Ulysses is Great but IA Writer is Better

Matthew Temple
Aug 16, 2016 · 2 min read

I have been a long time user of Ulysses for my writing needs and it is great for long form content as well as a few short pieces for websites. The problem is Ulysses is far to big.

A lot of my writing is now for the web and not long form multi-part, multi-page documentation style writing. It was this longer writing style especially when going to print that made Ulysses great.

One of the biggest bug bears I had with Ulysses was images. It simply didn’t understand standard Markdown for images and would not let you use an image from your computer or the web without first adding it as an attachment in your library. I use a lot of screenshots in my work when writing help articles for my companies ever expanding FAQ and Ulysses constantly made this difficult.

Lets Compare

The switch between the 2 applications is not that difficult and I have switched many times. Both sync with iCloud, both have a nice library manager (although Ulysses is much, much better here), both let you write in Markdown, copy as HTML, export as PDF and both can publish to Medium.

So if they are so close to each other why switch. Well, aside from the above mentioned differences in image handling the other reasons are more personal.

  • Ulysses gives you a ton of options and settings that I spend more time tweaking then I do actually writing. On the other hand IA Writer doesn’t have any options beyond text size, light or dark theme and a few settings for how the exports will be styled.
  • The preview on IA Writer is real time, letters show as you type them where Ulysses is a little behind. IA Writers preview and editor also scroll in sync with each other allowing you to quickly make changes while proofreading.
  • Markdown syntax highlighting, IA Writer fades a lot of the syntax of Markdown allowing you to easily read the document while in the editor. Ulysses does some of this but still misses a lot.
  • Openness. This one is something I like a lot. IA Writers library is just a folder on iCloud (or Dropbox) with folders and standard txt files. Thats right IA Writer saves your work as Markdown intended as plain text allowing you to edit it anywhere. By comparison Ulysses has a proprietary file format, this is to allow for great search, tagging, and the “sheets” Ulysses uses instead of files.

Will I switch back at some point

Probably, If you read the above and think IA Writer sounds perfect for short form writing (less then 10,000 words) while Ulysses kicks but at long form you are right. This is exactly as I see and switch between the 2 applications. Depending on what type of writing I am doing at the time.

I do like to keep all my writing in 1 place and this is why I export my Ulysses documents are plain text and save them in my IA Writer library. This gives me 1 place I know I can find old working when I need it.

Matthew Temple

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