Start with Ulysses writing app iOS

Ulysees App LogoUlysses Mobile – Ulysses app iOS

The Ulysses app iOS is a good addition to the iPad Pro for someone who wants to do writing on both the iPad and also the Mac. I’ve looked at Ulysses despite being a user of the writing app Scrivener, which is a super application. When you are using it on your Mac you will soon see that it does just about everything, apart from make the tea. It is possible to export projects out of Scrivener and to bring them back in again to use on iOS. It’s not the same as having a system which will work on both platforms. I tested Ulysses on the Mac and I thought it was incredibly simple. I decided it wasn’t going to do all I would need from a writers app. The thing is, is the simple view is somewhat deceptive. In this Ulysses app review I think I’ll be able to confirm that the pairing of Ulysses for Mac and Ulysses iOS will be good for my writing workflow. Initially, I thought I would just get the Ulysses writers app for iOS and move the words into Byword to move them across into my Mac. It didn’t take me long to realise that there is an advantage to having a pair of writers apps working together. So despite being a happy user of Scrivener for Mac, I stumped up the cash to buy the Ulysses writing app for OS X. My first impressions of Ulysses writing app iOS are positive and I like the way it is working so far.

Ulysses app review – The writers app for iOS

Ulysses writing app iOS

Ulysses writing app iOS



What you have in Ulysses Mobile is a three pane view. Starting with the pane on the left, which is where you choose the library you’re going to work with. In this area you’ll see that you can use iCloud or you can bring in external files. There’s a good range of places you can bring documents in. This includes the application called Documents by Readdle. You may also use Google Drive and One Drive or bring in PDFs from PDF Expert. It’s good to see that you can also bring in files from Bitsync and also from the FTP application Transmit. Strangely, with Dropbox it doesn’t support opening files. My preferred method of connecting the two applications, the Ulysses writing app for iOS and the version on the Mac is with iCloud.

Ulysses Mobile connection to external files

Even though the application is quite simple it’s useful in this library area to see two sections of help files. You have some documents in a section called First Steps to help you get started. Then there is another group of documents in Details and Tips to get you past the basics. When you finish setting up and reading through the introduction in this first pane you can dismiss it by sliding your finger to the left. Now you can see two panes and you’ll see your selection of files you’re working on in a group. Going back into the left-hand pane to look into the iCloud area you’ll see that you can look at all your files in a list. So if you can’t remember which group you put a file into, look at all of them in one list. Then there is a view which will show you the last seven days of files. If there are certain files you work on regularly then you might want to put those into favourites. Sheets can be favourited via a sheets ‘More’ menu. To get that More menu, you need to be looking at your list of files. Select the file, choose Edit from the menu at the bottom and then you will see More. From here you can add or remove from favourites, make a duplicate, copy, export, move, share or move to trash.

Organising your documents in the Ulysses writing app iOS

When you delete a document in Ulysses writing app iOS, it will first go into the Trash. You need to go into this trash area if you want to permanently erase these items. It’s possible to organise your work into projects – groups. There is a default group called Inbox. I suppose you will start by putting things in there if you’re not quite sure where you want your sheet to go. If you’re working on a novel then you’ll have a group and it’s easy enough to give the group a title and to assign it an icon. With the group selected you hit the edit button at the bottom of the screen. Then you can choose which one you want to edit, within this editing area, you set a goal for the number of words you’d like to complete. You have the choice of ‘about’ a certain number of words or you can specify that it should be ‘at least’ or ‘at most’. If you prefer to have it set by the number of characters or the number of characters without spaces, you can. The number of words is what most people want count, but you may also count by sentences, paragraphs, lines or pages.

Ulysses on iOS

Sheets as chapters in Ulysses iOS.

So you’re looking at the list of sheets, which is what they call each document within Ulysses. You’ll want to move them around to have them in the correct order ready to export them. Tap on the edit menu item at the bottom of the screen to start organising. Within this view you can use the icon with three lines to the right, to move the sheets up or down within the stack. Over on the left-hand side you have a circle which you tap on to select and this will give you a check mark within the circle coloured blue. Within your stack of sheets you might have sections devoted to research. These will be notes you don’t want to export to the book format. So it’s really useful to be able to select just what you want to send out as a combined document. Choose all your chapters for the novel and select Export. Your choices for export are as text, HTML, EPUB, PDF or Word document. If you choose EPUB it’s easy to copy to iBooks. This is handy if you want to have see what your book is going to look like in an e-book reader. Before you send it out as an EPUB you can choose a style for it and there are three built-in styles. Give your blog a title and fill in the section to say who is the author. It’s also a good idea to use a cover image for your book. When you got everything set right, export it out to iCloud Drive or one of your other locations. It doesn’t have the option to export directly to a file for Kindle, but I think it’s possible to send to publish on Amazon as a EPUB file. There are other applications available if you need to do a conversion to .mobi. The developer of Ulysses writing app iOS would like to a conversion to .mobi, but says it might not be possible.

Writing in the Ulysses app iOS.

I like using markdown for writing. With the Ulysses writing app iOS and also Ulysses for Mac you’re going to write using markdown or markdown XL. There are two other possibilities Textile and Minimark. I’ll be looking forward to seeing an update to the application to make it compatible with the iPad Pro. As I write this it is still showing the old-style keyboard which is too big on this device. It’s not too much of a problem though, as it is still workable. There is an extra row of keys at the top of the keyboard, giving you easy access to the markdown syntax and one or two other handy keys. There is a search key which brings up a search bar which you can also use for search and replace. The paperclip key gives you access to an area where you add keywords for your document. This would be handy during writing a novel so you can set a keyword for the point of view for that chapter. You might also set a keyword for a location as another way to help you find sets of documents within your novel at a later stage. There is a tab to set a goal for the number of words, sentences, pages or whatever for just that sheet. A tab to add notes and other tab to add images. If you have added a goal to that sheet the paperclip icon changes to a circle showing you how far you are towards your goal.

In iOS 9 it’s cool to use the two fingers on the screen to turn the whole of the screen into a trackpad. This little trick makes it easy to position the cursor exactly where you want it for your writing. If you quickly want to move one character to the left or to the right you also have arrow keys available on the extra row of the keyboard. Starting from the left-hand side of this extra row you get a word count. This is followed by a button to set the level of the heading. It’s better to select the text you want as a heading and then choose its level. The next icon gives you a number of choices – outdenting and indenting, setting text as a Block Quote and two options for making a list.
The next icon looks like the icon you get for making text into right justification, but that’s not what it does. From this icon you can set a line break, a divider, raw source block, code block or a comment block. For your usual straightforward writing of stories you won’t need to use these very often, if at all. The next two icons give you the options to mark, italicise and bold the text as well as a few other odd syntax markings.
Then we have an icon which is a square of four squares and this one is going to be quite useful. This is where you will add links and images to your sheet. You can also add footnotes and annotations as well as video. Some of these things are not in the standard markdown syntax, but are useful for using within the Ulysses writing app iOS.
There is a section with six icons on it starting with a button to add a tab in the text. The next one is to add opening and closing rounded brackets, followed by a quick access key to a colon. The next two icons are a bit weird, giving you double or single quotation marks. Weird because the initial mark is at the level of the bottom of the words rather than in it’s usual place. A bit like in the Spanish language where at the beginning of a sentence which is a question they will put an upside down question mark.
There is an icon next, which is three circles making a small triangle. This gives you a redo and an undo pair of buttons. With a section of text selected, hit the Clear Markup in the menu and it will remove the markdown syntax in what you have selected.

Ulysses writing app iOS

Ulysses writing app iOS – iPad Pro Keyboard


With all the extra keys and settings available for when you’re writing in this Ulysses writing app iOS, it is a pleasant writing experience. The default font is Menlo, but you have a whole range of fonts to choose from in the settings. Menlo is a monospaced font which is good for general text editing. Change it to a different font that is not a monospaced, such as Arial or Baskerville for reading through.

Ulysses writing app iOS iPad Pro Keyboard Markdown

More settings to play with in the Ulysses writing app

Aside from changing the font you can change the layout, such as the line width than the line height. It is also possible to change the paragraph spacing and the first line indent. There is a switch which will swap it to dark mode if you want to have light text on a dark background. Then there are four built-in themes and the one called Solarized is quite popular with some people. You may also add custom themes by going to the Ulysses style exchange. Within the settings you can choose to have smart lists and smart tags. There are also switches for auto capitalisation, auto correction and checking of spelling.

Ulysses Mobile writing app

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Verdict on Ulysses writing app for iOS

I was getting on fine with a writing app for iOS using Byword. A good writing space and a connection to OS X through iCloud. Ulysses gives me something extra on top of that with the range of export possibilities, in particular the export to e-book. Ulysses probably has more settings for organising the writing experience. The main difference is the ability to keep documents in groups, such as you would do when putting a book together. It’s for this reason that I am very happy with the decision to go with Ulysses as a pair on the iOS platform and the Mac. A lot of people when talking about the iPad like to see it as an either or scenario with it and a desktop or laptop computer. Many of us work on both platforms and want to have the ease of use given to us by having our documents everywhere. All our text documents in one place organised into groups so we have a one-stop shop. This is possible with using the pair of applications from Ulysses. Ulysses writing app iOS is easy-to-use and it now has compatibility with the iPad Pro.

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Ulysses Mobile on iPhone

I’m delighted to see that Ulysses has gone universal on iOS and it’s now available to use on the iPhone. This means I can pick up and start working on any document even if I am out and about, mobile. Previously I might’ve use the application Daedalus to so I’d be able to see it in Ulysses on my iMac, but now I don’t have to do that. There are plenty of times when I only have my phone with me and is going to be extremely useful to have a way to input text directly into Ulysses. This means I can use Ulysses for all of my long form text entry. I could see myself working on an outline for a book in Ulysses Mobile on iPhone.  using Siri dictation it’s unlikely I would be writing whole chapters of a book. There have been times in the past when I have written 500 to 800 words on the iPhone using Siri and it has worked out okay.

Ulysses writing app iOS

Ulysses writing app iOS

Do I need to use Daedalus anymore?

There is one extra bonus with the connection to the Daedalus app on iOS. This is a notetaking application for iOS and it will also sync across to Ulysses on the Mac. If you want to write something on your iOS device, rather than opening up the full iOS writing app Ulysses, just take a note in Daedalus. This keeps your simple notes separate while on iOS that makes them fully available to you when you’re working in Ulysses on your Mac. If you don’t have Daedalus app then I suppose you could put notes like that into the group called Inbox in Ulysses. A thumbs up from NoStylus. I am loving the new Ulysses writing app iOS