Try Ulysses for editing Multimarkdown documents

This is just a short note for those who may be relying on Multimarkdown documents at some point in there writing workflow. Aleh mentioned in one of his earlier post that he was using Byword and of course there are a number of other lightweight apps for writing up ideas in a no-distraction manner (e.g., iAWriter, Writeroom). If you are looking for a somewhat more sophisticated solution, I recommend that you check out Ulysses by the Soulmen. It offers some novel features which, quite paradoxically, will enhance your minimalistic writing experience. 

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For one thing, Ulysses has a Library of “sheets”, similarly to Scrivener, so you do not need to save and switch between individual documents, but you can simply click on a “sheet” to edit. The second important feature, which makes Ulysses convenient to use is that it stylizes multimarkdown text.  So when you enter **important**, Ulysess does make it bold automatically. The same is true for headlines, lists etc. These visual clues make multimarkdown text even easier to read. What is especially nice is that you can freely configure these visual clues to your liking.

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On a related note, what I also found very handy is that Ulysses allows you to change the editor font/line spacing/line width for both the regular and full screen editing mode. Some other apps are more restrictive in this respect and while the point is to keep writing simple, I find it useful for instance to be able to use my favorite editor font (Courier New) with appropriate line-spacing.

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About Csaba Pusztai

I graduated from CEU with a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy. I taught undergrad and graduate economics and business for 16 years. I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the United Nations University - Institute of Advanced Studies in Yokohama, Japan. I converted in 2004 purchasing a 12-inch PowerBook which I used until 2012, when it finally gave in. I find pleasure in reading, thinking about and discussing science and technology.
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11 Responses to Try Ulysses for editing Multimarkdown documents

  1. Jakub Krukar says:

    Previous version of Ulysses (7 or so years old) also contained an amazing exporting tool allowing you to predefine your styles which would be automatically applied to the document based on your multimarkdown elements. So while typing you don’t get distracted by all the editing, you just mark that ##This is a headline. Then export it to latex applying the style you need for the given paper and voila – beautiful, well-organised writting app with no-fuss advanced manuscript preparation options. Unfortunatelly the current exporting tool is very limitied but they promise to develop it soon.

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  2. I was initially skeptical about Ulysses. It seemed, at best, like a stripped-down version of Scrivener, which I use for most of my writing. I already owned Daedalus, Ulysses’ companion app for the iPad but had never been able to figure out what to do with it (or understood why it wasn’t named “Telemachus” — he, after all, was Ulysses’ son and Daedalus crashed, which does not exactly inspire confidence in the app’s stability). What ultimately sold me on Ulysses was its handling of footnotes: it’s simple (invoking the footnote command gives you a pop-up window in which you can fill in the reference), it’s clean (click the window and it goes away), and they work.

    Footnotes mattered to me because, earlier this year I’d started a research blog where I try to work out certain issues in the history of ideas that are relevant for the writing I’m doing in Scrivener. I’d been playing around with different options for doing the initial drafts of the posts (which tend to run long) and had been experimenting with Byword and, more recently, with Scrivener, both of which can export HTML files, which I would then paste into the WordPress editing window (I do the final edits in WordPress itself). From my limited experience with it (I’ve used it for a couple of weeks), Ulysses seems to do the best job of exporting footnotes into HTML (I had a few problems with Scrivener), though I usually do another round of editing using MultiMarkdown Composer to make sure everything looks right before the exporting the HTML file.

    I’d also been attracted to Ulysses because of its ability to access my nvAlt notes: there’s an “External Sources” section of the “Library” bar on the left that synchronizes with my nvAlt folder on DropBox. But after trying this out, it struck me as unnecessary: it’s simpler just to have nvAlt running while I’m writing and drag text over as I need it.

    I’ve never had much interest in “non-distraction” writing options. It’s not that don’t get distracted while writing — I do — but having a “focused” writing mode isn’t enough to stop me from straying from my task (my Pomodoro app does a better job in disciplining me!).

    Admittedly, this looks like a pretty wacky work-flow: I keep notes in nvAlt (and clean them up using Byword, which has better search and replace functions), write in Ulysses (sometimes making additional notes or corrections in Daedalus on my iPad), do more editing in MultiMarkdown Composer, do final edits in WordPress, and save the relevant posts for future writing in Scrivener. That comes to a total of six applications and two devices (actually, three since I have home and office computers in addition to the iPad). So far, it seems to work.

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    • Csaba Pusztai says:

      Yes, I guess some features are more important to some users than others. I never thought I would be much into full screen editing, but I am now. It is just visually pleasing (may I dare say “inspiring”) to have nothing on screen just great white space and my text typeset in a great legible font. ;)

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      • I suspect that the size of the display may be a factor: I’m working on a 27″ display and that much white space can be a bit too much! I prefer to have Ulysses running on the left side and nvAlt open on the other side so I can grab bits of text and drag them across.

        On the other hand, for some reason I like running Scrivener in full screen mode (and sometimes turn on the focused editing option as well), but Scrivener already has a busy enough interface that “only” seeing Scrivener is like having multiple applications running at the same time.

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  3. Csaba Pusztai says:

    I work on a 21.5″ display, but I understand what you are talking about. Yeah, it is kind of odd. It should be best on a display turned into portrait orientation, but that would only work a third-party external display.

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    • rickla says:

      I think if the fullscreen editing mode had a 2- and even 3-column mode we could fully leverage our big screens.

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  4. Aleh Cherp says:

    Thanks, Csaba, for sharing it. I did not think I would need another Markdown editor in addition to Byword and NValt but it looks like I do. More in a separate post.

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  5. Csaba Pusztai says:

    Well, I am also baking an other post which may yet again make you discard another one of your “old” apps.

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  6. Byword has recently added an option that allows for direct posting from the app to blogs. But since it requires an additional in app purchase for each version of Byword owned (i.e., for both the Mac and the IOS versions) I’ve yet to try it. I could see where it might be useful.

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  7. Pingback: Note-taking with Ulysses: beside NValt and Byword | Academic workflows on Mac

  8. AmaruWriter says:

    This functionality is also available in MacVim, with the NerdTree plugin. MacVim has a steep learning curve, but it is infinitely extensible, quite portable, and it is maintained by a community of users. This las point is important because (as it has happened to me before) the developers of your tool might decide to sell it or abandon it at any time.

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