Bear is a fully fledged writing app - my experiences and wishes as former ulysses user

(The text is a bit long but I felt like it :wink: )

It is ironical: actually the best feature of ulysses par excellence was that one that brought me to bear. When i start writing a text, generally essays to political, social and philosophical topics, i loved ulysses feature to create little chunks of text, organised in ulysses second pane and called sheets. Yes, in bear you call them notes and they are listed in the notes list. In that regard bear and ulysses are similar. I loved ulysses ability to select multiple notes that are displayed then in a continuous text in the editor. With the help of the feature to merge and glue sheets/notes i builded up larger pieces of prosa that finally ended in the text.

But last year i discovered the existence of so called notes apps with the ability to crosslink. I was fascinated by the concept of wiki- and backlinks but i was frustrated about this hyped tool called roam research: it promised to be my second brain but it forced my first brain to submit to it. Then i read somewhere that also bear supports wikilinks. I remembered immediately that it was this absolutely stunning looking app which i immediately deinstalled because of the lack of folders. My mindset was preformed by ulysses. I even didn’t took the time to discover the wikilinks. How ignorant!

It will be a hard and tedious work to transfer all my serious notes from zotero to bear but the effort will be worth it. Recently i discovered a bibtex plugin for obsidian that could help. I love the idea that the lines between note taking, pkm and writing are blurring. And in the meantime i do not laugh anymore at bear because it misses folder, i consider nested tags currently as the superior organisational element: they combine the power of folders and simple tags in one simple concept. Last but not least: bears wonderful editor gives me the best environment for writing. While in general i share ulysses markdown orientated approach that the formatting of the text doesn’t matter at all at writing, i love bears magic to let markdown text appear beautiful and inviting. I am wondering that in the world wide web bear is rather presented as pkm app than a writing app. Seemingly ulysses is alone on the far front when talking about markdown apps dedicated to writing. According to self-portrayal bear is a note app. But it is a pkm app and it is a writing app too. And it can be all of them three because of its minimalistic approach. Shiny Frog should bring these capabilities to the fore and advertise bear also as such an app.

Currently i am excited: many features i wished for bear as writing app are going to come sooner or later: the toc inside of a fourth panel is planned, the focus mode was promised* (please read footnote!) and even that nifty little feature at once seems probable. It gets better from day to day.

Last but not least the most important wishes i have for bear as writing app, hoping that the devs will at least consider them:

  • A goal tracker (word count)
  • The ability to reorder headings (including its containing sections) by drag and drop inside of the TOC. In lattics app i have seen so far the most friendly implementation of such a feature with best ux (much better than in ms word)
  • What i called above ulysses best or killer feature: the ability to select multiple notes and to view them in a continuous text in the editor. To make sense that feature also requires the manual ordering of notes as further sort option in the notes list what would certainly not be a trivial matter at implementation.

Have a nice weekend you all! :wink:

footnote (added 25.10.22 16:46):
I have to correct myself as @trix180 in one of his latest posts answered that at the moment the focus mode is not planned. I hope my wrong information do not cause confusion. As far as i remember now the focus mode was not promised but nevertheless the mods here in the forum asked the users how they would want it


Scrivener is a beast and belongs to another kind of writing software that has its own philosophy of design and special features for story planning, cork board and templates. If i would have to write with such a software it think i rather would be storyist as it is much cleaner. Scrivener overwhelmed me totally. Although scrivener and ulysses seem to be the two big one in the scene of writing apps, ulysses is much more similar to bear than to scrivener. There are some features in ulysses that i would like to see in bear, but on the other hand bear also has some superior points. Just an example: ulysses has an incredible search feature that allows you to search in each element (heading, quotes, lists, urls, code blocks, and and and) of the sheets/notes whereas bear just allows to specify a special search for titles wit @title search operator. On the other side the bears nested tags are a far better organisational mean than ulysses’ labels.

If you go through all possibilities of nested tags i would even say that you easily can replicate many story planning features of scrivener. To give an example: create a note in bear, leave it untagged and pin it - in the untagged notes list it will appear as first one. Use it as template for characters for example. Once created such a template you will easily find it and just have to duplicate this note. By adding a tag to it, this duplicate will leave the notes list for untagged notes and will appear wherever your tagging will bring it. Actually simple that workflow but it is not forced on you. Rather than that you have to find your ways with the means bear gives to you.

Sometimes i believe that the devs are not really aware that bear is also a very good tool for longform writing. The little bear was born as note app but grew up in the last year and is going to become a pkm app with its crosslinks. Currently it is not far away from ulysses. I just wish the devs would give a little love to bear also in that regard. Currently i believe note taking, personal knowledge management and writing belongs in one tool. And bear is that one app that is closest to a perfect app.

Sorry, I know this a pretty old thread. A goal tracker would be great. I’ve gone back to Ulysses for long form writing because of this (the project feature and the extra column as well). All my research and other notes still goes into Bear. It’d be nice to move from Ulysses back to Bear for longer writing at some point in the future.

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Is “A goal tracker (word count)” something beyond the word count feature in the Statistics pane? Like a “per day” or something else?

I wound up leaving Ulysses behind this past year after experiencing a bit of app instability, but also admittedly petty frustration with folders and files not being called folders and files ;D and other non-standard UI approaches.

A goal tracker lets you define a goal, either a minimum goal (at least 2000 words) or a maximum goal (not more than 15.000 signs. Furthermore you can set a due date. Last but not least you have a visual presentation of your goal.

Here the help site for goals in ulysses that should make clear what is meant:

I apologize but after biting my tongue for so long I have to chime in - I’ve been living as a writer for two decades and no, Bear is not a fully fledged writing app, no should it aim to be. It’s a note-taking app and it does that job beautifully. I hope the team keeps it that, and not try to make it a « true » writing app.

Bear lacks quite a set of features to make it a « true » writing app: manual reordering of documents, comments and/or dedicated metadata, complex export options for multipart documents, indeed continuous and focussed view, as well document / document group goals and metrics – and that’s at the very least. As the development of Ulysses has shown, these are no small undertakings - how long did it take them to implement projects?

These have no place in Bear in my opinion, as they would make it a completely different beast. I hope the team focuses on note capabilities and retrieval (instead of losing the vision like the devs of Craft did). A writing app is a production environment. A note-taking app is a thinking environment. It’s extremely difficult to do both things well, as the intents are contrary (either you produce with the aim of sharing, or your produce with yourself as the aim). (Obviously, both feature sets can overlap, people use Ulysses or Scrivener for notes and people have written novels and shared notes with Evernote, but we can agree these are not core intended uses.)

@krssno , I understand you appetite for linking in your writing app, but that’s a more feasible feature to ask of a writing app than to change a note taking app in a writing studio. That’s something to ask Ulysses (and FYI Scrivener has had it for years). It happens that I did, and it looks like the wiki linking syntax is on the short term roadmap. :slightly_smiling_face:

Lastly, friendly advice earned from the trenches of doing this gig for years: do not keep notes (ideation), production (writing) and editing (revising) in the same place. These are completely different ways of thinking and blurring them will lead you to less output and more difficulty producing (writer’s block). Of course, you do you, and if it works for you, great but: be careful going down that route.


Bear is already a writing app and is also promoted as such: “writing” is a keyword on the website. Maybe to avoid a misunderstanding: when I say writing app I do not mean an app for novel authors. Actually some of them wouldn’t consider ulysses as such an app and would instead prefer scrivener that offers an enormous feature set. Still probably there are writers who prefer more minimalism and will rather use ulysses or even a good old typewriter machine.

When I say writing I do not mean a 400 page novel but texts that exceeds the scope of atomic notes: That can be longer notes or text with the scope or blog texts or essays.

For me that feature is not what ulysses was about but a feature that arrived for the sake of offering an app that is evolving. I have not requested features that turns bear into an app which Stephen King could use to write three novels simultaneously but I summed up features that was requested by other users in another context: typewriter mode and manual ordering of notes were requests in the context of note taking. I added to theses requests only the comment that there are also useful for long form writing. Just the goal tracker was - as far as I can overview this forum - my idea. But do you think that a goal tracker would change bears face?

I am not a professional writer or have a blog. Writing is my way to keep my thoughts to special topics noted. It is just that I am not a friend of atomic notes. I believe if I connect related thoughts to a special topic in form of a longer text that this is better way of pkm than linking atomic notes together. I will give you an example: the discussion in psychology if human behavior is influenced by genes or environment. I a text of approximately 8 pages all the arguments and counter-arguments from different points of views are written down. This is a text that is growing if I read something that can be added to that text. This text or parts of it also functions also as building block for creation of even longer texts or essays. To sum it up: writing is a kind of thinking and noting.

For me bear is indeed so far the best app that combines note-taking, pkm and writing. That is the reason I would never go back to ulysses. Another reason is that the core experience of writing is a much greater pleasure in bear than it is in ulysses

One additional comment:

For sure there is a hierarchy of those three requests in regard of importance. While a goal tracker at least for me is more of a nice-to-have the typewriter mode is related to the core experience of writing and therefore more important. Actually - as the statistics are displayed in bear - you can control your goals on that level.