Thursday, July 5, 2018

15 Years of Ulysses

Max Seelemann (tweet):

I also never set out to build a text editor. I was not even aware that creative writing is a thing — I did not come to like literature in school. I just happened to be on a mailing list for Mac users, where one day one random guy would come around and look for someone to make an app for him. I was the only one getting back, just answering “well, maybe I could do it”. This random guy happened to be Marcus, my partner and friend ever since. We started making this menu bar note-taking app called “NoteX” … nobody will remember. One day he came around again, asking if I wanted to do another app with him, a tool for creative writers. It was more a “why not”, than a deliberate decision.


Starting with this moment, Ulysses has been the most exciting project I could imagine. That’s probably due to its unique challenges and facets… The freedom of working on an independent project, the thrill of always aiming for the best possible solution, the direct impact we can have on people’s lives, the insane amount of feedback we’d get, paired with the technical and cultural challenges we had to deal with every day. Also, no app is ever done — especially not Ulysses. Someone just had to keep working on it…


We took our good old Ulysses side-project, polished it up just a little and put it on [the Mac App Store]. To our complete surprise, we sold more copies within the first week than half the year before that! That was crazy. What used to be a side project for many years was suddenly making real money. We figured it might be just enough to get both of us new Macs, and to sustain our living for three or so months. Enough time to get started, finally in full-time, and to see where it would take us.

Max Seelemann:

During the first years, I would make sure nobody would see my age.

I was 16. What sane would base her/his professional writing life on a tool hacked together by a kid? Maybe that doesn’t make sense, but it was a real concern for me.

I first encountered Seelemann when he was working on Localization Suite. Having once been a kid in tech myself, I thought I recognized him as such. But what mattered was that it was the best tool of its kind, and he was very responsive to feedback.

Previously: Congratulations, Ulysses Switches to Subscription.

Update (2018-07-06): Marco Arment:

Fun fact: When I went to work for @davidkarp at age 24, he was 19, but I didn’t learn that for years. (When we’d go out, I just thought he didn’t drink.)


It’s hard for young people to be taken seriously without everyone always just focusing on how young they are.

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