Scrivener vs. Ulysses: Which Writing Tool Should You Buy?

Should you buy Scrivener or Ulysses? That’s a tough question that many writers, students and educators ask themselves.

If you’re serious about writing and want to take your writing skills to the next level, you may want to consider investing in paid wiring tools like Scrivener or Ulysses. Both of these writing softwares boost a good reputation among writers owing to the wide array of writing features they offer, which makes your life as a serious writer MUCH easier! 

However, since all writing apps have their flaws, both Scrivener and Ulysses are not flawless. Additionally, since they differ in many aspects, different writers with different tastes will not agree on one of them. For this reason, we’re comparing these two distinct (yet comparable) writing tools to help you figure out which one is better for your own needs. And at the end of the article, we’re going to tell you which app we believe has the most perks compared to the other, and you can then choose whichever one you think is the perfect fit for you.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. The different features for Scrivener
  2. The different features for Ulysses
  3. How the two measure up to each other

There is actually another tool that we recommend more than Scrivener OR Ulysses, and it's called Atticus. It's not just a great writing program built for authors, but it's also the best book formatting platform on the market. If you want to know why it's our favorite, check out our comparison of the best writing software on the market.

Check Out Atticus!

So, Scrivener vs. Ulysses, which one is better for writing?

Scrivener vs. Ulysses writting

1. Price

Ulysses is not the cheapest writing app available, costing $49.99 per year and $5.99 each month if you choose to pay monthly. However, when compared to the other existing apps, Ulysses provides a wealth of writing features that not all writing apps do. If you want to test the waters before subscribing to Ulysses, you can sign up for a 14-day free trial. Moreover, academic staff and students are both eligible for an educational discount from Ulysses. You can find pricing information on Apple's App Store. The Ulysses app description includes all of the various subscription choices. To apply for the Ulysses student discount, you must provide proof of identity. Ulysses also accepts any documentation that proves you are a member of academic staff or a student.

It’s worth noting that although Ulysses has more features, not all writers can afford it, especially since many similar features are available for free or at least at a better price in other apps. Don’t get us wrong, though, we believe Ulysses is worth investing in, but before making a decision, be sure you actually need to use its extra features and that there is no other cheaper software that can provide you with everything you need; otherwise, Ulysses provides good value for money!

As for Scrivener, it doesn’t require you to subscribe and pay each month or yearly like Ulysses does. Instead, you only have to buy it once, and it’s yours forever! Windows or macOS licenses cost $49. Similar to Ulysses, Scrivener offers students an educational discount, so they can get a license for $41.65. Moreover, if you own an iPod touch, iPad, or iPhone, you can get Scrivener for $19.99.

While Ulysses has a free trial of only 14 days, Scrivener offers a free trial of 30 days for macOs and Windows users only, giving you a better opportunity to explore and use all of its features before you can decide to purchase the software. Even better, since Scrivener's trial period only includes the days on which you used the app, you can only use Scrivener 3 times a week (instead of daily), extending the free trial to 10 weeks! 

So, while Ulysses offers great features, most people would prefer paying only once to get a writing app instead of having to pay each month or year, unless you only want to use the app for a month or two, in this case, Ulysses would be a better option. 

Winner: Scrivener. 

2. Device Compatibility

Ulysses can only be used by Apple users, which is one of its biggest drawbacks that prevents many non-Apple users from using it. But Scrivener is available on macOS, iOS, and Windows. So almost everyone can buy and enjoy the features that Scrivener offers. Another point for Scrivener! 

Winner: Scrivener. 

3. Distraction-free Environment

Writers detest distractions— if they’re going to choose a certain writing tool, it just has to be distraction-free. Distraction can reduce the quality of your writing and potentially lengthen the time it takes to complete the task. There are some writing apps that display too many tools and notifications on the UI that don’t help you focus on your project, which is extremely frustrating and can reduce the overall quality of your work.

Distraction-free Environment of Ulyssis

Ulysses has a modern, minimalistic user interface that is designed to help you focus while writing. Ulysses also enables you to change almost every feature they offer to ensure you’re comfortable in your working environment. Thanks to its typewriter mode, dark mode, minimal mode, and full screen mode, Ulysses allows you to focus on your work without distractions. Dark mode is a godsend for individuals who stay up late working on large projects with a lot of words. Fullscreen mode is also super useful since it isolates you from everything else and allows you to focus just on your project. 

Another great feature of Ulysses is typewriter mode, which is pretty effective in helping you focus only on the piece you're writing—it highlights the paragraph, sentence, or line you're working on. Ulysses’s Fixed Scrolling feature is also a great way to eliminate distractions; it keeps the line you're working on fixed – whether at the bottom, middle, or top of your screen – while you scroll. Plus, Ulysses allows you to hide and show any extra pane you find distracting by swiping right or left.

As for Scrivener, it offers a Distraction Free Mode that can help you focus more on your work. If you want to remove any distractions from your screen, such as notifications, icons, menus, or tabs, you can also turn on Full-Screen mode. This mode is particularly useful when you find yourself in the middle of your work surrounded with unnecessary distractions and want to get rid of them at the touch of a button.

Scrivener likewise has a minimalist design, but it has additional features. . You can also ensure that you’re working in a comfortable environment by changing the font, its size and its color to your taste, as well as text alignment, among other things.

While both apps are great when it comes to providing a distraction-free working environment, Ulysses is more rich in features that allow you to relax and focus while working on your project.

Winner: Ulysses.

4. Organizational Features

Your Apple device also has something similar to folders called Groups, which enables you to save similar projects in one spot. We highly recommend that you use Groups to organize the projects that you work on using Ulysses. Groups can also contain subgroups if you want to be extra organized. For instance, a Group that is called ‘Romeo and Juliet’ can include other Draft subgroups, allowing you to edit and finish your project in the form of drafts temporarily until you finish it and save it in the Published subgroup.  

Scrivener does not work the same as Ulysses does. Scrivener organizes your work based on your projects, meaning that you can save the documents you want within the project you create. Scapple, Scrivener’s sister product, is a great service that’s designed to make you the brain maps you need to be productive. The main disadvantage of Scapple is that it’s not a built-in feature that comes with Scrivener— it requires you to spend more money to enjoy its features. 

So, while Ulysses enables you to organize your work with groups and subgroups, the structure that Scrivener offers is better organized and enables you to navigate more smoothly through your work.

Winner: Scrivener. 

5. Export Options

Ulysses allows you to export your work to a variety of file formats, including PDF, DOCX, and HTML.  After finishing your project, Ulysses' Quick Export tool allows you to quickly export it to the most popular types of formats. You can even directly publish it by choosing ‘Publishing’ from Quick Export. Moreover, Ulysses allows you to preview your finished work first before exporting it. You also have the option to send your work to another person via iMessage or email. 

Similar to Ulysses, Scrivener allows you to export your final project to a variety of formats, including PDF, Microsoft Word, and RTF. You can also export your work to MultiMarkdown or as an e-book. However, Scrivener is not the fastest software when it comes to exporting your work. While it offers many options for exporting your project, the Compile screen is truly unique, but it can make the exporting process less smooth. You get to export the folders and documents from your work, use keywords to filter out documents, delete comments, and many other formatting options that you can try before exporting. After that, you get to export the final project to seventeen different formats.

While Scrivener has a strong approach, Ulysses offers the feature that most writers look for: ease of use. 

Winner: Ulysses.

6. Backup & Sync

Ulysses App back up

The backup option is important in any app because it may prevent your valuable project from being lost forever. Ulysses automatically saves the words you wrote every 12 hours, 7 days, and 6 months, allowing you to quickly restore them anytime you want. Any backup you require can be found in your Mac's Library. Ulysses has an automatic backup option to ensure that your work is always protected. One of Ulysses' useful features is version history, which saves every word you type. This function allows you to easily restore any word that you deleted or altered hours or even days ago.

Scrivener also protects your work using an automatic backup. If you close your work, Scrivener saves everything you wrote by default as a backup. You can find the backup files on Windows by choosing AppData>Local>LiteratureAndLatte>Scrivener>Backups. You can also find them on your Mac by going to the home folder and selecting Library>Application Support>Scrivener>Backups. However, you need to close the project first to enable the backup feature, which is not great for people who work on long projects and don’t close them very often.

Winner: Ulysses

7. Collaboration & Version Control

All writers can relate to this — you spend a lot of time working on a certain part of your text and suddenly realize it doesn’t look as good as you thought, making you want to restore an older version of that part. It’s frustrating, but both Ulysses and Scrivener have you covered in this area! 

On the one hand, you get to benefit from Scrivener's ‘Snapshot' feature to have versions of your content locked. This feature works flawlessly on both Windows and Mac devices.

Ulysses, on the other hand, is a different story. While you get to save your work’s previous versions, this feature is only available on the Mac device, and is not available on the mobile version.

Scrivener does not come with a sharing feature, which prevents you from smoothly using any third party services or sharing your work. Plus, you cannot use Scrivener on more than one device. As a result, it isn’t an excellent option for collective work. While Ulysses also does not come with a sharing feature, it still offers a smooth integration with third party services that makes sharing text and folders easy. Sadly, though, collaborating with another person through Ulysses is not possible. 

Despite the fact that this was a close contest, Ulysses outperforms Scrivener when it comes to providing a better version control feature and sharing content through third-party services.

Winner: Ulysses.

8. Images & Notes

When it comes to supporting image inclusion and note taking, both Ulysses and Scrivener are reliable. In both apps, you can use features that help you take notes while working, as well as import them from other locations.

There are several places where you can store your references and notes. Ulysses and Scrivener allow you to make new documents and folders to store all items you need, including notes. There’s also an additional sidebar besides the primary one in each app that you can quickly hide if you don't think you’re going to use it soon. A great method to add links, notes, quotes, and references, to a particular part of your project is through this additional sidebar. This enables you to store them and use them when you need too

You may sometimes need to add images to your work, which is super useful when you have a certain picture of your locations and characters in mind and want to show it in your project. Luckily, including and importing images is available in both Ulysses and Scrivener.

It’s clear that both Ulysses and Scrivener offer almost the same quality when it comes to supporting image inclusion and note taking.

It’s a tie.

The Final Verdict: Which One is Better for Writing?

While both apps are excellent for writers and students, we have to pick a winner… To conclude, Ulysses wins overall when compared to Scrivener. It offers better features and more control when it comes to eliminating on-screen distractions, exporting your work, backing it up, and collaborating on it and sharing it with others. However, if you do not own an iOS or MacOS device, you cannot take advantage of any of its features. And if you find Ulysses too expensive, not great when it comes to organizing your work, or if you own a Windows or Android device, Scrivener is a great alternative. That was it for our comparison between Ulysses and Scrivener. Have a look at the too and pick whichever one you think is better for you!

Additionally, we do not recommend that you get either option. Instead, we recommend Atticus as not only the best writing software, but the best formatting software as well. Not only is it priced on a lifetime guarantee so you will never have to pay for updates, but it's available on virtually every platform.

Check Out Atticus Today!

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