For me, Ulysses cannot handle truly complex books

Okay, first of all, let me say that I realise that different people = different habits and workflows. There are many pro writers who use Ulysses as their daily driver and do fine.

After the quite disappointing dismissal of sync issues by the Scrivener folks at the release of iOS 13 (not their fault, but they barely acknowledged that there was an issue at all), I’ve been deciding to try and move away from Scrivener to Ulysses on a multi-year testing journey, handling increasingly complex writing projects in there. Short story: writing, check. Short story revision: check. Non-fiction short book: writing, check. Revision…

Falls apart.

I have loved writing that book in Ulysses and not worry with formatting thanks to Markdown; I have loved its snappy sync and cross-platform availability. However, as of this very day, jumping into revision has made me realise Ulysses cannot handle serious revision workflows and this is a dealbreaker.

Ulysses insists on

  • showing you many lines of a sheet
  • forbidding any kind of group folding in the library list

Meaning that a) you have everything in your face in detail at all times while b) navigating to get a bird’s eye view of your manuscript is impossible, which I find crucial to get your headings and make sense of a project.

I had feared that Ulysses’ insistence on an having opinionated UI would prove a hindrance and it exploded right into my face two hours ago. This makes it impossible for Ulysses to handle truly complex books while Scrivener sings in that regard. I am frantically converting everything back to Scrivener and will finish that project there.

So it’s back to Scrivener for good for me, and I will be looking at replacing Ulysses in my workflow with simpler apps for what it does well (mainly Wordpress publishing – I guess iA Writer will do). But as I have limited trust for the iOS Scrivener app and want TextExpander when I write, this will probably accelerate my purchase of an M1 MacBook Pro.

Hope this can be helpful to someone.


I use Scrivener on Mac and iphone/ipad most every day for years. Dropbox the syncing service. never noticed syncing issues. just works. lots of room to grow with it.

1 Like

Interesting case study – thank you for the benchmark.

I usually only use Scrivener on macOS. It’s an app that needs a lot of real estate at times – working with a lot of folders, research, etc. – and the iOS app is too fussy to work with when that’s the case. OTOH Scrivener on iPad is a good composition environment when writing is the only focus.


Not everybody encountered sync issues, but I did at a very bad moment with a multi-year project. This issue was solved six months later by an iOS update apparently, but the LitnLat attitude towards the issue was not what I had come to expect from them. Your positive feedback encourages me to try it again, thanks. I’ll probably end up with an M1 Mac though, and have the whole power of the app (as @anon41602260 points out – but you’re absolutely right that it’s great having a simplified writing environment on the road; which is why I was so bummed it broke).


A workflow issue. do not work on same composition simultaneously on multiple machines. And give Scrivener and Dropbox time to do their thing, one machine at a time. it is the nature of synching to do this. Some people expect miraculous instantaneous syncing. :wink:


That’s a good point. Syncing big chunks of files on iOS/iPadOS is always something that requires attention and verification no matter the app. And work on one machine at a time as you point out. OT, but I’m usually uncertain about what is actually going on when DEVONthink, and to some extent Scrivener, are syncing.

1 Like

I can’t address iOS or Ulysses, but do have revision issues with Scrivener. I sync Scrivener projects between two Macs (and an always on server) using Resilio Sync without problems.

Regarding revisions and my technical long-form writing, Scrivener has insufficient formatting ability for tables. So I have to do lots of touchup after export. Hasn’t been an issue for Ebook format, just print. So when I revise a book I need to do the touchup all over again. Not happy about that! When revising prior to publishing, I just don’t export, so I really have no idea how it will look until I’m ready to publish.

Scrivener handles tables fine. Just do not depend on Apples RTF editor that Scrivener uses. Some use Excel, Numbers, or even Powerpoint to make really good tables really easy. Save the PNG file (or via screenshot) into the document. Keep the source spreadsheet file in References.

My last major technical writing had scores of tables in 180 pages. I was able to spend my time on writing and table content and not fighting Apple’s editor.

No reason to disparage Scrivener for something as simple as this to overcome, in my veiw. :wink:

Well you are saying that Scrivener handles tables fine if you don’t use tables in Scrivener! And, indeed, I could, since that already is the way I handle figures, mainly block diagrams and flow charts. I suspect that this might cause problems with ebook export since I would lose out on the automatic reformatting in the ebook reader.


FWIW I’ve been using Scrivener for years and sync with my iPad and never have had any problems over multiple revs of Scrivener and multiple iPads. I do use Dropbox for that (Yes I can in fact be convinced to use a cloud service when absolutely necessary, as in NaNoWriMo)


No, I did not say that. Mind reading? Tables in Scrivener (using Apple’s RTF Editor) work fine, albeit not as sophisticated as say Microsoft Word, Excel, Apple Numbers, etc. Maybe even Apple Pages better–never tried.

But usually I have need for more complex tables than Apple provided us resources to make without fiddling. For simple tables needed in the document I’m writing, I use Scrivener. Sometimes before final print, I get my assistant to convert them to fancier ones with other tools. I could do it, but I’m writing (which is what Scrivener is for).

If you have issues with how eBooks are produced on output, then send your Scrivener document for a tool built to produce “perfect” eBooks, or seek out eBook viewers that display PNG files properly. What this has to do with Scrivener, other than one of it’s output features, I do not know.

For really compley writing, I always go back to LaTeX.

1 Like

Depends on your field. LaTeX will never work in professional fiction. :slight_smile:

Why is that? It can merge almost every document (including Scrivener). LaTeX is the engine, not the editor. Write wherever you want and LaTeX creates a beautiful document (including awesome typography features not found in others).

1 Like

Because the paperback and hardcover industry, as well as publishing, works with entirely different workflows. The writer provides the story, the editor and/or agent edits, and only then do the layout and art department do the « packaging », all for producing dozens of books every year. The writer and editor do not care, or need, to worry about any engine. Word’s revision mode is the best tool for pure text, which fiction is, and InDesign is - believe me - much faster and less fussy for layout and cooperating with industrial printers.

LaTeX is all well and good in scientific publishing, but it’s actually a very specialized and niche tool when it comes to publishing as a whole industry.


All of this talk about tables got started when I mentioned revisions. The issues with tables was just a part of that. I have one source manuscript in Scrivener that I use to create both an ebook and a print book. So two exports (Scrivener “Compile”) which handle some, but not all, of the formatting differences. So both require touchup after export.

But to revise text, I need to go back to the source in Scrivener, which means re-exporting and repeating the touchups. I could, theoretically, do the whole production in Word avoiding the touchups. Amazon KDP will convert to Ebook format and life would be much simpler.

So that’s a problem with using Scrivener. Of course if I were to use Word, that would be a terrible writing experience (I have horror stories to tell about that) and I’m not sure how good the Amazon conversion process is.

1 Like

Having your document destroyed by Word is a rite of passage…


I think the Scrivener user manual was even produced with LaTeX. I’m all in on Scrivener, myself and next year I want to try to learn how to use LaTeX. Scrivener is an incredibly powerful tool and it’s one of my most used apps. In my line of work, I am still wedded to MS Word (apparently 'till death does us apart), but I’ve developed some methods that have made my compile-to-docx process pretty straightforward.

To each his or her own when it comes to software tools, but I tried Ulysses and couldn’t get my mind around it. It makes zero sense to me.

1 Like

Yes, it seems the manual was typeset in LaTeX. As for Ulysses: I am with you, I gave it a got try and thought. “What’s all the fuss about it?”.

The user’s manual structure is very, very sophisticated. Do not start there or you will get discouraged. Start with the template provided and read the Insitu instructions which are clear but needs to be worked through. Should be able to produce a LaTex doc with few tweaks, but Scrivener and LaTex gives you plenty of opportunity to tweak if you must.