Ulysses Writing App

I have written before about the use of writing app’s as an aid to productivity so I won’t repeat myself here. I will however tell you about my experience with Ulysses, as writing tool from The Soul Men. It’s not exactly new but it’s new to me and, so far, I love its simplicity.

Since acquiring an iPad Air I have been looking for a writing app which is easy to use and fully functional on this device. I have waited for Scrivener to deliver their much promised iOS version which is now on the market and working fine. Anyone who uses Scrivener will know what a great tool this is particularly as it is now a true cross platform piece on Mac, iOS and Windows via the Dropbox cloud storage facility. But whilst I was waiting for the iOS Scrivener App to be developed I discovered this wonderful writing app called Ulysses and fell for it immediately.

It’s quite unlike anything I’ve used before. It is so simple and clean that it inspires the writing process. I am currently writing this post on my iPad and it is set in ‘Typewriter’ mode which means the line I type is always in the same place and so I look at a single line of text as I’m typing it on the page. This stops the distraction of looking back at what I’ve typed previously and so I’m not flitting back and forth, editing as I work. (This has always hampered my progress, as I constantly ‘fiddle’ with work I’ve written but I don’t wait until the draft is done)

There is full Mac version too and also an iPhone app and they all work in iCloud so there is an almost instant update on all these devices without the need to do anything but type. It removes the need for the writer to constantly save work as it is saved automatically in iCloud, if you have an Internet connection or updates immediately you go back online. I can’t remember how many pieces of work I’ve lost because I failed to save them properly. There is so much more to this great bit of software which I don’t,t intend to describe here but I would encourage you to have a look at it.

Look in the App Store for it, you won’t be disappointed. Sadly, there is no Windows version. Or check out the website http://ulyssesapp.com

Grammarly et al

I’ve fallen in love with Grammarly, an app extension of Google Chrome but also available in Windows. It seems to work really well and monitors your use of grammar and spelling, even on those websites which don’t normally spell check for you. (Something I have found to be essential in recent years). On initial set-up, you advise it to use either UK English or the USA English dictionary, alleviating a source of irritation that most spell checkers present to UK writers.

The added bonus is that it checks the grammar too, so the occasional incorrect word use is highlighted immediately. In effect, it’s doing a form of first line proofreading for you.

It’s available to use in its free version but enhanced features are added if you subscribe  to the Premium, where it monitors many more areas of your text including sentence structure and writing style issues.

Have a look at the website https://app.grammarly.com/

I think you may like it too (No I’m not on commission)

2016 Reading List

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Ray Bradbury

I’ve just signed up to the Goodreads book challenge 2016. It’s where you decide how many books you wish to read during the year. It’s not really a challenge, as such, but I’ve never actually counted how many I read on average. I had already decided that this year I would keep a tally but the challenge means I don’t have to bother. When I start a new book or end one I merely go onto the website and enter the details and they keep track  for me. It is also a good place to discover what other readers think about the next book you are considering. Others can rate and comment on any book they have read and likewise you can do the same once you either complete the book or give it up.

I just wondered how you choose what books you buy and read? Is it by author, genre, number of pages or perhaps even a bright book cover? Sometimes a thousand pages can be a little daunting and maybe even half that number can seem like an uphill struggle. Or perhaps there is the perfect novel hidden behind a plain and boring cover. I  tend to follow an author I’ve already read, although that can sometimes be disappointing, but more recently I’ve gone by recommendations. Sometimes those come from friends or from blog posts or suggestions via email. I have, for many years, subscribed to the Everyday Ebooks website. From here they send out a daily recommendation with a comment from a reader. I have discovered some great books on here, notably ‘Matterhorn’ by Karl Marlantes. Someone I’d never heard of before but it turned out to be one of the best and memorable stories of the Vietnam war I’ve ever read. Based on true events and real people it is not for the faint hearted but exciting and impossible to put down.

So how do you decide what book to read next?

A Map as Your Muse – Writing 101 – Day 18

atozleedsThe steady rhythm of the windscreen wipers trying to dissipate the water was deafening in the angry silence that followed their row. Danny drove on and Sarah glared at the crumpled page of the A to Zed in her hand, trying to decipher exactly where they were. The streets were deserted in the heavy rain and the yellow glow of the street lamps was shrouded in mist, making it impossible to read the names of the roads they were travelling along.

If you would’ve let me buy that Sat-Nav’, like I wanted to, we wouldn’t be in this mess” he said, his temper abating somewhat. Sarah ignored him and stared through the murk.

Everyone has them. Nobody bothers with stupid maps any more. We live in an electronic age now. It’s a paperless society”.

Shaking her head slowly, she glared at her husband as he searched for some clue to their whereabouts.

Goodwin Street” he shouted. “We’re on Goodwin Street; see if you can find it”?

She scanned the fine print of the index. “G-a, g-e, g-i, g-o” she went through her alphabet aloud. He found it annoying but stayed silent. Goodwin Street fell behind them as he crawled past the next junction with another unnamed road.

After several minutes a white van sped past them and narrowly missed the front of their car as the driver cut in too quickly.

Idiot” Danny shouted to the fast disappearing van. Sarah continued looking for Goodwin Street, without success.

Marshall Terrace” he called out excitedly and she, once again, began the process of following the index with her finger and calling out the letters of the alphabet as she passed them. The rainfall continued, turning the road into a river. They approached a small supermarket, it’s lights bright in the gloom and he stopped the car outside. Danny went inside and approached the counter where a disinterested young girl was sat looking at her phone. She ignored him.

Excuse me” said Danny but the girl still refused to lift her head from the phone. Just then the bell chimed as another customer entered the shop. The girl looked over and smiled at the boy who came in. He walked up to the counter and stepped in front of Danny.

Hey, I was first” said Danny but both youngsters totally ignored his protestations. The girl passed the youth twenty cigarettes which he pocketed and winked at her. He turned and headed for the door.

Be careful, it’s the anniversary of the crash.” She called. “The one with that couple, who drove into the river and drowned”.

He turned and laughed “Yes I remember, she was found holding an A to Zed. It wouldn’t happen today. Not with Sat-Nav’s everywhere.

Writing Software I use

I know, we all have our favourite writing tools but I thought I would talk about my current preference. I understand a lot of writers use Microsoft Word, and why not, we’ve all used it over the years. I don’t at the moment as I run Linux Mint instead of Windows as my operating system and Word won’t run on Linux. So my go-to software for basic writing is Libre Office, currently version five, which is fully compatible with documents written in Word. Big bonus here is that there is a Windows version and all versions are FREE. So if you can’t find the money to buy the latest Microsoft offering try it out here.


The software I use for longer projects is Scrivener. I went through a phase of trying out specific writers software and I tried lots of them. I narrowed it down to YWriter and Scrivener, partly because both are designed by writers, not just code compilers. I like the way that any manuscript is broken down into individual parts which can simply be moved into any order you might want and I don’t have to scroll through pages and pages of text. I merely click on the part that I want to change or add to. It’s also available on Windows, Mac OS and Linux and one small fee guarantees life long updates. You can download it from their website  and use it, full featured for a month. Added to that there is currently an offer for those entering NaNoWriMo of 20% discount. (I’m not on commission, bye the way. I just like it)

For quick notes and memo’s I use Google Keep as it works cross platform and sync’s instantly across my laptop, phone and tablet. Again, it’s free and very quick and easy to use. I used to use Evernote and I still do use the Web Clipper part but Keep its much simpler

I recently added Journey, which again is semi-cross platform as currently it only seems to work with Google Chrome but apps for Android/IOS are available. It’s a diary/journal which is available in a free version but I paid the small fee for the full application. It automatically adds, weather, time, date and location to any entry you make.

I think they aid, without taking over the writing process. Give them a look

I’m one of the Baby Boomer Generation

Bay of Biscay from Int Space Sts

Yes, I am a baby boomer. Not through choice, of course, who of any of us has the choice of where and when we are born; and indeed, who our parents and siblings are. I do feel very lucky to have been born in the boomer generation though and have greatly appreciated the amount of total choice afforded me and my generation.

I was born in the middle of 1949, just a few years after the end of the Second World War when Britain was starting to recover and rebuild. A time when there was great feeling of renewal and a promise of a settled and prosperous future. Not that baby me thought in that way of course, I just wondered when my next feed was coming. Growing up, through the 50’s meant I was part of the old world. The world on no inflation where a tin of beans cost exactly the same from one month to the next, something unheard of in today’s world. Then, as  teenager in the 1960’s, the world of fabulous music, great British and American music was all around and it was exciting to be part of it. It has been said that this was the best time for new music creation and I agree but then I’m a little biased.

When I left school and entered the world of work in 1964 I was offered three jobs to chose from and that was without any qualifications or experience, again something which is unheard of now. All my early working life the grass was always greener elsewhere and so I went, tried it, found it wasn’t and moved on again. Jobs for a lot of us were like that. It’s only in later life that I had to consider the difficulties of changing employment rather than just hand in my notice and walk straight into several other jobs at will.

My generation also had the benefit of the space race, an age where technology went bonkers and began what we know now as “The paper cup society” where everything has built in obsolescence and people have to have the latest of anything and the best designer clothes to keep up with their neighbours.

Had I chosen to got to University I would have been given a grant; a state handout to fund me through my studies and pay for my alcohol. Again something which has changed as students leave their place of learning with low job prospects and with huge debts to contend with before they even think about buying houses, marriage and children.

So I thank my parents for deciding to have me at what has turned out to be one of the optimum times of life. Long may it continue


Book or E-Reader?

So what do you think? It seems that all of a sudden, to me anyway, the prefered reading source is fast becoming the e-reader. I’ve seen lots of other people using them but never used one myself. It’s a pity that the manufacturers don’t give a fourteen day test period so I can try one. My friends and colleagues who have bought them all say, without any dissenters, that they are excellent; but are they justifying another purchase which will end up on a shelf or at the back of a cupboard or are they a real breakthrough? I’d like to examine the evidence and try to be as impartial as I can be, so I thought I might look at the pro’s and con’s of them both. I do have some Kindle and Kobo books on my laptop but I have yet to read more than a couple of pages.

E-Reader – (From what I am told/read)

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Can hold thousands of books
  • Adjustable font size
  • Long battery life
  • Easy to read screen
  • Some have built-in dictionary
  • Some books are free or on offer
  • It’s another electronic gizmo
  • Needs charging from a power source
  • You can’t pass the book around once you’ve read it
  • It’s not a book
  • You don’t get that impression of how far through the story you are
  • After working with computers all day/evening – would I want to curl up in bed with another type?

Books – (From my experience)

  • Available almost anywhere
  • Low cost (Generally – especially if you buy second-hand, as I do)
  • It’s a book – feel, smell and the page turning experience
  • Never goes flat – doesn’t need charging
  • Simply bookmarking it allows you to see how far into the story you are
  • You can see what others are currently reading, when on the train
  • Continual source of reference
  • Looks good on a bookshelf
  • Exciting to browse amongst
  • Can be bulky and heavy to carry, especially when travelling/holiday etc – hardbacks particularly
  • Fonts can be small and difficult to read in low light
  • Pages can fall out in some circumstances
  • Can be defaced

So looking at the evidence, I can see a place for the e-reader, particularly for people who travel a lot or are going on holiday. But unless someone gives me one I can’t see the additional costs of an e-reader tempting me away from the real thing; for the time being anyway.

What about you?