Writing

How to double your manuscript control in Ulysses

People are funny about computers. They use them day in and day out, often in quite complex ways, but sometimes miss the most obvious of useful options. One of these on a Mac is full-screen mode. It’s been around for years. With some apps it’s not much use because they work in one window only.

But if your app does the magic ‘new window’ trick, as Ulysses does, then you are in for a treat. I’m not going to show you any screenshots to illustrate this because really they’d all be the same. And since Ulysses is best used in the most minimal of fashions, as it is above, you wouldn’t learn much anyway.

So let me describe the situation instead and if you have Ulysses in front of you try it there.

Here’s the problem. You have a book manuscript. It consists of chapters and scenes, broken down into folders and sheets in Ulysses. How do you manage all these different parts?

The conventional way is to skip between them in the sidebar, as you would with headings in Word or documents in Scrivener. This works. A more sophisticated solution is to command click relevant documents in the sidebar so you can edit in a non-contiguous fashion as I describe here.

But there is another way. Go to your top level project folder, right click and open it in a new window. A full screen new window. You now have two windows on the same project. You can move swiftly between them using a swipe of a trackpad or, in my case, Control right or left click.

Use one window for writing — in other words leave it in the sheet you’re working on. Use the second window to navigate the whole project, finding earlier references, doing searches, browsing and adding notes to the management sheets. I’ve been working this way now for several weeks on the work in progress. It is, without a doubt, the most efficient way of managing a manuscript I’ve found to date. All the other note apps I used, from Evernote to Notesuite and OneNote, are now unnecessary. I simply put the info I want in a Ulysses note sheet in the project management folder and keep everything there.

If you wanted you could have more than two full screen windows on the same project too. Though I’d find my brain peaking if that were the case. You may feel differently.

How effective is this? I’ve written 60,000 words in a month. Good words too I think, not rushed, just very tightly controlled on a daily basis. Need I say more?