Open Files: A Simpler Way to Edit Text Files With Ulysses

What is new in the latest version of Ulysses for Mac? With a short series of blog posts, we’ll bring you up to date. A couple of days ago we glanced at the revamped Quick Export panel. In this post's focus: the new Open Files, handy for editing text files stored anywhere on your disk.

You may be familiar with External Folders, formerly known as External Sources. They allow to embed entire folders into your library in order to edit and organize contained text files with Ulysses. This works nicely, but it can be too much of a good thing. Occasionally you'll just want to edit a text file stored anywhere on your disk with the writing software of your choice, period. That’s what Open Files are for.

To open a .txt or .md file with Ulysses, right-click it in Finder and select “Open With > Ulysses” in the context menu. The file will open at the top of your library in a new subsection called “Open Files” . This section is only displayed when there actually are files open for editing.

If you do this a lot, you can save a few clicks setting Ulysses as the default application for editing text and/or Markdown files. This is easy: Just right-click on a file in Finder and choose “Get Info”. In the “Open With” section select Ulysses, click the “Change All” button and confirm. From now on you can double-click any file of that type to open it with Ulysses – no matter if it is stored in a folder on your disk or sent to you via email or iMessages.

If you edit an open file, all your changes will get saved back to it, and the original file remains fully compatible with other text editors. Because of this, you won’t be able to use keywords or goals, and images must be linked and can’t be included directly in the file. However, you can still use the full power of Ulysses’ Quick Export to output text in various formats. Statistics are at your disposal, too.

Open File and Export
You can use Quick Export with Open Files, too

You can also drag open files into other sections of Ulysses’ library. This will create a copy while the original file will get preserved on its spot.

If you’re done editing an open file, right-click it and select Close in the context menu.

Quick Export 2.0 – 5 Things You Should Know

What is new in the latest version of Ulysses for Mac? With a short series of blog posts, we’ll bring you up to date. Our start: the new Quick Export panel and how to make the most of it.

At a glance: the new Quick Export panel
At a glance: the new Quick Export panel

1. You can export to Text, HTML, ePub, PDF and RTF. Move your mouse over the format popup button top left to switch between them. Alternatively, you can use the up and down arrow keys to change the export format.

Switch Export Format

2. In the center of the panel you can specify the export settings, depending on the previously selected format: Plain Text or Markdown? HTML code snippet or full page? A4 or US Letter? Optimization for Word or for TextEdit? For ePub, you can add a title, an author and a cover image.

Here you can also select an export style for the formatting details (not available for Text export).

3. Now it is time to choose one of the available export actions represented by the icons top right:

PreviewPreview to see what your exported document is going to look like

Copy to ClipboardCopy to clipboard

Save toSave to, to open Finder and save to a location of your choice

Open InOpen in, lists all available applications for further processing of your output

Send toSend your output as mail or iMessage, share via Airdrop, print

4. The large button at the bottom executes a default export action (you can also simply press Return). You should set this button to the action you use most (for example “Copy to clipboard” in HTML export). Right click on an icon to set the respective action as default, or switch actions with the tab key .

Set Default Action

5. Have you seen the tiny page icon on the default button? Use it to drag and drop your file to a Finder window, on your desktop, into an email, etc.

Drag and Drop File

Now you should be set. Happy exporting!

Share a Style and Win Ulysses for iPad

Whenever you want to dress up your Ulysses writings for their readers, you rely on styles. On the Style Exchange you can find a wide choice of user-created styles for various purposes and tastes… And still, we’re suspecting that there is considerable untapped style potential out there.


Share a style – and have the chance to welcome a new guest to your dock
Share a style – and have the chance to welcome a new guest to your dock

So, if you ever played with the idea to create your own style, you should probably begin today. If you already have a customized style up your sleeve, now is a good time to share it with the world. We would love if you did – and that’s why we’re running a small competition and raffle three licenses for Ulysses for iPad. Here is how it works:

  1. Build your own style for Rich Text, i.e. for PDF or RTF export.
  2. Upload it until April 30 to the Ulysses Style Exchange.
  3. Tweet us the link to your style, or post it on Facebook. Include some words about it: What is special? What is it meant for? Who will enjoy it?
  4. A jury – not exactly independent, but at least interdisciplinary, with team members from development, support and communication – will then nominate the three most stylish, uhm, styles. Their creators will each receive one free license for Ulysses for iPad.

Are you up to tinkering with a style but feel like an absolute beginner? Read this post to get started. For details, consult the complete Ulysses Style Sheet Reference. Please note: For the time being, creating styles is only possible with Ulysses for Mac. If you don’t own it, you can make use of our free demo.

Have fun tinkering! We can hardly wait to see the results.

PDF Styles for Fiction Writers

Be it murder mysteries, love stories or science fiction – if you are writing fiction, someday you’ll probably want to hand your text manuscript over to an editor. Even before that you may want to see for yourself what your work could like when it is printed – for a profound revision through the eyes of a potential reader, or just for fun. For all of these purposes, Ulysses styles are at your command. With the right one at hand you’ll need only a few clicks (or taps as for the iPad) to convert your text into a beautiful PDF or RTF document.

Ulysses ships with a couple of built-in styles you can instantly use. A greater choice you’ll find on the Style Exchange. Here is a selection of user-created styles for exporting to PDF or RTF fiction writers may find beneficial.

French Novel
Style French Novel

French Novel created by Loïc Martin features Garamond font and two text columns. It is one of the most beloved styles available on the style exchange. For a reason, I think – in French Novel style, even my blog post looks distinguished. What will it do with your short story then?

Book Manuscript

Style Book Manuscript

Authors planning to submit to a publisher may opt for Book Manuscript, a simple style applying Helvetica Neue and left-aligned body text, without hyphenation. It is based on the standards for a German Normseite, i.e. an A4 page with 30 lines at 60 characters.

Paperback PDF

Style Paperback PDF

For Paperback PDF, the British mystery author David Hewson adapted Ulysses’ built-in style Novel Cochin specifically to his needs. Its layout is reminiscent of a classic paperback, and David finds it beneficial for revising on an iPad.

Writing a Novel With Ulysses, Reloaded

Writing a Novel With Ulysses

Yes, we’re a little proud that bestselling author David Hewson is a loyal user of Ulysses – and we’re still very pleased that he wrote a book about it. “Writing a Novel With Ulysses” was now completely overhauled and revised for Ulysses 2.0, and we’re taking this occasion to recommend it by heart.

David illuminates Ulysses’ approach to writing and offers assistance in making use of its features, based on his own routine as a highly productive author. Writers who are just discovering Ulysses for their work will find it especially helpful, advanced users are likely to find inspiration in it as well. The explicitly non-technical perspective and the conversational tone make it a joy to read. What else could you expect?

David Hewson The updated edition of “Writing a Novel With Ulysses” is now available for Kindle, iBooks and Nook. For existing readers the update is free. For more information please pay a visit to David Hewson’s blog.

The British author David Hewson has published more than 20 mystery novels and several guidebooks for aspiring authors. His work has been translated into more than 25 languages and his latest series, set in Amsterdam and launched with The House of Dolls, is in development for Dutch TV. Also, read our interview with David here.

“I Had to Learn to Really Love Writing”

Niko Formanek quit his job as a PR executive to become a stand-up comedian. Joking about his family life is now what he does for a living. In our interview he talks about how he got there, the up- and downsides of the funniest job in the world, and why for him Ulysses offers a close-to-perfect writing environment.

Niko Formanek
The Austrian comedian Niko Formanek, performing at a show. At the time of publishing this interview he is on board of the cruiseliner AIDA, making its passengers laugh.

Comedian is a rather exceptional profession. How did you become one?

Pretty late. I began my career on stage at the tender age of 44. Before that I had been working in many other fields. After studying communications in the US, I worked in politics, managing parliamentary and presidential election campaigns in Austria. Then I got into public relations and was Vice President of Communications for Bertelsmann, a German media giant. When my wife and I had children, I started my first own company trying to be part of the online gold rush. Well, I did not make millions. But the project turned into a rather large photo agency which I sold to the Austrian Press Agency. Then I felt the urge to do something completely different: become a stand-up comedian.

“I began my career on stage at the tender age of 44.”

Since my college days I have been an avid fan of stand-up comedy. So I started couple of satirical side projects. One of them was an Austrian satirical website, similar to the US magazine The Onion. It ended up with more than 12 indictments, two police searches in my home as well as fines and court costs adding up to more than 180,000 Euros. Yes, Austria has a limited concept of free speech.

Anyway, at some point I just had this crazy idea of doing comedy on stage. So I took a seminar in Germany and invited myself to a comedy club in Hamburg. After returning to Vienna I set up a new company called gagster comedy AG and started a regular comedy show. Today I am still hosting our comedy club style show all over Austria and also in Germany. We represent major artists in Austria, and I have managed to get a “comedy career” going for myself. Last year I reduced my involvement in the company to focus more on my career as performing comedian.

On stage I perform regularly and mainly in Germany, either as guest or host in big comedy shows and on cruises, or I do my solo show.

Are there specific topics you especially like to joke about?

Yes. I will turn 50 this year, I have been together with my wife for 30 years, and we have a daughter (17) and a son (13). This is my topic, or rather theme: all these minor or major catastrophes and the craziness of family life. This is where my jokes and stories come from. My feeble attempts to be cool in the eyes of the new boyfriend of my daughter, the inspiring efforts my wife and I went through to have some kind of sex life after having kids. Or when my son’s teacher explained that my son was smart but lazy, and I jokingly replied: “No, he is just dumb and stupid. Just like me. I am happy if he remembers his name in the morning.” This was prompted by a text message of the teacher to my wife saying our family should go to therapy. My wife was not happy. I am actually a very lucky guy, because my wife and my family have not abandoned me yet, although I repeatedly broadcast private and embarrassing matters on stage.

“I am actually lucky that my wife has not left me yet.”

People who come to my shows often are or have been in similar situations, confounded by the challenges of family life. They’re pleased that there is someone on the stage complaining and joking about those things, so they don’t have to do it themselves. I am acting the lovable fool for all of them.

Could you give us some insight into the daily routine of a comedian?

Of course we don’t work all alike, although there may be some similarities. First off, it is not a hard life. Yes, we nurture the image of a struggling, hard-working creative genius, but this doesn’t reflect my daily routine. And I suspect there are more like me out there in the comedy world.

Niko Formanek

Basically we split our lives in two. There is the time on tour, which is exactly as one would expect according to the cliché. Travelling by train, plane and ship. Hotels which merit this name, and hotels which must have had some other purpose in life or already committed suicide. We do our shows, go to bed late at night and get up when the housekeeping staff runs the vacuum against the door to dislodge the Please Do Not Disturb sign. If we are not on stage, we try to catch up on sleep in trains, cars or planes, try to eat one healthy meal per week and, if possible, think and write up some new material.

When I am not traveling I am at home being a good husband. I try not to get up too late, giving at least the impression of being productive while my wife is working hard and successfully on her career. So I do the dishes, the laundry and the other household chores I am authorized to do according to my wife.

“The comedy lifestyle has its downsides, but I have never had a better job.”

Obviously, the most important thing for a comedian is to think up a couple of funny things and write them down. This works just like any other job in the world. You have to do it every day, relentlessly – and if you are lucky, one in ten ideas will have some kind of comedic potential. I try to get a “regular-job” feeling by doing my writing in the national library, away from home. I go there like to an office, turn off all connections to the outside world, and try to force myself to write. At least two hours a day, sometimes up to four. Honestly, most things I write are not exactly stage material. But if you don’t do those, you’ll never get to the good stuff.

I have worked in “real jobs” for many years, and I don’t want them back. The comedy-lifestyle has its downsides just as anything, but I have never had a better and more fun job in my life.

Are you funny in private life, too? Do friends and family expect you to joke around?

It depends. My wife and kids do not expect me to be funny – they fear it. Friends and other people do, but that is what people expect comedians to be. I am often baffled to meet colleagues who are hilarious on stage, full of life and energy, but seemingly turn into a completely different person as soon as they get off stage.

“My family does not
expect me to be funny – they fear it.”

For me there is no difference. I am the same Niko on and off stage. Yes, I take the risk to embarass or even annoy my family and friends with a stupid joke. But every good joke is worth it, and they know me. Though I am afraid not everyone finds me funny when I try to be. I can only hope they do – and count on goodwill if they don’t.

Which role does writing play in a comedian’s life? Do you write a lot and do you like to write?

It is impossible to overstate the importance of writing if one wants to do this job. Ideally, you would write like a maniac. The first thing after waking up should be writing. Before coffee, before breakfast, before going to the loo. Before your daily life starts, you should already have written for at least 15 minutes. And it is not important what you write. Just do it.

I wish I had always written as much as I should have. But it took me more than three years to really get rolling. I do write every day, minimum 30 minutes, but usually more than two hours. I had to train myself to be able to do this. And I needed to find the right tools.

“I wish I had written more. It took me more than three years to really get rolling.”

I have never written by hand, since I cannot read my own handwriting. I possess an impressive collection of notebooks, keyboards and tablets. Honestly, I expected each new toy to propel me into a new writing paradise. Well, it took a while, but now I have found my perfect setup: an iPad Air with a Logitech Ultraslim Keyboard. I use it everywhere, and this portability has greatly increased my output und ultimately made me more productive.

Yes, I like to write. But I had to learn to really love it.

Niko Formanek

Could you describe what you use Ulysses for?

I use Ulysses for almost every word I type. I do my notes in there, my books, my ideas, my ranting, my freeform writing in the morning. Everything. I have been using many apps over the past years. On Mac and on iPad. And there is great software out there. But after discovering Ulysses via the web I have gotten very close to a perfect writing setup.

Why did you choose Ulysses? What are the benefits of Ulysses for your kind of writing?

Before I had different apps for different projects: Day One on iPad for random thoughts and ideas, iA Writer to write up material and jokes, Scrivener on the Mac for complete shows and books. Yes, it worked and the world was okay, but not perfect.

“With Ulysses, all I have
to do is to take a sheet
and create.”

I have always been looking for the one and only solution for all my writing, no matter on what platform or hardware I am on. With Ulysses, I found it. Its biggest benefit? I don’t have to think about my setup. I write if, when and where I want. And lo and behold, I am able to find and retrieve the things I wrote, no matter where I am or what machine I use. I do not have to think about saving a file, where I have saved it to, how to get it from iPad to Mac or to convert it into a PDF or an e-book. No problem, Ulysses does it. All I have to do is to take a sheet and create.

The Launch – Feedback Roundup

The time before and after the release of a new application is most exciting in a developer’s professional life. First, there is the pressure to accomplish everything in time. And then, the excitement when waiting for feedback…

“This is the ultimate writing app on the ultimate writing tool.” – Ben Brooks

Ulysses 2.0 hit the stores less than a week ago. Since then, we got tons of e-mails: support requests (as always after any launch), but also lots of compliments and acknowledgements. That’s so good. There’s nothing wrong with following a vision from your desk’s chair, but it greatly helps to feel that your work actually makes a difference for those who use it.

Things start to calm down gradually. We just like to bask a little more in the wave of appreciation, before finally getting back to business; to designing interfaces or writing code, support e-mails or blogposts, respectively…

Five Star Writing

This is what things currently look like in the App Store and in the Mac App Store. Thanks, folks!

App Store
Mac App Store

Press Coverage

To date, I’m counting over 60 news items, articles and reviews in magazines, blogs and podcasts. Most are written in English, the lingua franca of the web, but there was also coverage in German, Italian, Spanish, French, Polish and Chinese.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been waiting for an app like this since Steve Jobs first sat in that comfy chair to show us the iPad.” – David Sparks

The overall opinion seems overwhelmingly positive. If you would like to examine what others say about Ulysses, check out MacRumors, AppAdvice, iMore, Lifehacker and Gizmodo, to name a few. Or study the articles by Ben Brooks, David Sparks and David Hewson in their respective blogs. The extensive review of technology journalist Mitch Wagner is also a good read; you’ll find it at SixColors, the new project of former MacWorld lead editor Jason Snell.

What’s more, here is a selection of articles that might be of interest for non-English-speaking readers (or rather, writers):

Push the Button

Earlier today, at around 7:00 AM Central European Time, Max logged into iTunes Connect and decided it was time to finally release Ulysses 2.0. He had a sip from his WWDC-themed coffee mug, blinked a few times, took a deep breath and hit that on-screen button, which would push the app onto the various App Stores across the world.

Max then closed the lid of his MacBook Pro, kissed his wife good-bye for the day and went to see his kids to Kindergarten. But not before he shared a small screenshot with the rest of the team, accompanied by his favorite four letter word: “BOOM!”

So as you read this, Ulysses should already be available for download – on both Mac and iPad. iTunes usually needs a while, before its multi-trillion-apps database updates its gazillion-trillion-entries search index, but it’s there, we’ve seen it, people are already getting it, writing rave reviews in it, and generally having a great time with it. At least we hope they do. Heck, yes, they do!

And while reviews are starting to trip in, and our Twitter stream is picking up pace (and our devices have all been silenced in the process), I’ll take the opportunity to thank a couple of people, whithout whom this thing would never have come around.

First off, naturally, our team, the whole team, and nothing but the team. So here’s to Lina, Frank and Lucas, who kept their cool during the last twelve months of support and beta requests. To Friedrich and Götz, who coded the hard parts, from sync to iPad UI and almost everything in-between. To Rebekka, who kept posting and newslettering and pushing us to consider and approve every word and release note, even when we didn’t want to read or write or know no more. And of course to Max, who held it together when I could not.

I’d also like to thank Jono Hunt for his six month calm, during which we created, tweaked, remodelled, tweaked, reshaped and further tweaked the new app icon. We believe it’s a damn fine icon, and I’ll do a post-mortem soon, where I’ll go through the whole process (and how long this has been coming).

Last not least here’s to our friends and families for all your ongoing support!

I’m awfully proud of what we have accomplished here. Some of this stuff is crazy shit, seriously. Stuff you won’t notice, because it took us months to get right, so you wouldn’t notice. And though this was hard work, folks, all you should probably care about is: Does it work?

I hope it does work. Work for you. Work for us.

So now this one’s finished and out in the wild, it’s time to start the next one. The small one. The one that completes the lineup. Yep, that one. After the break.

Happy writing, everybody!

The Handbag Typewriter

We said, we’re going to bring desktop-class writing to iPad. That means, if you go on holidays you may happily leave your laptop at home. To go even further: Actually you don’t need to possess a laptop at all. Or at least not because of Ulysses. To enjoy writing with Ulysses on the road, an iPad will be enough, beginning tomorrow. Consider equipping it with a petite bluetooth keyboard, if you will.

With a Keyboard Attached

That way, writing is not only comfortable, but very comfortable. The virtual keyboard disappears, making room for your text and your thoughts. Only the button row remains visible, for fast access to text statistics, search, attachments, and more.

Ulysses for iPad When a Bluetooth Keyboard Is Attached

And then, simply write. You can write markup on the keyboard, just as on the Mac – or use the button row. There are also a number of functional shortcuts you should be familiar with when you are a user of Ulysses for Mac. For example:

  • ⌘1, ⌘2 and ⌘3 to switch between three pane, two pane an editor-only view.
  • ⌘6 to open (and close) Quick Export.
  • ⌘⌥↑ and ⌘⌥↓ to navigate between sheets.
  • To name just a few.

    I find that it works like a charm. Even better, my writing tool for the road now fits into my favorite handbag. I think that’s just awesome, and I hope you will, too.

    Ulysses 2.0 is Coming March 12

    We have been looking forward to this day just as much as many of you. Our inboxes have been flooded in recent weeks by people asking us to stop teasing and finally announce a release date. Thank you all for your excitement, here is your answer:

    Ulysses 2.0 for Mac and iPad will both be released next Thursday, March 12.

    Ulysses for iPad will be priced at US $19.99 (or £14.99 / 19,99 €, respectively).
    Ulysses for Mac will be a free update for existing users, pricing unchanged otherwise.

    Which leaves us with six more days. How about shortening that time with the App Preview we made for the iPad version? ;-)