Ulysses for iPad

A beautiful flight and a beautiful app. Writing with Ulysses while traveling.

As a professional journalist((I am multimedia journalist for MLive Media Group. Check out my portfolio and my latest work)), I spend a lot of time at the keyboard. From articles to quick briefs, interview notes to random thoughts, I probably write one to two thousand words a day.

And for the past six months, it’s all been in Ulysses.

On Thursday, Ulysses for iPad was released by German developer group The Soulmen.((There was also an update to the Mac application Thursday. It is also very nice. It was a thing of beauty to see the application update in my doc, the metamorphosis from a U” icon to a butterfly))

I’m not going to talk about the beauty of the app’s design. I’m won’t go into detail about all the features that were brought from the Mac to iPad. Another time, I’ll wax poetic about how, in the middle of writing, I sometimes don’t know what device I am on, only that I’m writing.

There’s something else I’d like to touch on.

Ulysses, both for iPad and the Mac, provides the perfect combination of having all my writing in one place and the ability to easily share the words without fuss.

I have always wanted to find an application that suits my needs. A lot of my colleagues use Microsoft Word or Google Docs. One uses Text Edit. I wanted something that stored documents in the cloud, so I didn’t have to think about saving or backing up, and was all about writing.

I first tried Evernote. I was intrigued the idea of having an everything bucket” for my work available all my devices. But there was just too much going on with the green elephant: so many options, distractions and filters on the screen. I also had a hard time writing in a format that would allow me to export my text easily for the web. After a while, it felt like the old days of running Windows 98.

I switched to plain text files stored in Dropbox and used BBEdit to write. While I loved how solid the app is and the level of customization, organizing my documents in Finder did not suit me. Even using applications like nvALT felt too Spartan. I tried and enjoyed the aesthetics of Byword, but the filesystem wasn’t there.

I wanted a single application to open, uniformity and comfort in its design and the flexibility to control my words and formatting.

After trying Ulysses on the praise of Ben Brooks, I fell in love with the app. Everything about it was perfect, right down to the blue blink of the cursor. The Markdown integration allows me to easily add links as I am referencing them and share the words when I’m done. After writing, I select the text and copy it as HTML. I paste it into Movable Type and preview it. Everything transfers exactly as it should and I’m not worried about formatting.

But what kept me from going all-in was that the writing lived on the Mac. There is Daedalus Touch, The Soulmen’s note-taking app, but I never really understood how it all integrated. I tried to store everything in my Daedalus folder but it didn’t stick.

When an iPad app for Ulysses was announced in December, I applied and was accepted for a beta.

And everything changed.

Ulysses for iPad gives me another device to write with. I can work from my desk at home or I can take my iPad to a coffee shop and spend a couple hours cranking out some words. When I open my laptop, I think of e-mail, Google Hangouts and scrolling webpages.

Editing is a one of my favorite features to use the iPad app for. For this review and most other writings on the iPad, I use a wireless keyboard. I found that picking up the iPad and sitting on the couch was a much better way to edit a story and have a change of scenery.

Expanding to another device gives me the security and flexibility to access my work on short notice or in emergencies. Take this example from a couple months ago. I was working on a project and my MacBook Pro suddenly died. I would need to restore from a backup. But I didn’t have time that afternoon.

After a slight panic, I realized I had a safety net. I turned on my iPad, grabbed an external keyboard and picked up where I left off. Thankful, Ulysses had and everything synced over via iCloud.

With the iPad app, Ulysses became the application platform I could build my workflow around. I can confidently use the app suite and not feel like I am locking myself into a proprietary format.

My favorite writing application has become my only writing application.

On that note, I would still like an iPhone version to access drafts when I’m on the go or in the field. The Soulmen have said it’s next up. In the meantime, I have been able to use Daedalus as a conduit to send text from my iPhone.

If you are looking for a new place to write. It’s as good as investing in a good desk.

And as a classicists, what’s not to love about an app named after the wandering Odysseus? There’s no better travel companion for the journey as a writer.

March 12, 2015