Here's to another year with Ulysses

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read
Here's to another year with Ulysses

A year ago I thought to myself, "do I still need Ulysses?" I've used the app for many years, and I've even called it the best app full stop for Apple's platforms, but I was wondering if I needed to spend $30 per year on an app that published to my Ghost site. So soon after it renewed last year, I went into the App Store and cancelled the subscription, which gave me one year to find a free replacement.

I'm here to say I have not found a free replacement, and I'd rather spend $30 every year than deal with the compromises those free options had.

Option 1: Post from the Ghost UI

I generally like the Ghost web interface, although it does have one devastating flaw: it's absolutely horrendous on iPhone and iPad (and Android, for that matter). The UI is responsive, but it's just slightly broken everywhere, including things like not being able to scroll far enough to delete a post…unless you turn your phone sideways, in which case suddenly you can get to the button.

Another major issue is typing, which is full-on broken on mobile. To explain why, here's the web inspector looking at this very post as I write it in the web interface:

Of note, there is not a textarea or input in sight, it's actually converting my typing from Markdown to HTML in real time, so I'm not entering text into a text field, I'm typing into a p or heading element. There's surely some clever Javascript doing this magic, and on desktop browsers, it feels great. But it's a nightmare on mobile because the non-standard "text field" confuses the hell out of the iOS keyboard. Autocorrect doesn't work, nor does capitalization, and even things like auto-switching back to letters after hitting period + space doesnt work. It's full on garbage and genuinely the worst web app experience I can remember using in recent memory.

Additionally, I've got a pretty slick Shortcut set up that lets me take highlights I made in articles in Readwise Reader and turn them into link posts in Ulysses in literally one keyboard shortcut. It's magical and I don't have a good way to do this into the web interface.

Option 2: Post from Obsidian

I love Obsidian for several things, but writing blog posts isn't one of them. There's a plugin that I installed and tried to use (video demo + tutorial here), but ultimately it was too limited for what I wanted. It was fiddly to set up and it didn't allow for things like images. The project went without updates for well over a year before being archived in May 2023, so yeah, it wasn't a long term solution.

Option 3: Post from Craft

For similar reasons, this was also booted from contention because it was limited and seemed abandoned. Craft announced their extensions program back in late 2021 and one of their sample extensions was for posting to Ghost, but much like the Obsidian one above, it was more of a test project than anything else, so it was too limited.

As a side note, it's a shame the extensions thing never seemed to pan out of Craft. I feel like it had a lot of buzz back then, but 2 years later it seems they've basically abandoned this idea.

Option 4: Post from IA Writer

I feel a bit like a broken record, but IA Writer falls into similar issues as the ones above: it's too limited and feels more like an MVP that checks a box on a feature list more than an actually useful feature for bloggers using Ghost. It seems to pale in comparison to their WordPress publishing option, as well.

Back on the Ulysses train

Which brings us to Ulysses, which is a native iOS, iPadOS, and Mac app that is a joy to use, syncs well, supports Shortcuts, and has absolutely best-in-the-biz Ghost publishing. Here's what I can do when publishing to Ghost:

  • Post title
  • Post status (draft or published)
  • Publishing time
  • Feature image
  • Post URL
  • Tags
  • Excerpt

And after I've published, I can actually edit the document in Ulysses and publish my changes to the post on my site right from Ulysses, which is something I haven't seen from any other Ghost integration. Very nice.

Anyway, Ulysses was on my chopping block to thin out my subscriptions a bit, but when it came down to it, it easily delivers on it's price tag and I'll be using it for at least another year.