Ulysses 3 Might Be The Mac’s Best Text Editor [Preview]

Ulysses

I never used the Ulysses word processor. I tried it a bunch of times, but it always seemed like overkill for someone who just wanted to type words. Textedit was really more my speed.

But Ulysses 3 is just about to launch, and I'm writing this post in an almost-done preview version. And man is it slick. The only problem is how to describe it. Forget everything you knew about text editors and come take a quick look. It really is something completely new.

The Interface

First, Ulysses takes a note from iOS: everything is in the app. There's no open-save Finder dialog, or even a separate file-management area. It's ll in the three-pane interface. On the far left, you have your source, consisting of groups (folders), smart groups, an inbox (for anything that does come from outside the app, plus all your files. These sync with iCloud (or they will in the Mac App Store version), and remain there, always a and forever safe and available. You can even drop a whole folder on the sidebar and Ulysses will adopt it and the files within, but won't actually move anything.

The next panel is the documents pane. This is like your e-mail inbox, complete with a subject line (title, kinda) and three-line preview. And finally, there's the "sheet," the page on which you write.

The Editor

And writing is the point here. Ulysses isn't a page-layout tool, it's a text editor. To this end it uses a Markdown-like syntax (Markdown users could be forgiven for thinking that it is Markdown), with asterisks surrounding words to make them bold, and hashtags used to turn a line into a heading. There are keyboard shortcuts for everything 1, and you can export your creations in most formats, including RTF, PDF, HTML and — yes — Markdown.

Sheets

Sheets have another trick, too. You can attach things to them, including pictures, notes and keywords. This makes researching long-form pieces easier, and also helps you search and organize things later, or make smart groups based on keywords. It's a little like a lite version of Scivener's research feature.

The other trick, which is super-duper neat, is the way sheets can be wrangled. By default, you type on one sheet, but if you select a few of them at a time they are concatenated in the editor, turning them into one single notional sheet. These selections can be non-contiguous, but they must be in the same folder. That said, the "folder" cn be a virtual one, so you could join documents inside a smart folder (called "Filters" in Ulysses).

You can also "glue" snippets together using ⌘-J (for "join").

It goes on. The amazing thing about Ulysses 3 is that it looks so simple, and yet it hides a huge amount of power. The app comes with a project to talk you through the features (of which I have only touched on a few here).

I'm planning a full review for the launch, which may be as soon as next week. Which should give me time to really get acquainted. Until then, take a look at the teasers on the developer's blog.

  1. Even footnotes!

About the author

Charlie Sorrel Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie  on Twitter at @mistercharlie.

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