Somehow, the fact that it was written by Germans just makes sense.


So, having had to deal with the end of Pages, I have gone seeking a balm. Something to wash away the sins of presentation that has no concern for content. Something fun and funky and most of all centered on the act of creation, not the act of presentation.

I think I've found it. It's called Ulysses. It was written by Germans.

It calls itself a Word Processor, but in a way that's as much a lie as Pages was. It organizes entire projects, and it strips down to a text editor, more or less, that tracks your word and paragraph count on the fly.

No, it doesn't have a fucking thesaurus either. I despair. But I've got Nisus Thesaurus sitting in Services now. I just wish it was Word Services enabled so I could do on the fly stuff with it the way I can spellchecking.

The projects thing is damn convenient for we who write novels and role playing games. Hand in hand with that is a dogmatic approach to textual creation that borders on the obsessive: there is no way to format the text as you work in it.

Let me repeat that.

There is no way to format the text as you work in it.

That italics up there? You can't do that in Ulysses. Nor change fonts on the fly (though you can change the default document font, thank Christ, simply and easily. Interface adjustment seems smooth). What you can do is type tags -- say, **like this,** and when you've finished the creation of your story or whatever, you can then export it to RTF, Word format or LaTeX, and have those tags convert into formating (so, like this is the result).

In other words, this program focuses on the creation of the words. Once that's done, you're free to export it to something else to make it look pretty.

I can see this pissing people off as much as Pages did, mind. If nothing else, there's no good reason not to leave Command-I for italics in, and just let the save-as convert it to whatever the same way it does tags now. At the same time, it doesn't bother me. I cut my online writing teeth on mailing lists and with ASCII, and even now I write these snarks in plain text with HTML on them. (Pissing off Wednesday because I use <I> instead of <em>, but my theory is I really do mean 'italicize' and it's one letter instead of two and besides, pissing off Wednesday can be heaps of fun!)

And it has the capacity to do fullscreen text editing.

Fullscreen with a black screen and amber text, no less. Like an old terminal, only antialiased so it looks nice on the screen.

My capacity to focus on the text jumped a hundredfold the second I turned that on. I loved it.

Do I love this program fifty euros worth (it retails at a hundred, but I can score an educational discount). Honestly, I think maybe. It fits my brain style, and I can export from it into Word for final polish. If they had an HTML export it'd be a definite. I've also been playing with CopyWrite which has similar features and is about twenty bucks less and also has real command-I italics, but its fullscreen is vastly inferior, and that's enough reason for me to say "nah, I'll grab the one that my eyes and brain really really like, instead."

So, it seems official. Give me a program that's designed to do presentation over content, and I am at the very least nonplussed and at the very most infuriated. Give me a program that sacrifices presentation for content, but with the very basic tools that elevate it about straight text editor, and I'm an extremely happy person. You now have some idea of how my brain works.

And frighteningly enough, I could export to RTF or Microsoft Word format, and then import the finished product into pages to make it really pretty, if I wanted to ever open that program again.

Now, if they'd just put in a fucking thesaurus. Honestly, guys, it's not that far out of bounds....


Sounds like a stripped-down version of LaTeX, to me. Pricey, too. Do you have a mac? There's a lovely TeX distribution for OSX out now that's at least as flexible, and has the advantage of being totally free. Though it can't, to my knowledge, export to Word (though a whole host of other formats are available), so I suppose it comes down to whether you're willing to pay for that capability.

In other news: have you been getting my emails? I've sent you one or two but wasn't sure if they'd gone through.

I'm going to be giving LyX a test drive. But the project management features are also compelling (even though it's the fullscreen edit view that sets it above the very similar CopyWrite).

Anyway. This is the kind of thing I do.

(I haven't been getting your mail, no. You've been sending to the Websnark address?)

Cool. You can be my word processor beta-tester. I'm always looking for good MS alternatives.

I was sending to websnark - don't know what happened. Maybe I got spam filtered. It was just some comic recommendations: specifically, Team Special Olympics. I was advising you to jump on board before they got big time - but then Scott McCloud plugged them, so you may have missed the boat there. ;-) Worth a look, I think you'd really enjoy it. Fantastic artwork.

No WYSIWYG at all? Wow. Now that's a throwback. Like writing a document in emacs with TeX.

*sad, sad grabby motions*

...Windows....I want it for Windows...

Aeire - ...Windows....I want it for Windows...

Well, you know, Aeire, Windows is the path to the dark side and -- *dies*

gwalla - No WYSIWYG at all? Wow. Now that's a throwback.

Dude. What do you mean, /back/? I still get pissy 'cause I can't press esc in formfields and get commandmode. sheeeeeeeesh.

OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE. Eric. Can we tell MT to accept <cite> as our personal lord and saviour? Because FUCKING HELL.

There's emacs for Windows. Or for Cygwin, if you happen to swing that way. I write all my scripts in Emacs, then use LaTeX for people who are style-dependent (ie: arts professors). The last time I had to use something like OpenOffice I went into convulsions.

It looks like the stylesheet doesn't know from cite, Weds. I went in and italicized your citations. We can kick it tomorrow, when your mighty CSS brain can be brought to bear.

munkymu -- it's not just the fullscreen text editor. It's the fullscreen text editor with spellcheck as you type, plus the "project" orientation, so I can load in all the chapters of a book into separate documents within one project file, plus the statistical feedback (outside of the fullscreen view), plus the prettiness of the fullscreen....

In other words, the whole thing is just about perfect for large scale writing projects, if you happen to be me.

Or Aeire, from the look of things. ;)

Why not just write stuff in HTML, or DocBook, or some other XML based (yes, I know HTML isn't really XML based) markup language?

Oh, and what's italics look like on a braille terminal, or spoken, Eric? ;)

I want...I want the giant black screen with words. That's all. I don't care about the spellchecker, I can throw it in another program if I need to, all it has to do is save files for me. I want what's in that screenshot - beautiful, raw, fontalicious text on my screen and nothing else, not even the taskbar. I saw that screenshot and it made me giddy with excitement and then I clicked the link and then, THEN I saw it was for Macs, and a little part of me died. I must have that program. I must have black screen and mustard-yellow text. (Only personally, I'd rather use Goudy Old Style for a font I think, because it's prettier to look at.)

I don't currently have a Goudy Old style. I often use Warnock Pro, but its bold is too heavy and its semibold too light for the fullscreen. That's American Typewriter bold, and I like it a whole lot. It's easy on the eyes.

It seems to me there must be a fullscreen straight text editor for Windows. If not, then it seems to me someone should be able to write one quickly. How about it, Science?

Just want to give three cheers to Eric for standing up to the tyranny that is unnecessary stylesheet tags.

You, sir, are the man.

You know, if all you want is a text editor, vi and emacs both come standard on OSX.

I think I've made it clear I want more than a text editor. ;)

For the record, I use emacs. I also use BBEdit for my fast text editing needs and the like, as well as to strip out crap when I word process something for online. My point is, I want a word processor that focuses on textual creation while giving me access to the core tools I need to enhance that creation.

Ulysses's editor is markedly superior because it recasts the screen into a dedicated text processor, and that's huge. Really huge. But, those tools lurk beneath the surface even as I use it.

And Pages? Still sucks donkey.

I've read Websnark for a long time (as in from week one), but this is the first I've spoken up.

Aeire, if you want a simplified editor with color configuration, there are a pile of options. I like Vim, but that's probably best reserved for those who like vi. (Hi, Wednesday!) A quick check on what editors were available for Windows turned up EditPlus (see link), in which I was able to set my preferences for font and color to an arbitrary font, bolded to resemble Eric's Ulysses screen shot, and Yellow-on-Black text. It isn't one-button convenience, but it is pretty quick to do. It also has a spellcheck add-on and word count, but no paragraph count nor direct conversion of *s to bolding and such.

Eric, the tag conversion feature reminds me of Markdown (first link for that term on Google) and other structured text tools, though the original purpose of Markdown is merely to translate a simplified markup to HTML.

It's not the same as Ulysses (being more of a standard text editor with coding/mark-up/text file formatting in mind), but ever since I got it from an XML class I had to take for work, I've used TextPad for all my plain text needs. I don't have time to go into all the features and compare and contrast with Ulysses, but that's what the features pages are for, right? :) Maybe the dealbreaker for Aerie, but I don't think it has a full screen mode as shown on the Ulysses page. Sorry.

All my Windows-based plain text work, I should say. I still use either vi or emacs on Unices, depending on the situation. I can't recall the last time I even saw a Mac outside of a store display, much less used one.

I use Texturizer for stuff. Lots of stuff.

I use Word when I absolutely have to.

I use FrameMaker when working on long, text-based docs.

For NaNo2k4, I started with Texturizer, migrated to Word, migrated to Frame, and never looked back. I created a book and then individual chapters instead the book. Any global edits were completed quickly and dependably.

The one downside is Word Count. You can get it in Frame but it's clearly the largest of afterthoughts.

My comment was mostly aimed at Aerie, because she wanted Windows-based programs. You don't have to give up functionality merely because you are stuck with Windows. I, too, run Windows at home (partly because Macs don't feed the gaming habit, partly because my friends are turning into Mac zombies and all the drooling really turns me off) but I haven't even SEEN MS Office in 10 years.

I like emacs because I am (mostly) a human spellchecker, because I find project-based models more confusing than having a dozen xterm windows open, and because wc is almost as easy as automatic word-count thingies. But emacs is not for everyone! Some people, I hear, use vi or even pico! :) Or odd German word/text processors.


LyX is a very worthy word processor, I've been using it for a while and I've liked it.

Windows users:

There's a TeXLive CD floating somewhere in the ether of the internet. It's the best thing for windows! After installing you have TeX, LaTeX, python, perl, dvi viewer and converter to HTML and PDF. Just add LyX and you can have a very powerful tool on W32.

Eric, are the instructions, etc. in Ulysses in well-translated English? There are a number of really good Mac programs being produced by folks in Germany for Mac OS X but I've been burned by one too many shareware programs that sound like they were translated by the "Who set us up the bomb?" Committee for Obsfucation.

I miss ClarisWorks 4.

I should note that it looks like you can add Ulysses export types as necessary, Eric. So if you can find/pay a friendly neighbourhood coder, you can get yourself HTML export.

It does look like a very nice program, though. I'm a long-time LyX user, but this looks like it might be better for serious writing...

kirabug: Note that they have a free 30-day trial period. So you can give it a shot first and check everything out.

Egarwaen -- I'd actually be willing to pay for such a plugin, yes. Especially if it produced XHTML Strict with absolutely no stylesheet information.

Why? Because then I could use it to write stuff for Websnark and the like, drop it into the entry field, and have it just work no matter what I did to the stylesheet, without me actually needing to deal with it. And everyone will be happy when that happens!

And by everyone, I mean Wednesday.

Egawaen, thanks for pointing out the trial that somehow I missed when Eric pointed it out. Downloading now....

Yay! (Goes to futz w/ Ulysses and Copywrite) I am a happy game designer! This is so exactly perfect.


Copywrite allows you to shift the colors of full screen mode, so you can set it to black-and-amber if you want to. The UI is, generally, less impressive, although I like the document tagging.

What *I* really want in Ulysses is a hierarchical document structure within a project, so I can have Chapter 1 with Scene 1.1, Scene 1.2, etc. underneath.

That, and the ability to press "skip" on my iTunes while I'm writing. That's really key.



It occurs to me well after this post's day in the sun that this is another example of picking the tool that allows you to maintain flow, much like the Hipster PDA (see link).

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