my evolving use of the ipad with ulysses for writing

Something interesting is happening at the start of retirement; I’m using my iPads more than my iPhone.

Before I retired my iPhone was my primary iDevice, my iPad of choice if you will for reading the news as well as being a general communication device. It was a compact general purpose device that went with me everywhere I traveled requiring far less space than any iPad. I easily fell into the habit of using it equally at home as well as work. My poor old iPads languished, sitting on my nightstand most of the time, constantly connected to their chargers, only coming out when I needed a larger surface to view specific content or work with my photography. No matter how hard I tried to be more balanced in using all the portable devices, my iPhone became the go-to device everywhere.

Now that I’m home I’m it’s reversed. Now my iPhone sits on the charger a lot more while I work with the iPads, especially the big 12.9” second generation. It has become my primary writing tool, combined with Ulysses and the logi Slim Combo cover and keyboard. You’d think I would use my MacBook Pro, but I’ve discovered that the logi keyboard is far easier to type on for long periods of time because it lies flat on the table. Unlike the edge of the MacBook, there is no vertical rise due to the thickness of the computing machine the keyboard is attached to. It makes for a highly relaxing and highly effective writing experience. The MacBook isn’t abandoned as it were, as it continues to be used for tasks for which it is well suited, such as software development and running my various virtual machines.

I have two iPad Pros, a 9.7” first generation and a 12.9” second generation. They were both purchased on heavy discount (50% or more markdown, around Christmas season) after the follow-on generations were released. Newly released Pros are just too expensive. While they are both quite different size-wise, they share many common features, such as the OS at the same version, the use of the Lightening port for charging, a push button on the front, and the 3.5mm headphone jack on the edge. For me it’s worth hanging back a few generations not just on price alone, but to keep the front pushbutton and headphone jack. Quite frankly, considering the power of Apple’s silicon processors (A9x for the 9.5” and A10x for the 12.9”) I don’t feel either one is too slow for what I need. “Trailing edge” suits me just fine.

In the early days before the 12.9” iPad Pro arrived, I was focused on writing with the 9.7”. It had for some time another smaller logi cover and keyboard combo to cover it. But I dropped the 9.7” iPad one time too many on an edge and eventually knocked loose several keyboard keys on one corner, which effectively ended it’s practical typing usefulness. Rather than replace the keyboard with another expensive cover, I purchased a basic incase cover and I now use the 9.7” more for reading, drawing, photo post processing and viewing, and very light typing. It makes an almost ideal reading device for technical books. I’ve also discovered that with Ulysses installed on the 9.7” and using iCloud to save and sync between the devices, I can sit back and read what I’ve written, which believe it or not helps with light editing and corrections. I catch problems on the 9.7” iPad that I seemingly miss on the larger one.

Some Observations Working with Ulysses

As good as using Ulysses on an iPad is (and it really is quite good), there are still some issues with this tool combination:

  • Ulysses has a tendency to correct misspellings such that the correct word is the wrong word, such as correcting word as work. If I don’t catch them when I first make them, then they slip through and wind up being published on my blog. That forces me to go in via the WordPress web editor and make corrections. Which leads me to my second issue and biggest gripe.
  • I can make corrections in Ulysses and push them up to the blog. Unfortunately every time I’ve tried I wind up creating more than one post, which forces me to immediately go in and delete the older version.

That’s rather annoying. I’m left with the choice of either fixing the mistakes directly in the blog, thus forcing the original Ulysses writing to not be in sync with the blog, or else fix it in Ulysses and clean up the earlier duplicate posts. For the time being I’ll live with fixing my mistakes as I find them within WordPress.

Perhaps one day there’ll be a better way to correct and sync those corrections between Ulysses and WordPress. In the mean time the work-around is easy; slow down and be a lot more careful in writing and correcting before pushing out a post. The benefits of this system of writing I’m using far, far outweigh any perceived deficiencies.

final thoughts on writing with ulysses, with a little help from its friends

Bo’s Mighty Roar (or Mighty Yawn)

I read the second published post written with Ulysses and sure enough there were a couple of written mistakes. The quickest way to correct them was to open up the WordPress iOS (soon to be iPadOS) app and use it to directly edit the post. While I was in there I checked the image and found it was centered and the correct width. Once finished there was a simple update control on the upper right of the WordPress app, and that’s exactly what it did. No duplicate entries.

I also discovered that there were two copies of the second post’s leading image. I don’t know how or why the second was uploaded by Ulysses but it was there. Fortunately for me I’d written a caption for the image within Ulysses. The second duplicate had nothing. I deleted that one, then refreshed the browser view of the post to make sure it was still loading the correct image, and it was.

For the time being I’m going to have to use a workflow that employs both Ulysses and the WordPress app to perform my WordPress publishing. I’ll write the majority of my prose in Ulysses and then upload the article as a draft via Ulysses, then open the draft up in WordPress and finish it there before publishing.

I’m also going to do image insertion via the WordPress app. It’s easier to use the WordPress app, but not as easy as the web editor. I do a fair amount of photography, and the WordPress app is on both my iPhone as well as all my iDevices, including my MacBook. I can pull images off my cameras and onto any of my devices and then import the images into my blog via WordPress’ media management feature. Once imported into my blog I can reference them at any time, multiple times if necessary. This is probably the best way to handle this. I much prefer content rating on writing within Ulysses and using another tool to do the finish publishing.

The photo of Bo roaring (or yawning) was added following the workflow outline above.