Academic Writing on the Mac: Papers and Ulysses

Just like Ulysses, Papers is a popular app with academic writers. Scholars from all over the world use this tool to find and organize their research material and create references in their own publications faster and easier. We have teamed up with the nice folks at Papers for the following tutorial on how you can combine the powers of Ulysses and Papers to improve your productivity.


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Self-Publishing for Absolute Beginners

A Really Short Introduction to Ebook Creation and Distribution with Ulysses and iBooks

Cover Image

Have you ever thought about publishing your texts, but never put that thought into action? Well, you could probably tackle that job right now – it is easier than you think! Let me walk you through the process step by step.

Note: You can use either Ulysses for Mac or Ulysses for iPad to create your ebook. For publishing it with iBooks, however, you’ll need a Mac running OS X 10.9 or later. And – this should go without saying – you have to hold the copyright for the content you publish.

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5 Easy Tweaks for Your DOCX or PDF Output

You are probably aware that Ulysses lets you export your writings to a host of standard formats with just a few clicks. Thereby, the so-called styles are used to define the look of the final document. Ulysses ships with a couple of pre-selected styles, and you can download many more on the Ulysses Style Exchange. If you own Ulysses for Mac, you can even adjust these styles according to your own taste and needs. Here is a selection of small tweaks with huge effects for instant use. They neither require a technical introduction nor previous knowledge on your part.

DOCX PDF Style Tweaks Read …

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.

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Handling References with Ulysses for Mac

When writing a thesis or scientific paper, authors often need to keep track of references to cite other works. While it might be fine to handle those manually at first, things can get complicated with a larger number of references. Dedicated reference managers can help here, because they simplify the tasks of finding, storing and citing references. Most of these tools integrate quite well with Ulysses for Mac. In the following tutorial, we’ll use Papers as a reference manager. Other managers such as Sente, Bookends or EndNote should work just fine as well.

The Reference Manager Papers 3
The Reference Manager Papers 3

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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!

Make Yourself Comfortable – A Guide on Customizing Your Writing Environment in Ulysses, Part 4

In the former parts of this series we explored most of the adjustments you can make in Ulysses to convert its clean and focused writing environment to a clean, focused writing environment that is custom-tailored to your taste and needs. If you’re happy by now, or always have been, you can skip this post. However, if you think there is that certain indefinable something missing to perfection, you should try building your own theme. It is much more fun than wallpapering a real office, at least if you’re not a handcrafter by profession.

Step 10: Build Your Own Theme

In Ulysses, you can create your own theme by modifying an existing one. Go to Ulysses’ preferences and select the Markup pane. In the lower part of the window you’ll see all available themes – Ulysses standard themes and those you downloaded from our Style Exchange. Choose the one you like most, right-click and duplicate it.


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Make Yourself Comfortable – A Guide on Customizing Your Writing Environment in Ulysses, Part 3

As a writer, you are possibly spending a couple of hours per day in your text editing application. Are you pleased by the way things look? In part 1 and part 2 of this series, we covered some basic adjustments you can make in Ulysses to feel even more at home. Time to look closely at themes, for if you need a major change of scenery.

Step 9: Download Themes From the Ulysses Style Exchange

Just as a reminder: Themes are to define the colors of your background, font and markup in the editor, and you can change your theme in Ulysses’ preferences. If you’re not confident with the themes Ulysses ships with, or if you’re just curious, you should pay a visit to the Ulysses Style Exchange platform. There, users can upload, download and rate themes (and export styles, but this is another story). The following selection showcases some of the most popular themes.

Outback theme
Outback is the most downloaded of all available themes and was the first one contributed by a community member, the Australian journalist Matthew Cawood.

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Make Yourself Comfortable – A Guide on Customizing Your Writing Environment in Ulysses, Part 2

This is the second part of our 10-step-guide to make Ulysses’ editor your writing home. In case you missed steps 1 to 4: this way please.

Step 5: Adapt Editor Settings

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:

Font: Georgia, Line Height: 1, First Line Indent: 2

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Make Yourself Comfortable – A Guide on Customizing Your Writing Environment in Ulysses, Part 1

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.

`⌘1` View Library, Sheet List and Editor'
⌘1 View Library, Sheet List and Editor
`⌘2` View Sheet List and Editor
⌘2 View Sheet List and Editor
`⌘3` View Editor Only'
⌘3 View Editor Only’

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.

Full Screen Mode

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.

Dark Mode
Dark Mode
Paged Mode
Paged Mode

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.

Continue to Part 2…