iPhone and iPad Mac Productivity

Looking to Replace Ulysses on Mac or iOS? Try These Alternatives

Michael McConnell 11-09-2017

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 Is It Time to Ditch Pages and Word for Ulysses? In 2016, not everyone needs a full-service word processing program, which is why software like Ulysses exists. Read More , 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 How to Easily Manage Your Online Subscriptions & Save Money We don't keep track of online subscriptions as we should. These tools will show what you're subscribed to, how much you're spending, and prompt you to cancel subscriptions you no longer need. Read More .

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.

bear ios mac app


It does support Markdown Learning Markdown: Write For The Web, Faster Markdown is the best way to write in plain text but still create complex documents. Unlike HTML or LaTex, for example, Markdown is simple to learn. Read More , 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.

Bear is on the Mac and iOS App Stores.


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 mac ios

iA Writer has some unique features iA Writer for Mac & iOS: The Best Word Processor You've Never Used Be it a school paper or a blog post, all of us at some point find ourselves in the position of having to dump a bunch of characters into a text file. While cell phone... Read More . 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 What Is Markdown? 4 Reasons Why You Should Learn It Now Tired of HTML and WYSIWYG editors? Then Markdown is the answer for you no matter who you are. Read More . 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.

byword mac ios app

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 How to Get a Distraction-Free Computer in 10 Easy Steps Your attention is consumed by distractions. Remove them to increase your focus and productivity. We show you the most common computer-related time suckers and how to disable or block them. Read More . 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 iOS Productivity Tool Workflow Is Now Free: Why You Should Care Apple has bought iOS productivity powerhouse Workflow and made it free on the App Store, which is great news if you're looking to do more with your iPhone or iPad in less taps. Read More for a powerful custom action keyboard.

1writer ios app

Customization doesn’t end there. 1Writer has five different looks including a dark theme. You can choose from an impressive variety of fonts, and customize text size and line spacing. You can even customize the export screen to include JavaScript actions.

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.

Image Credit: DwaFotografy via Shutterstock.com

Related topics: Markdown, Text Editor, Word Processor.

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  1. Doc
    September 12, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    What I really need is a cross-platform (Windows, Android) HTML editor that is still being maintained. I've used Nvu, Kompozer, and will be trying out BlueGriffon, but something that is WYSWYG, lightweight and doesn't use the godawful "markdown" would be nice.