It doesn’t exist. You can’t find everything you want from an app, it’s like finding a unicorn. You’re going to have to compromise in some areas to get something you’re happy with. These are all things I have heard said, or have been said to me when I have been looking for the perfect app previously. It doesn’t matter if it is a todo app, calendar app, or note-taking companion — the perfect thing just doesn’t seem to exist. Doesn’t stop me from looking though!
I’ve been on a Jason Snell’esk search for a writing app, or service that can do everything that I need it to do. I started by outlining exactly what I needed and the ways I would attempt to rank the ability for this to be fulfilled. I needed:
- Writing app that was accessible and nice to write in. My eyesight is not what it was, so I sometimes like to boost the font size when in ‘focus mode’.
- Able to take quick notes
- Supports markdown. This can be either plain text or a modified version that hides some syntax, the important part is I can type it out because that’s just how my fingers work across a keyboard.
- Able to export as a PDF and Word document. I use these lots for storing documents for work use, and sending these out for approval. Word is what my bosses prefer to use.
- Works well across iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
This is an app I keep coming back to. I tested the beta versions, and have been testing the upcoming new version extensively on both Mac and iOS. The ‘notes’ app is amazingly powerful, so much so I wouldn’t consider it a notes app at all as it can go toe to toe with much larger and expensive apps.
It looks great, incorporates the best iOS features such as shortcuts and widgets, and I can export all notes in a rage of formats including text bundle that I can publish straight to WordPress.
However, I don’t love the tagging a system of organisation. I much prefer an inbox that I can sort and file things away. Where’s as by adding hashtags it gets some resemblance of order to it but still feels a little too chaotic with loads of notes.
The exporting also lacks any level of customisation, and some styling of these takes a bit of editing before I can send.
The new hotness in iOS text apps nudges in here simply because of how powerful it is. Not an app I would usually consider due to its strange way of doing things (I talk about this more in my newsletter) and it’s expense.
With that said, Craft allows me to store almost every bit of text I could ever need from a simple note to writing a book if I ever needed too, all whilst looking brilliant and offering powerful export features.
A massive positive is the organisation Craft uses, based on folders and areas, works more like my brain does. Meaning I can have an inbox full of ideas, work on writing posts, store information for my day job and be able to edit and export to email effortlessly.
But… I just can’t get on board with some decision made with the app. Markdown is half-baked at best. For example, I cannot type in the image reference for an external image, it just disappears. Craft only support some Markdown syntax and not all of it, and there is also lots of UX weirdness I can’t wrap my head around.
My favourite writing app for many years and one that I only recently stopped using because I moved away from Ghost. At the time I felt it was one of those apps I paid for simply because I always had, and it felt over engineered for my usage. Built more for real writers rather than bloggers.
It supports loads of iOS features such as shortcuts, allow me to store documents in folders and offers me a useful inbox. Ulysses is also fantastic at exporting in a range of different options and even allows for custom styling of them.
My only downfall really is that it doesn’t work very well as a note-taking app, or at least it doesn’t feel like it does. Starting can sometimes be a bit slow, so I would potentially have to use Apple notes for smaller things which is no hardship.
Like some kind of cheating husband I have gone all around the houses only to realise the one I recently left is the best fit for me. There are a few things I’d love to see improved but in terms of ticking away at all the points above Ulysses fits me like a glove. When throwing my hands up in the air and re-downloading it the first launch just felt like home. As much as all these flashy new apps come on the scene, or I just start looking for no good reason, the tried and tested option is quite often the best.
Special mention to:
iA Writer — I love the interface, but I don’t really want to mess around with a folder full of files.
Byword — the same as above really, I used to love this app, but it feels left behind.
Apple notes — too much weirdness in pasting in information, particularly links. For some strange reason it still doesn’t support CMD+K on iOS.
I am sure there are plenty of others out there I didn’t try, please don’t tell me then, just let me live in blissful ignorance!