15 Years of Ulysses: Max’ Story

2003 was the year of Finding Nemo, Kill Bill, and Pirates of the Caribbean. The shipping release of Mac OS X was 10.2, and click-wheel iPods were the hottest thing around. Also in 2003, version 1.0 of Ulysses was released, the predecessor of today’s Ulysses.

In computer terms, 15 years is an eternity. And for our co-founder Max, now 31 years old, these 15 years equal his whole adult life. On Medium, he shares a personal look back on how it all began and how he got where he is today, with Ulysses.

Read Max’ Story

5 Out of More Than 100: Ulysses 12.2 Now Available

We have just released Ulysses 12.2 on both the App Store and Mac App Store. The update ships with well over 100 improvements and bug fixes, mostly ironing out smaller annoyances, or slightly tuning existing features.

Most of you probably won’t notice a thing – because you never experienced any of the problems we have solved, or you never use the features we improved, or because the change is so minimal, that you just wouldn’t notice.

As we nevertheless spent a huge amount of time on all these tiny fixes, I’d like to take the opportunity and give you a small behind-the-scenes-look: I’ll walk you through five of the recent changes, which small subset of users they effected, and what it took us to actually fix each issue in order to improve Ulysses for this particular group of users.

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Impressions of WWDC, the Developers’ Family Get-Together

Ulysses co-founder Max Seelemann has been a developer for Apple platforms for his entire professional life – and a participant of Apple’s World Wide Developers conference for almost as long. Here he explains why WWDC is worth a developer’s while, and shares his thoughts about Apple’s announcements and this year’s Design Award winners.

Marcus, Friedrich and Max at WWDC
Marcus, Friedrich and Max at WWDC

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“The App Should Still Be Fun to Use, Just Like Without VoiceOver”

What’s new in Ulysses 2.6? In a series of blog posts, we’ll closely look at each of its new features and examine how they can help writers to get their work done. Today we talk to Lucas, development trainee at The Soulmen, who was in charge of optimizing Ulysses for VoiceOver users.

Screenshot of Ulysses on iOS with VoiceOver enabled. The accessibility rotor is visible and set to “Actions”.

With the latest version, Ulysses claims to be accessible for visually impaired writers. Could you please explain the difficulties blind and visually impaired are facing when using a computer? How can they be solved?

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Some Soulmen at WWDC

If you’re developing apps for Mac and iOS, Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, held in San Francisco from June 8-12, is the highlight of the year. I sat down with Max, who’ll be there for the 8th time in 10 years, to talk about his past experiences, how his focus has shifted, and what to expect from Apple at this year’s event.

Just arrived in San Francisco: Friedrich and Max
Just arrived in San Francisco: Friedrich and Max

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The Launch – Feedback Roundup

The time before and after the release of a new application is most exciting in a developer’s professional life. First, there is the pressure to accomplish everything in time. And then, the excitement when waiting for feedback…

“This is the ultimate writing app on the ultimate writing tool.” – Ben Brooks

Ulysses 2.0 hit the stores less than a week ago. Since then, we got tons of e-mails: support requests (as always after any launch), but also lots of compliments and acknowledgements. That’s so good. There’s nothing wrong with following a vision from your desk’s chair, but it greatly helps to feel that your work actually makes a difference for those who use it.

Things start to calm down gradually. We just like to bask a little more in the wave of appreciation, before finally getting back to business; to designing interfaces or writing code, support e-mails or blogposts, respectively…

Five Star Writing

This is what things currently look like in the App Store and in the Mac App Store. Thanks, folks!

App Store
Mac App Store

Press Coverage

To date, I’m counting over 60 news items, articles and reviews in magazines, blogs and podcasts. Most are written in English, the lingua franca of the web, but there was also coverage in German, Italian, Spanish, French, Polish and Chinese.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been waiting for an app like this since Steve Jobs first sat in that comfy chair to show us the iPad.” – David Sparks

The overall opinion seems overwhelmingly positive. If you would like to examine what others say about Ulysses, check out MacRumors, AppAdvice, iMore, Lifehacker and Gizmodo, to name a few. Or study the articles by Ben Brooks, David Sparks and David Hewson in their respective blogs. The extensive review of technology journalist Mitch Wagner is also a good read; you’ll find it at SixColors, the new project of former MacWorld lead editor Jason Snell.

What’s more, here is a selection of articles that might be of interest for non-English-speaking readers (or rather, writers):

Designing the Ulysses Library

A couple of weeks ago I chatted with Max about the concept of the Ulysses editor. Likewise, a lot of thought went into the Ulysses library. Marcus Fehn, the other Soulmen from day one, answered my questions.

One of Ulysses’ most prominent features is the library. It’s where all texts are held, and where all organization takes place. Could you please explain the idea behind it? Why did you choose it over single, stand-alone projects?

The library is based on two ideas. The first one is that all of your writing should happen in Ulysses. This is our ideal conception. Writing is ubiquitous, we jot down notes, we draft, we rhyme, we do whole novels – and chances are that we’re not doing one of these exclusively. So we wanted our users to do all of this in one place, without having to worry about where they put, say, their notes. It’s just all there, in this very app. There are no file names, no Finder management, no “Project A new v2 no really new NEW.whatever” to worry about. And if Ulysses was the only writing app on the planet, we would have done a simple library, enabled iCloud sync, and shipped.

Marcus Fehn
Marcus Fehn, co-founder of The Soulmen

The second idea is more of an acknowledgment. People have different needs, fears, options. Some outright hate iCloud, others only have a single Mac anyway, and yet others have to work across different apps, for whatever reason. And if we want our users to do all of their writing in Ulysses, then we need to enable all these different users to do so. Let’s call it pragmatism.

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Designing the Ulysses Editor

Ulysses is intended to be a great tool for any kind of writing, equipped with elaborate organizing features and a powerful export function. However, the core piece of the app is the editor – the part where you, well, write. Minutes of a chat with Soulmen co-founder Max Seelemann.

Max Seelemann
Max Seelemann, cofounder of The Soulmen

How important is the editor for Ulysses as a whole? 

Well, Ulysses is a writing application. And while there must be features for organization and export, users spend most of their time writing – in the editor. The editor is clearly the most important of all parts, and using it needs to be the most pleasant experience. We placed the same emphasis on the editor during the creation of Ulysses: the overall development of the first version took about 18 months, and of that we spent almost one year on the editor alone.

Why did you go for plain text editing in the first place?

Many writers are eventually more productive using plain text. It is a bit like writing on a classic typewriter, or even writing on paper. You’re not distracted by anything – when there are no formatting options, you can focus entirely on your text.

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