Ulysses III and TextExpander in teaching

Ullysses III, a note-taking app, stores its ‘sheets’ in hierarchical folders. It is therefore a great tool for keeping project notes, which similarly to project files are best organized in folders. I have previously described using Ullysses for responding to reviewer’s comments on a manuscript. This entry is on using Ulysses for other typical academic projects: teaching courses. Here is an example of recording notes on students’ in-class presentations.

It has always been hard for me to both concentrate on a student’s talk and take accurate notes for feedback and assessment. I used to get distracted by the discussion and as a result loose notes or miss writing down critical information. This year, a combination of TextExpander and Ulysses III has made the task much easier by automating some of the elements.

I create an Ullysses’ folder corresponding to the course and the following TextExpander snippet:

##%filltext:name=Name% %y%m%d %H:%M
finish: ****

At the start of each student’s presentation I am creating a new Ulysses sheet ( ⌘N) in the course folder and fire the TextExpander snippet which generates the following window:

TextExpander window for recording students' presentations feedback

TextExpander window triggered by the snippet

The snippet uses fill-in fields (insert them in TextExpander by using a button on the left-bottom corner) so that I can type in the name of the student and the title of the presentation before pressing ↩. The start date and time of the presentation is inserted automatically. I can then type the notes, questions and the finish time. The resulting Ulysses sheet looks like this:

Ulysses III notes on in-class presentations

Ulysses III sheets for recording notes from students’ presentations in a course


About Aleh Cherp

Aleh Cherp is a professor at Central European University and Lund University. He researchers energy and environment and coordinates MESPOM, a Masters course operated by six Universities.
This entry was posted in Automation, Notes, Teaching and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Ulysses III and TextExpander in teaching

  1. James Suleiman says:

    Thank you for sharing Aleh. I haven’t used Ulysses (I’ve been using Scrivener) but am intrigued by this method for taking notes in class. Question — do you have a method for tagging for easy reference? I have several categories of notes (e.g., presentation comments, questions needing response, course homepage maintenance; suggestions for future courses, etc.) and would love to be able to quickly review by category. I apologize in advance for not being aware how Ulysses might handle tagging.


  2. Aleh Cherp says:

    Thanks, James. Yes, Ulysses notes can be tagged. I use folder organizations because I believe it is quicker and more natural for project-focused notes. However, if you keep reference notes (i.e. notes which you may refer long into the future with respect to several different projects), tags may be more appropriate. A combination of tags and folders might work as well, just be careful how much time you invest in the system vs. how much time you are saving. Finally, Ulysses allows for creating filters or smart folders based on search results, might also be good for quick retrieval.


  3. James Suleiman says:

    Thanks again Aleh. For everything but presentations I’ve been using pen and paper but I think I might benefit from designing a workflow that allows me to enter data into two types of reference documents — one that contains sensitive information that I don’t want to display in front of the entire class (e.g., make testing accommodation for student x), and another where I don’t need to worry about the comments being seen (e.g., add helper instructions for assignment 3).
    As for the time investment comment, very good advice as, generally speaking, I spend more type planning to be productive than actually being productive.


  4. Gerard Ilott says:

    Thank you, a useful post. I do love U3 for academic writing. I especially love that the same text can be the source of my web posts, Word documents and PDF. However, there are two glaring omissions that I find really frustrating: the lack of any table support (which it never had), and no LaTeX export (which was present in U2).

    Liked by 1 person

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