Comparing Bear to Ulysses

The more time I spend with Ulysses the less I like their way of displaying and editing in Markdown. It’s simple things that have created the frustration like creating a series of links for show notes. I have a series of links that go at the bottom of every Bookworm episode. I like to use TextExpander to add those. But Ulysses fails to do that correctly even when I’m using properly formatted Markdown.

I suppose that’s a very simple gripe to bring up but it matters. The primary purpose of a writing tool is to do the writing well. The bells, whistles, and chrome are all nice but if the core function gets in the way, then I’m bound to go elsewhere.

That’s what led me to consider Bear. Bear seems to get the core Markdown writing piece absolutely correct. The tags concept makes more sense to me as well. And considering my rare (nonexistent?) use of goals, gluing, merging, attaching, duplicating, and creating rocket ships, I don’t see much that I’m missing by switching.

But likely the biggest pain point Bear would introduce for me is a lack of external folder support. I have a couple places where I use DropBox folders with notes in them that I share with others. As far as I can tell, this feature is yet to be implemented in Bear. So I don’t have that solution determined yet. Which means, *I’m not sold on Bear *.

I know there are folks who use both Bear and Ulysses in parallel as they have different strengths. I understand that and fully recognize the value in that approach. I simply enjoy having a single place for my typed words. And I feel as though I’m close to a solution I can fully endorse. I’m just not entirely there yet.

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Perhaps you’ll need to go all in with Bears to take your notes instead of using Dropbox? It doesn’t seem to look like there’s an easy way to collaborate with others using Bear.

Ulysses probably isn’t the right tool for something shorter like he Bookworm summaries.

I do like Bear’s user interface much more. Ulysses emphasizes the text more. Their blog posts stated their inline image previews are grey-scaled so that you don’t get distracted by colors in the images while writing text.

I jumped on the Bear bandwagon right before Ulysses went subscription. I was feeling like I shot myself in the foot, but as time has worn on, I don’t think that’s true.

I chose Bear because I needed a replacement for Evernote. OneNote, Apple Notes, text files, etc. all were not a replacement for me. I ultimately was drawn to Bear because of its unique tagging structure. Evernote was too ambiguous, Apple Notes was too rigid. Bear was “just right”.

I had purchased Ulysses for iPad earlier this year with the intention of using my iPad as a primary writing device. I write songs, and I’ve never found a great repository for keeping snippets, drafts, and completions. Ulysses seemed like a good idea. Now that Ulysses is subscription-only and I paid for Bear, I haven’t really given it a go. I, too, am like Joe and want one place for my written words. Thankfully, this doesn’t have to sync with a PC like my task management does.

I think I’ll be sticking with Bear, but I need to think through its organization a little bit better. This has always been the trouble point for me and data!


Right now the only thing I’m using Ulysses for is to share text documents with other people. Everything else is landing in Bear. I haven’t found a clean way to share with Bear. Maybe that’s coming but I’ve learned not to hold out waiting for features.

I was wondering what you’re doing now, a few months later. Is Bear still your primary go-to?

I use Ulysses for almost everything, and while I’m glad they fixed the code blocks, the URL thing drives me insane. I have to put URLs with underscores in it all. the. time. And of course, it adds the \ so they aren’t listed as markdown. But, I have no way to easily copy the URL after that. I’ve finally just given up and usually use cmd-K and delete the “link” part, and then ignore the fact that everything after the underscore is italicized. Then I just have to make sure that a second underscore isn’t added in.

I resent paying a subscription fee for a product that has what I consider major flaws. And yet I do because I haven’t found something better.

@htmljenn, have you tried go to Preferences > Markup and created your own Markdown definitions?

You can duplicate one of the Markdown profiles and then customize it to fit your needs. That’s what I’ve found helpful.

What is the exact definition for “link” were you looking for?

I’m still using Bear, but it’s basically a plain text note system for me. Ulysses serves only as a writing platform, which is what it’s best for. I also learned quickly that I almost always need to use the export feature to get content out of Ulysses in the right format. It’s a chore compared to copy/pasting plain Markdown (especially to a site like the Guild that natively supports it) due to Ulysses’ unique inline display of Markdown.

I’m in the process of spinning up a Discourse instance to test it out for my personal note-taking system, a la this thread:

Discourse handles Markdown the way I like, and is easy to use. Jury is still out here though!

Hmmm… I hadn’t really thought about it. I suppose I don’t want http… to be auto linked. But otherwise, the link definition doesn’t bother me. It’s just when it’s auto linked and I select and paste straight from Ulysses, I get th _’s in the URL which then break if I don’t notice and remove them. I’ve gotten into the habit of pasting a link, hitting cmd-k then delete to make the markup disappear. That’s in my muscle memory now.

I haven’t tried Discourse (yet), but maybe…

I’m not. I’m on to Discourse (and it looks like @justindirose followed :wink:).

I’m not 100% there yet but I’m getting close!

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Ulysses works great for me for long form writing and text-bank style text related to the day job.

For me the interesting question has been Apple Notes vs. Bear. I had some data loss with Bear (very early) but I’m told it’s now rock solid. However, I don’t really find Apple Notes wanting (though I’d probably prefer tags) and I’m not entirely sold on the way Bear jams Markdown in your face. I don’t need “H1” in the margin … really … I don’t. I also do like the occaisional rich media in those style notes.

Compare that against the way Bear keeps evolving and it’s killer automation hooks and you can see why I’m torn.


I wonder if they’re trying to make Markdown more accessible by doing that. Even if they are, I do agree it’s cluttery, especially on smaller screens, and absolutely unnecessary for people familiar with it. I’d rather see the hashes than what we get.

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I share Joe’s disdain for how Ulysses handles URLs and how that messes with including TE snippets. It’s a great example of when that thing that should just work tries to get too cute and breaks itself instead. If I can use the snippet in a plain .txt file and get what I want, then I don’t want to try the same thing in a fancy, paid-for app and watch it not work.

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I think someone didn’t understand the different kind of the two APP,they are too different to compare。

It doesn’t make sense.

At this point, aren’t most writers and web folks using markdown already? I feel like I rarely find someone who isn’t. At what level can we just say “we support markdown” and leave it with no explanation needed. At least give me the option to turn it off.

:facepunch: :beers:

Maybe. But you see a LOT of folks online trying to choose between them. I don’t think I would disagree with your point as there is easily an argument for using both. But should you? :thinking:


Why choose one of them? I think we can do everything in Evernote or same type of APPs in beginning.
But I will switch writing to Ulysses some times later, and maybe I will use DayOne to journey.

emmmm my fault, I want to say It is no point to compare evernote with write apps.
i will chose one from ulysses and bear if i call them a write tool.

Fair points. I honk the main decision that needs made is where the lines are. What do you use Ulysses for and what does Discourse do for you? As long as the dilineations are made you should be fine.

I might as well chime in here because I’m wrestling with both of them right now.

I’m trying to essentially keep a commonplace book to help me pull together class material and blog posts and everything someone would want to use a commonplace book for. Highlights from books I’ve read, pull quotes from articles, random ideas and thoughts … not for meeting notes or anything like that.

Shawn Blanc seems to use Ulysses for this, with the goal being that all of his ideas and inspirations and writing are searchable and in the same place.

I like that logic a lot.

The trouble is that Bear makes it so much easier to make connections between notes so you can start to build a web of knowledge. Their wiki referencing feature is really great: [[note title that you are referencing]].

Anyone doing anything similar?

Am I crazy to consider using both?

Am I overthinking this?

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I was using both for quite some time. And now that I’m coming back around to Ulysses, I’m double-dipping a bit with Ulysses and Discourse. In my case, Discourse is taking the place of Bear.

No to both counts. I think you have good points and if I were in your shoes I would likely use both in the exact ways you mention. I would at least try it for a couple weeks and see if you like it. Would it hurt to give it a trial run?