Ulysses [Mac – $49.99, iPad – $19.99] is an impressive writing platform yet quite easy to master. Unlike Scrivener, where every writing project is a separate file, Ulysses creates a library package that contains all your writing projects. This package is very similar to the library used in Photos. When a project package is saved in iCloud and you have the companion iPad app, you can easily write just about anywhere.
Content is organized as groups, sub-groups and sheets. In the example on the right you can see several writing projects – each set up as a separate group. I created a Template group to make it easy to begin a new writing project. It contains three groups – Research, Front Matter and Manuscript. Research has two sub-groups – Notes and ToDo.
Each group contains sheets. A sheet is a piece of writing. Sheets can contain as much or as little content as you wish. In my template’s Front Matter group I have sheets for the title page, copyright notice, acknowledgements and author info. All sheets and groups can be quickly rearranged by dragging and dropping them where you want them. For example, if I want the Manuscript as the first group in my project I just drag it above the Research group and it’s there.
The Groups with triangle icons in front of them contain sub-groups. Click the icon to display them. You can also choose the icon for each group. It’s not required, but I find it a lot easier to see what’s what.
Once the Template group is set up the way you want it, all you need to do to start a new writing project is duplicate the Template group and rename it.
Here you see the Ulysses work area expanded to three panels. The center panel displays the sheets contained within the selected group. In this case, the Template group is selected so you are seeing both the sub-groups and sheets it contains. On the right is the writing panel. There is also a fourth panel – Attachments – that slides in from the right when needed. More on that later.
Navigating is easy. Click on a group to display the sub-groups and sheets it contains. Click on a sheet to write or edit. Swipe right or left to display/remove the panels so you just have the view you need.
As you can see in this example, Ulysses is a Markdown editor. This means the files containing your family history projects will still be readable long after the program is obsolete. It also means there are no massive toolbars to distract you. You just focus on writing. Don’t know the codes for the few formatting elements you do use? No problem! Click the A| button you see at the top of the writing panel, choose the formatting option you need and Ulysses will assign the code for you. Yes, there is a spell-checker too.
Here you see the Attachments panel. It appears/disappears when you click the paperclip icon in the toolbar. It’s where you can store notes, images and keywords. You can also set and review writing goals if you wish. Keywords can be put to a number of good uses (see Build Your Family History With Ulysses).
While Ulysses was designed to keep the focus on writing, that doesn’t mean it is lacking in features. They are there, but they stay out of your way until you need them. The iPad version is delightful and quickly becoming my writing platform of choice. Moving between the two apps is effortless. There’s no synching – everything is right there waiting for me whenever and wherever I find time to write.
Life is good.