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How Ryan Irelan Uses Ulysses

Ryan Irelan writes and teaches video tutorials for web professionals at his site, Mijingo.

Ulysses is an important app for creating courses and lessons at Mijingo.com. I’ve used it for everything from drafting blog posts to authoring the curriculum for a one-day technical class I’ve taught at NASA.

And I use Ulysses because it’s a simple suite of apps that sync via iCloud. My writing is everywhere I need it to be.

Ulysses is lightweight to use (the interface disappears while I write) and it allows me to organize projects how I like. It also has support for exporting to multiple formats with its native tool or will quickly output to other apps, like Marked, which is what I use for creating formatted PDFs from my writing.

While my short writing, like notes and ideas go elsewhere, I use Ulysses to organize all of my longer form writing. I’ve used Ulysses to write and publish everything from blog posts to the training courses I publish at Mijingo.com. I take the course materials and export them out of Ulysses as a nicely formatted PDF that I distribute to my students.

I use Ulysses across all three main devices I own: MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, iPhone.

Most of my work in Ulysses happens on iPad Pro, followed by MacBook Pro, and then iPhone. Sometimes I’ll proofread or edit text on my iPhone during some downtime (like, you know, being wide awake at 2 AM for no reason at all).

My content organization in Ulysses uses a multi-level group hierarchy, with the top level being the areas of work (e.g. Community, Consulting, Marketing, Courses, Lessons, etc.).

Many items inside of those top levels are also part of a group hierarchy.

For example, a course is a group inside of the Courses group. Inside of the course group (named with the planned name of the course) are different sheets for the course. These sheets represent a part of the course or some research that I want to include with the course.

I liberally use sheets to break up the course into sections. This allows me to re-order sections while writing. I glue them all together at the end to lock in the order.

Using multiple sheets also allows me to chunk my writing work up into small batches. I will write one section of the course at a time without being distracted by or worrying about the remaining parts of the course.

When I write a lesson (these are short pieces of content that I then turn into videos for Mijingo.com), I typically use a single sheet but having groups allows me to have additional sheets that include notes, research, or other scratch writing.

When I complete the writing portion of a course or lesson, I then use the export feature in Ulysses to quickly print off a copy of the material. I do this because managing paper while recording video is much easier than doing it on another device. I always record from at least a printed outline but almost always from a fully written course.

To wrap up, here are my favorite aspects of Ulysses:

  • Groups
  • Sheets
  • Gluing Sheets
  • Export
  • X-Platform
  • Ability to use a custom font on all platforms (I use Courier Prime, commissioned by screenwriter John August).

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