When it comes to writing I’m an old soul. I cut my teeth in the 80’s writing medical student H&Ps on an Apple SE. I sold my first Microsoft Word written freelance article in the early 90s. Some 225,000 words here on 33 charts and more.
Hundreds of thousands of words. All Word.
But over the past few months I’ve been writing on Ulysses, a plain-text writing platform built for Apple that delivers a minimalistic writing experience with bunch of powerful backend features. It started as a personal experiment but has evolved as a serious shift in how I write.
What I like about Ulysses
It’s clean and beautiful. Ulysses offers a clean, distraction-free writing experience. A clean space (like a clean white board) spells opportunity for me when it comes to writing.
Beyond clean, it’s arguably the most elegant and thoughtfully designed tool in my box. And I’m not alone in my thinking. Ulysses took a 2016 Apple Design Award.
I don’t save anything. Ulysses is a single-library app, meaning that all my texts live in a single library. You don’t “Open” or “Save” anything — it all happens right inside one window and backup happens almost in real-time. All writing is done in Ulysses’ sheets. Sheets are like documents in Word, although they don’t require a “title” or a “file name.” Understanding how sheets work within your personal library requires that you dive in and check it out.
I’m writing everywhere. Ulysses is built for macOS and iOS and synchs through iCloud (you can use Dropbox as well). So my library syncs back and forth between all connected devices which allows me to continue where I left off. The delicious design of Ulysses has me building ideas in places other than my desk.
While I never thought it would happen, I now spend a substantial amount of time writing on my iPad. While I’m in love with my Space grey MacBook, the Ulysses iPad app has me writing in odd places when it’s just me, my iPad and even my iPhone. This is in line with my work and lifestyle. It works in places and spaces where my laptop might be too obvious.
Press-button publishing to WordPress, Medium and PDFs. With one button, Ulysses exports to custom formatted PDFs, Medium posts, Word documents and eBooks. It also lets you export to HTML such that you’re writing is ready to be used anywhere on the web. Ulysses is linked to my WordPress account and it publishes flawlessly with all images, links and formatting precisely as I have defined.
I came for the minimalism and stayed for the markdown. While I was drawn to the Ulysses design, I have ultimately grown into writing in markdown. Since I write largely for the web and not for sheets of paper, markdown makes sense.
The folks at Ulysses put it this way
We believe that writers should not be bothered with layout tasks. At the very least, layout tasks should never interfere with the writing process itself. Call it what you will — distraction-free, zen-like, purely semantic, mini minimal, neo retro —, fact is that content creation is best kept separate from presentation, or else the latter will get in the way. Eventually. By design (pun, sorry).
Beyond this Ulysses is jam packed with crazy-good features. Here’s a really nice summary of the most current Ulysses features
Is this like Evernote?
No. Ulysses is for writing. Evernote is for stockpiling, storing, capturing and organizing ideas and digital debris. While I live and die by Evernote, writing beyond a few hundred words on Evernote is more work than it’s worth. And moving copy into publishable formats is a PIA. I have some 15,000 notes in Evernote and I continue to capture, clip and tag ideas that I access for larger writing projects. While you can find folks who do, Evernote is simply not built for long-form writing.
By minimizing traditional processes Ulysses represents a space for the frictionless translation of what I’m thinking. It gets technology out of the way.
While good writing isn’t about tools, they remain an inevitable part of getting ideas where they need to go. And design and flow will ultimately become important if you take your writing seriously.
Get posts from 33 charts delivered directly to your email inbox. Register over in the right column. You can unsubscribe at any time. We trust our email with no one other than MailChimp….