There are many blogging tools out there from the simple to fancy, however, after road-testing Ulysses 2.7 for Mac, I believe I’ve found one that will best suit many bloggers.
When writing a blogging post, in many CMS systems, it’s totally possible to do it online in a web browser. WordPress is a great example, and the system used for our news sites. Writing live requires you have a stable internet connection and while it is possible to save posts as drafts to edit later, for me it’s all a bit of a kludge.
Want to edit offline and upload, or copy and paste? Then we have the usual text editor and full-blown word processing suspects such and Nisus Writer, Pages and of course Word.
It does seem unnecessarily complex working with these, not to mention the waste of time waiting for these programs, especially Word, to load.
More focussed Options
Then we have specialised writing programs, with the top two, in my opinion, being Ulysses and Scrivener.
Scrivener is a superb program, and one I have used extensively, however for a blog, it’s a bit like taking a bazooka to a punch-up. Over the top and complex.
I came upon Ulysses well after I settled in to using Scrivener, and at first thought it a very simplistic program and wondered about its ability to go head to head with Scrivener. It turns out they are both very capable programs in the same workspace, though with very different approaches.
Ulysses comes into its own when you just want to focus on writing! It comes into even greater focus when writing something such as this blog post. This excellence only came into focus for me, when starting my site, AppleHQ.news. Having laboured over the first few posts within wp-admin, I glanced around for a better way to write, and post.
To be honest I had given little thought to using Ulysses for blog posts until doing the usual Google search. This led me to the Ulyssesapp.com blog site. There I came upon an excellent article from Rebekka Honeit, one of the team at Soulmen, the Ulysses publishers. The article demonstrates the ease with which one could post direct to a WordPress blog using Ulysses. The image below shows the article on their site alongside the text of my first post using Ulysses.
To say it was a revelation is probably an understatement. No mucking around, write it, post it. DONE!
While I intend to explore Ulysses in greater detail in a future post, let’s stick to the basics, and blog posts for this one.
Opening the Ulysses application presents one with a clean, customisable interface. We’re not talking endless layers of customisation, rather choosing from several options for the interface.
The default interface starts from the left column, Library, not unlike Finder’s list of Favourites and connected devices. Within this column resides one of the cool features of Ulysses, Groups. Groups allow one to organise writing by projects, subjects and are hierarchical, allowing for several levels of sub groups.
The second column lists ‘Sheets’, the Soulmen’s name for documents, and the rightmost column is the editor section, where the work happens. It is possible to display a fourth column, attachments for images, writing targets, keywords and notes that are attached to but not in a document. While the default display is black on white, a single click takes you to Dark mode, per the image below.
Ulysses in Action
Having selected a new sheet, it’s time to type. The beauty of a clean, distraction-free interface such as Ulysses is this absence of distraction. Want even less distraction, Full Screen Mode is the editor, and nothing but the editor.
With a clean interface, there is no formatting distraction, which may in itself be a distraction for some. I am one of those used to a WYSIWYG interface and for a short while longed for quick click formatting on the screen. What Ulysses does use is Markup.
I confess to having been a Markup virgin, and at first glance considered it to be an unnecessarily complex way to format content. Turns out I didn’t know what I was talking about. Once you’re into it, Markup is a great way to add formatting to a document while retaining the clear editing interface. Section headlines as in this document, are preceded by a number of hash symbols depending upon the heading level.
Want to place an image in a document? From the Markup menu, select image (or video) and a popup box appears allowing for a simple drag to the box to insert the image. There are fields to enter a URL, a description of the image, or a title. Simple!
For me, the clincher. A simple setup in preferences links Ulysses to your WordPress.com, or hosted WordPress site.
Once the document is complete and ready to post simply click on the Quick Export icon
and from the export window, select publishing and your WordPress details appear with a click all that’s needed to send it on its way.
By default, Ulysses stores on iCloud, making documents available on multiple devices. I won’t go into any depth, save to say, this is how cloud storage should be. Once installed, Ulysses connects to your iCloud account and everything from there is seamless; no mucking around.
Ulysses is also available for iOS and by all accounts works equally well on iPads and iPhones. At this time, I do not have an iOS licence, so will save further comment for a more in-depth review of both the Mac and iOS versions.
One piece of icing on the cake; Ulysses also incorporates a Time Machine-like backup to keep your precious work safe.
Ulysses is one of those magic applications. You can choose to use only it’s most basic functions, i.e. a text editor, or all functions, including sharing documents across multiple devices, Markup formatting, exporting to WordPress, and of course, if you are a writer, export to DOCX, ePub or PDF. Masochists can also export to HTML.
Having used only a portion of Ulysses functionality and potential, I can state, for the purposes of painless writing and uploading to a blog, this program is a winner.
Based on their move to an overpriced subscription model, we have withdrawn their Editor’s Choice rating..