Using Ulysses

I’m a recent convert to Ulysses. I had been using Sublime Text for years to manage long-form text files. But I had also been using nvALT for shorter, spur-of-the-moment text files. It worked. And I had no issue managing the two different systems.

But with all the hype lately and a discussion about Ulysses on the Pro side I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least give it a try. There seemed to be enough interesting work going on with it and enough potential use cases to at least warrant a trial run. And in the end, I converted both my long-form and short-term text files into one system with Ulysses.

I can’t say it was a hard decision. It had more to do with ease of use and a clean, unified interface between both iOS and Mac platforms. I like to capture ideas for things to write about or random, yet temporary, ideas lists. But I never know which device I’ll be using to do that and it needs to be accessible from both. At the same time, I’ve been looking for a decent replacement for Editorial on my phone. Because it’s pretty obvious Editorial isn’t planning to stay up to date and frankly it’s not simple to create new files there.

I haven’t used any of the fancy features like goals, gluing sheets, and attachments at all. It’s purely the ease of entering and finding the files I want that I have me switched. I’m pretty easy to please… I think.

With that out of the way, here’s a look at how I’m tactically using it:

  1. Writing articles
    For years now, I’ve been using a four bucket folder system for managing my writing. This is seen as the 1-4 numbered groups above. The nice thing about Ulysses is that I can easily drag and drop the file between them to change the status.

  2. Temporary ideas lists
    These usually end up in the Text group. But I create a new sheet for the thing and then collect ideas for it. I rarely delete these when I’m done. It doesn’t bother me to have these floating around and I’m always searching for what I want anyway.

  3. Book notes
    Every time I start a new book, I create a new sheet for it and collect my thoughts there. But I’m lazy and wrote a Workflow that does the heavy lifting for me (coming to Pro members soon.)

  4. Podcast notes
    I often collect notes for my three podcasts to talk about or mention. This is where those go. I don’t flag them in any way to a specific show. But I usually pay attention to this list while recording and mention things that are relevant as they happen.

  5. Quotes
    Because I like quotes. Whether it’s Twitter, a book, or a friend, I write these little gems here.

  6. Random text
    Sometimes I don’t know what it is. But I feel like I should keep it around.

  7. Weekly Reflections
    Once I week I review myself with a series of questions (coming to Pro members soon) that are geared towards a realistic understanding of where I am headed and how well I’m doing to get there. It’s hard. But well worth it.

That’s how I’m using it. Nothing too fancy, I know. And I haven’t delved into the depths of goals yet, though I want to.

So here’s the question: how are you using Ulysses that’s different (or the same) as this?

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I do love Typewriter mode with Mark current line and Fixed Scrolling > Centered turned on. With the current typing line fixed in the middle of the screen, I can see the text before and text after the current line. It gives me some context of what I want to type about in the current line.

I’ve dabbled in mind mapping in iThoughts and outlines in OmniOutliner to try to create long form articles but I just couldn’t get it quite right. Productivity experts rave about outlines and mind maps but it didn’t click with me.

I would create a group of sheets in Ulysess. Each sheet would have one section or chapter. Then I would jump between the sheets to figure out my article. Writing in Ulysses is a little different from creating an outline in OmniOutliner and or a mind map in iThoughts but it feels better for me. Maybe it’s just the shiny new toy so I’ll have to keep churning away at it to see if my opinion changes in a couple of months.

I never realized I needed Ulysses and just branded it as another text editor. I already have TextEdit, BBEdit, Pages, and Word. Why would I need another app that churns put text when I already have text editors? It’s built in organization system and typewriter mode made all the difference.

I still use Day One for journaling because I sometimes take pictures to go with my journal entries.

My ideas for articles now go into Ulysses instead of an OmniOutliner document. Then I can easily pick on an idea to expand on later.

So fsr, I’m loving Ulysses.

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I use Ulysses to write speeches. I am switching from Scrivner to Ulysses. Much less complication.

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What’s your use case for typewriter mode? It seems somewhat gimmicky to me.

I’d be interest in seeing how you do this.

It took some getting used to. When I was using Pages and Word, I would sometimes get lost and had to find my cursor and where I was typing. I might also get distracted and get out of my seat to do something else. When I return back to my computer, I would lose track of the current line.

I go to View > Typewriter Mode > Enable to turn on Typewriter mode. Then I select View > Fixed Scrolling > Centered. This allows me to always make sure the text cursor is always in the middle of the window. I know I can just focus on the center of my window. I hate hunting around looking for my text cursor.

I can also select View > Typewriter Mode > Mark Current Line lets me see the current line. It shades the current line to make it visually easier to see it.

This is a screenshot of my Big Rocks post:

It’s a little hard to see in this screenshot but the current line is a slight shade of gray here.

I I move my text cursor up or down or scroll up or down the window, the text cursor always stays on the center line. It’s consistent and I never have to hunt for that blinking text cursor.

If I type text, I can see the text above and the text below the current line (centered). Sometimes I need context when I am writing a long article. I don’t want to repeat myself in the previous paragraph or next paragraph. So it helps to see the text before and after the current line.

If I didn’t have Typewriter mode on, I would have to use my trackpad and two finger scroll up or down to make sure I can see the surrounding text.

The key visual indicator is the Mark current line feature. I always knows where my text cursor is. I no longer have to hunt for it.

In your setup Joe, what is BCC for?

Good question. I guess I didn’t call that out. It’s short for Buffalo Covenant Church. I like to keep my IT related notes separate.

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Joe - you wrote about using GIT with your Sublime Text writing. Have you been able to use GIT version control with Ulysses. I’ve been interested in giving it a whirl, but GIT is key to my technical documentation workflow.

Did you know that Ulysses has version control built into the app. It works like Apple’s Time Machine window.

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Is that Mac only, @shouit? I’ve considered trying to locate the files behind that app and making it a git repo. But I haven’t tried it.

It works on Mac. I tried looking into it on the iOS version but cannot find it. Doesn’t mean it’s not there just my knowledge of the app is still in it’s infancy.

Typewriter mode is far from a gimmick – I find it a necessity when writing longer pieces. You can position the cursor anywhere on the screen, and it stays there, allowing you to focus purely on the writing in a more natural way, and it’s easier on the eyes. Far more comfortable than staring down at the bottom of the screen all the time.

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@swarman, I looked into my idea a bit more. It’s a fail. That route won’t work. So this is one fairly large detriment of moving to Ulysses. I thankfully don’t rely on git for my writing anymore. But it’s still a sad loss in this process.

Fair enough. @Pen_and_Sword, what do you use Ulysses for that has you using typewriter mode?

I’ve started to use it for all of my writing now – from novels and short stories to freelance journalism pieces, blog entries, random thoughts, etc. When I’m writing for extended periods of time (usually fiction or journalism), there’s something incredibly comfortable and welcoming about typewriter mode, I find.

I have it set up roughly in the middle - to top third of the page, with line highlight off, but I do have the focus mode set to grey out everything apart from the sentence I’m working on. It works really nicely for forgetting about everything and just writing.

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Sounds like you’re doing a lot more writing than me. I think I could get behind the typewriter mode if I did more writing. Which is something I want to do in the near future. I’ll definitely give it a go when I get to that point.

I didn’t know you could move where the line lands. That’s actually a big deal to me. :+1:

View > Typewriter Mode > Fixed Scrolling > Variable

Click on the line that you want to become your current line. Use the arrow keys to scroll up and down your text. The current line stays put. It also works on the iPad as well.

I’m also liking the sheets idea. Create different sheets for different sections. Then just focus on one section/sheet when I’m writing. Previously, I had a long Word document and the text was just super long. Now I can focus on the section I am working on.

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I should also add that I pretty much solely use the Ulysses app on iPad Pro, which is my main writing/work device.

The variable typewriter mode on iPad is very intuitive and easy to use. You just have to press and move your finger, essentially dragging the cursor around the screen, and when you let go the line of writing will stay there.

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I didn’t know that OmniOutliner also uses Typewriter mode. The OmniOutliner manual describes Typewriter mode in the View menu section of their online OmniOutliner documentation.

Use Typewriter Mode
OmniOutliner keeps your scroll position static when you add a new row to an outline or select a row other than the current one (until you reach the very bottom of the window).

This command changes this. When in use, typewriter mode detects when your selection moves above or below the center of the document window, and adjusts the scroll position in response. This keeps the row you select front and center—just like it would on a typewriter.

Source: OmniOutliner 5 Essentials Reference Manual for MacOS

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I’ve been using Ulysses for a few years. Great. I’ve moved, or started moving a lot of stuff into it.

Still not sure if general notes go there or if Bear or Notes.app or DEVONthink are still needed.

Not being able to see a sheet of research next to a sheet that I’m writing in on iOS bugs me.

How are you handling (or not)?

the only thing I can think of is to use split screen with Ulysses on one side and another app such was Bear or Notes on the other side. I don’t know if Ulysses can show two sheets side by side. Easily done on the Mac when you open a new window.

Perhaps sending an e-mail to the Ulysses developers to vote up for a feature request will help?

I’ve never tried Scrivener for iOS but it may be better suited to see?