For the last few days, I have been experimenting with different writing tools: IA Writer, Ulysses, and Emacs. As you know, I am an avid emacs user for everything from programming, to reading my RSS feeds, and even email. This week, however, I have ventured out to look at other writing tools for my blog. The trigger was DHH’s article on living with more than one computer (more on this later).

Why? You might ask. My iPad is NOT a great tool when it comes to open source software. And by “great”, I mean that it’s not as straight forward as I’d like it to be. Sure, you could install a terminal emulator like iSH, and then install emacs inside, but how do we figure out the filesystem? (yes, I know, Apple limitation). But the temptation of simpler is too powerful sometimes and I have been bitten by the bug of trying something new. What can I say, we all like shiny new things.

Initial thoughts

I’m writing this on iA Writer on MacOS. I love that I can either use iCloud or Dropbox to sync the documents and keep writing on my iPad using my keyboard on the go. Yes, this does happen often enough for me to justify the effort. To export it, I do use a bit of git magic and run a script on the server to deploy. Not the easiest but not the hardest either. My new photography blog is running on WordPress. Both iA Writer and Ulysses (and for that matter emacs) can directly publish to WordPress, which is nice. But I’m not convinced that I want to move back to this platform for my personal blog. At least not yet.

The nice thing about iA Writer is that it’s a one time payment. That’s it. Yes, you do need to pay per platform, but you don’t need to upgrade if you don’t make enough use of the tool. Ulysses, however, is a subscription ($39.99 as of this writing). All platforms. I tend to favor one-time payments rather than subscriptions, this is a con against Ulysses.

When it comes to platforms, iA Writer has a slight edge here, because it supports Windows and Android (separate purchases) in addition to Apple platforms. Neither app supports Linux. Ulysses only supports Apple platforms. I don’t want to close myself to any platforms, as I have been doing more on Windows lately. I have realized that as long as I can share a keyboard, sync my documents, and have a few common applications, it’s not hard to live in Windows (here comes all the hate now). As long as I don’t have to do much terminal work (thankfully there’s WSL) or Windows sysadmin type of things, I feel good.

That being said, I will keep test-driving both apps and perhaps come back with another review. Why do I make no promises? What can I say, I have commitment issues.