So, a ‘writing app’ for me needs to be multifaceted and easy to use. It has to support markdown (that’s just how my brain works) and if possible make it easy to connect to. My current set up is none of those things but here’s why it’s the best thing I have ever found (that sounds like clickbait to me).
My trusty notes app for collecting simple ideas and quick notes has barely changed. I have tried using the default iOS app for writing full posts too and although it does OK, it just doesn’t cut it for publishing or copying posts into other apps. I use this mostly using Siri or Shortcuts to grab quick bits of information to refer to later.
There are many, many things that I blame Matt Birchler for, and the vastest one of these is introducing me to this ‘app’. His excellent overview of Roam immediately hit home because of its powerful linking and note taking options. It isn’t a writing app at all, but has allowed me to write more than I ever have done simply by working the same way my brain does.
All of my posts start with a spark of an idea, it might be someone else’s blog post, a news article or something I have consumed during the day. Ideas jump out at me at all sorts of times and I quite often tap out the basis of a post in short bullet points of things to cover. Traditional note taking apps allow you to move between notes in a very restricted way, whereas with Roam I can use bidirectional links to string things together and notice connections I wouldn’t usually find.
I also use Roam for gathering meeting notes, collecting together information for my day job and also writing my morning pages, so to have something that can do everything for me is something truly rare for me.
The downside of Roam is that it is expensive, and isn’t really an app per se. It’s simply a progressive web app, and so some shortcoming on mobile exist — this isn’t an issue for me, but will be for some that prefer a more native app experience.
There is still nothing quite like Ulysses for fleshing out and finishing a post and hitting publish. It’s minimalistic but powerful workspace suits my needs perfectly. If Roam was my outliner and research bucket, Ulysses is where I polish the post until I am happy with it. For most posts my bullets and outlines are copied into Ulysses for me to finish off, tidy up and hit publish once ready.
That is not to say I couldn’t copy straight from Roam in markdown and publish to my blog, but I like to take the long way around. For continuity’s sake I then copy the finished article back into Roam with a blog post link incase I need to refer to it later. This keeps everything really neat and tidy. I may in future look at publishing with another app, and cut down my subscriptions costs, but currently these things fit really well together.