In This Version, The Suitors Win

Well, I tried. I gave Ulysses yet another two-week trial, which ends tomorrow. I had made my peace with its fruity custom markdown, which I thought was the last real issue I had. But I threw a big writing project at it last week. And I crashed into an issue I had struggled with before, but had not yet encountered during this go-round. There was no way to export the first draft in a way that would have been acceptable to me: it either required far too much reformatting in the external document, or the native markdown formatting was lost or mangled. And I couldn’t simply select the text in all the linked documents to copy/paste. Let me be clear: I know Ulysses has many export options, all of them quite good. It’s just that none of them are good for me. Yes, I understand I could have designed a custom export template (I already had, in fact), or watched more tutorial videos, or, y’know, asked CS even more questions.

At some point, however, you need to ask yourself why you are adopting a particular piece of software. What problem is it actually solving? What part of your workflow is it unambiguously improving? I had already asked myself that over the previous month, and I had arrived at a satisfying answer. So why was I trying Ulysses again? I was trying again because after I had discovered the ways in which my workflow had broken down, I wanted to see if I was mistaken about Ulysses, to see if maybe I had missed something in the fog of my unrevised workflow.

But no. While Ulysses can clearly replace some of my current writing tools and can consolidate some of my workflow, too much of what it does is either identical to, or only marginally better than, my current set-up; in a few critical ways, it would actually make my workflow more complicated and awkward.

I am not one to change anything lightly. I took this much time trying Ulysses precisely because it held such promise. I can honestly say I have given it a truly fair shake. I know what I would have gained if I decided to adopt it; I know what I would be giving up by moving away from my current set of tools; and I know how to replicate, with those tools, everything I most enjoy and appreciate about Ulysses. I understand what would have been involved if I wanted Ulysses to replace, say, Scrivener. And the gains, for me, would not have outweighed the effort.

Ulysses is an excellent writing program, and really does a great job of offering tons of valuable features without seeming cluttered or confusing.

But I am clearly not the sort of writer for whom it was designed.

Robert V @rnv