Hmm, I’m not too happy about this

It appears that Ulysses is switching to a subscription based form where earlier it was an app you just paid for.

I have been using both Ulysses and iA Writer for a while now, and I have both applications on both my Macs and iOS devices. For my technical books, where I need to compile the text with Pandoc, I have used iA Writer—it is easier to use with plain Markdown files than Ulysses, I find—but with other books, I have used Ulysses.

Back when I started using the tools, you couldn’t embed images and such in iA Writer, but you can now (although with a different syntax than usual Markdown), and images are automatically uploaded to Medium and WordPress, something I find really useful and that Ulysses supported when I started using the two apps.

I like both apps, but I am not sure I will be using both if they start charging a subscription fee. Sure, since I have bought Ulysses earlier, I get a lifetime discount, and I am considering it, but on the other hand, I am mainly using iA Writer for my writing. In the most recent writing, I have really only used Ulysses for blogging. I can do that in iA Writer as well—in fact, I am writing this post in iA Writer.

If I switch to iA Writer completely, there are a few features I will miss:

  1. The previews in Ulysses are nicer. You can create and install custom templates—although I don’t know exactly now that works—so I suppose it is possible to work around that.
  2. iA Writer cannot export to ePub, so even for simpler books, I would have to go through Pandoc to make ebooks. A slightly annoying thing here is that Markdown and iA writer includes images and other files differently so there might have to be some processing to make this easy.
  3. I will miss the word count tracking I can do in Ulysses, where I see a progress wheel that tells me how I am in relation to a goal. Those help me get roughly the correct word count that I have planned for. However, for all the books I pipe through Pandoc, I have used a spreadsheet for this anyway so it won’t be a major change.
  4. I was just about to say that I would miss the way I can group sheets and folders and such in Ulysses, but I can see that I can make folders in the iCloud library, and that combined with including other files through their names, I don’t think this will be much of a problem. But I might think otherwise once I have to export to Markdown to create ePub files via Pandoc. I don’t know.

Anyway, I think my status, for now, is that I will try using iA Write exclusively for a while, and see how it feels. In the mean time, I still have my current Ulysses apps that I can use without a subscription, so I don’t have to switch right away, and I am not aware of any new features in Ulysses that makes that worthwhile yet.

If I find that I miss Ulysses, I will get the subscription, of course. I already have lots of subscriptions for writing anyway, with ReadCube, Bear and Grammarly all being more expensive than what Ulysses costs, but if I do most of my writing in iA Writer anyway, it will feel a bit silly to have a subscription to Ulysses just for blogging…

Author: Thomas Mailund

My name is Thomas Mailund and I am a research associate professor at the Bioinformatics Research Center, Uni Aarhus. Before this I did a postdoc at the Dept of Statistics, Uni Oxford, and got my PhD from the Dept of Computer Science, Uni Aarhus.

2 thoughts on “Hmm, I’m not too happy about this”

  1. Hi Thomas,

    A couple points about iA Writer:

    ePub export and word goals are planned for a future release
    images can be referenced using the normal markdown syntax (currently, they must still be in the same folder or lower as the document—no “../” references)
    custom templates will be getting a builder tool in the future so knowledge of HTML/CSS won’t be required to make your own

  2. I figured out that images could work with Markdown syntax — it didn’t work outside of iCloud and that threw me off, but it works fine inside, and if I clone my GitHub books into the iCloud folder for iA Writer, everything seems to work perfectly.

    I don’t think it will be a problem with HTML/CSS for writing templates either. I don’t really have a problem with that. I just haven’t checked how templates work for iA Writer. I guess that is a project for a rainy afternoon.

Leave a Reply