Writing in Markdown is something that is very popular for writers. It’s distraction-free writing at it’s best and that is something that appeals to a lot of people. There are a fair few markdown text editors out there, two of the most popular being Ulysses and iA Writer and having now tried both I wanted to share my thoughts.
iA Writer has been my text editor of choice for good while now. I love how I can just open up the app on my iPad or Mac and get into writing a blog post straight away. No messing about with formatting and file names etc, just a clean writing experience from the get go. Ulysses however, is an app I hadn’t actually used before but lately I’ve been hearing so many people rave about it that I felt compelled to give it a go and see what all the fuss is about!
Now I have no intention to list all of the difference between these two apps because 1) that’s not what this post is about and 2) there are a ton of good points covering them, like this fantastic one. There are however, a few things that I want to talk about regarding said differences.
The first is the pricing structure and is a notable difference between the two apps. iA Writer is a one time purchase currently, it’s currently £8.99 for the iOS app which works on both your iPhone and iPad and £28.99 for macOS. Ulysses is a subscription at £4.49 a month. Now I’m not against subscriptions as long as they are reasonable and I feel like £4.49 is a reasonable amount considering the functionality of Ulysses. I’m also not against one time pricing but it does concern me with regards to continuous updates in the future. With a subscription model, there’s a somewhat constant stream of money (subscriber dependant of course) to pay developers to keep the app updated etc and that makes me more confident in an app having longevity. That’s not to say that I don’t think iA Writer is going to stick around, because I do, but I think at some point it’s going to go down the road of subscriptions too.
The amount of export options within Ulysses was the second thing that stood out to me. I previously used Squarespace for my blog and with Ulysses I couldn’t publish straight to it but I could instead, export to Rich Text and then upload it, which is something I couldn’t do with iA Writer. However, As you’ll know if you read last weeks post, I moved my blog over to WordPress a couple of weeks ago and so now I can make full use of the publishing feature within Ulysses and it’s a game changer for sure.
Another feature I like about Ulysses is the goal setting ability. Whether it be a deadline for a piece to be finished by or an amount of words, you can set a goal for this and see it alongside your text and I think that’s pretty cool. I also like the way the folders are organised and how you switch between the library, sheet list and editor view. It’s neat and well constructed.
Adding photos is also really simple, it’s not something I include in every blog post but it’s nice that when I do want to include a photo within a post, it’s easy to do. Something I love about iA Writer though is how simple it looks and feels. Ulysses doesn’t feel overwhelming by any stretch, despite having more features, but there is something about iA Writer that just feels more simplistic and that’s something you want when it comes to writing. It also has a dedicated focus mode, which Ulysses kind of has too with Typewriter Mode, but not in the same way.
Both apps have their positives and faults. Some people may not like a subscription model, some might not like paying £28.99 upfront for an app on their mac. There’s something for everyone when it comes to apps and I feel that with these two, you can quite easily flick between both because they really are both very good markdown based writing apps.
Now it might sound kind of crazy to have paid almost £38 in total for iA Writer and now be content with also paying £4.49 a month for another app which arguably similar, but hear me out.
I like iA Writer, I really do. It’s given me somewhere to write in a distraction-free zone and I love the look and functionality of it. However, Ulysses allows me to export in a format better suited to my blogging platform of choice and I also really like the look and functionality of it too. Therefore I’m happy to use both. I’be already paid for iA Writer, so it’s not like I’m paying monthly subscriptions for two apps needlessly and I’m sure I will still use iA Writer when I’m looking for something like Focus Mode. However, I’m really enjoying Ulysses and I love the Markdown XL language. It works great with the Smart Keyboard Folio. At the end of the day, I love trying new apps and I love writing and I think £4.49 a month for an app that gives me the functionality I want is a pretty good deal.