I’ve been using “word processing” software for 35 year of academic and professional writing, and Ulysses is the without peer as the cleanest, most well thought out, and most useful software I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. It is not a hipster “minimalist” writing app, although it can look that way at first, but a powerful, multi-faceted writing tool and an effective, if basic, content management system. If most of your prior writing experience is with Word and similar programs, there is a learning curve at first, because Ulysses was designed from the ground up—or perhaps it is better to say, from the writer out. But if you care about your writing, and the tools you use to create it, I urge you to try Ulysses, learn how its customization features work, learn some basic Markdown, and see what you think.
Among other strengths, it builds on Markdown with additional tools to allow for sophisticated and highly customizable commenting and formatting. You can mark-up a document extensively, using whatever custom set of commenting styles you wish, and then choose with a single drop down a variety of output options. You can modify text formatting in a variety of ways suitable for online publishing, simpler printing, or for a robust initial submission into a full-scale production tool.
I was initially wary of its “library” content management function, thinking I could do better with Finder folders, but over time, I’ve migrated just about all my written work into the library, as I built it out to suit my needs. As with the rest of the app, the more you use it, the more you understand how to use it to its full potential.
The iOS app is amazing—full-featured, essentialy the same but with smart tweaks—and the sync has been flawless for me.
There are certainly limits to the apps feature-set, but they are not likely to be an issue for the vast majority of writers. It isn’t enterprise software, for example—it’s version management is limited, I don’t believe it has any multi-author functions. So it likely is not be suitable for a highly collaborative environment. It has basic footnoting and citation capabilities, but not full-fledged authority management. It has basic functions for collecting research and related files, but is not a file management system, or something like Scrivener. Pair it with Michael Tsai’s outstanding EagleFiler, however, and you have the best of both worlds. I will add that the feature set has expanded graudally and thoughtfully, and the developer has been responsive to my occasional emails—try that with MSFT!
As far as the subscription model goes, it is plainly the future of software, considering the dynamic nature of underlying OSes, and while I thought the developer did not handle the communications aspect of the transition well (it was rather abrupt) the economics were fair. If you write for a living, if writing is important to you, isn’t it worth a few dollars a month to have the best tool for the job?