Ulysses for Writers – Mac and iOS

Hot off the presses – Ulysses for writers 2.5

As I’m writing this document in Ulysses for writers app, I am delighted to see an email come in to say Ulysses Mobile is now available for download. This is fantastic for me as an iPad Pro user as I’ve been getting impatient to have the iPad Pro keyboard instead of the old keyboard. The old version with the old keyboard wasn’t a great experience, as a lot of the text was covered and sometimes selection of text was a little difficult. I’ve just opened up Ulysses Mobile on my iPad Pro and it’s looking very good indeed. I’m cetainly going to get much more productive with Ulysses on my iPad now. For my next trick – I’m downloading the application onto my iPhone and I will be fully covered for all my writing needs with Ulysses.

I’m looking forward to trying out a number of the new features in Ulysses Mobile, such as the added share extension. I’ll also be trying the export out to Medium, the blogging platform. I see there are a few new PDF export styles and there is a keyword editor in the sheet list. I don’t have a device that works with 3-D touch actions so will have to wait until the iPhone 7 becomes available later in the year before I see that. Something that will be incredibly useful with Ulysses mobile is it updated to allow the iOS 9 split screen. I’ll be having Notepad in one side of the screen and Ulysses on the other. This will give me access to research material I’ve collected into Notepad. Now let’s get back to the Mac version of Ulysses also updated to 2.5 as a free update.

Ulysses for Writers

Ulysses for Writers for Mac

A Writers Life On The Mac

There’s more to being a writer than just pounding away on the keys of a keyboard into the Ulysses for writers app. This is especially the case if you’re publishing your works and selling them on places like Amazon and Apple iBooks or any of the other online bookstores. As well as getting the words out of your head and onto the page, you also have to think about the marketing side of selling books. You might not like having to do selling, but unless you do you will never be a bestselling author. Authors have to deal with running a website in order to have an author profile. As Well as having a website, the author has to deal with social networking to advertise that website. Books need to have a good cover to attract customers to look inside and maybe buy. Just in terms of getting the words written an author needs to have software he or she feels comfortable with. That software also has to be up to the job of doing whatever necessary to get the book published. The type of book you produce will have some effect upon which software you use to create your literary masterpieces or pulp fiction. You could get away with the software that is more suited to using in an office to do business. You know what I’m talking about, that old dinosaur Microsoft Word. It’s much better still if you can use software designed specifically for the task in hand.


A video looking at Ulysses on the iPad (before todays update)

DragonDictate writing in Ulysses

DragonDictate writing in Ulysses

The Physicality Of Getting Your Words Onto The Page

At the moment as I’m writing this, I’m leaning back in my office chair with my hands behind my head and feet up on the table. It’s a very comfortable position to work on my writing and I like it. The reason I can work in this way is because I’m using DragonDictate or Dragon for Mac 5. I have a Samson C03U microphone next to me and whatever I say is turned into editable text by Dragon for Mac. I could do my writing lying down in a hammock if I wanted to. Mind you I would have to have a portable Mac computer to build to do that. I could use Siri dictation and dictate into the Ulysses writers app for iOS. When Siri is behaving itself and getting the accuracy it is capable of, it works remarkably well. Much faster than using the on-screen keyboard or using a Bluetooth keyboard if you have one attached. Nuance Communications have brought out a Dragon dictation application called Dragon Anywhere. This works on iOS and is supposed to have similar capabilities as the Mac version. The trouble is, it’s only is available in the USA at the moment and it’s too expensive. For most people it is going to be a better proposition to have the Dragon for Mac 5 on the desktop computer and to use transcription. Transcription is where you record your words into an audio file and the speech is converted into text by Dragon Dictate. It works very well and you can get a huge amount of ‘writing’ done in this way. When the transcription is taking place it works faster than in real time. The software must know where there are silences in the audio and is able to ignore them. The transcribed text appears in the Textedit application and then all you have to do is to copy and paste it into the Ulysses for writers application. Once you have the converted text in your favourite Mac writing application, you can start to do the editing.

Dictation And Transcription In Dragon For Mac

The accuracy will work out at approximately 95% to 98% correct and it will be very fast to edit the document. There will be fewer spelling mistakes and only one or two places where the speech to text software has got confused with homonyms. Dictation is much faster than the old-fashioned typing with a keyboard. Using this method of dictation and transcription an advantage is you can do it while doing something else, like walking down the road. It does take a little bit of getting used to when you have to speak and insert the punctuation verbally. You soon get used to it. After the text is in a sheet in Ulysses for writers on your Mac you’ll probably want to make use of the Split Command. When the text is split into sections, you’ll be able to easily move the sheets and have the words in the correct order in your document.

Using Ulysses app

Showing the 4 panes of the Ulysses app

Ulysses For Writers Application In Action

The interface of Ulysses for writers is deceptively simple. When you first look at it you might wonder what sort of things you can do with it. There is the right amount of functionality within Ulysses, but much of this is hidden until you need it. There’s a four pane view and starting from the left you have a view of your library of documents. This is where you go when you want to choose which group of documents you work on. When you choose the group for today’s work you’ll see in the next pane the list of sheets within the group. Click on the sheet you want to work with and in the next pane is the editing window where you do all of your writing. There is one more pane over on the right-hand side and this is called the Attachments Pane. In this area you add your tags, set up your keywords, add notes and images for that specific document. The attachments pane is a place to put your research and where you do some of your writing house-keeping tasks.

ScreenWhen you’re writing you’re going to want to use the distraction free mode and view just the editor pane. Use the keyboard shortcut Cmd +3 to get to your best writing mode. Cmd +2 gives you two panes, the editing window, which is always in view, plus the list of sheets within the group you are working with. Using Cmd +1 toggles between the view with just the editor and a three or four pane view. Cmd +4 toggles the view of the attachments pane. Once you get used to using these four keyboard shortcuts you can move between your documents, groups, library and attachments with ease. Then the other numbers from five through to nine combined with the Cmd key will navigate you through the application. Here is the full list.

  • Cmd +1 – Three Pane view
  • Cmd +2 – Two Pane view
  • Cmd +3 – Editor only
  • Cmd +4 – Attachments Pane
  • Cmd +5 – Favourites
  • Cmd +6 – Quick Export
  • Cmd +7 – Statistics
  • Cmd +8 – Navigation (in the document through the headers used)
  • Cmd +9 – Markup (you get a list drop down for all the Markdown options)

Controlling Ulysses For Writers With The Keyboard

Using Markdown in Ulysses

Using Markdown in Ulysses

As you can see there are easy ways to get around the application using that set of keyboard shortcuts with Cmd plus a number. When you are new to the application and not so sure about the syntax for markdown it’s useful to remember Cmd +9.. It’s that shortcut and then use the arrow keys to choose the markdown tag you’re looking for. It would be a quick way to put in the syntax for a header five tag. The tags you don’t use very often don’t have to be in your long-term memory. Just use the keyboard shortcut for the quick access to markdown and the problem is solved.

Many of the application menu items are also given keyboard shortcuts. You don’t have to learn all of them, just the ones you use regularly. Some of the menus don’t have shortcut keys applied to them. Don’t forget you can go into the system preferences for your Mac and add a new shortcut to use just on your computer.

What Is Ulysses Like When You’re Actually Doing The Writing?

Within the settings you may choose if you want to have a typewriter mode. This can be handy if you like to look at just one point on screen as you are writing. You can also choose to have a dark mode. The light mode which is standard, is a grey and not a harsh white and is pleasant to use anyway. Even so, I know there are some people who prefer to have a view of the screen which is a dark background and light-coloured text. Whichever works best for your eyes, go for it. There is also a paged mode and there’s not a huge difference on screen and for myself I can’t really see the point of it.

So when you finish setting things up to have it just the way you want it, you will have a distraction free space to do your writing. The words are the most important thing of all and Ulysses for writers does give a good experience for focusing on the job in hand. This is especially the case if you have gone fullscreen with the application. Even if you have the menu bar always showing you’re not going to get too distracted as the menubar is also minimal. On the right-hand side you just have the button equivalents of the Cmd + 5-9 keyboard shortcuts. On the left-hand side there are just two buttons which cover your options for Cmd + 1–4 and starting a new sheet in the group.

Organising Your Work In Ulysses

If you have used Dragon dictation and transcription as option for bringing the text into Ulysses it will come in as one lump of text when you copy and paste it. This will be easier than going back-and-forth between Textedit and Ulysses copying and pasting small sections one at a time. The best way to organise your text is to position the cursor in front of where you need to have a split and use the menu to Split at Selection. When you split a single sheet into perhaps five or six separate sheets you can then use your mouse or magic pad to move the text to where you want it. You will see the sheets are glued together. That will not stop you from moving sheets up and down to arange in the correct order. From there you either leave the sheets as separate entities and just put them back together again at the time of exporting out. It really depends upon the document and maybe it would be better to have it all together as one single sheet. All you have to do is to select all of the sheets when you have everything in the correct order and merge them together.

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Using The Library For Organising Your Documents In Ulysses

It’s not a problem to have the Ulysses for writers application on multiple devices. You may have a desktop computer, a MacBook Air, iPad Pro and you want to have the same information on all of these devices. In the new version of Ulysses for writers you have the application on your iPhone too. It doesn’t matter where you are or which Apple device you are able to get to, you’ll be able to pick up wherever you left off. In my experience with the synchronisation of documents over iCloud in Ulysses for writers app I’ve not had any problems at all. The synchronisation works well and it works fast. The iPhone version of Ulysses for writers application 2.5 is available and we don’t need to use Daedalus the notetaking application.

Your View Within The Library Can Be Altered By Using Filters

There is a keyboard shortcut to add a sheet to favourites and you can get at these favourites in the library pane. There is also a filter for the Last 7 Days. this can be handy if you want to get to a file quickly and you can’t remember what it’s called or where you put it, but you know you did it during the last week. It’s possible to create other filters so you can have a look at whatever you’ve done in the last 24 hours, for example. A useful filter would be to use keywords. If you are writing a novel you could have a keyword for a character in the story. This will give you a list of all of the sheets keyworded with that character. Often when you’re writing a story you need to find an instance where your character does something or says something and make some changes. Such a filter will give you quick access to those parts of the story.

Grouping And Outlining In Ulysses

Ulysses organising documents

Ulysses organising documents

Writing a novel is a huge task involving as much as a hundred thousand words or maybe more. You’re going to want to break this into sections so you start by adding a group in the library for your book. Within the group you’ll split it up further probably by having a group for each of the three acts of the story. Within the group for act one you can split it up further into chapters and scenes. It’s very easy to set up a hierarchy of groups within the Ulysses for writers and authors application. It’ll be a good idea to have a separate group to place your research material. It’s just a case of being totally professional and organised in the way you write your book. It’s a way of making sure everything is in the right place when it comes down to exporting out from Ulysses to your e-book or PDF, or whatever type of document you export to. It’s a simple matter to move sheets around within the structure with dragging and dropping. Depending on how finely you split things up, you might be able to move just about everything with drag and drop and not have to use copy and paste. Another useful feature within the Ulysses library is the area for trash. When you delete a sheet it is not got rid of completely. You can always go back into the trash folder and retrieve something if necessary.

Ulysses Library House Keeping Tools

When you’re writing a book and you know is going to be, for example 60,000 words long. Within Ulysses you can set up goals for the whole project and also for groups within the book. So if you right click on the group Manuscript you can set the expected number of words for your book. Do the same sort of thing for each of the acts so you can see how the number of words works out for each part of the book. You’ll then get colour coding and the little icon to show you how you are getting on with your writing progress. This will be an easy way for you to see if your act one part of the story is going on too long or is too short. Something like this will also help your motivation during the writing process.

Notes, Annotations, Footnotes And Links

There’s an area in the attachments panel for adding notes. It can be preferable though to have notes within the text itself. There are two ways to add notes within the sheet. When working on a novel it’s a good idea to outline the novel before you actually start doing the writing. This gives you an idea of what it is you’re supposed to be writing. I think it is preferable to start by adding empty sheets for your chapters or scenes and to have a comment right at the start to say what is supposed to be in that sheet. Type in two percentage symbols and then add your note.This is a great way to do the preliminary work to organise your story. The text within the on sheet note is not counted in the word count for the documents. Another way to add notes is when you’ve already done some writing and you need to have a note in the text. If you put in two plus symbols, write your note and then two more plus symbols to close it off, you have an inline note. An example of when you might do this is when you are completely in the zone of writing and you don’t want to let anything stop you. Perhaps you need to add a word or a piece of text that needs some research. Just add a note to be a placeholder you can go back to later to add what is necessary for your story.

It Is Export Time For Your Book

Ulysses Export to ePub

Ulysses Export to ePub

Well it might not be a book. It could be something as simple as a blog post. Your writing could be destined to end up in a word document or as a PDF. Maybe your plan is just to take the plaintext and use in another application such as Adobe InDesign or whatever. It’s possible to export out just a single sheet by itself. Or you can export a group containing groups which in turn contains sheets.The look of the text you export is affected by the stylesheets attached to the format you are exporting to. The Ulysses for writers application gives you some default stylesheets to choose from and you can add more. Whichever you go for you have a preview so you’ll see exactly what you’re going to get. If you send it out as a PDF it will be paginated so you’ll see where the page breaks are. You get to see how it looks in terms of the typefaces being used and how the images fit on the page. I have exported directly from Ulysses to the EPUB format for e-books and I have been pleased with the results. When you export out of Ulysses as an e-book you’re given the opportunity to add an image to be the cover of the book. At the same time you can set the title of the book and fill in the name of the author. I would like to see the ability to export to the Kindle format in a later version of Ulysses for writers. We didn’t see that in the update to 2.5, maybe come in a later iteration.


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What’s New In Ulysses For Writers 2.5

Is now possible to import DOCX Microsoft Word files. The developers have added a couple of brand-new PDF and DOCX export styles. In the previous version if you wanted to have a way to split the sheets with a keyboard shortcut you had to make your own in system preferences. In Ulysses for writers 2.5 the keyboard shortcut is already in the application ready to use. It is Shift, Cmd B to split a sheet. In the attachment sidebar it now always shows the keywords, although I hadn’t noticed it wasn’t doing so before. Also new in Ulysses is the ability to allow filtering by a creation date and the default font is San Francisco. The changes are not huge in this version of Ulysses on the Mac, but it’s great to have the application on the iPhone now. It’s also rather good to finally have the iPad Pro keyboard available. The SoulMen developers have given us an all-round solution for writers and authors. I love it that we can start a document on the iPhone and keep going whether we are moving over to the iPad or onto the Mac. Going from the Mac to the iPhone is just as seamless.

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