How to focus with Ulysses

Imagine a typewriter with daily #WritingGoals.


The ultimate writing app


You can just type in Ulysses, but you can also do lots of other amazing things too; like inserting code, setting daily goals and copying like a clever cat. Here’s how to get started.

Focus the old-school way

There are so many things that can distract you from writing. If you find yourself blanking instead of working, try concentrating with Ulysses’ Typewriter Mode. Turn it on via View > Typewriter Mode in the menu bar. The mode mimics the behaviour of a typewriter but with a bit more flexibility.

Fixed Scrolling, for example, lets you set the current sentence to always be on the top, middle or bottom of the screen. Use Highlight to fade the rest of the text into the background for ultimate focus.

Highlight fades the rest of the text into the background, and it can be set to focus on a line, sentence or paragraph.

Set #WritingGoals

Propel your daily writing with the app’s Goals feature. Right-click on a group and choose Goal from the menu. Select “Every day” and set a daily target, 200 words, for example. A circular Goal icon now appears next to the group, which visually represents your progress. Click on the Goal and you’ll see how much more you need to hit your target.

To see how you’ve been doing, click on History in the Goal panel and get a report on past performance, with stats like your daily average and daily best.

Enter a deadline and you’ll get an estimate of how many words a day you need to write to meet your goal.

Write like a coder

Not everything in Ulysses needs to be prose; you can also add code snippets into a sheet. Using Markdown XL, you can mark code blocks with two backticks (``) at the start of a paragraph. Code blocks are highlighted, set in a monospaced font and support syntax highlighting for more than 60 different programming languages.

To turn highlighting on, click the tag icon (</>) in the top right corner and choose a language. You can also import code blocks from and export to GitHub-flavoured Markdown code blocks.

To easily change a paragraph into a block of code, select the text and right-click. In the contextual menu, select Markup > Code Block.

Copy and paste with formatting

Ulysses makes it easy to preserve or add formatting when copying and pasting text. Pressing Shift-Command-V to paste activates Smart Paste. A list of formatting options will appear (Paste, Text, Code and Source); select one and the text will paste in that format.

Pressing Shift-Command-V will activate Smart Paste, whereas pressing the very similar Shift-Option-Command-V will paste without formatting.

Ulysses is clever about copying too. Right-click on selected text, choose “Copy as” and pick a format. To copy text for a website, for example, pick HTML. When you paste the text, it will be formatted in Hypertext Markup Language.


    The ultimate writing app