Getting to Know Ulysses
Ulysses is an extremely powerful text editor for Mac and iOS. It provides a focused writing environment combined with efficient document management, fast syncing and flexible export, making it one of the most powerful writing tools available today. Ulysses’ interface is designed to make it easy to immerse yourself in what you are writing, making the time that you spend writing in Ulysses more focused and more productive.
Ulysses manages to stay out of your way and can rival any distraction-free writing app, but provides additional features and functionality that make completing your projects easier than ever before. Ulysses provides you the essential writing tools that you need to get your work done and keeps its advanced features out of the way until you actually need them.
To accomplish its goal of delivering a powerful and full-featured writing environment without becoming too complex or offering too many options, the Ulysses interface is broken into three main sections, the library, the sheet list and the editor. Let’s break these down one by one.
The Ulysses library is designed to accomplish two specific goals; provide a place where you can capture all your writing and provide you the tools you need to keep it all organized. This allows you to focus on getting words down so you can decide what to do with them later. The writing files inside your library can be broken down using groups and filters to keep your library organized. They’re very similar to finders folders and smart folders, allowing you to sort files however you’d like.
You can add groups and filters by going to the file menu. They can also be nested, which means that you can place groups and filters inside of other groups or filters. If you select a group in the library its content will show up in the sheet list. Select a sheet and it will show up in the editor. Filters are a special kind of group. Once set up, filters will look at the group they’re in and list all sheets that match that set criteria.
For example, you can set up a filter that only lists sheets with a keyword of fantastic. If you place it deep within the nested group, say six levels down, that filter will only show matching sheets within that very group. You can even select multiple groups in filters by holding down the Command key and get their combined contents listed in the sheet list.
Ulysses unified library holds everything that you’ll ever write and is equipped for managing writing projects of all sizes. All writing in Ulysses is done using what are called sheets. Sheets are kind of like traditional text documents, although they don’t require a title or a file name or anything like that. Each sheet has a unique identifier, but you don’t locate the sheet you want to open like you would a traditional file so you don’t need to worry about this most of the time.
To find the sheet you want to edit in Ulysses you don’t look for the right file name. Instead, you search for the text that you are looking for or use a filter or group to quickly find the right sheet based on the contents of the file itself. Of course before you can do this you have to have sheets in your library to search, so you can create a new sheet by hitting Command-N or selecting the new sheet button in the toolbar.
Sheets can hold as much text as you’d like. There’s no limit and you can freely move sheets around to sort them however you want. You can also select multiple sheets and glue them together by hitting Command-J. Once you glue multiple sheets together they will then behave as a single sheet in the editor. This can be very handy if you have a lot of small chunks of text that you want to glue together instead of typing them all out as a single wall of text in a single sheet.
You can also split a sheet in two at the current cursor position by selecting the edit menu and then split at selection. You can also merge two or more sheets together to form a single sheet by going to the file menu and selecting merge sheets. You can also easily navigate between sheets right from within the editor by hitting Option-Command and then the up or down arrow. Next is the editor. This is where your text appears and where your writing actually happens.
If you look at the text that appears in the editor, for example, the getting started files, you may have noticed some funny looking characters before headlines and within the text itself. These are examples of the markup being applied to the text in Ulysses, which is the result of some careful design consideration. A lot of care and attention has been given to this editor window.
The developers of Ulysses believe that writers should not bother with layout tasks while they are writing. They should be free to focus on the writing itself, so they’ve done everything they can to provide a distraction-free writing environment using minimal markup, which defines your text, not formats or styles it. Now this is a small detail, but it’s an important distinction.