accessible, and usable interface for this feature, then celebrated with cigars and shots of whiskey.

If I am running a spell check, often I need to examine the word in context. I want to jump out of the spell check dialog, arrow around and review the document text, then jump back to the spell check dialog and continue on. Sighted users can examine the word in context with a glance, but I don't know of a word processor that lets a vision impaired user do this gracefully.

There's an identical issue when reviewing track changes. Often, all you know is a comma was deleted (or something similarly vague), and the only way to check if that's correct is to review the document text. But Word processors like Google Docs provide no way to jump focus back and forth between document text and the track changes review dialog.

Sighted users can check capitalization with a read-through, but on a Mac, vision impaired users must right arrow one character at a time over the entire document and listen for whatever signal they've configured in VO Utility. Not sure what you do on iOS to check capitalization. There needs to be a "jump to next capitalized letter" command, or the spelling and grammar checker needs to flag suspicious capitalization.

Macs also frequently screw up smart quotes, most often when you end a quote with an em dash or hyphen. You will hear VoiceOver announce "left quote" when it should be "right quote", but if you're immersed in your content and miss it, there's no easy way to find these issues later, which could be anywhere in your document. Again, trivial for sighted users to do with a quick read-through.

I use Scrivener primarily, but must sometimes use Google Docs, Pages, and MS Word 2010 on my old Win7 system. Scrivener works great because I'm a writer, and I need a word processor capable of handling manuscripts on the order of 200,000 words. By default, Scrivener provides an environment that is not cluttered with visual concerns such as page breaks or other formatting features. It lets me focus on the content.

I've already gone on way too long. See my blog about accessibility issues in Google Docs. It covers the features I think are important.

Submitted by Unregistered User (not verified) on Tuesday, May 11, 2021

If you want to use a very accessible text editor, use text based editors like latex. And you won't be worried with any unconfortability. But you will get some difficulties, you will have to remember a lot of commands for processing text. But no problem - The commands are very understandable first of all for English speakers.
You can get latex very easily. Try it then post here.

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