Add custom fonts to Ulysses

The Soulmen GbR recently released an update to the iOS version of industrial strength text editor Ulysses which, among a plethora of other nice new features, notably added support for smaller screens like the iPhone. Enhanced synchronization through iCloud is also vastly better than ever before, so needless to say I was all teary-eyed with joy about this update. One feature caught my eye in particular, namely the option to add your own custom fonts. And so our story begins.

I am an incurable font addict, and the prospect of getting to customize the writing experience on such a fundamental level instantly spoke to me, and in a loud voice at that. However, the instructions I found on the f.a.q. page for doing so was a little on the flaky side:

How do I add fonts to the app?
Simply open a font file (.otf, .ttf, or .dfont) with Ulysses. The fonts are automatically imported into the app. You can also open a .zip file that contains multiple font files. For instance, try the font Courier Prime!

I didn’t get much wiser reading the blog post on the same subject either:

Ulysses’ default font ist Menlo, but you can change it to any system font. Alternatively, you can add a custom font just by opening an OTF or TTF file in Ulysses.

I wrote an e-mail to the Soulmen in order to investigate further, but before I got a reply* I had success installing some fonts in Ulysses on my iPad through iCloud. A new blog post was in order. I know, you’re welcome.

*I got a nice reply today, which admittedly was considerably more understandable:

Just go where you have the font file, i.e. in an e-mail or stored in the cloud, and double-tap or tap and hold. You’ll be prompted with options what to do with it. Choose Ulysses, and it will get installed.

However, I still feel that there’s room for a considerably more informative set of instructions on this topic, so without further ado, here goes:

  • E-mail
    You can e-mail the .ttf, .otf, .dfont (not tested by me) or .zip file(s) to yourself. Depending on which e-mail app you are using, there may be some trial and error in getting the pop-up dialog window where you can choose “Copy to Ulysses” to show (usually long-pressing or “Share” option, three dots icon (…), “Open in app” etc.), but once this is accomplished, the rest is smooth sailings. I tested this in Mail (Apple), Airmail and Spark. Feel free to elaborate in the comments.
  • Cloud
    I have tested Dropbox, iCloud, Box.net, Google Drive and CloudApp, and here are the results from the Norwegian jury: Forget Dropbox for this. I had no luck no matter what I did in getting Dropbox to open the file and offer any “Open in…” options. In Dropbox, you have to select the file (no preview will be available), select the square-with-an-upward-pointing-arrow “share” icon and look for the Open in… App Store icon in the bottom row of the pop-up, then choose “Copy to Ulysses”. Google Drive offers a similar procedure. I discovered both the Dropbox and Google Drive methods after searching a lot of different blogs on this particular subject. iCloud on the other hand was a breeze. It actually provides several different methods to get the file to “open” and offer up the “Copy to Ulysses” option. CloudApp worked fine, but they don’t have any official iPad app. I used ClouDrop and everything worked after a minimum of poking around after the three dots icon (…). Box.net was a breeze to use, and represents the most intuitive way to add custom fonts to Ulysses of all the methods in my “test”. The most common denominator seems to be the “Share” icon and/or the “…” icon (which I can only assume is a kind of iconography for the word “more”).
  • FTP
    I have a directory on my FTP server that I sometimes use as a convenient way to “send” large files or store things that I want fast and easy access to through the browser. I dropped a .zip archive with the magnificent Cousine* font in that directory, and (using Safari) immediately got the “Open in …” option flanked by “Open in Ulysses” to the right (which I assume was the result of repeatedly opening font files in Ulysses). The only drawback with this method seems to be that you would normally have to remember the complete path and file name+type. I do not recommend editing your .htaccess file or directory listing policies for this. That said, it was very easy to install custom fonts in Ulysses by way of an FTP server.

The verdict: It’s a tie between Box.net and e-mail. These two are at this time at a tie for being the easiest (or less difficult) ways to install custom fonts in Ulysses for iOS. Now go write something great, in a beautiful font (or vice versa).

UPDATE

I eventually found myself in a situation where I wanted to get rid of some of my newly self-installed fonts. Luckily, all you have to do to accomplish this is to open the settings tab in Ulysses (iOS), swipe left and press “Delete”. Now that is the kind of intuitive functionality that matches the use of Ulysses (and iOS) itself, and no web search required.

*Cousine is a beautiful, free monospaced font by Ascender Fonts with normal, italic, bold and bold italic weights. It shares some similarities with the Nitti font by Bold Monday.

EDIT (June 15th 2016)

Ulysses was named as one of the Apple Design Award winners at the WWDC monday night (June 13th 2016), and deservedly so. Congratulations are in order, so CHEERS!

 
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