Scrivener versus Ulysses Part Two – Which one to choose?

I had to buy Scrivener for iOS

For the last six or seven months of been using Ulysses as my go to application for writing. I love using the application especially after the last main update which made great what was already good. Now I’m looking forward to the next update which is in beta at the moment which will give me direct access to my WordPress blogging platform. I got Ulysses because it took so long for Literature and Latte to come up with the Scrivener for iOS. Initially I found Scrivener was better for its huge arsenal of capabilities for writers and authors. Then I found Ulysses to be deceptive in terms of the amount of power hidden underneath a simple interface. I could do all of the things I wanted to do with my writing in Ulysses. I just had to organise myself in a different way and I was happy whether I was writing for a novel or for a non-fiction book. I also found it great for my blogging needs. So I had to buy Scrivener for iOS to make a comparison with Ulysses. Scrivener versus Ulysses.

First impressions of Scrivener for iOS

The application looks good and works well and I like it. The interface and controls are easy to use and I has good synchronisation with projects in the Scrivener for Mac. The synchronisation works through Dropbox and does its job so I shouldn’t really complain. On the other hand, I still prefer the synchronisation through iCloud as with Ulysses. What you get extra for using Scrivener is the definition of areas within it for the draft or manuscript and research. There is also the corkboard metaphor which is a great way to organise portions of your text within a main document. I like the viewer of the complete document within Scrivener for iOS. It’s a good way to move quickly through your collection of sub-documents as well as giving you an idea of what it will look like when compiled.

Scrivener versus Ulysses

Compiling documents in Scrivener for iOS

There’s not much choice at the moment for compiling documents. You have PDF, Word, RTF and plain text. You do get some variations by using templates and with the plaintext you can export out to markdown. At least if I do some work within Scrivener I’ll be able to export it out to markdown to use in Ulysses. I would have thought that Scrivener for iOS would have given us an export out to the EPUB format. I get that with Ulysses and I think it’s great I can make e-books directly from my iOS device. I suppose in time extra capabilities will be added to Scrivener and in the meantime, it’s possible to just go and open the Scrivener document on the Mac to create the e-book.

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Editing text in Scrivener

There is an extra row above the keyboard giving access to some extra commands. The first one of these to the left side is useful in that it gives a list of things you can add to your text.

  • Add link
  • Add Comment
  • Add Footnote
  • In-Line Footnote
  • In-Line Annotation
  • Insert Image

This is a handy set of commands for whatever sort of document you’re working on. The next button goes directly to creating a link and I wonder why there is duplication of that command. It’s already in the list of commands in the previous button. The third button along in this group is only available when you have some text selected. It looks like an S with a line through it and that’s just what does, it just puts a line through the words selected. The last button in this set of four gives you access to alignment for the text. On the other side of the toolbar the first button gives you access to a highlighter. If you have text selected it will highlight that text. If you don’t have text selected and you choose a colour it will put a highlight behind any text you type after that. The next button to the right gives you access to the text colour. There is a set of five colours you can choose from at the top quickly with the icons being larger. Then you have a whole grid of colours underneath that. You could use this facility for making certain words more visible within the text so you can find them later. Perhaps you have a section where you not sure if you want to keep it in or not and this will help you to find that section of text. The next button to the right is only available when there is text selected and it allows you to add a footnote to the selected text. A square dialogue box pops up and you can put your footnote into it. The text with the footnote has a grey marker around it – double tap on it to see the footnote. The button to the right of the footnotes button is for making comments. It works just the same as for the footnotes and your little square that pops up is like a post-it note. This one has a date and time to the comment by default and then you can add the rest the comment below that.

There are three of these toolbars you can slide across from one to the next. One of these toolbars is of little use to me because I access to things like quotation marks, question marks et cetera easy enough on the iPad Pro default keyboard. The other extra row on this toolbar gives access to selection tools and buttons for moving the cursor around. This can be handy if you’re having difficulty using the standard word selection tools on your device. There is also a delete forwards button which can also be useful from time to time.

No Stylus verdict on Scrivener for iOS

As a first iteration of the application, it’s pretty good and so it should be after taking so long to come to fruition. Finally, we have an application dedicated to synchronisation with our writing in Scrivener for the Mac available on iOS. I don’t much like the synchronisation through Dropbox compared to other applications which uses iCloud. Something to consider in the Scrivener versus Ulysses decision.

Scrivener versus Ulysses

In the editing portion of the application, I don’t think there needs to be so much duplication of the commands. I think there should be just one button for adding a link and it is messy having more than one. It seems a little weird to have the formatting possibilities for the writing. When I’m writing I prefer to concentrate on the words and I don’t want to think about how it looks until it’s time to compile or export out to another format. Do you have to choose just one app in the Scrivener versus Ulysses debate?

Scrivener versus Ulysses

Scrivener has several useful tools and certainly could be the best tool for a novel writer. There are such a lot of organisational tasks when writing a book and Scrivener gives you so many ways to control the process. The labels and the colours also work in the corkboard as well as the binder. You can also set a status such as it being a first draft, a revised draft or a final draft. This makes it easy to see at a glance within your binder or on the corkboard what job needs to be done next. I like the way you can easily change the viewing size of the text with a pinch gesture. Same thing in the corkboard where you can change the size of the cards with a pinch.

Scrivener Corkboard

With regards Scrivener versus Ulysses, I don’t regret buying the Scrivener for iOS application and I’m pleased to have it in my arsenal of writers tools. I’m not going to move wholesale from Ulysses for my writing because I like the way Ulysses works. I’ll probably continue using Ulysses for most of my stuff and I’ll have one or two projects for novels I’ll work with in Scrivener. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t use both applications although it would be nice to have one app that would do everything. I would like to have one application that would let me keep all of my writing in one place. I know I could do that with Ulysses or I could do that just using Scrivener. As it stands at the moment if I was to use Scrivener for everything I would miss some of the things from Ulysses. It also works the other way round too. It is good to see two top-quality applications fighting it out and there being a bit of an arms race between them. Writers and authors will probably just choose one or the other and stick with it. The organisational features you get with Scrivener could be the thing which turns your head towards using that application. Or the minimalistic good design and the ability to export out to e-books format directly from Ulysses could be your sweet spot. In the end, you know what sort of writer you are and what facilities you want to use and you’ll make your choice.

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Here’s the link to get the book on using dictation on iOS.

See which apps and services I recommend.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Scrivener versus Ulysses Part Two – Which one to choose?”

  1. You say a number of times how you don’t like Dropbox. Specifically, why?

    The Scrivener developer has been pretty specific and clear why Dropbox was selected–at this time, and probably for as long as it takes for them to be satisfied they can make iCloud work.

    Why does it matter to you? I’m curious. Do you have care’s beyond “just working”?

    1. I like the way iCloud works in the background in Ulysses. I don’t get dialogs popping up I need to wait for to see the sync has taken place. Not had any problems with the sync in Ulysses and it seems to work quickly.
      I see Dropbox support has been added to Ulysses too.

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