Word processing powerhouse Ulysses recently switched to a subscription model, prompting many users to look for alternatives. The app was previously a separate purchase on Mac and iOS, but it now costs $40 per year to use it on all devices.
If you owned the previous version, that goes down to $30 per year. You can see the pricing for all regions here. Some users dislike the expense, while others don’t want to manage yet another subscription.
The good news it that there are lots of great alternatives to choose from!
1. Bear: Notes and Tagging ($15/yr, iOS, Mac)
Bear may not be a one-for-one replacement for Ulysses, but if you want an app that keeps your documents organized it’s a pretty good match. Instead of files and folders, the app organizes everything with tags. Simply add a hashtag at the end of your file to add it to a tagged group.
In the file organizer, these tags appear similarly to Ulysses folders. You can also merge all the tagged documents into a single file before you export them.
It does support Markdown, though Bear will automatically change this to match the app’s internal markup. For example, the ## of a heading gets changed to H2. Once you export that as a .MD or .TXT file, the Markdown you applied will be where you left it. To be fair, Ulysses handles Markdown links in an unconventional way as well.
There are shortcuts for creating to-do lists, sketching, and other notebook features. However, if you are looking for a central place to work with all your text documents, Bear is an excellent choice.
Bear is subscription-based, so that might rule it out for some people. It is cheaper than Ulysses though at only $15 per year (or $1.50 per month). Premium access unlocks iCloud sync and custom themes, and more export options like .DOCX, .HTML, and .PDF.
2. iA Writer: Powerful but Plain ($4 iOS, $20 Mac)
If you are looking for a more utilitarian approach to a Markdown editor, iA Writer might be the right choice. Just like Ulysses, it also has an iOS Markdown keyboard. The additional row includes a button to import files into your current document. Markdown is presented similarly to Ulysses, staying in line with the text (including proper inline links).
iA Writer has some unique features. The app can highlight different parts of whatever language you’re using. This allows you to find out how many adverbs, conjunctions, and other forms of speech are in your text. It also has two different distraction free modes: the typewriter mode, which keeps your current line centered on the screen; and focus mode, which grays out everything but your current sentence.
You can link the app to a WordPress or Medium account and publish online right from within the app. You also get a full range of export options, including .DOCX and .PDF.
These features make iA Writer a powerful Markdown editor, as long as you don’t mind its quirks. You cannot change the font in the app, even on the Mac. While it is powerful, iA Writer might not be the best if you want your workspace to look a certain way. The iOS app is $4 and the Mac app is $20.
3. Byword: Simple and Intuitive ($6 iOS, $12 Mac)
Byword is a more approachable Markdown editor. It also has a specialized keyboard for iOS, but its interface is closer to a word processor. If you’re still a little shaky with Markdown, this might be an easy way to get used to the syntax. You can also slide the toolbar out of the way to see your current word and character count.
The Mac app has some interesting features not seen on iOS. There’s a tabbed interface, allowing you to work with multiple files in a single window. Another Mac-only feature is distraction-free writing. Like iA Writer, there are focus modes to prevent distraction when writing.
Byword has an array of publishing options including Tumblr and Evernote. This is a powerful app with a friendly interface. It’s particularly useful if you aren’t familiar with the more complex aspects of Markdown. If you want to replace Ulysses with an app that is approachable and easy to use, Byword is a good choice. It is $6 on iOS and $12 for the Mac app.
4. 1Writer: iOS Power Editor ($5 iOS)
If you are only using Ulysses on iOS, you might like 1Writer. It is an iOS-only editor, but it has a ton of features for power users. You can edit the extended keyboard only to include all the shortcuts you want. This ensures your onscreen keyboard only displays the features you actually use.
And for the power users out there, there is an option to add custom keys attached to share sheet extensions. Plug it into automation app Workflow for a powerful custom action keyboard.
1Writer is a power user’s editor with an approachable interface for beginners. The number of settings might be a bit overwhelming, but its default mode is still easy to use. Grab it on the App Store for $5.
Do You Need a New Editor?
If you are happy with Ulysses and don’t mind paying the price to keep using it year after year, you should stick with it. But each of these apps offers something on par with Ulysses. Take a look at each for one that fits your needs, even if that does mean sticking with Ulysses.
Which of these apps do you like? Is there an app we missed you think needs a nod? Are you sticking with Ulysses? Why do you think so many users resent subscription apps? Let us know in the comments.
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