iOS Customization Guide

| By Philip

There are many details in Ulysses that you can adjust according to your likes and preferences, allowing you to create a writing environment fit for your creativity. Below, you’ll find a 10-step-guide to customize your text editor on iPad or iPhone.

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPad. Only the editor with some text is visble. In the center, there’s a big diagonal line that splits the editor into a left and right side. The left side shows off Ulysses’ dark mode, while the right side shows off the light mode.

If you want to know how to do this on Mac, please head over to this article. Know that if you prefer to leave Ulysses as it is, no problem — it has been carefully designed for a clean and focused experience.

Before we start, open Ulysses on your iPad or iPhone, switch to the editor view and access the editor settings by tapping the AA icon. Spotted? Good. This is where the magic happens!

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone. The editor is visible and the editor settings in the top right have been highlighted.

Screenshot of the editor settings of Ulysses for iPhone.

Step 1: Find Your Preferred Theme

Themes define the colors of your background, font, and markup. Think of them as virtual wallpapers for your virtual writing studio. 

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone showing off the D12 theme.D12, Ulysses' default theme

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone showing off the iOS theme.Another built-in theme called Freestraction


Ulysses’ default is D12, a simple theme with high contrast, a focus on typography, and a rather sparse use of color. You can also choose one of the other pre-installed – carefully designed – themes. Each of them comes with a light and a dark version. 

If these are not yet what you are looking for, you can go to the Ulysses Style Exchange and select between a variety of themes created by fellow users. 

Here’s how:

  1. In the editor settings, tap Theme.
  2. Scroll down and tap “Visit the Ulysses Style Exchange…”. You will be redirected to your web browser.
  3. Choose your favorite theme and download it.
  4. Tap “Open in ‘Ulysses’”’ and… Tada, theme installed!

Step 2: Find Your Preferred Mode

What do you prefer for writing, light or dark? It depends, right? Activate or deactivate the “Dark Mode” option to select between a light background with dark fonts and a dark background with bright fonts. You can switch between them whenever you want — for example, use the dark mode if your eyes are tired at night.

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone showing off light mode.Light Mode

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone showing off dark mode.Dark Mode

Extra tip: If you prefer to write in dark mode, but find the export preview to bright, put on your sunglasses! In the preview window, tap on the sunglasses icon top right. Of course this will only affect the preview, not your exported document itself.

Step 3: Select a Font

Your default writing font is the iOS system font, San Francisco. It is undoubtedly an excellent choice, but you can always browse among the other available fonts and choose your favorite. You’ll find them in the settings under Font.

You can also upload and use your own, here’s how to do it:

  1. Transfer a font file (.ttf or .oft) to your iOS device, e.g., by saving it to your iCloud Drive, sending yourself a message, or downloading it from the web.
  2. Tap it and select “Copy to Ulysses”.
  3. Voilá! You will be redirected to Ulysses, where your new font is now installed.

Screenshot of a font file in iCloud drive. The share button has been tapped and one of the offered share actions is “Copy to Ulysses”.

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone showing off the newly imported font in the editor.

Step 4: Edit Layout Settings

Text Zoom, Line Height, Paragraph Spacing, First Line Indent… adjust them under Layout, in the editor settings.

Let’s assume you need less space between lines, or you think they are too far apart. Try changing the Line Height. Or do you feel your paragraphs are too close together? Then alter the Paragraph Spacing. When you wish to signal the start of a new paragraph distinctly, customize the First Line Indent. And last but not least, increase or decrease the text size in Text Zoom. Try it out and find your preferred look!

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone. The editor is using a small font size.

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone. The editor is using a big font size.

Step 5: Toggle Counter and Set Image Previews

Did you notice the floating counter at the bottom (iPhone) or on the right (iPad)? It lets you access comprehensive statistics about your current sheet, with metrics ranging from characters to paragraphs to reading aloud time. However, if you’re not so much into numbers, you can turn it off under “View Options”.

Here you can also tweak the size of image previews to anything between three and eight lines, and choose to show in full color (instead of black and white, which is the default). You can also turn off image previews completely; images in the text will then be indicated with a little tag. 

On iPad, there’s another setting available under “View Options”: Usually, the editor toolbar will fade out as soon as you start typing — if you activate “Always Show Toolbar”, you can prevent it from doing so.

Screenshot of the editor of Ulysses for iPhone. There’s an image embedded in the sheet, the image is represented by a small text bubble that says IMG on it.

Screenshot of the editor of Ulysses for iPhone. There’s an image embedded in the sheet, the image is represented by a small preview that shows the actual image.

Step 6: Hide the Library Sections You Don’t Need

These were the customizing options for your editor. We’ve got a couple more that affect your library and sheet list. Please switch to the library and tap the gear top left (iPhone) or bottom left (iPad) to open the general settings.

Your library has several sections, but you can opt to show only those you actually use: iCloud if you take advantage of cross-device sync; “On My iPad/iPhone”, if you choose to store your texts locally; or Dropbox. As a beginner, it certainly makes sense to keep the introduction within reach, but later you may want to hide it for the benefit of better focus. You can toggle sections in the general settings under Library.

Screenshot of the Library of Ulysses for iPhone. The global settings in the top left of the screen have been highlighted.

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone. The global settings have been opened and the Library setting has been highlighted.

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone. The Library settings are visible, showing the toggles for “Favorites”, “External Files”, “Introduction”, “iCloud”, “On My iPhone” and “Dropbox”.

Step 7: Tweak Your Sheet List

The “View Options” in the general settings let you tweak the sheet preview in your sheet list. You can set it to anything between one and six lines. Also, you can opt to hide the creation/modification date of your sheet, if it is not relevant to your writing.

Screenshot of the sheet list of Ulysses for iPhone. There are five sheets visible, each sheet showing a preview of four lines and the date of their last modification.

Screenshot of the sheet list of Ulysses for iPhone. Each sheet only shows a preview of two lines, but there are 9 sheets visible.

Step 8: Collapse or Expand Your Groups

If you keep a lot of writing projects in Ulysses, your list of groups and subgroups can get long and hard to oversee. Luckily, you may collapse and expand subgroups whenever needed, by merely tapping the double arrow next to a group’s name.

Screenshot of the Library of Ulysses for iPhone. There are many groups visible, all of them are collapsed.

Screenshot of the Library of Ulysses for iPhone. The group “Writing Projects” has been expanded, revealing the subgroups “In Review”, “For Maddy”, “Prose”, “Poetry” and “Drama”.

Step 9: Focus on a Group

You’re on a deadline and want to focus exclusively on a particular project? Forget about anything else? Then you may find the group focus feature helpful. To you hide all groups except the one you’re currently working on, just swipe right on the group’s name and tap the open record icon. 

When you’re done and want to show the other groups again, do the same.

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone. A group in the library has been swiped to the right, revealing the Focus action.

Screenshot of Ulysses for iPhone. The group has been put into focus mode, so all other groups have been hidden.

Step 10: Consider an External Keyboard

External keyboards are great for many reasons. They effectively leave more space for your writing on the screen, and some find it more practical, especially when writing longer texts. Ulysses supports typing on an external keyboard and allows to speed up your writing with a number of keyboard shortcuts.

An iPad Pro sits on top of a table using the Smart Keyboard as its stand.

 This article was last updated on June 26, 2018.

iOS Customization Guide

Custom-tailor your iPad or iPhone writing environment, to best spark focus and productivity