My First Impression from the #Ulysses #Writing #App. #Review

Screenshot of my writing in the Ulysses. This is a weird sci fi story that I just started. It’s about aliens and Renaissance figures. 

Recently I posted about my issues with writing productivity when I write outside of the WordPress environment. Initially I thought that I get energized from the feedback I receive when I post my writing, but as  Candace Vianna suggested in her comments that it might be my attachment to the simplified WordPress environment that helps minimizing the distractions. Since I am currently involved in a few promising writing projects and am intended to finish some of them by the end of the year, I need to figure out this problem as soon as possible. I researched writing that minimize distractions.

There is some plausibility in suspecting that I am an easily distracted writer. For once, my desktop is always littered with images and documents that I am working on, even though I clean the desktop regularly. It is just a terrible file management habit I developed, and I suspect that I am easily distracted because of all this stuff on my desktop which serves as my pin-up board and a to-do list all at once.

Yesterday I uploaded the desktop app Ulysses and worked in it all day today. I must say, for the WordPress bloggers it should take little to no time to get used to.

My positive first impressions after one day of using it:

  1. Simple to use even without reading the instructions. Yes, I am one of those people who read the instructions only when confronted with an unsolvable problem. The fact that I haven’t yet read any instructions testifies about the intuitive design of the app.
  2. The interface is really clean, and you can minimize it down to the bare worksheet.
  3. It constantly autosaves (by default backup is enabled, so make sure not to switch this function off).
  4. It has a very handy ‘goal’ icon that shows you how far away you are from the intended progress. If the word count performance stresses you out, you don’t have to use it and you can hide it at all.
  5. My favorite feature is the right sidebar that allows keeping multiple notes and images. The ones you are currently not using may be collapsed, as you can see on my picture.
  6. It is a desktop app and works without the internet connection.
  7. It has nice but basic features of exporting your documents as PDF, ePUB, DOCX, HTML, and TEXT, and also to publish to the WordPress directly from the Ulysses app, which I am intended to check out as soon as I am finished with typing. (Update: works like a charm). By the way, when it comes to the ePUB, you can also add a cover image, but not a lot more than that, so don’t expect churning your e-books in this app.
  8. You can create structure in the document by assigning various levels of headings, creating tags and such, but these options are hidden enough and won’t distract you.
  9. Not sure, but it seems like the app is blocking the pop-up notifications. At least it seemed this way, because I normally get a lot of those, and I didn’t notice them this time.
  10. Probably one of the better features is that despite being a desktop app, Ulysses is not a memory hog. I have a wee 4 GB Mac Book Air, which is regularly overworked, so lately memory consumption is a consideration for me.
  11. Bonus: Integrated spellcheck.

So that’s eleven positives after the first day. As to the negatives (or shortcomings) they are the following.

  1. It is very basic. To my current knowledge, you cannot write screenplays or see the page layout. The worksheet layout looks just like the WordPress in a sense that it just scrolls down forever.
  2. There are no fancy fonts, which is probably for the good, but I thought I should point it out.
  3. Compared to the Scrivener, it is roughly equally priced ($45 for Ulysses and I believe $38 for Scrivener) wile offering twice as little features. Bottom line: expensive and less functional tan the next competitor.
  4. I haven’t found a way to use hyperlinks in the document yet.
  5. Can’t find the ‘undo’ button! Exercise caution when deleting stuff.

That’s about it from the negatives. However, those negatives may actually be positives, considering that I spent no time at starting working in the app and already loaded all my current projects. The notes and images sidebar is brilliant. I think it will help me to keep my desktop cleaner.

Hope this information was useful to someone. I am very interested in writing optimization tips, so please feel free to jump in on the conversation. What are your favorite efficiency tools?

Copyright 2016 Ellie Maloney


  1. Hey Ellie, I’m glad you mentioned Scrivener. It’s the writing environment I use, and from the above, it sounds like it has many of the features you’re looking for.

    A built-in scratch-pad
    Full screen mode (hides everything but the writing interface for a distraction free writing experience)
    In its compiler you can add a cover image and meta data, and will produce a document with properly formatted NFC table in a choice of the common file formats. Mobi, Epub, pdf, docx….

    There’s a ton of other cool features (some of which you may need to read instructions for) plus a bunch of templates to help setup your novel or screenplay. Anyway, you find it worth a look. There is a free trial version, so you can try before you buy, and I highly recommend it…Candace

  2. Have to say that I do everything in Word, cos I’ve used it since the early 90s. Before that it was WordPerfect on Dos machines. I am sooo old.
    Tip: If you can’t find an undo button, try ctrl+Z which is the standard Windows undo keyboard shortcut. I have no idea if it’ll work on an Apple device (I stay well away from such things).

    1. You know, one thing that just swayed me towards either the Ulysses or Scrivener, is just how perfectly formatted the documents come out! And as Candace said, since the Scrivener has also Mobi (absent in Ulysses), that’s just such an advancement. But even DOCX comes out so perfect. I may start doing all my work projects in it. Speaking of the tools that make my life easy. Recently discovered the Lucidpress. It’s an online environment that allows making magazines, picture books, brochures and such. Memory hog, but everything comes out looking so professional. And easy to get used to. Plenty of customizable templates.

  3. Looks interesting! For my own writing I use Word with everything switched off. No formatting apart from the default, no extras, no collapsing bullet points etc – I have absolutely every auto-thing turned off that I can shut down. Yup (and you can guess what’s coming next) I use it like a typewriter. One I can edit, sure…but a typewriter.

    1. Yeah. Day 2 or 3, I’m still on it, quite effectively, found the ability to hyperlink and undo through the Edit-Undo functions on the top computer panel (still don’t know where it’s in the Ulysses). Happy as a clam so far. The notes management panel still rocks!

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