iA Writer-exporting multiple files?

I’m still wrestling with whether or not I can replace Ulysses, which I like, with iA Writer. My main motivation is I’d like to get rid of another $40/year subscription if possible. I’ve done the background and outlining work on a large book so I’m ready to start writing. iA Writer could work for my purposes IF it is possible to export multiple files (chapters in my case) at one time. For the life of me I can’t figure out if this is possible in iA Writer. Is it possible to export multiple files or an entire “manuscript” at one time?

I’ve read the support page. But, I still can’t find how to export multiple files. Even the wording on the page implies a single file export, “iA Writer for Mac lets you export “a” document…” I must be missing something.

If you have a Setapp subscription, it includes Ulysses, and that covers mobile and macOS platforms.


Yes, I’ve heard great things about Setapp subscriptions. I probably need to check it out. Thanks for the reminder. Nevertheless, I sill want to know if I can export multiple files in iA Writer. Seems like a no brainer to me, which is why I suspect I’m just missing something. :slight_smile:

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Hm. Are you trying to do this on iOS?

I imagine the desired result is multiple exported files—one for each selected iA Writer file. If so, I can’t seem to find a way to do it either. If I were you I would write them over email or Twitter. They tend to respond quickly.

A workaround would be using iA Writer’s Content Blocks to do a single file export, then split it afterward.

You might be able to hack something together using Shortcuts and the iA Writer read URL command, but I can’t guess as to how you’d do this with multiple files off the top of my head. (https://ia.net/writer/support/general/system-requirements, scroll down)

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My understanding is that you want to know how to combine multiple text files (thinking of them like “sheets” in Ulysses) to a single exported file.

Writer has a feature called Content Blocks designed for this use case.

The idea is that each of your chapters would be its own text file that could be individually exported, and you could then have a separate file that contains content blocks—basically a table of contents of sorts that pulls in all of the individual files you reference.

If you export that “table of contents” file, what you get is a single export assembled from all the individual files that you referenced.

So let’s say I had five chapters, the result might look like this:

Then, when it came time to export a draft with all five chapters as a single file, I could make a new file like this:

You can see the references to the individual chapter files. When I export this, I get a single document that contains all of the chapters.

Ulysses has more flexibility on this front because sheets are more flexible than files on disk, but it’s not a bad system and for simple things like this it works great. You also have the advantage of being able to make multiple different “export” files with different combinations of chapters, additional commentary, etc. based on your needs.

Hope that helps!

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Thanks for the reply. I’m trying this on the MBP. I really don’t want to mess with content blocks and hacking something together. I just want to write then export. :slight_smile: Surely one can export multiple files. I’ll reach out to them. I seldom use Twitter, I don’t like it, but I’ll see if I can contact them via the support page. If not, I’ll send them a DM via Twitter. Thanks again.

Yes, that helps a lot and it appears that content blocks are easier than they sound. :slight_smile: I’m still curious as to what the advantage of this is. It seems like it would be easier to select all files or a selection of files to export and not have to create a table of contents to export multiple files. Is there an advantage to this approach that I’m missing?

I don’t know that I’d call it an advantage, necessarily, but it gives you the ability to include other content along with your exports—without touching the chapters themselves by polluting those files with notes.

For instance, I could make a bundle of chapters for my editor that includes a bit of commentary about my intentions or lingering questions/problems after each chapter. I could do that by simply creating a file with content blocks for the chapters and then writing in my commentary between those content blocks (or including any other sort of material I wanted too—content blocks aren’t just for embedding text files).

Moreover, I could create several different export files, each one tailored for a different purpose. One with the chapters in a different order, as an experiment; one with only a few chapters; one that includes commentary as described above…there are all sorts of possibilities.

Overall, the fact that iA Writer relies on plain text files in a folder makes its entire library system less flexible and attractive than Ulysses’, but the practical impact of that isn’t necessarily significant.

I’m a big fan of both apps and have used them in parallel or in alternating fashion for years now, though over the past year I’ve mostly settled on using iA Writer as my main environment and Ulysses just to keep up with it for reviews and news coverage of their updates.

Based my response on this.

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Ok, based on this helpful input, I’m going to cancel my Ulysses subscription and learn how to use iA Writer to write the book. If Melville could write Moby Dick before the invention of the typewriter, surely I can write my book with access to iA Writer, a MBP, and an iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard! :smile:


Yes, but we do not live anymore in those times – why hamper ourselves by not using the best tools we can get when we want to follow our soul’s calling, such as writing?

Pro writer here (a dozen of professionally published books under my belt) and even though you can write a book with IA Writer, depending on its complexity, I think Ulysses is far superior for that job. If you want to move away from subscriptions, why not simply get Scrivener and be done with it? It’s the most powerful tool on the planet for writing longform.

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I have Scrivener and generally like it. But, I do find that its many features are more than I need for writing. It feels like feature bloat, much like Word, at least for my purposes. And the developers were notoriously slow in creating the iOS app., which gives me pause about future development. I also found the compile function to be complex and not especially helpful, again, for my purposes. Thus, my spirit quest for a writing application.

All things considered, I prefer Ulysses as it has more power and flexibility than iA Writer but is cleaner and less complex than Scrivener. But, I’m stringent about ongoing costs so I am always reviewing my subscriptions and asking myself, “is this subscription absolutely necessary or can I do fine with a non-subscription app.?” This is why I will not subscribe to Fantastical, Carrot Weather, TextExpander, Drafts Pro and a host of other subscription-based apps. I don’t consider the annual costs to have a sufficient ROI in productivity given my needs. I also don’t like the general proposition of “renting” my applications. There are exceptions where I find the ROI sufficient. 1Password is an excellent application that provides a daily return on my investment in both security and convenience.

I am hoping that using DT to house my writing research and iA Writer for the writing will create a workflow with less feature complexity at lower cost. We shall see! :slight_smile:

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One advantage of using iA Writer over Ulysses is that the former’s native output is just plain MultiMarkdown files that are transparently available in the OS and which you can use freely in other apps, while the Ulysses default is to keep the output in a proprietary database. While recent versions of Ulysses have made more transparent file output optional, the default Markdown XL format is not fully compatible with other Markdown apps. In short, even those who intend to use Ulysses indefinitely would be wise to do an occasional export of their “sheets” to separate Markdown files, just in case they ever want to try something else.


That is helpful information, thank you!

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I’m genuinely curious: is there an easy way to generate a table of contents in Ulysses? Not that I’ve tried that in either app in a long time, but I recall that being an advantage of iA Writer over Ulysses the last time I looked at that.

Another advantage of iA Writer (again, this may have changed for Ulysses) is its integration with Files. That makes it possible to tell Working Copy to track its folder as a GitHub repository, for those who find that feature helpful.

Both apps are really good overall. Ulysses certainly wins in the aesthetics department. :slight_smile:


I don’t use TOCs so I can’t say. However I believe Ulysses has integrated external folders (at least with Dropbox) so you can have your writing outside of its database. (Not using that either, though)

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You can change it all in Ulysses. That is an advantage, not a disadvantage.

MarkdownXL was not chosen randomly; it offers the additional features Ulysses uses that other apps don’t have: Comments, Annotations, Delete are not part of the original Markdown syntax specification.

I own IA Writer as well as Ulysses, and use both under different circumstances. But I think it makes no sense to ignore Ulysses’s advantages, or try to cast its substantial flexibility as somehow being a deficiency.

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