You Should Probably Just Download Ulysses III 1.1 Today: It Really Is That Good

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If you read Ulysses III 1.1’s release notes, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Soulmen (Ulysses’ developers) have just aded a few features that should really have been in v1.1. But take it for a spin and you’ll see that the the app has been polished in so many places that it feels both completely familiar and full of new tweaks.

I’ve been using the beta for the last few weeks (and I have actually spent the last week sharing office with the Soulmen in Leipzig, Germany). Because the beta exists outside the App Store, I haven’t tested the iCloud integration with Daedalus Touch, but I have looked around everywhere else. And one thing is very clear: if you’re writing anything longer than a quick few hundred words, then you should be doing in in Ulysses.

Here’s a quick summary of the main new features:

  • Sidebar search
  • Customizable export styles and EPUB export
  • Live, built-in preview
  • Typewriter scrolling
  • Smart lists and tags
Sidebar Search

Sidebar search is a typically clever solution to searching in al your documents. Ulysses takes care of your files, keeping them organized just like iTunes takes care of your music so you never need to worry about finding or saving a file ever again. Searching takes advantage of this to let you search on everything, or the currently-selected scope, i.e. You can select several folders and/or documents in the sidebar and the search search will be confined to these.

Once activated, search results are matched instantly as you type, and if you click on a result in the list (results are shown inside a snippet of the surrounding text for context) you’re taken to the relevant part of the document, also with your search terms highlighted. You can also narrow your search to just headers, tags, block quotes and almost anything else. It’s almost absurdly powerful, and it’s how all search should work.

Customizable Export Styles And EPUB Export

Ulysses uses a kind of custom Markdown for the editor, so you can wrap a word with asterisks to tell it you want to make it italic, for example, and then on export to HTML, PDF or whatever, it will actually be rendered in italics (the word is shown as italic in the editor too, to make it easier to read).

The idea is that, as with Markdown, you don’t worry about the output and formatting options until you are ready to send it somewhere, whereupon your project becomes a source document for any format you like. Previously, export was spartan, but now you can use CSS to customize it. There are several built-in styles, and you can easily add your own.

Also, you can export as EPUB for reading on e-readers and in the iBooks app.

Live, Built-In Preview

This is a window that shows the formatted result of your text file, as you type. It’s pretty useful, and as it reflects whatever documents you have selected in the editor, it’s a very quick way to proof single or multiple sections together.

Typewriter Scrolling 2.0

This is essential for long documents. Typewriter scrolling keeps the current line in a fixed place on screen. Without it the line you’re typing is always at the bottom of the screen, which is far from ideal. The Soulmen’s implementation lets you choose the vertical position, and also lets you scroll around the document to edit. Somehow you never seem to notice it – the document is always just in the right place.

Smart Lists And Tags

Tags and lists are now auto-completed. That is, if you start a numbered or bulleted list,

  1. like this,
  2. Then the numbers will be added
  3. Every
  4. Time
  5. You
  6. Hit return.

Once you’re used to this feature, it’ll drive you crazy when it’s not there.

More

I’m planning some how-tos for the app, but after using it to write a few features for our Newsstand mag, I already think it’s the best app around for long-form writing. Scrivener may still win for novels thanks to it’s amazing features set, but Ulysses III wins out for journalists, long article writers, people writing essays for school and may even be perfect for novelist who want something more intuitive than Scrivener.

I love how I can include in-line notes which are excluded from export just by adding a couple of + signs in front. It’s like comments in code, and it is super cool for writing.

I also like how you can rearrange files in a project, treating them as sections of a single document, and I especially love that Ulysses now doesn’t swallow my own custom HTML when I paste it in.

In short, everyone who writes on a computer for a living should at least try it out. And I’m not just saying that because I share an office with the developers. $45, with a free trial available.

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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