When using Ulysses with iCloud synchronization, there is nothing to set up; it just works from the beginning. But what if you want to sync your writing via Dropbox? That’s possible, too. However, there are a few peculiarities and limitations you should know about.
If you’ve never missed it, you may ask: Ulysses syncs seamlessly via iCloud, so why Dropbox? Here are two use cases where it makes sense:
- You want to edit your texts with Ulysses, but occasionally need to access them from a Windows computer or an Android smartphone. Ulysses can store your texts in Dropbox as Markdown or plain text files so that you can open them with any text editor of your choice.
- You want to work together with someone else on the same text. In Dropbox, you can create a shared folder and let multiple users edit the text files it contains.
These are the genuine benefits of using Dropbox. The overall experience of using Dropbox is similar as if you’re relying on iCloud, albeit with a few limitations. We’ll get back to this later, let’s first go through the process of adding a Dropbox folder to your library.
Adding Dropbox on Mac
As a prerequisite, Dropbox should be up and running on your Mac. Open Ulysses’ Preferences, go the Library tab and activate the “External Folders” section.
The section will appear in your library; go there to link Ulysses with the Dropbox folder(s) you wish to sync.
Adding Dropbox on iOS
For adding Dropbox to Ulysses on your iPad or iPhone, keep your login details at hand. You don’t need to install the Dropbox app to be able to access your folders with Ulysses.
Open Ulysses settings by tapping the gear icon in the library pane. Tap “Library” and toggle Dropbox. Now, when you tap “Add Folder…”, you will be able to link your account and to browse your Dropbox for the folders you wish to add.
Before you can start writing, you should determine a few settings for the file handling in your Dropbox folder.
Set a default file extension for new files you create. You can select from all available extensions for Markdown and plain text files.
Alternatively, you can choose to save new texts as TextBundle or TextPack files. Since a TextBundle is not just a file, but a bundle, it can contain additional files such as images. TextPack is similar to TextBundle but additionally compresses the contents into one file. On the TextBundle website you’ll find a list of applications that support the format.
Choose whether to open existing .txt files with Ulysses as plain text or as Markdown. Only if you choose the latter, Ulysses will interpret the relevant characters as Markdown tags during reading and writing. Making this choice will not change the .txt file extension.
Choose between two commonly used ways to markup links in Markdown files: as inline links, or as reference links. In Ulysses, you handle both in the same way, but if you open the file with a conventional editor, you’ll see a difference:
Note: If you edit an existing Markdown file, all its links will be formatted consistently according to this setting in its parent folder. That is, existing links will be reformatted if they don’t comply with your settings.
You can also choose a folder icon in this menu here. Plus, there are two more settings for geeks and Markdown pros: For one, you can tell Ulysses to always write out code blocks as GitHub style fenced code blocks. And you can let Ulysses create an index file for the Markdown previewing app Marked, should you be a user.
Working With Dropbox
There’s one thing that differentiates Markdown files stored in Dropbox at first glance from genuine Ulysses sheets – the file name tag on top. Whenever you create a new file in a Dropbox folder, you should first change this tag. Otherwise, there will be confusion with all the “Untitled”-files when you access your Dropbox directly. If you’re like us and consider file names needless, you can also delete it. Ulysses will then generate the file name automatically from your first paragraph.
Working with Dropbox synchronization is very close to what you’re used to from iCloud. However, there are a few constraints you should know about:
- You can only embed images in your texts if you choose TextBundle or TextPack as a file format. If you opt for plain text or Markdown files, you can’t insert images. You can, however, always provide links to images on the web. This will include them in HTML export as well as during publishing to Medium and WordPress.
- For the time being, attachments are not available for Dropbox files, that is, no keywords, no attached notes and images, and no sheet-specific goals. (On the Mac, you can attach keywords to Dropbox files, but unfortunately we can’t sync these to iOS.)
- A few advanced Markdown tags (Comments, Annotations, Delete) are not available.
The list of things you can do when using Dropbox is much longer. For example, you can:
- Split a file in two, and merge two files into one,
- Set up new groups and subgroups and nest them as deep as you wish. In your Dropbox, they will appear as folders and subfolders,
- Set up filters that narrow down the content of a group according to contained text or modification date (albeit those filters will live only in Ulysses),
- Set group or filter specific icons, sorting and writing goals,
- Markup headings, important and emphasized passages in your sheets, add links and footnotes,
- Set your editor’s look: use Dark Mode and Typewriter Mode, choose a font and a theme, etc.,
- Mark Favorites,
- Search through the linked folder for a file and instantly open it for editing (“Quick Open”),
- Export your works as HTML, ePub, DOCX or PDF files, beautifully formatted with Ulysses styles, and
- Publish to your WordPress blog or Medium account from within the app.
Conclusion: If iCloud or Dropbox is the better choice for you depends on your setup, your personal preferences, and the kind of texts you’re working on. No matter which one you choose, or if you choose both, but for different use cases – we wish you happy writing!