Ulysses III — The Incredibly Impressive Plain Text Writing App

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Over the last 2 years, we’ve been witness to some insanely good apps debuting on the iOS App Store. We’ve showcased some of the best ones here on Beautiful Pixels and we continue to be blown away with the new UI trends, interactions & UI animations that designers and developers come up with in every new app. In general, I have seen that majority of iOS app releasing these days come crafted with some impeccable polish to them. That being said, a lot of you will also agree that the Mac hasn’t seen much action lately. Sure, there are a few developers who continue to churn out brilliant Mac apps or are known to be working on some (Hint: CHOCKERRIFIC), but in general, the Mac’s been pretty lonely. So I was pretty excited to check out what The Soulmen had been working on over the past several months. Spoiler Alert: I was very impressed.

The Soulmen today released Ulysses III, which in spite of what the name suggests, is a whole new app. Ulysses III (henceforth U3) is a single-library, single-window writing app designed for writers. If you write for a living, U3 comes packed with features to the brim. It is available via the Mac App Store at a special introductory price of $19.99 for a week, after which it’ll be sold at its regular price of $39.99. Read on to find out what makes U3 such a great Mac app.

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The last Soulmen app that I had tried was their iOS app Daedalus Touch, which again is heavily targeted towards writers. While it was quite a fantastic app, it didn’t really fit with my method of writing and I still use iA Writer to do most of my writing. But I’m assuming it might soon change thanks to U3.

Window

U3 is single-library, single-window app. Think of it as any Notes app on your iPhone or iPad. There is no concept of Files, Files Names or even ‘Saving’ in U3. Whatever you type is saved automatically. The UI of the U3 window is split into 3 panes — Sidebar, Sheet List and Sheet Editor.

The Sidebar lists all the sources for you. U3 syncs with iCloud by default, so all you content is available across all the Macs you own. If you don’t want iCloud, you can turn it off as U3 still maintains a local “On My Mac” library. If you have the Daedalus Touch app installed on your iOS devices and use the same iCloud account, the content is shared between U3 and Daedalus touch, so you can start typing on your iMac, leave and continue it on your iPhone and come back to it on your MacBook Air. Seamlessly. Additionally, you can even add External Sources, say a folder in Dropbox, to the sidebar so that files in there are easily accessible to you. You can neatly categorize the sheets (files) from your sources into groups & sub-groups. Groups can also be assigned an icon so they’re easy to differentiate. Moreover, you can also create filters that list only those sheets that match a certain criteria.

The Sheet List is exactly that, a list of all the sheets inside whatever source is selected in the sidebar. U3 utilizes the first few lines in a sheet in bold as the name of the sheet, unless you use Headings, in which case it uses just that. I have an habit of starting my sheets with # <Title here> for every post I compose, so it makes for a good title.

The right most pane is the Sheet Editor, where you do all the typing. It’s a simple, minimal area that gives you an iOS-like cursor by default. Writing here is an abolutely joy, for reasons I’ll explain in a while.

The U3 window is very Mac native, so it supports system features like Versions, Full Screen, Resue, Spotlight and is even “resolutionized” for Retina Macs.

Sheets

U3 utilizes a plain-text format it calls ‘Plain Text Enhanced’. Doesn’t matter if you’re from the Markdown club or from the Textile camp — you’ll feed right at home in the app. The markup U3 uses is very easy to understand and there’s a hidden 4th pane that has a handy list if you’re stuck. This lets you type very quickly without bothering how the content will actually look like when it’s formatted. A sheet can be as long as possible. Paragraphs are neatly numbered on the right and U3 makes use of subtle colors to format the text inline. You can drag images or files onto the window to attach to the sheet.

You can choose from several font options and color themes for the Window. U3 also gives you the option to select your own custom font (Nitti Light, aww yeah!) and colors. It ships with three default themes — Freestraction, Simple and my favorite color set ever, Solarzied.

Not only is standrard meta data like character, word, paragraph and page count available, U3 also tells you your typing speed (Slow, Average, Fast) and characters without spaces. Very nifty!

You can navigate from one sheet to another inside a group or filter by pulling down/up from the top/bottom edges, exactly like in Reeder’s iPhone app.

Export

Once you’re done typing, you can export your content into most of the popular formats. You have PDF, Word, RTF, TXT, Markdown and HTML. With these, you can either save to file, copy to clipboard or open directly in <appname>.

There are tons of other little things in Ulysses that make this a very solid app to write in. You can grab it from the Mac App Store for just $19.99. Daedalus Touch, their iOS App is available as a Universal app and is currently on sale at $0.99.

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