David Hewson is a bestselling British author and has published more than 20 mystery novels and several guidebooks for aspiring authors. His work includes three adaptations of the award-winning Danish TV series The Killing that have been acclaimed across international markets. Hewson’s books have 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.
How did you become a writer of all things? Did you dream about it when you were a child, or did it rather happen by chance?
One way or another I’ve always written for a living. I left school at 17 and became a reporter on a little newspaper in England and later worked for The Times, Sunday Times and Independent as a journalist. But I always loved books and dreamed of being an author. Finally twenty years ago I managed it when my first book was bought and turned into a movie. I later gave up journalism to be a full-time author. Journalism offers some great lessons for being a novelist. You learn to edit, not be precious about your words and to get on with the job. But you also have to accept that fiction is fiction and depends on making things up. The elements that make a novel work should get you sacked in journalism because essentially you’re trying to be a convincing liar.
When you’re writing a book with many characters or places it’s convenient to be able to filter all scenes starring the same character or place. Or maybe you’re a blogger and want to keep track of which blog posts are rough drafts and which are ready for publishing. In these and many more cases you might want to take a look at keywords.
For starters, you can add keywords to a single sheet by clicking Attach › Keywords… in the top right corner of the Editor. This is also accessible as part of the Edit menu.
If you’d like to add keywords to multiple sheets, select them in the sheet list, open the context menu and click on Keywords…. If the selected sheets have different keywords, the popover will feature two parts. The field at the top contains all keywords that are attached to all sheets you’ve selected. To add more keywords simply enter them here. The lower half of the popover is a collection of keywords that are only present in a subset of the selection.
Ulysses is intended to be a great tool for any kind of writing, equipped with elaborate organizing features and a powerful export function. However, the core piece of the app is the editor – the part where you, well, write. Minutes of a chat with Soulmen co-founder Max Seelemann.
How important is the editor for Ulysses as a whole?
Well, Ulysses is a writing application. And while there must be features for organization and export, users spend most of their time writing – in the editor. The editor is clearly the most important of all parts, and using it needs to be the most pleasant experience. We placed the same emphasis on the editor during the creation of Ulysses: the overall development of the first version took about 18 months, and of that we spent almost one year on the editor alone.
Why did you go for plain text editing in the first place?
Many writers are eventually more productive using plain text. It is a bit like writing on a classic typewriter, or even writing on paper. You’re not distracted by anything – when there are no formatting options, you can focus entirely on your text.
Ulysses users relying on iCloud sync of various machines or with the iOS app Daedalus Touch: Please do not upgrade to iCloud Drive on your iPhone or iPad. In case you upgrade to iCloud Drive after installing iOS 8, you will no longer be able to sync your texts stored in Ulysses running on OS X Mavericks! iCloud Drive is a new storage system that syncs with the yet to be released OS X 10.10 Yosemite operating system only.
In order to prevent syncing problems, please make sure to select “Not now”, when asked if you want to upgrade to iCloud Drive during the iOS 8 installation process.
There is no workaround and no way to undo this change: Once you upgraded to iCloud Drive on any of your mobile devices, syncing will only work with devices that run iOS 8 or OS X 10.10 Yosemite.
Please also note that this applies to all apps relying on iCloud syncing. For more details, please refer to this article by Realmac’s Nik Fletcher.
PS: This post was updated on September 24, 2014 to take into account that not only users of the iOS app Daedalus Touch but all Ulysses users relying on iCloud sync are affected by this problem.
Preferences allow you to adjust the settings of the editor. Feel like a different line height and indented first line would make for a nicer look? Give it a try.
You can also set paragraph spacing. Default for this is Zero, since many of us tend to simply put a blank line to structure our writing. With Page Width, you can alter the number of characters before a line breaks. And finally, there are two different cursors to choose between.
See how such tiny adjustments affect the appearance of the editor:
Novelists, journalists, academics, screenwriters – all kinds of authors are using Ulysses for their writing. We asked some of them to share their story. In this post, sociologist R.J. Leamaster explains how he uses Ulysses for academic writing.
Please tell us something about you: Who are you, what is your profession and what are you working on?
I am a PhD candidate in sociology preparing to start at my first faculty position in August. Right now, I am working on my dissertation and a couple of unfinished manuscripts. I also have the beginnings of a novel sitting in a Ulysses that I hope to start working on again at some point in the future. I am married with three kids and love to spend time with my family doing outdoor activities. I also love sports, especially basketball and American football.
Markdown is great for focused, productive writing. But it might happen that it gets in the way of your specific writing task. In Ulysses, there is a simple solution to this problem: Just change the markup.
Let’s assume you’re an academic who writes a lot of references in [square brackets]. Ulysses is using these to markup links. You can escape this by writing \[, but you'll probably find it inconvenient to do it over and over again. The alternative: adjust the link markup.
To customize your markup, go to Ulysses > Preferences and switch to the “Markup” tab. Click on the markup selection pop up button in the upper left corner and choose “New Markup”. Select a name for your first personal markup and a template to use as basis. For now, you should stick with “Markdown XL”, Ulysses' default markup language.
Once this is done, you are seeing an overview of all definitions in the markup. Scroll down to get to the Link markup, then double-click it to modify it. You can now, for instance, change the link tag to use angular brackets < > instead of the square brackets. An alternative could be switch to double square brackets [[ ]] – just choose what suits you best.
To use your new markup, switch back to the Editor. When moving the mouse pointer over the topmost area of a sheet, you can see the markup that is currently in use. Click and change it to the new one you’ve just created. Voilá: Square brackets will no longer be considered as links – but angular links (or double squares) will be, from this point on.
What’s more, all existing links in your sheet will be automatically converted to the new markup. And of course, you can apply this tip to all other tags in a markup, not just links.
Please note: Markup editing is currently only available On My Mac and in iCloud.
You are writing a lot, maybe several hours per day? Then you might want to add a personal touch to your text editor. Ulysses offers several options to do so. It is a little bit like creating a pleasing ambience in a room: One can select a vernal mint-green or a distinguished off-white for wall paint, arrange a Victorian suite of furniture or simply choose a desk from Ikea, place a flower bouquet for inspiration or keep it the most simple and distraction-free. And what else is a text editor but a room, your virtual writing room?
That’s why we assembled a 10-step-guide on how to customize Ulysses’ editor to your liking, to best spark creativity. We’re going to glance at all the screws you can turn, starting with step 1 to 4 in this post.
Should you actually prefer to leave everything like it is and start writing – please, go ahead. Defaults were set with care, intended to provide a clean, focused writing experience.
Ok, here we go.
Step 1: Editor-Only View
Ulysses comes with a handy three pane layout: the library with your folders and filters on the left, the sheet list in the middle, and the editor on the right. With 3 simple shortcuts you can easily hide the library and the sheet bar – and display them only when needed.
Step 2: Enter Full Screen
Do you want to block diversions and keep focused? Enter Full Screen. You can do so in the View Menu, by clicking the diverging-arrows symbol in the upper right corner, or by tapping ^⌘F.
Step 3: Find Your Preferred Mode
Do you prefer the proverbial plain white piece of paper? Or do you want your words to glow instead of the background? In Ulysses you can select between a light background theme with dark fonts, or a dark theme with bright fonts. Some writers find the dark mode more eye-friendly, especially in the evening hours. By default, Ulysses comes with a light theme and paged mode. As you might suspect, paged mode puts a more page-like frame around your text. For a less virtual appeal, so to speak. Find these options in the View menu.
Step 4: Select A Font
Ulysses’ default font is Menlo Regular. Menlo is a balanced, sans-serif Apple system typeface. As a monospace font, it produces an appealing, retro-ish typewriter look. But there are of course other beautiful fonts out there, and Ulysses allows you to pick the one you like best. In Preferences, you’ll find a handful of fonts carefully preselected by our designer. If you’re looking for something else, tap on Custom to browse your installed fonts.
Ok, these were easy, but there’s more to come: In the next post of this series we’ll have a look at the editor settings, the benefits of typewriter scrolling, and editor themes.
Today’s tip is about a tiny feature that still can be of great help for a writer’s workflow: bookmarks. The idea of bookmarks is as simple as obvious: remember a certain text passage. In our case, a bookmark always refers to a paragraph. Bookmarking is really easy. Just double-click the number of the paragraph you want to remember:
You don’t see paragraph numbers in your sheets? Then you need to enable them first in the menu View › Show Paragraph Numbers.
A bookmark remains attached to its paragraph even if you add or remove text in front of it. You can move it to another paragraph or erase it by dragging it out of the window.
What’s more, bookmarks will also show up in the Navigator:
Use the Navigator to get quickly to paragraphs you want to continue writing, revise or mark for any other reason. Just press CMD-8 to open it – you’ll find your bookmarks right there.
P.S. Bookmarks will only work in the sections iCloud and On My Mac, but not in Daedalus or External Sources.
Plus give-away: Get a free license for the Markdown previewing app Marked 2!
When working with different Markdown applications, sometimes things can get a little awkward. For a better future we collaborated with Brett Terpstra, maker of Marked, to develop TextBundle. This new file format facilitates the exchange of Markdown text files between sandboxed apps.
Sandboxing is required for all apps available on the Mac and the iOS App Store, i.e. they’re only permitted to access files users explicitly provide. This procedure aims to grant a high level of data security, but can cause inconveniences. An example: Markdown files may contain references to external images. When sending such a file from a Markdown editor to a previewer, users will have to explicitly permit access to every single image file.
TextBundle is a new data exchange format for sandboxed Markdown applications. It bundles the Markdown text and all referenced image into a single file. Currently, TextBundle is supported by the latest versions of Ulysses (1.2.2) and Marked (2.3.4). But we think, users of any Markdown application would benefit from a comprehensive portability – that’s why we hope other developers will follow and make their apps support TextBundle! The specifications and all the details can be found on the dedicated page textbundle.org.
Win a License for Marked
Give TextBundle a whirl – with Ulysses and Marked! Marked is a previewer for Markdown files, offering great features for previewing, reviewing and exporting beautiful documents, developed by Brett Terpstra. We’re giving away 10 free licenses of Marked 2 – just fill out our form. The winners will be selected on Monday, September 1st at 12pm CEST.