Today, the latest version of Ulysses, the excellent Markdown text editor, was released for iPad and iPhone. Ulysses 21 comes with two main changes: it brings the former Mac-exclusive revision mode to iOS and iPadOS, while also introducing design updates that take advantage of new iOS 14 design elements, such as drop-down menus. It’s not a big update, but it’s a nice one for iPhone and iPad users nonetheless.
Let’s start with revision mode, which is available by tapping the three-point icon at the top right and selecting revision mode from the menu that appears.
The central feature of revision mode is advanced grammar and style control powered by LanguageTool Plus. As I explained when Ulysses for Mac first introduced revision mode:
Once enabled, Advanced Check offers suggestions for a wide variety of text elements, including:
- Typography, which identifies things as extra spaces in your text.
- Various, which involve semantic problems such as proposing a preposition that is more often shown with the context of the sentence.
Essentially, Ulysses has taken a Grammarly-like tool and built it directly into the editor, including for free as part of a standard Ulysses subscription.
When revision mode is enabled, you can scroll through proposed changes in a list divided into the categories above, or just tap ̵
The advanced check features described above require explicit consent to enable it, since they use an online service instead of running on the device. Ulysses explains the privacy implications:
When you check a text, it will be sent to our servers, from where it will be forwarded to LanguageTool for analysis. You must explicitly trigger text control per sheet, and it will only run on sheets where you do this, not in your entire library. While the text is being processed, it is stored on our servers and the LanguageTool servers. It is deleted from the servers shortly after the text check is completed.
If you are not comfortable using advanced checking, revision mode is not without value. Ulysses will still provide spelling errors using the system dictionary on the device, and revision mode also collects all notes and comments from your sheet, and offers a single hub for all potential revisions to make, whether they are suggestions offered by LanguageTools analysis, the system spelling checker , or notes left to you by a business partner or yourself.
iOS and iPadOS 14 introduce a few new design standards Apple markets, such as drop-down menus and iPad sidebars and multi-column views. As for the latter, Ulysses was already ahead of the game with its custom implementation of a three-column layout on the iPad that included a powerful sidebar with collapsible sections. Essentially, the design elements Apple is now marketing in the iPadOS 14 things Ulysses has had for many years already. This is not the case with a third-party proprietary design that feels janky compared to apps that use the official APIs either: Ulysses’ multi-column layout and sidebars feel just like Apple’s own implementations, such as those found in Notes and Mail. So there was no reason for Ulysses to make changes to what it already did with the sidebar and columns, except for some minor adjustments like the new rounded rectangles that highlight the selected sheet.
Where the app has changed, however, is to adopt drop-down menus. Similar to the context menus introduced in iOS 13, drop-down menus provide a list of menu options in condensed form, and are often best used by moving buttons and other interface elements away from the bottom of the user interface. and into toolbar areas at the top of the screen.
Ulysses has done just that with its drop-down menus. Buttons that used to be at the bottom of the screen have moved to the top toolbar, and some items have been condensed into these new menus. In the Ulysses toolbar, the three-point icons and the settings icon display all drop-down menus when you tap or click on them, and so does the button for selecting the export file type from the export screen. These new menus do not make a radical difference in everyday use, but they can save a touch or two and make navigation easier, both of which are solid improvements.
In addition to adopting drop-down menus, the Ulysses interface on the iPhone and iPad has also received some color from it. Where the library previously contained color tones, blue in light mode and yellow in dark mode, all that color is now gone, and the app is left with a neutral monochrome mood. Some users may appreciate this design change, but after weeks of beta use, I thoroughly dislike it. My text editor now feels completely empty of life, as if I need to be extra businesslike and robotic when I write, and thus I can not enjoy any colors. It sounds a bit dramatic, but that’s how the colorless design strikes me. I would rather see Ulysses take things in the opposite direction, for example by offering users the ability to choose custom colors for library icons.
I’m glad it didn’t take long before revision mode took the road to the iPad and iPhone. When I tested the feature for Mac this summer, it seemed like a valuable addition, but since I use the iPad far more than my Mac, I have hardly used the feature since then. No matter what device I use, Ulysses offers this powerful feature everywhere.
The design update is more of a mixed bag. Since Ulysses already followed Apple’s iPadOS 14 recommendations for sidebars and multi-column layout, even before these recommendations were ever created, not much needed to change in today’s update. Drop-down menus are a nice addition, but I miss the colors that are eliminated in the sidebar.
Anyway, it remains my primary Markdown editor, and the addition of revision mode makes it less likely than ever that I will change it anytime soon.
Ulysses 21 is now available on the App Store.