Ulysses is a fantastic app for writers who want a simple, streamlined writing environment. Even better, the Ulysses team is offering a free trial for writers participating in NaNoWriMo 2016, so you can try it for free! Read on for why I made the switch to Ulysses and why you might want to do the same.
For full disclosure: After I reached out to the team behind Ulysses to gush about their app, they offered me promotional copies so that I could fully test the app and offer you guys a more complete review. As you know, I only promote products I love, and I'm sharing with you my honest thoughts and opinions that are in no way shaped or directed by the Ulysses team.
What about Scrivener?
Let me start by saying that Scrivener has been my go-to writing software for the last six years.
And yet ...
During the last year I've been exporting my manuscripts more than ever, and I've struggled with the formatting in Scrivener. Also, the more writing projects I add to my quiver, the more of a pain it is to manage them in Scrivener (since each new project is a separate file).
For those reasons, I've been on the lookout for a simple, easy to use app, one that doesn't have all the functionality in the world, but does exactly what I need, and does it well. Because, honestly? I don't use anywhere near all of the options/functions in Scrivener, and I'd rather spend my free time writing, not watching tutorial videos (or wrestling with features).
And I'm not the only one. Lately I've been hearing a few things from writer friends:
It's been a while since I wrote, and now I can't remember how to do anything in Scrivener. Help!
Whenever I try to export, either the fonts don't match, or chapters are missing, or it's just a huge pain. What do I do?
Scrivener just isn't working for me ... I guess I'll go back to writing in Word. (followed by a long sigh)
Scrivener is a powerful app. It offers a multitude of options and features, which is great ... if that's what you need. But it's certainly not the best app for every writer.
How I heard about Ulysses
Although I searched online for Scrivener alternatives, I wasn't finding what I wanted. Either apps focused on being streamlined and were too streamlined (I wanted more than a glorified Word document), or they had too many whistles and bells and simply weren't a better option than Scrivener.
Then Lauren Layne - one of my favorite contemporary romance authors - mentioned that she uses (and loves!) Ulysses App in one of her weekly emails. It was a quick mention, but since I like Lauren's style and writing advice, I thought it was worth checking out.
I downloaded a copy and moved my current manuscript over to Ulysses from Scrivener.
And friends, I am so glad I did!
After a few days of playing with Ulysses App, I was hooked. (I also finished my revisions: WIN!)
Let's talk about exactly why I think it's worth switching from Scrivener to Ulysses App.
Why I'm Switching from Scrivener to Ulysses App
First, Ulysses App offers a number of features I consider essential to any writing software. This includes:
Auto-save and Full Version History
Full-text and Semantic Search
Multiple Export and Import Options
Spelling and Grammar Check
For a full list of features, visit the Ulysses App website.
Ulysses offers the basics (which is why I was willing to try it in the first place), but there are three features that made me decide it was worth switching to Ulysses for good.
Top Three Reasons to Love Ulysses App
Clean and streamlined interface with powerful features you need, but without unnecessary distractions.
All of your projects are in one place - your blog, newsletter, manuscripts, etc. - so you can manage your entire writing LIFE without opening five million different files or apps.
Easy to export manuscripts with little to no fuss (plus a dreamy preview feature so you can see what the file will look like when you export it!).
Want an alternative to Scrivener? Here's why you should consider @UlyssesApp (+ how to try it free!): https://goo.gl/jjpFZp via @bridgidlee
Let's unpack those a little.
1. Clean and streamlined interface
Writers strive for deep, creative focus -- the kind that lets us disappear into our stories -- and the less happening on your screen (or in your writing app), the better. Not only does Ulysses app offer a focus mode, which only shows the page you're working on, but the entire app is simple and streamlined.
Which is great for focus, but it's also part of what makes Ulysses so easy to use. There aren't distractions or a million things to set up before you begin a project, so you can get straight to writing.
2. One library to rule them all
All of us are juggling numerous projects at one time, and whether that means multiple manuscripts, blog posts, articles, emails for your readers (I could go on and on), it can be hard to stay on top of everything when you have innumerable files in a million different places. In the past I've used a combination of apps to stay organized, including Scrivener, Evernote, and Google Docs. When I switched to Ulysses, it was an unexpected delight to be able to organize all of my projects in one place.
Take a look:
Left: a screenshot of the app that shows the library, a folder within the library, and a selected sheet (what Ulysses calls pages) within the folder. Right: I zoomed in on my library to show you how I've organized my various writing projects.
Not only can you use Ulysses for your manuscripts, but also for things like lists of future project ideas, or your book blurbs, or your query letters.
Think about that for a moment: You can keep everything in one place. Instead of opening a number of different apps, you just open Ulysses, and there they are!
Personally, I love anything that streamlines my work flow. It saves me time, and helps me focus more on creating (versus organizing). I had no idea this would be such a huge benefit, but it's definitely a top reason for considering switching to Ulysses.
3. Simple export
As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post, I'm exporting my manuscripts more and more often now, to my CPs and Betas, to agents, and (soon!) for publication. I have spent hours trying to make my manuscripts export the way I want them to in Scrivener. It's been exhausting. And stressful! This is the top reason why I started looking for a new writing app, and Ulysses app did not disappoint.
With Ulysses app, I can export my manuscript as a number of different file types (docx, epub, pdf), and I can customize styles and fonts.
So yes, Ulysses app offers simple, easy, and functional export. But they go one step further.
Check this out:
You can preview your manuscript live while you're writing. Which is a fancy way of saying that you can see how your manuscript (or any text you're working on) will look when you export it. This is especially nice since all of your writing is text only, with some basic Markdown syntax you can use for headings, emphasis, lists, etc.
Why text-only is a good thing:
The greatest benefit of writing in text-only (in my opinion) is that it provides consistent results when you export your documents. Instead of using a WYSIWYG editor (think: your text editor with little buttons you can use to select and bold, italicize, or add links to text), you use Markdown, which helps you avoid having one paragraph in sans-serif 10pt font and every other paragraph in serif 12pt font. (Anyone else have that happen ALL the time? So frustrating!)
Markdown is very simple to use and the folks behind Ulysses made it even easier. You don't have to know any Markdown syntax to use it. Just highlight the text you want to style, then select the style you want from a drop down menu. Easy!
In Scrivener, you have to worry about all of those styles you add through the editor and how they'll work with (or, more likely, work against) your final styles. So in my opinion? Text-only FTW.
Writers! Read about why @bridgidlee switched from Scrivener to @UlyssesApp (& how to get a free trial): https://goo.gl/jjpFZp
So why wouldn't I use Ulysses?
Now that I've gushed about what I love about Ulysses, I want to point out the downsides to using Ulysses (especially for those switching from Scrivener).
Although I found it simple and intuitive to use, you will need to learn how to use it. The Ulysses App team has a great intro video on their NaNoWriMo free trial page that will get you up and writing your new manuscript in 10 minutes or less. Right now they're also offering a free introductory email course. You can sign up for the email course on their website.
Ulysses App is simple and streamlined -- something I consider a benefit -- but if you love all of Scrivener's features, then you may not love losing them. At this point in my writing, I've found that I do much of my plotting and story planning by hand (with notecards, in a notebook, on paper etc.). In the past, I would have hated to leave Scrivener's "cork board," but now I would far rather use Ulysses because certain features are far more relevant and important to me (ex: library hub for all of my projects and simple exporting).
Only for Apple devices
Right now, Ulysses App is only available for download to Mac computers OR to Apple devices.
Try Ulysses App FREE!
Now that you have the pros and cons of Ulysses App, I would like to invite you to try it yourself. In honor of National Novel Writing Month, the team behind Ulysses App is offering a free trial to writers. You can download Ulysses App and use it for FREE until December 7th, 2016. How great is that?!
Just click the image below to learn more (or click here).
I'd love to hear from you: Is there writing software you use and love? Do you think you'll check out Ulysses App? Hop in the comments below to share!
Help spread the word: Share the tweet below & help spread the word about the Ulysses App free trial!
Meet @UlyssesApp for writers & learn how you can try it for FREE during #NaNoWriMo: https://goo.gl/jjpFZp via @bridgidlee