When I purchased my Microsoft Surface Laptop 4, I had every intention of using it for everything but video editing.
That has proved impossible, and all because of one app.
I cannot find a decent piece of writing software for Windows. There are a few options, of course, but they’re all doing the digital equivalent of entering the stage after Queen at Live Aid.
It seems that Ulysses is an impossible act to follow.
If you’re a blogger and a Mac user, Ulysses should be in your toolkit. Here are five reasons why.
1. Distraction-free writing
Are you still using Word?
If you have to regularly get words down onto a blank page, it really is best to start with a blank page. All you need is a flashing cursor.
This is known as distraction-free writing, and it’s one of the best productivity tools I’ve discovered as a writer. Pop Ulysses into full-screen mode and you’re literally left with nothing more than the aforementioned cursor and your words.
If you add a word count target, it’s represented via an addictive, slowly completing circle, but that really is it.
There are lots of great distraction-free writing tools on the Mac, though. So, what else does Ulysses have up its sleeve?
2. WordPress integration
Regular readers of my blog will know that I publish every day of the week. This happens on both my own website and Medium (the blogs are imported from the former to the latter).
Before Ulysses, I was having to copy and paste my blogs into the WordPress editor as plain text and manually sort out the formatting. It took forever and inevitably left most of my blogs with unaccounted-for errors.
Now, I simply hit a couple of buttons and watch as Ulysses sends an unpublished draft straight into WordPress (the platform on which my blog runs).
I’m a huge fan of discovering efficient processes like this. The time saved over the course of a week is unbelievable, and Ulysses offers the most capable, reliable WordPress import I’ve ever used.
3. Markdown for idiots
I understand the absolute basics of Markdown, but if you’re not familiar with John Gruber’s invention, it’s a simple form of markup language for creating formatted text in any plain text editor.
For instance, to format a word in bold type, you surround it with double asterisks. Need an H2 header? Just add a couple of hashtags before the sentence.
Markdown support in Ulysses enables you to remain within that blissful, distraction-free writing mode while ensuring that your text will be properly formatted – wherever it ends up.
It means that when I publish my blogs directly to WordPress, every piece of formatting is carried across correctly. Again, that’s serious time saved. The fact that Ulysses provides a dumbed-down form of markdown for people like me (it responds to common keyboard shortcuts for formatting) is the icing on the cake.
4. Word export
I won’t spend too much time on this because it’s incredibly dull, but I do have to deliver certain pieces of work in Word’s DOCX format.
The Ulysses Word export is fast, reliable, and about as no-frills as it should be. A boring, but vital addition.
5. Folder management
If there’s one thing that is often missing from writing apps, it’s decent folder management.
Certainly, during my fruitless search for a Windows alternative to Ulysses, this is the one feature that appeared to be missing from every writing app I stumbled across.
I can’t work out why this is the case. Like many people, I want to work with files that are stored in the cloud for ease of transition between devices. This means I need some form of folder management system baked into the app to keep everything organised.
Ulysses relies on iCloud for this, and, again, it is perfectly simple. Referred to as ‘groups’ the Ulysses folder structure can be nestled, colour coded, and denoted with icons.
There are also default groups for your last seven days of work, favourites and trash. Oh, and if you’re not keen on using iCloud, you can connect Ulysses to any folder on your computer to enable its contents to be displayed within the app.
It’s worth noting that iA Writer comes a very close second in the battle of the writing apps. But nothing competes with Ulysses when it comes to the perfect marriage of features for busy bloggers. It really is the Freddie Mercury of writing apps.
I should also note that this post is in no way sponsored by Ulysses and I’ve paid for the license with my own cold, hard cash (it’s a bargain at around £50 per year). Check it out here.