jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Day One, Ulysses, and Bear

I’ve been using, and subscribing to, Ulysses, Bear, and Day One for a while now. It seems a bit silly, especially since they all do basically the same thing. On the surface they are all writing apps, but once I start to think a little deeper about them I can see where the differences lay.


Ulysses is for writing, the act of thinking through ideas and putting them on a page. That’s what it’s designed for, and that’s what it’s best at. That’s why the first draft of my book is in here. In long-form writing and exporting text into multiple formats, Ulysses excels. Even the little features, like daily writing goals, are geared towards helping you be the best writer you can be.


Bear can do most of the things that Ulysses can do, but less elegantly. Bear can store long-form text, but that’s not what it’s designed for, it’s designed to be the notebook you keep in your back pocket. It’s a note-taking app. A storage space for bits of code, a Zettelkasten for keeping bits of information that I might need some day. There’s quite a bit of overlap between Ulysses and Bear, but the features slightly lean one way or the other, for taking notes in Bear, and writing projects in Ulysses.

Day One

This is my journal. Day One is a diary app, a place to record and reflect on where you’ve been and what you’ve done throughout the day. It’s my running journal, a record of films I’ve watched and what I thought of them. It’s my ongoing record of my life… travels and all. It’s also, recently, where I’ve started storing my daily work journal.

What I’d Lose

I suppose the reason I’m using Ulysses less is because I’m not doing quite as much long-form writing. If I got back to blogging regularly, and if I made an effort to work on my book, I’d have more time spent in this app. But, it seems like I need Bear far more often for my day job, and even this text I’m writing now is going to end up in Day One, or maybe on my blog.

If I moved my journaling into this app, I’d lose the end-to-end encryption and location recording that Day One does. Day One makes a note of the weather, the date and time, and address where you recorded the entry. I’d lose all that in moving to Ulysses.

If I moved my note-taking into Ulysses, I feel like I might lose some of the mental separation between my writing and my notes. I’d also lose Bear’s code blocks and syntax highlighting, which I use all the time. I’ve got a lot of little code snippets and command line scripts saved in Bear, and Ulysses just doesn’t capture code blocks the same way.

So, in the end, I’m sticking with the three writing apps. Their role is well-defined, they fit in my workflow, and they’ve earned my trust. I suppose that’s all I can ask for.

apps productivity