This was first published on Medium on April 7th, 2016.
I’ve always been a big advocate of paying for iOS apps from independent developers, as anyone who remembers the long-defunct Pocket Sized Podcast will know. Nothing burns me more than people choking at the thought of doling out $1.99 for the product of someone’s many months of endless days in front of their computer, sweating tiny details and swearing big bad words. Programming isn’t magic; it’s hard, technical work infused with artistic requirements, and making a living in the iOS App Store is intensely difficult for almost all iOS developers, and impossible for a lot of them.
Yes, at that price, Ulysses is expensive for an iOS app. You can’t swing a Plus sized iPhone without hitting a stack of iOS writing apps, so why is it that spending $25 for this one seems like a good idea, when the previous price champion that I’m aware of, iA Writer, is ”only” $9.99?
I can’t fully answer that question, because I’ve literally just started using Ulysses, but I can tell already that flexibility is a big part of it. Export options are many: PDF, plain text, text with Markup, TextBundle, ePub, HTML, DOCX, and Medium (as in Medium the blogging service). In addition, there’s always the iOS share sheet, although a lot of apps don’t show up there from inside Ulysses.
Organization seems to be another reason. Your Ulysses library consists of Groups and Filters, and overall it works much nicer than what I’ve been doing in iA Writer, which is to create different subfolders on iCloud Drive to house my writing in a way that makes sense to me. I’m not sure if this will meet all of a professional writer’s needs, but for an amateur like me it’ll do just fine.
I like the Favorites feature, which will allow me to mark things I’m working on simultaneously as favorites so I can jump right to them while still keeping them filed away in their own separate groups. I’m a technician at heart; if it feels like work and it’s not as efficient as possible, I’ll conclude the developer doesn’t use their own product enough.
Neat little additions abound. You can set a word goal for a sheet (Ulysses’ term for page, article, post, whatever), and a tiny little progress ring (mmm, donut) will keep you visually informed of your progress relative to your goal. The keyboard toolbar is simple but packs Markdown syntax shortcuts grouped logically under three buttons: one for headings, lists, and paragraph blocks; a second for links, syntax, and other inline styles; and a third for special characters. To be honest, it’s a relief after the more flexible but impossible to recall grouping of Markdown tags in the iA Writer keyboard toolbar.
At this price point, I would like the ability to see how often I’ve used the word often, and other utilities that help keep a writer as honest as possible. I don’t know if these are things available in the Mac version, which brings me to the Mac version!
There is a Mac version.
The use of iCloud means you can start writing on one platform and continue another. This is very standard stuff. It also means that now I’m very much under internal pressure to acquire the Mac version of Ulysses, and that costs even MORE money. I really need to see if I can get a review code for MyMac or something, so I can write a review about what it’s like to write a review using Ulysses. I’m sure it’ll be brilliant, which should help the fine folks at The Soulmen feel really good about the whole thing.
Anyway, now I have a stunning new writing tool, and we all know it’s the tools that matter, which is why great photographers immediately get queried about what kind of camera they have when they present the world with a beautiful photograph. So clearly I’m all set to become rich and famous. I’ll try to remember that I knew you when.
- Fine. It’s $25. ↩