Using Ulysses for iPad

Yes, I wrote just a week or so ago about using IA Writer. Then I tried Byword, then I went back to Scrivener, and then, in a peak of frustration at trying to find a workable portable writing solution, I got Ulysses III for my Mac and Daedalus for the iPad.

Then I actually started doing a lot more writing. Those two apps – really Daedalus – got me going. I had a few bumps, was pretty impressed with the support I received, and kept going. It was strange at first, the concept of sheets, and so on. After a while I realized that when I was writing if I had an idea for another part, a scene, another book, or whatever, I could just type a cmd-N and get a new sheet and type away. Then option-cmd up arrow got me back to what I had been working on. For me, this is golden.

One thing that had me a bit queasy at first, and still gives me a little pause, is iCloud. Ulysses and Daedalus store everything there. Sometimes it has taken a while to sync. But, I now know where to find the actual files that are being saved on the mac, and I know they are being backed up by time machine. So I have the ability to go back in time to restore things if they go to hell.

I kept meaning to write up my experiences with the two apps, but I kept getting distracted by other things to write. Yesterday the new version of Ulysses for the mac came out, and also Ulysses for the iPad. So far, I’m happy. Quite happy. And, since I so rarely am ahead of the curve, I thought I’d better write this now!

Overall Ulysses on the iPad is pretty much the same as Ulysses on mac, but with some navigation changes and a few unimplemented features. I like it more than Daedalus, I think. I have to be careful because I’m still working out how to consolidate the stuff that I had in both apps into one set of files, and that sort of problem always unnerves me a bit and it might be clouding my judgement here.

One downside is that Daedalus is available on the phone, but Ulysses is not. So when using Daedalus I can see everything everywhere, but now it’s just iPad and Mac, unless I put something in Daedalus. But seriously, writing on the phone isn’t really a solution for me, and I can live without it. 

I figure Scrivener will come out with their iPad app just about the time I get fully immersed in Ulysses, but by then it may be too late. This app gets me writing.

If you’re looking for a good way to write long form work on your iPad along with your Mac, have a look at Ulysses. Together the two apps will cost ~$65, which is not much for tools like these. If you’re not looking for all the features of Ulysses, Daedalus is still very good, and it has most of the magic I’ve found here, at a much lower cost.

Writing with IA Writer

Trying IA Writer

As I’ve started doing more writing, I decided to dust off my iPad and discovered that my beloved Plaintext app has been replaced by the behated Plaintext 2 app….so I needed to find a new app.

One of the first things any aspiring writer needs to do, and I know this is true because established professional writers dismiss it (to keep the tribal knowledge secret), is to spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting their workflow and tools. I cannot just write. I must use a suitable app*, preferably on a Mac, and then cobble together a selection of other apps that run on every device I own, including our net-aware refrigerator, so that at any time I may be able to jot record important thoughts.

So I needed to find a new editor.

Pros

So, after doing some research I bought IA Writer Pro. It is an excellent choice because it is

  • Expensive
  • Somewhat non-intuitive to use
  • Has exotic features that I’m sure will make me more effective and writery after I figure out what they do

It connects to Dropbox, and that is very important because I have to be able to sync it with Scrivener (even though IA Writer has a Mac app, which works very well). This also presents a larger footprint of sophistication and complexity, which allows me to worry about things like how to get a blog post from this format (markdown), through scrivener, and into the WordPress app. Or just to the WordPress app if I get it done before I get home.

Scrivener is even more writery, and offers a metric ton of features. But back to IA Writer.

It has a syntax feature which highlights different things like sentences, adjectives, and adverbs. This is useful for catching cliches, tell vs show, and other flaws. It also has a character and word counter, and does a decent job integrating a bluetooth keyboard once you figure out how to make that work.

Cons

The first one is that in the search for elegance the developers have made their site so incredibly concise that not a single bit of information is mentioned twice, and as a result I had to read the entire site…even things that I wouldn’t have thought I would would have to go looking for. For example, the information on the keyboard commands I had to learn to use certain features (well, all of them, really) is found only on the general page, but not on the iOS page, even though I was using a wireless keyboard on an iPad. It took a good five minutes of hunting for me to find it.

The good news is that the site is so incredibly concise that it didn’t take long to read the whole thing. I highly suggest that you read the section titled Keyboard Use first, if you’re using an external keyboard.

Overall, I’m happy. I wish it would deal with rich text, but most editors I could find have abandoned rich text in favor of markdown.

*Yes, I know paper and pen, or pencil are also valid and excellent choices, but generally it’s a keyboard for production, pen for memory, for me.