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Changing My Writing Workflow

I’ve bounced around several different apps over the last few years for my writing.

For a time I used Byword on both my iPad and Mac, and it remains a good app.

But then I checked out Ulysses, which has earned itself many plaudits.

As I found, though, there were some niggles with Ulysses. Many features only worked if you kept your writing in iCloud. If, as I was doing at the time, your writing was on Dropbox, you only got a subset. And Ulysses was a bit too eager to help with Markdown formatting.

So I made my own writing workflow using Sublime Text on the Mac and Editorial on the iPad. It worked, albeit with some tweaking. (Sublime Text is a coder’s editor, though it can work with Markdown and there are writing plugins available for it.)

Alas, Editorial seems abandoned. And my lashed-together writing setup in Sublime Text started to break down. I never did figure out what the problem was. I returned to Ulysses and moved my writing back to iCloud.

Then things got weird and frustrating with the arrival of iPadOS 13.2. Ulysses started having issues synching with iCloud, telling me my documents weren’t accessible, or not synching at all. I could still access all my documents on the Mac (phew!), but it was an aggravation I didn’t need. Restarting the iPad would sometimes cure the issues, but sometimes not.

The final straw came yesterday. I’d not had any sync problems for several weeks, then I found that Ulysses hadn’t synched at all overnight. There’s no way to retry synching or diagnose where the problem is. Even after a restart, I was still looking at a day’s writing that wasn’t there. (Though it was definitely there on the Mac.) Eventually it resynched. But by then I’d reinstalled iA Writer on the iPad and was moving all my writing into the Documents folder on iCloud Drive.

If I’m going to have my writing in the cloud, I want to be certain that it’s in the cloud. iCloud may not be perfect, but it works. And because my documents are on my Mac, they’re also backed up to Time Machine and online to Backblaze.

I’ve now bought iA Writer for the Mac. It costs only a fraction more than my current subscription to Ulysses, but that’s a one-off fee. I’d already gotten iA Writer for my iPad a while ago, and had been using the Android version for a time on my old Lenovo phablet.

While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Ulysses, it excels in one crucial aspect—not getting in my way. Yes, it wants me to store my writing into its own structure in iCloud. But it’s gracious in allowing me to choose where I want to store my documents.

And because all my writing is now back in the Documents folder in iCloud Drive, I can do automation of tasks using a combination of Keyboard Maestro and Hazel on the Mac.

All the applications I’ve mentioned above have their strengths and weaknesses. And there are plenty of other options out there to consider.

Which one is best for you? That depends a lot of what you want to do, and which of the bells and whistles might help you to achieve that. If you use more than one device or platform for your writing, that’ll affect your choice too.

You might not even need a specific writing app. TextEdit on the Mac and WordPad on Windows could do the job as well. On the other hand, both of those are plain text editors with a few word-processor niceties bolted on.

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