Transitioning from Scrivener to Ulysses

Hi! In a different discussion KillerWhale and me both talked about moving from Scrivener to Ulysses and decided to open a new thread for finding good practices on how to get certain functionalities of the first to work in the latter. Maybe there are more users here that make or made that transition or can help with their experience on Ulysses.

I identified the following Scrivener features as important for me, some can be easily recreated in Ulysses:

  • Status: to track if a document is in first draft/finished etc. – can be replaced by tags
  • Label: used mainly to track in which point of view a scene is written – can also be replaced by tags, but I will miss the possibility to color the whole object in the binder with the label color, so you can see at one glance which POVs are used in how many scenes
  • Synopsis: for a summary or outline of the scene – can be replaced by Ulysses notes.
  • Notes: for additional comments concerning that scene – can be replaced by a different note (having multiple note for one document is an advantage of Ulysses)
  • Snapshots: That´s my biggest concern. Snapshots are really a great feature in Scrivener. You have versions in Ulysses and can rewind to an older version. But with Snapshots you could easily access all previous versions (if you made a snapshot) and just copy and paste some text from there or just re-read how you wrote it, without having to replace the current document. What I thought of was creating a shortcut (and keyboard maestro macro on the Mac) that just duplicates the Ulysses sheet to a dedicated “snapshots” folder. But I didn’t find a way to duplicate a sheet. Maybe you have to copy the content and paste it into a new document, that should automatically be created in that snapshots folder. But should that be a global folder or a new one for each project? In Scrivener it’s linked to the document directly, but out of sight if you don’t need it. Having a global folder in Ulysses would make it cluttered. But setting up a new one for each project could’t be automated or could it?

Besides that, I want to use Aeon Timeline more extensively now, especially because it can give you more of that visual representation that I will miss from Scrivener. It’s supposed to sync with Ulysses, but I didn’t have the time to try that yet.


FYI thriller writer Matt Gemmell exclusively uses Ulysses on his iPad to write. He detailed how he uses the app in the blog posts below, and he also created some downloadable theme styles you can find in the Theme Gallery if you search his name.


Thanks Robert for doing so :slight_smile:

Complementary thoughts, on my end, were focussed on the nitty-gritty.

  • Notes: indeed, several distinct notes attached to a single document is a big plus on Ulysses’ side. It should be noted that these fields “kind of” support Markdown – there’s no real preview as in the main editor, but still some kind of syntax highlighting.
  • Goals: Ulysses does support goals and deadlines like Scrivener does, however you cannot have deadlines and daily writing quotas on filters, only on groups.
  • That means that you cannot replicate easily an interesting feature of Scrivener where you can check a box to include a document in compile or not (for instance if you have a big notes document in the middle of a manuscript – the notes will have to live elsewhere). Your goal will include whatever is included in the group (including notes documents if you have some).
  • One of the major features of Scrivener for me is the ability to have a “bird’s eye view” of your manuscript with the document titles and outlines. That can be replicated using the comment tags for Markdown: ++ for the document title, for instance, %% for the outline.
  • Indeed, no snapshot feature, but Scrivener on iOS doesn’t have it either. You can, however, freeze a given backup of your Ulysses database and keep it, although it will be tied to that device and not sync to others, making the search for an anterior version of a document a bit clunky.

Great, thanks!
How do you proceed, once you formatted headers and outlines like you said? Can you reduce the view to see only those formatted aspects?

Any ideas on how to automate copies of sheets in order to emulate the snapshots?

I just read this in the article Bowline linked above:

Blockquote I create a filter group for each project which just lists scenes with annotations, which provides me with a ready-made (and always up to date) list of scenes that need attention.

That is very handy!

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Also, in 2017 (before those two blog posts I linked to above) Gemmell wrote on his blog about how he structures his writing in Ulysses.


Honestly, even if I’m still an architect kind of writer, I don’t outline scene by scene very far in advance (although I keep telling myself I should :sweat_smile:). This outline kind of structure sort of grows organically through the writing, so it allows me to see where I come from, to get a sense or where the story wants to go.

Haven’t thought much on automating the “snapshot” feature. I’m guessing two things:

  • Simply copy and paste in a separate note in the same document (probably easier and straightforward – allows you to date and keep whatever you want whenever you want to, probably the way I’ll go)
  • Fix something up with Shortcuts on iOS (but platform-limited)

As a side note, the more I work with Ulysses, the more I like it, especially the sync indicators ala Evernote, which always tell you what uploads and what downloads. Scrivener, despite its power, increasingly feels like something from a previous era.

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Another advantage of Scrivener is that you can have project specific settings. In Ulysses all keywords etc. will be available to every document which I guess will make things cluttered after a while.


In the update that dropped today, Ulysses allows to designate sheets as “resources”, excluding them from stats and compilation. This exactly the aforementioned feature of Scrivener “Include in compilation” and I am soooo excited this was added to Ulysses because I use it all the time.
The gap is narrowing between both apps. I have a small book planned by the end of the year and I’m excited to put Ulysses through its paces for a middle-sized project.

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