“I fell in love almost immediately”

Neil Dixon
Neil Dixon

Please tell us something about you: Who are you, what is your profession and what are you working on?

For the day-job, I have been a web developer since the late 1990s, sometimes freelance, other times employed. I am based in the North Cornwall coast in the UK, while my current main work focus is based in Los Angeles. This makes for some interesting—and many long—evenings.

The rest of my time is split between two main projects. Firstly, what I aim to become my main activity next year: art. I began working life as an illustrator in publishing and retail, but found a more technical side as computers took over from imagesetters and airbrushes (yes, I am that old). I am long overdue getting back to my core creative pursuits as something more than a pastime. Earlier this year I was accepted as an associate member of the Society for Graphic Fine arts, which is a valuable validation of my drawing skills.

Secondly, writing. From short stories in horror and speculative fiction, to novels and in particular a thriller series set in 1902 London. Far too many in-progress or planned, all too few ready for publishing. In addition I write intermittently to several blogs, both personal and business-focused.

When time and weather allows, I am either walking my large scent-hound, Jasper, cycling the far-too-hilly country roads around home, and when the Atlantic is in a temperate mood, bodyboarding in the surf.

"The Line" graphite, pencil on Canson
“The Line” graphite, pencil on Canson

Read …

Out Now: Ulysses 2.1 for Mac and iPad

21info

Whoops, there it is – the Backup Update. And the DOCX Update. And the Collapsible Folders on iPad Update. So it’s three updates rolled into one, on two platforms. That’s quite a confusing set of numbers, and I could go on and on and babble about math and stuff, when all I really want to say is: “IT’S OUT! GO GET IT ALREADY!

But you knew that when you scanned the headline, so what else is new?

Ulysses 2.1 is a major release, for us anyway. The switch to DOCX has been a long time coming, and Rebekka wrote a whole post about it and how we got stumped by that dreaded Pages release back in the day. There were some questions on Twitter and elsewhere about why we didn’t keep RTF alongside DOCX, and we might reconsider our stance on this, but for now, 2.1, we’re doing DOCX and DOCX only – it’s in and RTF is out.

Backup has been an often requested feature also, and we went through quite a lot of concepts and iterations before we settled with the current, simple implementation. Since this has also been brought up: We originally built the system and UI around user-definable backup locations. However, this opened up a can of worms, and the worms just continued to spill out. Removable media, cloud storage providers that can’t handle the backup file format, deleted backup folders, fallback locations… the list goes on and on. We might, at some point, introduce selectable locations, but as with DOCX we’ll keep it simple for now and see how it fares.

On iPad, we finally have collapsibe folders. Yes, yes, thank you, we know, we know, you can stop cheering now. Of all the recent features, this one was a true beast to implement. It won’t be obvious now, but once you start collapsing (which is non-standard on iOS, there’s no precedent, nothing to copy from), you run into issue after issue for which, again, there’s no precedent, no default, nothing. Granted, most of it has to do with how we display nested groups in the first place, but from creating sheets to moving groups, from the supposedly simple action of collapsing and uncollapsing to how you’re supposed to drill down, and drill down further, into a three- to four-level nested hierarchy, the whole undertaking was far from trivial. We believe it turned out quite cool, so go check it out, if you haven’t already.

Now, as always (even though we tend to forget), I’d like to thank all our beta testers for their invaluable feedback and support. Thank you! I’d also like to thank our users all around the globe for their passion and dedication towards Ulysses on both Mac an iPad. Thank you, this one’s for you!

Last not least, I’d like to thank the crew for being awesome. Götz, Friedrich, Rebekka, Lina, Frank, Lucas – none of this could’ve been done without you, and y’all tend to get too little credit most of the time. So thank you! :)

Oh, least I forget, Goals are now available on iOS, too. FWIW, this post was set to have about 2,800 characters, and since I already overshot a little, I’ll end now by stating the obvious… again: “IT’S OUT! GO GET IT ALREADY!

Cheers, have fun!

Ulysses for iPad Gets Polyglot

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

ScenChinese

Ulysses the Younger has taken language courses – with tremendous results: In little more than four months it has learned French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and simplified Chinese. Ulysses must be of exceptional talent – or is it due to its patient teachers at Wordcrafts? Thanks anyway, and here are some previews to prove Ulysses’ new skills:

Writers, Relax – Automatic Backup Is Coming

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

Noone wants to lose data, this goes without saying. But if you’re writing, texts may be especially precious. Losing a poem, a freshly begun novel, or a diary that was kept over years must be horrendous, a thing we’d like to spare you from. That’s why we’ve built a safety net right in: Version 2.1 brings automatic backup to Mac and iPad.

Both apps will keep hourly, daily and monthly backups of their respective text libraries. On the Mac, you can enable them via Ulysses’ Preferences.

Access backups via Ulysses' preferences

Read …

A Goal Worth Writing For

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

Yes, writing goals were missing in the first release of Ulysses for iPad. Yet they’re coming with 2.1, ready to fuel productivity, exactly as we know them from the Mac.

Read …

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.

Read …

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.

Read …

“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. 

Read …

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.

Read …