Ulysses vs Roam Research

I have a torn relationship with my writing apps. Ulysses and Roam Research. I want them to coexist and collaborate. When I make a change in one, I want it to reflect in the other, but that’s not currently possible. But still, it’s their strengths that has me wanting to keep both, even if that means conflicting work. I’ll try to explain.

Shared Simplicity and Power

Both Ulysses and Roam have the feeling of simplicity combined with power. They both can be as clean or messy as you need them to be. The difference in workflows are massive, but I’m starting to see that those different workflows and ways of writing are not a negative. It’s providing me two ways of thinking about a problem.

Why Ulysses

Ulysses is a traditional way to write. In paragraphs. When you start writing, that’s called a sheet. Make as many as you want, with no file name or extra noise to process. Each sheet is like a sheet of paper. Use as many as you need, connect them later. To the left of those sheets is the groups you’ve put them in. This makes it easy to jump in a folder, find the sheet you’re looking for, and begin writing.

There’s so much more to Ulysses than that, but it’s that simplicity in thinking and getting out of the way that allows me to build little folder groups with huge ideas. I can chip away at a big project by just making a group and start making sheets inside of that group.

Why Roam Research

Roam, however, isn’t this at all. It’s a completely new way to write and think. No folder structures. No sheets. No writing in paragraph forms. It’s more like Excel than it is Word.

Roam is more than likely the reason I’m creating again (while also writing this in Ulysses). It’s like I’m coding my brain. Putting things where they need to be. I can zoom out, on topics that I’ve written out, or I can turn any word into a link, and then zoom in. I can analyze any topic as close as I need to, or I can zoom out and see my thoughts at the highest level possible — while making all of these thoughts weave together in a seamless way.

The Beauty of Being Different

The power in Roam is that it’s not like Ulysses. I won’t be writing an essay in Roam. I could, but I rather think through the essay in Roam instead, find clarity in my understanding of the topic, then write it in Ulysses.

I spent time trying to replace Ulysses with Roam. Then I spent time not using Roam to return with Ulysses. This always felt like I was doing something wrong. I now understand that I’m actually doing it right. Allow both apps to run at full speed. Use Roam to think. Use Ulysses to write. Gather my thoughts and ideas until the words start flowing out effortlessly, like now.

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