Finally: Export to Word and Pages from Ulysses (Preview)

Ulysses 2.1 will shortly hit the stores. In this series we show you what you can expect.

DOCX Exporter

When we were developing the first version of Ulysses (also known as Ulysses III by that time), RTF was the file format of choice, if you wanted to exchange rich text documents on the Mac. Then Apple switched from RTF to DOCX without former announcement, and thus our freshly released writing application was suddenly unable to communicate directly with Pages, the Mac’s native text processing software. Well, it took a while, but with the release of Ulysses 2.1 this will officially be a thing of the past.

We’re following Apple: Ulysses’ RTF exporter has become a DOCX exporter, and will therefore be functional with Pages as well as with the world’s most commonly used text processor Microsoft Word.

DOCX Exporter Mac
Ulysses for Mac’s DOCX Exporter

In Ulysses 2.1, you will be able to preview your Word document and share it right away. Or you can send it to Pages (or Word) for some finetuning.

DOCX Export On iPad: Open in Pages
DOCX Export On iPad: Open in Pages

The new DOCX exporter will come as a new feature to both Ulysses for Mac and iPad.

Collapse, Expand & Drill-Down: A More Compact Library for Prolific iPad Writers (Preview)

Ulysses 2.1 for Mac and iPad will shortly hit the stores. In this series we show you what you can expect.

Making groups collapsible was among the most requested features for Ulysses for iPad. Yes, it’s true: If you’re a prolific writer and have a number of groups and subgroups (and maybe even subsubgroups and so on) things can get slightly confusing in the current version. Here is the good news: Version 2.1 will bring the option to collapse and expand groups – and therefore help mobile writers to have a more compact view of their library.

To collapse a group (and thus hide its subgroups), just tap it, swipe to left and select Collapse.

Collapse Expand

Expanding works the same way: tap a group, swipe to left and select Expand.

In the sidebar, a group containing collapsed subgroups gets indicated by a double arrow. Tapping it will open a view where only this very group and its subgroups are visible. The double-arrow in the navigation bar will bring you back to the superior group.

“The moment when I fell on my knees was the very moment that changed my life.”

Janice Jakait made the headlines in 2012, because she was the first German woman to cross the Atlantic ocean in a row boat. After coming back she wrote a book about her experiences: “Tosende Stille” (“Roaring Silence”, available in German only).

Janice in her boat, shortly before arriving in Barbados, February 12, 2012
Janice in her boat, shortly before arriving in Barbados, February 12, 2012

The blog you wrote during this adventure is called “Row for Silence”. What does this refer to?

When I rowed alone across this ocean – just two oars, no sail, no motor – I was aiming for more silence. More silence in my head and more silence beneath the ocean’s surface. Together with the swiss organization OceanCare, we tried to raise awareness for the dramatic impacts of man-made ocean noise pollution, which results in the death of countless sea dwellers. 

You’ve spent around three months on the sea, alone in your rowing boat. While there, did you ever regret your commitment? Did you ever want to break it up and just go home?

I had no option to just quit. There was no way back – no planes or helicopters are able to rescue you thousands of miles away from the coast, and it would take days for merchant ships to arrive. But in the end, sometimes this is exactly what it takes to succeed. Sometimes we have to leave all illusion of safety behind to find the more important things. The moment when I could not fight anymore against the horror and the fears, the moment when I fell on my knees was the very moment that changed my life in a totally unexpected way. I would not have arrived there with an easy option to quit.

During that time you had been writing about your experiences and thoughts in a blog and in social networks. Could you please explain how this worked technically?  I think there are no cell towers yet in the Atlantic ;)

Usually I used a pen and paper. From time to time I used a small waterproof laptop connected to a satellite phone to feed my blog. I could also send small messages directly from the phone to Twitter or Facebook. After a few weeks I felt no more need to share my moments with a world so far away, but then people started to worry as no more updates arrived. This was something that taught me a lot about  the real meaning of “sharing”.

“After a few weeks I felt no more need to share my thoughts, but then people started to worry.”

As for the writing itself: Was it part of your routines on the boat? What did it mean to you during that time?

I carried a logbook with me which I fed every 4 hours with updates about my position and circumstances that might be relevant in a case of emergency. Your life can depend on just a single line in this book. Besides that: I wrote a daily journal. I found these two also to be the most important references to rely on, when I later wrote my book “Tosende Stille” (“Roaring Silence”, available in German only) about that adventure. You are often close to being insane when badly seasick or in critical situations … then it is hard to remember details afterwards. I was so glad that I had this routine of writing everything down when it happened. 

You arrived in Barbados on February 12, 2012, exactly 90 days after you had started your journey in Portugal. How did life go afterwards?

I usually spend 90 Minutes on stage talking just about that. It is not so easy to answer. When back, you have several options: You can return to your old life and try to forget how different it felt being so free , or you join those adrenalin junkies who always seek new challenges to re-experience what they have found.

“I was free when I forgot all future and past. Here and now, that seemed to be the key to happiness.”

I was confused. Badly. I experienced so unbelievable states of bliss and peace , but then I found myself back in a world of people who still were prisoners of their thoughts. I wondered: I was free out there, when I lived the moment, when I forgot all future and past. Here and now. That seemed to be the key to happiness. But I wondered, why do I always have to travel to distant places, on other oceans, up the highest mountains, to find that HERE. And I wondered, why do I always have to wait until I find the time in the future to seek that NOW. Isn’t it always just here and now? Maybe seeking it, fighting so hard to arrive, is the only reason why we do not realize that we are here, now, free! To be honest, I dropped out for two years into loneliness to realize that… This is what happened. Another journey, into myself, followed.

You had been working as an IT consultant in your former life. Was it an option for you to return to your old job?

“I realized that the challenge is to trust in myself and into determination and devotion for what I do.”

As a child I wanted to be a writer and a speaker. This was my dream. And all I tried out there was to remember what I really wanted to do and how to get rid of those stupid reasons to not give it a try. And even to believe that I am unworthy and unable to live a happy life.

In March 2014, your book “Tosende Stille” (“Roaring Silence”), where you dealt with your experience, was released and later became a bestseller. Please tell us something about how it came to be written.

Tosende Stille
Janice’ book became a bestseller in Germany.

Writing is my passion, and I consider writing in that rough german language the most challenging job to master, when talking about the beauty of love and life. For over three decades I just believed that I do not have enough talent, no good stories to share and simply not enough energy and focus to write a book of 240 pages. After I came back and spend two years reflecting on myself, I realized that the challenge is to trust in myself and into determination and devotion for what I do.

Which tools do you use for writing?

To be honest: When writing this book, I spent half of the time seeking better tools. Many programs feel powerful and give you the feeling of being productive by just clicking all over their shiny buttons and menus for hours. But in the end, it is all about the plain text, the content. And it took me a while to realize that everything that drags my focus away from the text is distraction.

“Everything that drags my focus away from the text is distraction.”

Why is Ulysses the right writing tool for you?

Because it allows me exactly this: To focus on my text. Its strength is understatement and simplicity. Everything is there when you need it, but not distracting you when you don’t.

In your blog I’ve also read that writing did not always come easy to you. Do you have some tips for other writers for overcoming creative blocks?

The best way to overcome creative blocks is to write anyway. It’s as simple as that. If you cannot find the passion to write in a certain moment, just write until you forget that you did not have any passion to write . To do something, just do something! Focus on it by just allowing yourself to fall into it.

What is your life like today, and which does writing play in it?

I had four dreams in my childhood. Touching people with stories I share on stage, with stories I write about in books, becoming a bestseller and owing a lighthouse. I still don’t own a lighthouse, nobody’s perfect – but when I came from stage last week, a woman hugged me and said: “Janice, you need no lighthouse, you became one yourself!” I cannot imagine doing anything else but what I am doing right now. I am here – the right time, the right place, doing the right things. 

What are your future projects? Are you planning further ocean crossings or other extreme adventures?

Janice Jakait
Janice Jakait, February 2015

No more plans to risk my life. The ocean is a wonderful place, who knows, maybe one day I will be back. But I doubt I will travel alone again… If I realized one thing out there, then it is summarized by this line of Alexander Supertramp: “Happiness is only real when shared.”

Visit Janice’ website Row for Silence to learn more about this project and her experiences. The blog is written in German, but there is some information in English available as well, plus some great photos of her adventure.

Photos ©rowforsilence.com

Why Plain Text Will Boost Your Productivity as a Writer

Plain text writing may sound like a complicated concept to someone who grew up with text processors. But it is actually what writers did before text processors even existed: sit down in front of a typewriter and type words. When preparing for print, the text of a manuscript was then marked up by hand to indicate what typeface, style, size etc. should be applied by the typesetter.

When text processors first were invented, they seemed to considerably empower writers, because they were able to format their texts right away. Over the years, these programs constantly evolved and gained more and more functionality. The problem is that meanwhile their original purpose faded into the background: writing.

Authors can choose to return to WordStar – which was the was the very first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor – to escape the bloat of modern text processors. Or they can write plain text.

The concept of writing in plain text gained many fans with the rise of blogging, but I think many of its benefits apply to any kind of writing. Here are some ways how plain text writing can help to boost your productivity.

Simplify Your Writing

Plain text writing (and marking up text elements for later formatting) is simple. If you’ve been socialized in Word (like me), you may disagree at first. But I believe that if you try plain text writing, you’re likely to change your mind and come to enjoy its purity and simplicity. As for myself, I think now that text processors are actually cumbersome, and many writers just got so used to this fact that they don’t question it anymore.

Be (Much!) Less Distracted

Whenever I open Microsoft Word for some reason (last time was for proofreading the doctoral thesis of a friend who doesn’t own a Mac), I feel somehow desoriented by all these buttons and menus. I’m aware that one can do exciting things with text processors – design an event invitation, for example, or add a diagram. But what when all you want to do is write?

Some decisions to take: Word
Some decisions to take: Word

Let’s say I’m up to crafting a blogpost (a marketing strategy, an academic paper, whatever). I don’t feel that text processors are helping me in any way with that task. On the contrary, they seem designed to redirect my attention, continuously asking me questions: Is Cambria too ordinary as a font, are the margins too narrow? Should I try one of these fancy designs, and what does this button actually do? How can I avoid the page to break only to text lines after the headline? And so on.

Focus on Your Text

To avoid getting distracted by these permanently demanded decisions is an exercise in self-discipline. With plain text, on the the other hand, you need to focus on what really counts: Your findings. Your thoughts. Your stories. Plus: As long as you’re writing, the question of the most fitting typeface for your subhead or footnote is not relevant at all.

Some space to fill with words: Ulysses
Some space to fill with words: Ulysses

Separate Writing from Formatting

So writing plain text means to separate writing from formatting for the sake of productivity. The essential structural elements of a text are marked up while writing: You can write headings of various levels, add emphasis, add lists and more. What you can’t do: Tweak margins, or choose your first order headings to be 24 pt, and red-colored. All the layout tasks that have nothing to do with the content you’re trying to compose. Take care of layout later. This first instance should be about writing, and writing only.

Write Faster

Ulysses markup bar
The Ulysses markup bar – more than a cheat sheet: You can also apply any of the tags by clicking on them.

You’ll need only a small number of memorable signs to mark up the structural elements of a text while writing. Once you know them by heart, you can just type away, without reaching for the mouse and twiddling with fancy formatting menus.

It would be a good idea to have a cheat sheet at hand while learning the markup. With Ulysses, it’s built right in. Just click the markup button in the toolbar to bring up the list of all available tags, and tear it off to leave it open while writing.

It won’t take long until marking up a headline will come to you as natural as placing an exclamation mark. Questions like “underlined or set in italic?” won’t bother you anymore.

Save Time When Publishing

So you’ve successively written a text. What’s next?

  • You publish a blogpost.
  • You add it to the content management system of a website.
  • You create an e-book and publish with Amazon, Nook or iBooks.
  • You convert it to PDF and pass it over to your colleagues for their opinion.
  • It’s for a print publication. You send it to the graphic designer, and he uses InDesign to produce a leaflet.
  • It’s a diary, or notes-to-self, not meant to be read by anyone but yourself: The text remains where it is.
  • It’s a term paper for university: You export to formatted text, print and submit to your professor.

    (t.b.c.)

There’s a lot of things you can do with texts. For many of them, using a text processor isn’t mandatory. On the contrary, sometimes formatting can even get in your way and you have to remove it manually.

And even if it actually is a Word document that you want (or must) have in the end: Even then you’ll probably be more productive when you separate writing and formatting.

Repurpose Your Text

If you want to publish your text more than once, but in different formats, plain text is very effective – thanks to the use of markup, you can easily convert it. Ulysses, as an example, can use one and the same text to create a formatted PDF, an e-book or standard HTML – with just a few clicks.

So, if you haven’t tried it yet, I hope this article inspired you to explore the benefits of plain text writing and find the editor that fits you best. I suggest starting your research here.

6 Tips to Organize Your Text Library with Ulysses

We’ve designed Ulysses to be the home of all your texts, no matter if they’re notes to self, white papers for your business, or blog posts. If you’re a busy writer, these can easily add up – and that’s why Ulysses offers a number of organizational features. Here are some tips to get your text library straight and keep track of your writing tasks.

1. Categorize into Groups (and Subgroups and Subsubgroups, etc.)

Given you’re a freelance writer – how about setting up one group for each of your customers? If you want finer differentiation, you can set up subgroups within these groups. Ulysses allows for an unlimited number of hierarchical levels.

To add a group, click the + icon at the bottom of the sidebar. Each group can have as many sheets as you want. If you select a group in the sidebar, you will get an overview of all its subgroups and sheets.

2. Filter for Keywords

Save time on maintaining To-Do-Lists! If you’re working on different projects at once, you can use keywords and filters to keep track of your tasks. Just think up a keyword indicating “Work in Progress” and add it to the respective sheets. (The keyword may consist of more than one word, so “Work in Progress” would work just fine.) With a dedicated filter you can then display all sheets with that very keyword.

You can add keywords via a sheet’s attachment bar. Access it via the paperclip icon at the top right corner.

As with groups, you can add filters via the + icon at the bottom of the sidebar. By the way: Searching for keywords is not the only thing filters are capable of – available filter criteria include text matches and change dates.

3. Favor Frequently Used Sheets

If you want to spare yourself assigning keywords and setting up filters, you can also use favorites to mark up sheets you’re currently working on. Or you make use of favorites for texts you need to refer to time and again; a snippet describing a client’s product, for example.

Switch to the sheet list, right-click on a sheet and select “Add to Favorites” from the context menu to do just that.

4. Sort Your Sheets (and Your Groups, too)

You can choose whether to sort your sheets according to change date, title, or manually. Manual sorting lets you easily arrange the chapters of a novel or several parts of a complex strategy document, for example.

You can change your sorting preferences via the menu entry “View › Sort”.

Of course you can also re-arrange the groups and filters you set up in step 1 and 2. Just drag. And drop.

5. Hide the Sections You Don’t Need

Your library has several sections, but you can choose to show only those you actually use. This is probably iCloud, if you’re editing your texts on more than one Mac and/or on an additional iPad, or On My Mac, if you’re limiting yourself to a single writing device. As a beginner, it certainly makes sense to keep the introduction at reach, but later you may want hide it for the benefit of better focus. You will find these options for the sidebar setting in Ulysses’ preferences.

And don’t you worry – you reverse this at any time.

6 . Don’t Bother, Just Write

Are you more of the laid-back type? Do you think organizing is procrastinating, and even find inspiration in a slight chaos? Well, then leave it. Just hit the New Sheet button and start writing. And if you ever loose orientation? Hit the shortcut ⌘O (command-O), type into the search field what you are remembering, find the sheet – and write on. It’s as simple as that.

How do you organize your library? Do you have practical tips to complement this article? Get in touch, I would love to hear from you.

Some Soulmen at WWDC

If you’re developing apps for Mac and iOS, Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, held in San Francisco from June 8-12, is the highlight of the year. I sat down with Max, who’ll be there for the 8th time in 10 years, to talk about his past experiences, how his focus has shifted, and what to expect from Apple at this year’s event.

Just arrived in San Francisco: Friedrich and Max
Just arrived in San Francisco: Friedrich and Max

Can you give a short overview for the uninitiated what WWDC is all about?

WWDC is Apple’s annual developer conference, being held for the 26th time this year. It’s the one event in the whole year where Apple engineers come together with around 5000 developers (just like us) to discuss the latest news and experiences. Apple usually uses this occasion to announce new revisions of its operating systems iOS and OS X. From time to time, there are also new devices being introduced.

Despite sharing news, there are two other major reasons for people to go there. For one, it’s the only opportunity for us to meet Apple engineers personally and therefore to get help with problems we couldn’t solve otherwise. And second, there are 5000 developers of all trades for one week in one place – this results in a gigantic number of parties and get-togethers.

So you have you been to WWDC a couple of times. What was it like?

Yes, I’ve been there seven times already, every year from 2007 to 2013, and each time it has been an impressive experience. Coming from Germany, flying around half the globe, and then entering a crazy city like San Francisco is very intense on its own. Then add to that all the news, talks and learnings, the people you meet, the places you see, the events you attend… There’s hardly anything I could compare it to. I’ve always come back feeling motivated and with a lot of new ideas.

Max in San Francisco, 2007
Photo evidence: Max (on the left) with fellow developer David Dauer in San Francisco, 2007.

Of course, over the years my focus has shifted quite a bit. When I came there for the first time in 2007, I was 20 years old, about to finish my first year at university and did barely know anybody but the friend I had come with. I didn’t take away much more than a notion of what it means to be a developer and the desire to return – which I did.

Over the years, I got to know lots of people inside and outside Apple, and many of them became friends or business partners. When we decided to take The Soulmen full-time in 2011, things got a more serious touch. This year, I will be taking a long list of todos with me, and the week is filling up quickly with important events and meetings.

Do you remember an anecdote or funny story you can tell us from the conference?

In my first year at WWDC, I was that shy young boy among a gigantic herd of professional developers. I would talk to the people I got introduced to, but rarely contact anyone standing around. I was especially reluctant with the Apple guys, who always seemed to be surrounded by a crowd, or were busy, talking to fellow developers.

Usually, every attendee of the conference gets some swag, like a shirt, a bag or a jacket. In 2007 this included a black T-shirt reading “Power to the Programmers”, which most attendees used to wear throughout the week. Apple’s engineers had T-shirts too, but blue-colored with the slogan “Keeper of the Code”. While I did love my black shirt, I secretly yearned for a blue one.

Then on Wednesday night, after the beer bash (a closing party organized by Apple), I somehow attached to a group of friends who were going out for drinks. There were some Apple evangelists and engineers around, too, but I barely talked to them – until suddenly one of them next to me took off his blue shirt. I said “Noooo, you cannot take that awesome blue shirt off, it’s so cool”. It was John Geleynse, Apple’s head of developer evangelism. He paused for a second, then gave it to me: “Here, you can have it. I have plenty of those.” I was insanely lucky. Afterwards I talked to the Apple guys for a couple of hours.

Shirt
WWDC 2007 trophy

Do you have any clue what Apple is going to announce this year?

By now it’s certain that there will be new versions of iOS and OS X. Rumor has it these will be called iOS 9 and OS X 10.11, and despite bringing a few new things, mostly focus on stabilization and bug fixes (which we would applaud ;)).

Beyond that, Apple has always announced at least one thing at the keynote that had not been predicted anywhere. So, every forecast has to be taken with a grain of salt. And actually I don’t want to know it all in advance to not ruin the keynote experience. I just love the tension of standing in line, then sitting in the big room and waiting for what will come so much.

Keynote 2013
2013: The keynote hall is filling up with developers and enthusiasm.

What are you expecting to gain from the conference?

Most importantly, we hope to gain clarity on a handful of issues that have been bugging us in the last years. We expect to meet a few members of Apple’s engineering team to discuss what’s best for us to do, especially regarding iCloud sync.

Secondly, since there are so many people from the Apple-sphere around, it is a great networking opportunity. There’s nothing better for establishing (and maintaining) personal contacts with business partners, members of the press or colleagues. I have been in touch with some of these people for years, and we will now finally meet.

Last but not least, I will travel together with our own Friedrich for the first time, and I hope he will get infected by the great spirit that lies over the city during this week. I believe we will gain lots of inspiration and new input to profit from in the coming months. Until the next “dub-dub”, as developers say.

Should you happen to be in the city during WWDC, watch out for the guys with the butterfly shirts – they must be Friedrich and Max. Say hi, they’re up for a chat – and they’re bringing along some Ulysses swag!

Individual Group Icons

Did you know that Ulysses allows to customize your group icons? You can use them as visual labels for a better orientation in your text library. This option is available on both Mac and iPad, and when iCloud is enabled, the icons you selected for groups will sync and appear on all connected devices.

On the Mac, open the sidebar, double-click a group or select Edit from the context menu. A popover will open, where you can change its icon (and the group name).

Now choose from around 200 handpicked icons the one that fits best. The motives cover diverse topics, ranging from a letter (for a group containing letters to friends, for example) to an alarm clock (“Texts With a Deadline”) to an extraterrestrian (“Strange Ideas”).

On iPad, choose a group in the sidebar and swipe to left. When you tap Edit, you can change the icon.

And that’s all. Now you can start labelling your groups. Enjoy!

How to Customize Your Writing Environment in Ulysses for iPad

Are you a first-line-indenter? Would you choose an unpretentious font like Menlo, or something fancier? Do you prefer writing on a bright white background over light grey or midnight black? Neither one of these options will fit all writer’s preferences. That’s why Ulysses for iPad allows to customize your writing environment. You’ll find the following settings when tapping the gear icon in the upper right corner. Here is an overview.

Ulysses for iPad, fresh from the App Store
Fresh from the App Store: Ulysses for iPad. You can customize it to your liking.

Font

Ulysses’ default font ist Menlo, but you can change it to any system font. Alternatively, you can add a custom font just by opening an OTF or TTF file in Ulysses. I’ve tried that with Brandon here, the font we use on our website.

Ulysses for iPad Settings

Layout

Does the default layout setting 64@1.6 sound mysterious to you? Well, just tap, and you’ll see, it’s not: 64 refers to the number of characters shown per line, 1.6 is the line height. Good to know: A smaller line width will result in a larger text size. Further layout options include paragraph spacing and first line indent.

Landscape vs. Portrait
Landscape vs. portrait: The number of characters per line remains the same, while text is displayed smaller in portrait mode.

Theme

Themes are used to define the colors of the editor. Ulysses for iPad ships with a couple of built-in themes, the default theme is called iOS. For the time being, building your own theme is only possible with Ulysses for Mac, but you can download themes from our Ulysses Style Exchange. There are currently over 60 customer-created themes available – we’re sure you’ll find something you like. If you own Ulysses for Mac and have iCloud enabled, your themes will get synced, so you can use them right away on every connected device.

Themes
A theme for every taste: Lucid, New Wave 85, Cursor Console and Redeye (from left to right)

Dark Mode

If you prefer to write with a light font on a dark background, Dark Mode is for you. This will automatically use the dark version of your current theme – every theme features a light and a dark version – but also switch the whole interface, including sidebars.

Dark Theme, Dark Sidebars

Shortcuts for Your Handbag Typewriter

We believe Ulysses arms your iPad for getting some serious writing done — even more so when used in combination with an external keyboard.

That way, there is more room on the display for your text, and you can operate large parts of the app with a number of functional keyboard shortcuts. If you are a user of Ulysses for Mac, you should be familiar with many of them. For everyone else we’ve prepared a handy cheat sheet. You can print it, put it in your purse and carry it around until you know them by heart, if you will.

Ulysses for iPad Shortcuts

Update: If you don’t have a purse, you can also save this list directly in Ulysses, using this Ulysses sheet brought to you by Marc Weidenbaum. (Thanks!)