A simple feature request for Ulysses on Mac

We need a Share Menu extension.

Ulysses is my favorite app. I use it every day for everything I write and it’s the only non-Adobe app I consider essential.

But there is one, tiny little feature I’d like to request: We need a Share Menu extension for the Mac.

When I’m in Safari on my iPhone or iPad, I use the share sheet to send links to Ulysses. If I’m working on a story for one of my blogs and find a link I want to use in a post, I send it to Ulysses and it appears in a new sheet. It makes research just a little bit easier and when I’m ready to write the article, the link is right there. And on iOS, it works perfectly.

But on the Mac, if I’m browsing in Safari and I want to send a link to Ulysses, there is no Share Menu extension for Ulysses. I end up manually copy and pasting the link. Or if I don’t have Ulysses open, I might add it to Read Later and then move it over later. Other apps like Day One and Evernote have Share Menu extensions and I’d like to see one for Ulysses.

I really love Ulysses. The absence of a Share Menu extension is only a minor inconvenience and really isn't that big of a deal. I may be the only person that would use it, but it sure would make my workflow a little more fluid. Hopefully, it's something they will consider.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he looks for new ways to incorporate Ulysses into his workflow. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Using an iPad again

In December, I pondered my mobile computing options. Do I move toward the iPad or MacBook for my mobile option? A couple of months after I posted that article, my wife mentioned that her iPad Air 2 wasn't working for her. We foolishly got her 16 GB of storage and she really wanted to use her iPad in her classroom for video. Plus, she really preferred the iPad Mini form factor over the iPad Air. So we bought her a new iPad Mini and I took her iPad Air 2.

I love the iPad as my mobile option.

My iPad is pretty much exclusively for writing. I won't be taking videos or storing pictures on my iPad so the 16 GB limitation isn't really a problem for how I'm using it. (That said, don't ever buy an iPad with only 16 GB of storage. It's massively limiting.)

I really like the 9.7-inch form factor. Much better for me than the Mini I had previously used. It weighs less than my laptop and I can use the same lightning charger that I use for my iPhone. (Not that I really ever need the charger on the road... The battery lasts for an insanely long time.)

But the real reason I love my iPad? Ulysses. My favorite writing app for the Mac is also on iPad and it's perfect. The syncing between my Macs, my iPhone and my iPad means that I can write or edit anywhere, on any device. It's amazing how a single great app can completely change the way I use my iPad.

I don't see going back to a Mac for my mobile device.* While this iPad will work for the foreseeable future, the new 9.7 inch iPad Pro looks like a perfect machine for me. I'm intrigued by the Apple Pencil and the keyboard cover. I don't mind typing on the screen, but I'm much faster and more accurate on a physical keyboard. 

Hopefully, Apple will continue to improve the hardware and developers will create pro caliber apps that take advantage of iOS ecosystem.


* Although, let's be realistic. I'm probably going to want one of the rumored MacBook Pros when they are finally released. 

Write everywhere: Ulysses comes to the iPhone

My go-to writing app on my Mac and my iPad is Ulysses. I love the simple structure and that I can pretty much write anything... from a blog post to something much longer. And my writing syncs between my devices.

Now, my writing syncs between all my devices. Ulysses for iPhone launched today. The app is impressive and includes some great implementations of iOS features — iCloud synced all my content effortlessly, Handoff works great between devices and the share extension works perfectly.

I don't plan on writing long essays on my phone, but I think I'll use Ulysses on the iPhone frequently:

Brainstorming. When an idea strikes, I can add a note directly to the writing app. Since I always have my iPhone with me, I'll be able to capture those random thoughts and convert them into actual posts or essays more easily.

Links. I can use the share extension to send links I find directly to Ulysses. For links I want to write a post about, this will be much more convenient than using a service like Evernote.

Edit on the road. The keyboard on my iPhone isn't great for writing longer pieces, but Ulysses should be perfect for reading and editing on the go.

Ulysses isn't for everyone. It's a Markdown editor, so you need to be comfortable writing in Markdown. And it's not cheap. Ulysses for Mac is $45 and the mobile version is $25. In this era of free and freemium apps, this is an expensive app, but Ulysses is a professional tool and worth every penny.

I was expecting to have to pay for the iPhone version, but because I had already purchased Ulysses for iPad, I got the new Ulysses Mobile with support for iPad and iPhone as a free upgrade.

If you are looking for a Mac writing ecosystem and like working in Writedown, Ulysses might be the perfect system for you. There’s a great review over at MacStories if you want lots of specific details.

Bridge to no where...

Adobe Bridge wasn't upgraded with the Creative Cloud 2015 update. The last time it was updated, the main change was removing the Output module – which for many of us was the only reason to use Bridge. So obviously, either:

  1. Adobe is going to let Bridge die a quiet death.
  2. Adobe is going to replace Bridge with something more useful.

It's important to remember that Bridge was created to be a replacement for a file system. I always felt Bridge was intended to be a trojan horse – a way of providing a single file browser for Adobe customers regardless of whether they were on Macs or PCs. That customers would (hopefully) prefer the Adobe "operating system" for the native one. To entice users, they included features for server-based version control (Version Cue), a stock photo service and more. But the app was slow and unweildy. And no one that I know really used it.

Technology has changed a lot since Bridge debuted. Bridge was designed for a world where workgroups collaborated with servers, not clouds. Now, Adobe's switched to a cloud-based system. Creative Cloud is the only way to purchase most of Adobe's products and many of their new features leverage the cloud.

I assumed that Adobe was letting Bridge die. 

Lately though, I've been experimenting with the file storage features of Creative Cloud and it's reasonably powerful, simple and straightforward. Most of the file management is handled in a web interface, but as the file storage and collaboration features of Creative Cloud grow, I could see Adobe building a new "Bridge" – one that was built from the ground up in the cloud era. 

Maybe having a web app to tie it all together is enough. The web app isn't bad, but it feels detached from the software. A native app would be much more powerful and user friendly.

(Desktop development is different than mobile development, but for what it's worth, Adobe's new Creative Cloud iOS app has a handful of the features that a mobile Bridge would need.)

The nice thing about Adobe Creative Cloud distribution model is that they can update an app or introduce a new app at any time. So Adobe doesn't have to wait until Creative Cloud 2016 to update Bridge. That said, every update that doesn't include a new version of Bridge sends a very specific message: Adobe's Bridge is going no where...

Writing with Ulysses

I recently started using a new application for most my writing. Ulysses is a distraction free text editor with a wide range of additional features and an outstanding interface. It's available for Mac and iOS. I was planning on writing a long article about Ulysses, but the folks over at the Sweet Setup beat me to it. They've got a great review of the app.

Ulysses is a Markdown app. (If you aren't familiar with Markdown, it's a way of formatting documents quickly and efficiently.) I'm still uncovering all of the features in Ulysses, but I'm impressed. It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny.

Ulysses features an intuitive interface that works well on the Mac And iOS devices.

Ulysses features an intuitive interface that works well on the Mac And iOS devices.

I did have one problem with Ulysses and syncing. When I first bought the iPad app, some text it had written on my MacBook Pro wouldn't sync. I struggled with the issue for a little while, but then figured out that if I made any change to the text, it would then upload and sync. So I added a space to the beginning of each problem file and everything synced perfectly from that point on.

They also mention a few other writing apps as honorable mentions at the bottom of the article. And they are some of my favorites, too. Specifically:

Scrivner: I really love Scrivner. It's exceptional powerful, but really complicated. Lack of sync is challenging and I prefer the Ulysses interface, but for really long form work, it might be the best option in the App Store. 

Byword: Still one of my favorite distraction free writing apps. Byword works on iPhone, iPad and the Mac. Great app and I highly recommend it if you want a Markdown editor that isn't as expensive. My go-to note taking app.

Artboards in Photoshop!

Love this sneak peak demo of artboards in Photoshop. This feature has the potential to seriously change the way I work in Photoshop, especially for things like web ads. In fact, I really could have used this feature earlier this week. I don't know when the 2015 edition of Creative Cloud will be released, but I'm definitely looking forward to this feature.

Linked: I didn't think I could love Wunderlist more...

I'm a big fan of Wunderlist. It's an amazingly simple and powerful to-do app that syncs effortlessly between all my devices. And now they are making it better. Adding folders is a big improvement. I currently start all my lists with a prefix (for example, SBB Blog Post Ideas) so I can keep all my similar lists together. But that gets clumsy. So having folders is a big improvement.

Some of the other additions are great, too. Quick Add looks great. And an API to integrate with other apps has the potential to integrate Wunderlist throughout my workflows.

Flare 2 Review

With the release of Apple's new version of OS X, Yosemite, came a surprise update from the Iconfactory... a new version of their great image styling app for the Mac, Flare.

If you aren't familiar with the original Flare, it allows you to apply and fully customize Instagram-like filters at full resolution. And while there are Photoshop actions that can replicate filter sets, the ease and power of Flare make it a great tool for designers. (And as an added bonus, it's really fun to use.)

Flare 2 improves significantly on the original and adds a pretty clever companion iOS app.

Flare interface in full screen mode. Notice multiple images open across the bottom.

Flare interface in full screen mode. Notice multiple images open across the bottom.

For me, the biggest improvement is a rethinking of the interface. Presets are to the right and customization is on the left. You can now have multiple images open... a big help when you're trying to apply similar effects to bunch of pictures. And light and dark interface themes are a welcome addition. 

Flare 2 interface in dark mode.

Flare 2 interface in dark mode.

The new interface makes it easier to find and organize presets. Preloaded effects are on a "Best of" tab. Another tab keeps track of your saved effects. And a third tab keeps track of snapshots — a history that lets you return to previous settings. 

Simple edit lets you make quick adjustments.

Simple edit lets you make quick adjustments.

Flare 2 adds a new simple edit feature. Simple edit allows the creator of the preset to pick a handful of settings that will impact the filter's effect. And if that doesn't work, then you move into advanced edit. It works well, but will take a little while to figure out exactly which sliders to add to the simple edit popup.

Flare 2 adds a few new filters and effects to the already solid arsenal. And before adding new effects, you can see a preview. It's a nice touch.

When selecting a new effect to add, Flare 2 gives you a thumbnail preview.

When selecting a new effect to add, Flare 2 gives you a thumbnail preview.

Access Flare Effects from the Camera Roll.

Access Flare Effects from the Camera Roll.

Completely new is the iOS Flare Effects app. You download the app to your phone, open it and... instructions... The app contains a couple of slides with instructions. Follow the instructions and your Flare effects are available from Camera Roll or Camera app. It's really impressive. I was expecting a full featured app, but Flare Effects takes advantage of iOS 8's extensions to work with the app you already use. It's nice. 

And it automatically syncs all your effects to your phone and groups your favorites together. I'm actually not sure how it syncs the effects. I didn't log in or create an account so I'm assuming it uses iCloud. It's pretty much magic.

I'm thinking more than a handful of social media managers will create a custom look for their Twitter, Instgram and Facebook feeds and then use Flare 2 and Flare Effects to apply it consistantly.

For a limited time, Flare 2 is $9.99 on the app store. Flare Effects for iOS is free. I think it's a great addition to any designer's toolkit for quickly adding effects to images or illustrations. And being able to use your effects on iOS makes Flare even more useful.

FYI: I need to update my presets on my Flare page to more easily work with Flare 2, but they all should work fine. And I plan to add more in the next few weeks.

Evernote for Designers

Designers love to look for inspiration and resources. And many of us have really complex ways of keeping track of all of it. Folders, pictures, bookmarks, binders... designers can create some complex methods to organize stuff. And that's why I'm surprised every time I meet a designer that doesn't use Evernote.

Evernote is an online ecosystem that is ideal for designers. Store anything -- designs, pictures, ideas, audio, links, PDFs and more -- in an online app and access it from any device. And I mean any device. Evernote offers desktop versions for Mac and PC, mobile versions for iOS and Android and web version if you are away from your own machine. Evernote has an API that allows developers to interact with the ecosystem, too.

I know a lot of designers that use Pintrest for saving inspiration. But Evernote's more flexible and lets you save different types of material. Plus you can actually save the text of an entire article or web page, not just the link. So if the link is moved or broken, in Evernote, you will still have the original content. In Pintrest, the link is gone.

Evernote allows you store your notes and thoughts in virtual notebooks that you can search and tag. Organize your notes in any structure that makes sense to you. 

If you don't have an Evernote account, sign up for one now. (Using this referral link will get you a free month of Evernote Premium.) 

Free vs Premium accounts

Evernote offers a free account that will likely offer everything you need. But the Premium account does add some great features for only $5 per month. If you really get into Evernote, you may want to upgrade.

Inputing Inspiration

So how do you get your ideas and resources into Evernote? There are lots of options that can work with your own personal workflow.

Evernote Web Clipper. Save anything you find online to your Evernote account. You can save just a bookmark or an entire text. The Web Clipper lets you add notes and a variety of annotations to screenshots, too. One drawback is that the Web Clipper doesn't work with iOS because of current sandboxing rules. Hopefully that might change with iOS 8.

Email. One of my favorite ways to add tweets and links from my iPhone to Evernote is with email. Go into Account Info on the desktop app or Settings > General > Evernote Email Address to set a custom email address. Add it to your address book. Pretty much every app on your phone lets you share links or files via email. Just type Evernote into the email address field and your upload email address will pop up.

TIP: I create a "Notes to be sorted" notebook in Evernote and make that the default notebook. Everything I add via email lands there. Once a week, I sort my notes into proper notebooks.

Skitch. Skitch is an app for your phone or computer that lets you capture images, annotate them and send them to Evernote. It's great for taking reference shots for photo shoots, site notes for signage, screenshots and more.

What do you keep?

I use Evernote to keep everything. A few of the design related things I use Evernote for:

Inspiration. I find inspiration all over the internet... not just articles about design, social media and communication, but also pictures and articles completely unrelated to design. Evernote lets you easily save and organize these treasures so you actually can find them later.

Read later. There's a whole series of online services that help you save articles to read later. But for me, Evernote works great. I save the article link to Evernote and read it later. If I love the article, I tag it and move it into a notebook. If not, I just delete the note.

That great Photoshop tip. Evernote's great for storing tips and techniques for your favorite apps. When you need a tip, it's much easier to find it in Evernote than having to search the web to rediscover it. 

Notes. I'm always thinking about projects, even when I'm away from the office. Got a great idea at lunch? While watching TV? In the middle of a meeting? Just make a note in Evernote and it will sync up with all your devices.

To Do Lists. I use Wunderlist for most of my task management, but Evernote has the ability to create custom and flexible to-do lists. Handy for managing projects.

Book recommendations. People recommend books to me all the time. But sometimes, I have to remember those recommendations months later when I'm looking for something new to read. Evernote is perfect for saving those recommendations.

Vendors and partners. I come across talented photographers and illustrators that I'd love to work with, but often, I don't have a project for them right then. Store their contacts and work samples in a notebook and easily find them when you need someone.

In addition, there are lots of non-design reasons to use Evernote. Travel ideas, gift ideas, confirmation emails, fitness plans and more. And you can organize these things right along side your work notes.

Finding stuff

The first level of organization in Evernote is how you sort and organize your notebooks. But that's not the only way you can find and organize things.

Of course, Evernote allows you to easily search across all your notebooks for any content you've saved. And you can even enable a feature that allows your saved notes to show up when you do a Google search.

Evernote allows you to tag your posts. So you can build a tag structure on top of your notebook structure. Basically, Evernote is flexible enough to allow you to organize and find your stuff in the way that works best for you.

Sharing your inspiration

Evernote is not just a place for storing ideas. It's also a powerful tool for sharing ideas.

Social media. Evernote makes it easy to share links via Facebook, Linked In and Twitter.

Sharing a notebook. You can share a notebook with another Evernote user and both of you can view and modify it. You can also create a public URL to the note if you are sharing with a group that doesn't use Evernote.

TIP: Upgrading to Premium adds some more flexibility with how you control sharing and collaboration. So if you are planning to share notes with a small workgroup, you may want to invest in Premium.

Presentation Mode. Evernote Premium also adds a presentation mode that lets you convert your inspiration into full screen, Keynote-esque visuals. Great if you're trying to share ideas with your team around your laptop or with a projector.

Give it a try

If you haven't given Evernote a try, sign up for a free account now and see if it will work for you. (If you opened up an account a while back and forgot about it, give it a try again.) It's key strength is really the flexibility to build a archival structure that works best for you. For designers that love to find and keep inspirational resources, it's tough to find a tool better than Evernote.