This past summer Ulysses announced a major shift in their business model. For their iOS and macOS apps, they moved from upfront purchases to a subscription model. As it usually goes, this caused some controversy. But the company had sound reasoning, which is what the app’s co-founder indicated, “writers want to rely on a professional tool that is constantly evolving, and we want to keep delivering just that”. This week, Ulysses brought their first major update since they switched to subscriptions. This partially came because of Apple’s recent focus on evolving the iPad platform as Ulysses 12 is primarily an iOS release. The macOs version has gained some improvements, but it’s not the centerpiece. The iOS version gains a drag and drop support, multi-pane editing, streamlined library navigation and image previews. Which makes this already powerful tool even better.
Drag and Drop
Drag and drop support is found in two areas in Ulysses: the sheet list and editor. The first enables quick, easy reorganization of existing sheets. You can pick up one or more sheets from the sheet list and drop them into a separate group. As you’re navigating the app to find the destination group, holding your drag contents over a group will spring-load it open. Drag and drop also makes it easy to reorder sheets within their current group when manual sorting is selected – this only works with one sheet at a time, however. And the nice bonus with all these sheet list tricks is that they work both on iPad and iPhone.
Ulysses on iPad takes full advantage of the platform’s drag and drop privileges. Text and images can be dragged out of Ulysses or dropped into it. You can even drop text or images directly into the editor’s sidebar as attachments. Maybe the best part about this feature is the ability to drag a portion of text from Safari into Ulysses. The selected text is seamlessly imported, and in most cases its converted automatically to the appropriate Markdown formatting, leaving no cleanup work for me to do.
For many Ulysses users, there has always been one annoying limitation: the inability to edit sheets while viewing your sheet list or library. Ulysses 12 fixes this issue in a big way: now you can simultaneously view and work in as many panes as will comfortably fit on your screen. If you’re using a larger screen iPad, you will now be able to view the library, sheet list and a body of a sheet all at once – even while you’re typing away. Navigating different views in Ulysses is done with the simple swipe gesture found in prior versions of the app. This is a huge improvement over methods found in Apple’s Notes and Mail, which requires you to hit certain buttons to change views. And it all works very well in Ulysses.
A great feature in Ulysses has been the way that you can add Markdown links without needing to see the full syntax. This philosophy has always extended to inline images as well, but not in the way most users would want – image syntax has been hidden, but the image itself has been hidden too, behind the tag labeled “IMG”. This approach has made it impossible to view your images while doing the work of writing.
Image previews are meant to provide proper context without serving as a distraction while you’re writing, so they’re tailored to fit in best with the current theme you’re using – in the body of your sheet, colors in images are muted in a way that complements your theme’s accent colors. If you want to view the original image, you can do that by viewing the full image details; additionally, the size of image previews can be set from the Layout screen in Ulysses’ Settings menu.
Ulysses is available both on iOS and macOS. This recent switch to subscription may have caused some people to be upset with this shift, but the program itself is really good and the improvements they have made will make it even better.