In this Ulysses writing app review, we explain if it's the right choice for your articles, books and creative projects.
If you’re planning to do a lot more writing this year, you may be wondering if there’s an easier, more effective way than the old apps and text editors that you’ve been using. Well, Ulysses is one of the most popular writing apps available for Mac. And it's unlike Pages, Word and Google Docs.
What is Ulysses Writing App?
Ulysses is a writing app, a.k.a. a text editor or word processor, the software you use to type up your project. Writing apps are more or less ubiquitous these days: Your operating system came with one, there are dozens of free web versions available online, and app stores have a lot of additional choices if you want to download something new.
So Ulysses has to differentiate itself in a crowded market. It does that in two significant ways: First, it’s strictly designed for Apple users that are writing on a Mac, iPad, or similar Apple device, nothing else.
Second, it focuses on a customizable, minimalistic interface that can do everything you want it to but stays out of the way when you don’t need it. You won’t find a lot of differences in the tools compared to, say, Microsoft Word or Pages, but the presentation and how the tools connect together is something else altogether. It also supports Markdown.
Final Rating on Quality: 4 out of 5 Stars
Ulysses is all about quality – but you have to pay for it. The app strives to offer the modern features that today’s busy online writers need, without all the mess and unused features of older writing apps. It works, but the subscription fees may not be for everyone.
If there’s something a word processor can do, Ulysses generally tries to do it. I was impressed with how the app is fully designed for modern writing projects – getting work done fast and sending it where it needs to go with all content complete and ready for publication.
Too many older word processor options get bogged down in features and designs that are way past their prime or no longer useful in today’s busy online writing world. Ulysses takes the opposite approach, and it’s an excellent choice.
Otherwise, there aren’t a lot of surprises for the features, although I’ll discuss some of the most important capabilities down below. You open a personal library of documents, add new docs or resume work on an older version, type on your blank page, and add content or tweak formats as needed.
Another thing that makes Ulysses unique is its subscription model. While many writing apps are free, Ulysses only offers a free trial version. After that, you have to pay $5.99 a month or $50 a year to use it.
That’s a little problematic, since a wide variety of other text editors provide similar services for free. You are largely paying for the interface and seamless connectivity for your projects, so it’s a matter of priorities.
As we mentioned, Ulysses is limited only to Apple devices. If you like pulling out your keyboard and iPad at the café, popping open your MacBook to get some work done at the library, or sitting down at your iMac for serious work on your novel or HTML coding, then this app is designed for you. Otherwise, you can’t use it.
However, this has some advantages: By narrowing the focus down to Mac and iOS devices like the iPad, Ulysses supports a tightly-crafted app that’s constantly updated, bug-free, and designed to look just like the Apple user interface you already have. The writing tool is also very friendly for iPad and surprisingly usable on iPhone depending on your writing environment.
Final Rating on Ease of Use: 5 out of 5 Stars
Ulysses has an award-winning design and features carefully crafted for the modern writer. This is actually a no-brainer – there’s nothing about usability I didn’t like, and this is where the real value of Ulysses shines.
Interface and Usability
Ulysses won the 2016 Apple Design Award, which sums up the UI quality nicely. Every part of the interface is pitch-perfect and modeled after general Apple designs so it feels at home among Apple’s native products (and works with iCloud easily).
Features like the left-side library for organizing projects and the clean, white interface will be instantly familiar to MacOS or iOS users (they certainly were for me).
Tools and Support
Ulysses offers a suite of tools that will be familiar to most users, and allow for a broad range of editing functions, including
- Nesting groups: This allows you to divide a novel into nesting chapters, for example, or create several different categories for easier workflow management.
- Keyword searches: Want to find a specific piece you wrote years ago? You can search based on specific keywords and text phrases to make things easier.
- In-Line image management: Pop in an image whenever you want – it’s not as detailed as other publication software I’ve used, but sufficient for most types of blogs and articles.
- Text markup: Basic markup functions allow you to mark headers and a variety of other formatting plainly during your writing process, with support for all the basics like footnotes and highlighting passages. This also means you don’t need a mouse for formatting!
- Attachments: You can attach notes, add separate keywords to pieces for SEO work later on, attach PDFs for reference, and more.
- Auto-save: Auto-save and backups are enabled so bloggers won’t lose anything.
- Writing modes: A variety of customizable options allow you to change themes and colors, use a dark mode, or switch to a typewriter mode for real distraction-free writing.
Have bigger or more complex projects in mind? This is where I really appreciated several abilities Ulysses offers, particularly these options:
- Cloud support: You can easily share your texts, upload to iCloud or Dropbox, or paste content from cloud storage right into the text editor. Syncing is supported across iOS devices.
- Exporting: Basic export options like PDF, DOCX and ePub are supported, but there are also options for saving working as HTML or Markdown, saving as an eBook, or exporting directly to WordPress or Medium – tools modern writers will find incredibly useful
- Live Preview: You can enter a live preview mode of what your content will look like whenever you want.
- Writing goals: You can also set writing goals, including word limits, character limits, deadlines, word count goals, and more.
Our Testing Criteria
I've used Ulysses for several years and I'm pleasantly surprised by how useful this writing app is today. I compared it with apps like IA Writer, Scrivener and Apple Notes. I used Ulysses to write articles, book chapters and arrange my notes. I also tested its ability to sync my notes across multiple devices including an iPad and iMac.
Final Rating on Value for Money: 3 out of 5 Stars
Ulysses' greatest weakness is that, after the free trial is up, you have to follow a subscription model and pay a fee. That’s a tough sell for a writing app with so many free options available.
Ulysses does its best with an excellent design and features that make working on the go and pushing content online easy, but that comes at a $6 monthly cost not everyone will be willing to pay for an iOS app. However, there is a student discount available. If you write in Markdown, prefer working with text files or simply value a minimalist writing app, Ulysses is a good choice.
Join over 15,000 writers today
Get a FREE book of writing prompts and learn how to make more money from your writing.
Do you need a new writing app? Give Ulysses a try. Even if you don’t mind your current platform, the free trial version allows you to see if Ulysses may be worth the costs. Let’s break it down into the major pros and cons.