Ulysses Mobile ($19.99) by The Soulmen GbR has finally been updated to bring the desktop-class writing experience to your iPhone. Previously, Ulysses was only available on the Mac, then it came onto the iPad. And now the trifecta is now complete with an iPhone version. If you love to write, and write a lot (especially on-the-go), then having Ulysses Mobile on your iPhone will prove to be an invaluable and essential tool.
Ever since I was a kid, I loved writing. I wrote my own stories (as corny as they were at the time), and I always had a lot to write for essays and assignments in school. When I got to high school, I made sure I joined the school paper, as journalism was a thing that interested me. When I got to college, I went after a journalism degree because I love the news and I love writing, so it was a perfect fit for me. Since I ended up at AppAdvice, I truly love what I do — write about iOS apps everyday. Because I am always checking out what is on the App Store and writing, I end up writing a few thousand words a week. For a mobile person, I need a writing editor that can work with me as well.
I only recently bought Ulysses for my Mac a few weeks ago, and have fallen in love with how it handles all of my files and lets me edit them without having to go through the traditional Finder method. While I have an old iPad 3, I hardly ever use it anymore, and so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Ulysses on the iPhone, so that I can use it on my iPhone 6s Plus. Now the day has come where it is finally universal, and I put it through its paces. Basically, this is one of the best writing apps a writer could have on their iOS (and Mac) device.
Visually, Ulysses Mobile has a simple and clean aesthetic, which will appeal to all minimalists out there. Honestly, if you show Ulysses Mobile to someone who does not know much about apps, they may think that it’s just another app that comes pre-installed on the iPhone, because it has the barebones iOS look. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of how the app looks — there are plenty of customization options, the organizational layout is intuitive and straightforward, everything is super responsive, there are plenty of power-user keyboard extensions (great for both writers and coders), fast iCloud syncing, and a ton of different ways to get your writing out of the app. While Ulysses looks like a simple text editor on the surface, it packs quite a punch when it comes to all of your writing needs in one place.
While I’m fairly new to Ulysses, one feature I did love about the Mac version is the fact that you can just add external folders to the file pane, I was a bit disappointed to see that this did not work the same in the iOS version. I’ve been saving all of my writings to Dropbox for the past several years, and it is the primary place where I store my files. Unfortunately, on the iOS version, I am not able to get access to my Dropbox folders, since they put the focus on iCloud syncing. It’s a shame, really, as I don’t entirely trust iCloud, but I’ll have to make-do with it for now, copying my completed files over to Dropbox while I’m using Ulysses on my Mac. Hopefully the developers can reconsider this in the future.
Now, as with any writing environment, you’ll want to make it yours before you fully dive in to it, as it should help you focus on writing when things are set up the way you like. To change how Ulysses looks, just tap on the gear icon when you’re in a sheet (new or existing). You’re able to change all of the editor settings, including font, layout, theme, dark mode toggle for writing at night, text editing, sheet preview, and markdown format. As far as fonts go, users can choose from any of the installed fonts on their device, or install custom fonts by opening an OTF or TFF file in the Ulysses app. I’m a big fan of this, because having the right typeface while writing motivates me to write more and more, and it’s just nice to have a lot of choice when it comes to creating your perfect writing environment.
While Ulysses Mobile places the focus on iCloud, there is still an External Files section in the Library, though Dropbox does not work. However, you can import DOCX, Markdown, or text files from iCloud, or Google Drive, and edit those as you please. Hopefully one day, Dropbox files can be edited directly from Ulysses Mobile as well.
When you want to create a new sheet, just navigate to the Library source you want to add it to, and then tap on the “New Sheet” button that is located in the bottom toolbar. Ulysses will then go into the sheet in editor mode, so you can start writing. To edit files that you already have, just tap on the one you want to work on, and you’ll be in editing mode as well.
As you’re in editing mode, you can do a lot of different things. There’s a magnifying glass that lets you search for keywords in the document, in case you need to replace it with a synonym or just see how many times you used a single word. There is an undo and redo button in case of those writing boo-boos. In the middle of the keyboard extension are three buttons: a hamburger button, a format button, and a Command (⌘) button. Each of these has a different function, with the hamburger being for heading text, comment, code, or source blocks, lists, block quotes, line breaks, indent and outdent, and clearing your markup. The format button lets you format your text for strong (bold), emphasis (italics), links, comment, images, video, footnotes, annotations, and more. The Command button lets you insert the beginning and ends of brackets, parentheses, and other symbols. At the very end of the keyboard extension are two buttons for navigating the cursor left and right.
While there aren’t any workflows (such as Editorial) that you can use in Ulysses to make your life easier, Ulysses Mobile still has an impressive feature set when it comes to writing. Plus, you’re able to see all of the formatting, inserted images and video placeholders, links, and other fun stuff in your text as you write. They’re all color-coded so you can easily differentiate them from one another.
When you’re done with your writings, there are several different ways to get them out of Ulysses Mobile. Just tap on the Share button at the top of the document, and you can choose between HTML, Text, ePub, PDF, DOCX, and even Medium. Then you can change the style depending on the format you chose, as well as the paper format. Once you’re done making your choices on how to export it, tap on the “…” button to see what actions you can take. The file can be sent to or opened in another app, printed, or uploaded to iCloud Drive, Google Docs, or Dropbox.
Despite the fact that I’m still pretty new to the whole Ulysses family, I am in love with the app so far. On the Mac, Ulysses has replaced Byword, and Ulysses Mobile is giving Editorial on my iPhone a run for its money. I love the customization of the app, the super fast syncing (changes are almost instantaneous between my Mac and iPhone), and the powerful keyboard extension makes writing so much easier on-the-go. However, I’m just a bit annoyed that I can’t access my Dropbox folder directly for editing without some workarounds, and I do miss having workflows, though it’s something I can try to get used to. Still, Ulysses Mobile is an excellent writing tool for any writer, and having it available on all of your devices makes it a winner.
I highly recommend giving Ulysses Mobile a try if you haven’t already. It’s a powerful and comprehensive text editor that is flexible enough to work with you, for the most part. You can get Ulysses Mobile on the App Store as a universal download for $19.99 for a limited time (normally $24.99). Ulysses for Mac is also available on the Mac App Store for $44.99. If you already owned Ulysses for iPad, this is a free update. The Mac version was also updated today with many improvements, notably to iCloud syncing with the iOS version.