Do you prefer Scrivener for iOS or Ulysses???

I find my preference depends on what I’m writing. For fiction, I vastly prefer Scrivener. For short non-fiction articles (i. e., my blog) I prefer Ulysses. I don’t do long-form nonfiction so I can’t speak to it.

I loathe iCloud and use Ulysses with Dropbox. The sync is still smoother with Ulysses. But that doesn’t deter me because since I became accustomed to Scrivener’s rhythm, I’ve had no problems with sync.

I should note that most of my research is in Evernote, not Ulysses or Scrivener. I can’t even imagine trying to keep research in Ulysses. Seriously, how would you do that? I depend on Evernote’s ability to search (even my scribbled handwritten scanned notes) and find stuff that I’ve either misfiled or forgotten to classify. Therefore, my opinions on both Ulysses and Scrivener are coloured by the fact that I don’t even try to keep my research and notes in the same application with my actual writing. I certainly can’t speak to using Scrivener as a hold-everything notebook. Sorry.

I tried Ulysses and definitely do NOT want to have everything I’ve ever written cluttering the “project binder”

Like Lunk, I hate the idea of having all that I have in Scrivener in Ulysses, I don’t see the attraction - (but then my project really sprawls and needs Tinderbox as a support service). But I have both, and use both pretty much daily, and I use them for the most part together.

I’m writing a large non-fiction historical project and I mainly use Ulysses for the ‘pure’ writing, when I’m exploring ideas (an essay a day …) - and then use Scrivener for putting those ideas into place as part of the larger form. For iOS writing I use a Canopy stand and an Apple bluetooth keyboard, and I find writing in Ulysses in fullscreen to be pretty close to an old typewriter experience.

The difference in the writing experience between the two is less marked in the Mac versions - Scrivener can be just as frictionless as Ulysses on an iMac - but I’m not so keen on writing much in Scrivener iOS because it feels cramped and less flexible. I don’t use any writing software that has a fixed-width editor - line width is a hugely important factor for both reading and writing comprehension - and I work far less well with iOS Scrivener’s limited choices.

Personally, my feeling is that if you want all of your writing in one place, you probably have a much tighter focus than I do. At any given moment, I might have four or five different projects, both fiction and non-fiction, in various stages of completion. Even thinking of trying to manage all of that in one bucket gives me cold pricklies.


I use Ulysses as a note repository, with about 1.2 million words and still blazing fast search and iCloud sync, and a global keyword system. Document creation and tagging can be handled through a URL scheme that works the same on iOS and MacOS.

I rarely write documents of more than a few paragraphs in it, though, because I find Scrivener handles complex structure so much more easily. Any real writing I move into Scrivener. But I also rarely if ever use the Research aspects of Scrivener - anything I’m using for research should be in its own location, not mixed up in an ephemeral project.

I’ve tried the Ulysses free trial a few times, most recently a year or so ago, simply because so many writers rave about it, and the aesthetic is really attractive. I’m sure it’s great for many writers, particularly those who deal entirely in plain text and publish straight to a blog. But every time I try it (and I realize it’s being updated often, no doubt thanks to the cash flow generated by subscription model), I come away thinking it doesn’t suit my needs.

If I need simple, beautiful plain text writing for a short piece or anything that doesn’t require structural organization, I use iA Writer, which is much cheaper , just as elegant, and doesn’t pack all my writing into a single basket. BTW, there are other posts on this forum about how to make your Scrivener project look more like Ulysses.

If I need structured writing, Scrivener is at least as useful to me as Ulysses, though I agree the iOS app isn’t quite as smooth. Since I still use my Mac for big projects like books, it’s not a problem. Plus, Scrivener allows me to import pdfs and other reference material into a project, which for me usually works better than putting the reference material and my writing in two different apps side by side, though that’s doable if necessary. And I agree with the other advantages of Scrivener listed here in earlier posts, particularly its project-based approach, which is really ideal for my work.

If I need other functions in working with other writers and editors, like dealing with Word files, editing, etc., I use Pages or Google Docs, which are both free. Yes, I’d love to have one writing app that would rule them all, but I’ve pretty much given up on that fantasy just because as a journalist, bookwriter, and playwright, I have so many different needs, and better to use the best tool for each job. (I have the same philosophy with keyboards and iPad, which is why I have one of the latter but three of the former, but that’s a different post…)

However, I’d love to hear from Scriveners here who use Ulysses what unique features the latter has that Scrivener might consider adopting as well. I realize non Dropbox syncing must await changes in iCloud (Scrivener is one of the only reasons I keep my free Dropbox account), but what else does Ulysses have that Scrivener doesn’t — and should?

Oh, and let’s not forget the other advantages of Scrivener — like responsive developers and supportive forum user community!

Answer to the first part of the question - probably a fair bit; second part - nothing.

I’ve used Ulysses since very much earlier versions (from which Scrivener admittedly took some inspiration) and at some point decisions were made by both developers to take their creations in particular directions which broadened the gap between them. So we now have the familiar, and perfectly acceptable, horses for courses scenario …

I like in a rural area and so have a Land Rover for my four dogs and the property groundwork; I also have an ancient Audi estate for shopping trips and the occasional longer journey. There is some cross-over use, but I see no point in wishing one was more like the other.

Not sure there is anything that Scrivener can adopt, aside from the seamless syncing, which is unlikely to happen. I switched to Ulysses for my next book, since I’m travelling more and finding syncing with Scrivener somewhat problematic. The iCloud syncing on Ulysses works so well that I can type on Ulysses/iPad Pro/iPhone and watch the text appear on Ulysses/Mac. The longest delay I’ve seen is about two minutes, so I can get the phone out while I’m on the train and just crack on without having to worry that I’m up to date. Your mileage may vary,

For me, there’s not much in it between them for every day use. I’ve become a huge fan of Markdown since the switch, but Scrivener can do Markdown too, so …
Ulysses feels incredibly light weight, so is a joy to work with, now that I’m spending so much time in it, but there are trade-offs: no chapter numbering support, minimal support for making use of meta data, and I think it’s easier to set up compilation in Scrivener (desktop). In fact, it’s pretty much just a text editor while Scrivener is like a writer’s studio. One is not necessarily better than the other, it just depends on what you’re looking for.

Rather than looking for one tool that does everything, I now look for a couple of tools that do one or two thing really well, and just link them together. Aeon Timeline for planning, Scrivener for keeping research notes, Ulysses for writing, Vellum for final output.

Basic automation capabilities - creating new documents, retrieving content & links, etc. As requested for Scrivener ca. 2007. Automation beyond Applescript (which has never been implemented anyway :) )

I picked up Ulysses a few months ago, and I have to say I’m really liking it. I’m currently using it for holding everything that’s not a novel - random ideas split across genres, more fleshed out ideas for my next novels, a collection of writing guides, marketing notes and strategies, website and blog posts etc.

I love the seamless sync and feature parity across devices. It feels simple and slick to use. It exports much nicer to Vellum (which I’ve never been able to do from Scrivener without heaps of re-work in Vellum).

I still go into Scrivener to write the actual novel though, and I’m not sold in whether I could manage a whole book in Ulysses the way I like to write (every document is a scene with some pretty heavy chapter and metadata management). I might try it for my next novel, but I have a feeling I’ll be running back to familiar Scrivener-land before I’m done.

Overall very pleased with Ulysses and see it as a supplementary app rather than any sort of replacement - both are great and both have their place.

Initially misread this as “gives me cold pickles”, which is now my new favorite phrase.

As for Scrivener vs Odysseus - my advice would be to keep your personalities as unaware of each other as you can.