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Review: Ulysses, a Text Editor Like No Other

A hands-on review of The Soulmen’s Ulysses 2.0

By Joshua Philipp
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 8, 2010 Last Updated: February 13, 2010
Related articles: Technology » Special Section
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TOOLS OF THE TRADE: A screenshot of the main workspace of Ulysses, a word processing application from The Soulmen. The application features full text editing functions as well as built-in notes and document organization functions. (Joshua Philipp/The Epoch Times)

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: A screenshot of the main workspace of Ulysses, a word processing application from The Soulmen. The application features full text editing functions as well as built-in notes and document organization functions. (Joshua Philipp/The Epoch Times)

Quite a few kinks have been worked out in the release of Ulysses 2.0, the successor of the groundbreaking word processing application from The Soulmen—a software company previously known as Blue Technologies. The latest release is a clean, efficient, and highly original writing application with several unique perks that help it stand out from the crowd.

Ulysses is a word processing application for the Mac that does nearly everything expected from an advanced word processor, yet with a style all its own. Whether using it for writing novels, creating research papers, or working on a simple writing, I found this application to be very useful.

The Soulmen summed up Ulysses 2.0 well on their Web site: “Forget everything you know about traditional text editors and word processors … Ulysses is not like that. Not at all.”

Writing in Ulysses 2.0

Ulysses launches nearly as fast as Notepad and TextEdit, however, the interface of the application will most likely be the first thing to stand out for newcomers. It features a writing pad in the center, a section for notes on the right, and organization features on the left.

PUBLISH: The export menu in Ulysses allows users to customize the different style elements of the text and produce professional-level documents. (Joshua Philipp/The Epoch Times)

PUBLISH: The export menu in Ulysses allows users to customize the different style elements of the text and produce professional-level documents. (Joshua Philipp/The Epoch Times)

It looks a bit complicated at first, yet Ulysses has a very pleasant workflow. After learning the basic features of the application, I was impressed by its thoughtful design.

As a writer, I’m a tough sell when it comes to writing applications, and I often use a range of software on any given project. Typically, I write in WriteRoom, spell check in TextEdit, and format in Pages or OpenOffice if needed. Scrivener and xPad are my applications of choice for organizing writing projects.

KEEP FOCUSED: The console mode in Ulysses gives the user a full screen workspace with customizable colors of the text and background. (Joshua Philipp/The Epoch Times)

KEEP FOCUSED: The console mode in Ulysses gives the user a full screen workspace with customizable colors of the text and background. (Joshua Philipp/The Epoch Times)

Since I often keep several documents of notes opened alongside my main document, I require applications that open in small windows, ruling out many of the heavier applications. Microsoft Word, for example, has fallen off my list due to its bulky interface.

Ulysses can nearly replace every other application I use for writing, since it combines features on-par with all of the applications listed above. It opens quickly, has the style power of programs such as Word, comes with highly useful organizational features, and has a window next to the main editor where a user can paste any number of notes.

The application is fairly easy to use, but can take a bit of getting used to since it is rather different from other writing applications. However, the Soulmen offer a few helpful and concise videos on their Web site to overcome this initial learning curve.

A Look at the Tools

FINDING A WORD: The search and replace features in Ulysses allows a user to search through all documents and notes in a project for a specific word or phrase and then replace the it with another across all the selected documents. (Joshua Philipp/The Epoch Times)

FINDING A WORD: The search and replace features in Ulysses allows a user to search through all documents and notes in a project for a specific word or phrase and then replace the it with another across all the selected documents. (Joshua Philipp/The Epoch Times)

Organizing is one of the strongest points of Ulysses. The German-made application has several features for organizing information—whether it be notes, chapters, or keeping track of a large collection of documents. The Soulmen really went all out in making this a top-notch feature of the application, yet thankfully did not go overboard.

MORE OPTIONS: The notes section, document information, and the project organizer can all be hidden to allow for a larger workspace. (Joshua Philipp/The Epoch Times)

MORE OPTIONS: The notes section, document information, and the project organizer can all be hidden to allow for a larger workspace. (Joshua Philipp/The Epoch Times)

The notepad within the application is displayed next to the writing pad and can hold a large amount of information. I was able to fit several large PDFs of more than 64 pages into the notepad and did not find a limit to its capacity. It can also hold images, preserves text styles, and hold audio files which can be played directly from the notepad. In addition, each note section can be collapsed into a small bar to help keep them from becoming cluttered.

The document organizer is equally as useful. Essentially, Ulysses creates project files, which can each hold any number of documents and any amount of notes. Within each project, the documents appear on a column to the left of the writing pad and are always visible. Two smaller columns beneath it give a preview of the document’s content and notes, if one is highlighted.

There are several tools to organize the document, but not so many that it’s overwhelming. Each document can be color coded and labeled according to their status, and sorted into folders and sub-folders. A user can then switch between documents by double-clicking on them.

If you find you need a larger writing space, simply close the notes and document organizer.

The search and replace tool works well with both the notes and the document organizer. A user can search for a word or phrase across all documents and notes and can quickly replace words in a single instance or in all files. There are also more advanced search functions that utilize custom filters.

Ulysses also includes a console mode, which displays a black background with highlighted text. This feature appears in WriteRoom, Pages, and several other applications, yet Ulysses claims to have started it all. This is a great feature when a user needs to focus on the text, as it makes distractions vanish. The colors can also be customized to the users’ liking.

A Unique Style

Ulysses gets even more interesting when it comes to text styles. Creating bold text, highlighting, font size, and other elements are accomplished very differently from applications such as Word, where text is first highlighted and then the user selects the various text styles to apply.

In Ulysses, styles are instead created beforehand and then assigned to text. This takes a bit of getting used to, yet saves time in the long run. It allows users to apply several different text styles to a single block of text or a full paragraph in one swoop. The user can create their own styles or use a handful of prefabricated styles, which can be applied by typing in a text code, such as “$$” or “%%.”

The Soulmen are not the creators of this style editing feature. “Semantic Editing,”—as it is called—is common in several professional text editing applications, including those for writing novels such as LaTeX for Windows.

The export feature works include this form of editing also. Ulysses can export in several file types, including Word, PDF, and LaTeX. The export screen allows users to remove code specific to Ulysses, and to further customize their styles.

Once exported, the documents created in Ulysses look highly professional. A user can also choose to export select documents from a project, merge several projects into a single file or create individual files.

In a Nutshell

Ulysses combines some of the best features found across several applications into one compact and concise word processor. The Soulmen also offer a free 60-day trial of the application which can be downloaded from their Web site.

While Ulysses contains nearly everything a user could want, some users may miss the ability to track changes. However, Ulysses does have features for adding notes into documents.

When all is said and done, Ulysses is a fine word processing application that is highly recommended. Although some elements of the program may take some getting used to, the learning curve is not that high. It is not heavy in buttons and menus, but it does allow for customization on-par with some of the most advanced word processors on the market.

Price: EUR 44.99 (approx. $61.59)

Web site: www.the-soulmen.com

Rating: 5 / 5




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