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Adventures in Revising(3): Writing Software | Ulysses III versus Scrivener

So, I don’t know about you guys, but when I decided to write in earnest I just opened a Word Document and let myself go. When I felt like being “fancy”, I used Google Drive so I could have my documents “on the go”.

After I got more than 50 pages written, I would have issues finding sections if I wanted to add new scenes. So, I started trying to create things: like writing notes to myself in the document. But when I wanted to send documents to CPs or beta readers, I had to create brand new documents, free of my little notes-to-self. So, when I was told that there exists software out there that solves these writer problems, I was like hellz yea! (caveat: although there are trial versions, the version with all the cool options costs some mool-ah).

So, here are the main two that I’ve heard about:

Ulysses III Platform: Mac & Windows Price: $39.99 Free Trial Version?: Yes

Ulysses III is called a text editor. The idea is that when you’re writing (especially if it’s creative writing and not just to create a report document) then you shouldn’t be fiddling with format issues. Of course, that’s not to say that Microsoft Word doesn’t provide you with a good platform to just write on. But when your document is so long (i.e. has chapters and hundreds of pages) it can get kind of hard to navigate your work. So Ulysses does all the work for you so that all you have to do is write. Of course you can change the fonts and displays and formats to your liking as you work on it. It’s not like Ulysses takes away any of the controls that are available with Word. It’s just supposed to make your life as a writer slightly easier.

So here’s the basic rundown of Ulysses according to it’s creators:

Ulysses is a unique Mac OS X text editing environment aimed directly at creative writers. With its innovative “tabbed” single-window interface, featuring integrated notepads, a documents browser, advanced search/filter capabilities and multi-document previews, Ulysses aims to give creative writers, novelists and storytellers the best writing experience available on any platform today. Ulysses lets the writer focus entirely on content while aiding him in organizing the multiple parts of his work without forcing him into any pre-defined structure whatsoever. Developed exclusively for creative writers, Ulysses lacks both the functional overload of traditional word processors and the developers-oriented approach of classic text editors. Additionally, Ulysses sports a fully extensible, plug-ins based export feature which enables the user to export their project into various different file formats, including the likes of “Plaintext”, “RTF” and “LaTeX”.

Here are some great tools for writers of long manuscripts:

  1. One of the best features for writers is a toolbar that allows you to separate your document into seperate sections called “sheets.” This would be convenient for your multiple chapters. To find and edit them separately.

  2. It automatically opens in three panes: one that shows your folders, one that shows individual documents or sheets, and one that allows for editing.

  3. You can add tags to each document that allows you to filter your searches. For example, tag all of your WiPs as such, or tag all of your story notes as such.

  4. Ulysses also saves directly to iCloud for all of you Mac users.

  5. Another good thing about Ulysses is you can use it with Daedalus on your mobile devices and edit your documents on the go!

Ulysses is a tool originally created for technical writers, however it is a convenient tool for the tech-savvy writer.

Scrivener Platform: Mac & Windows Price: $45 Free Trial Version?: Yes

Scrivener is also a great writing software.

It has a lot of the same features as Daedalus, like letting you order your chapters in the left column for easy navigation of your book, creating titles for your sections, creating descriptions of each section, inputting research/links/pics. I personally think that the format and design of Scrivener is more appealing to the eye than Ulysses. Especially because it has fun options like the cork board.

Here’s what the creators have to say about it:

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft. Scrivener puts everything you need for structuring, writing and editing long documents at your fingertips. On the left of the window, the “binder” allows you to navigate between the different parts of your manuscript, your notes, and research materials, with ease. Break your text into pieces as small or large as you want – so you can forget wrestling with one long document. Restructuring your draft is as simple as drag and drop. Select a single document to edit a section of your manuscript in isolation, or use “Scrivenings” mode to work on multiple sections as though they were one: Scrivener makes it easy to switch between focussing on the details and stepping back to get a wider view of your composition. With access to the full power of the OS X text system, you can add tables, bullet points, images and mark up your text with comments and footnotes. Format as you go using the format bar at the top of the page, or use any font you want for the writing and let Scrivener reformat your manuscript after you’re done – allowing you to concentrate on the words rather than their presentation.

There’s also a pretty nice tutorial about Scrivener on Youtube created by one of the programmers.

Here are some great features for writers of long manuscripts:

  1. You can export to a standard word format.

  2. You can organize all of your documents (.doc, .pdf,.jpg)

  3. Rearranging files (aka chapters) on the cork board. This is great for a pantser like me who writes first and asks plot questions later.

  4. You can save “snapshots” so that you can have a draft of your manuscript before you make any drastic changes.

  5. You can also edit multiple documents at once.

(This is an update of a post that was originally written for Books Are Bread).

(Thanks @downtonallie for your great tip on Ulysses and Scrivener!)

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