Faking Fountain with Ulysses

I think the most important but often overlooked aspect of the adoption of Markdown is how plain text has made a comeback. There are many Markdown variation and flavors. Most are still used for Markdown’s original purpose—turning text into HTML. But one project has built on the idea of markdown and is using plain text to fill a different need.

The Fountain project has created a plain text format that is designed for print (or PDF). But not just any print job, it’s only purpose is to produce properly formatted screenplays and scripts. Sadly, Ulysses doesn’t speak fountain as one of its markup styles. But I found a way to fake it.

One of the unexplored areas of Ulysses is the ability to create custom markup formats. By doing this I was able to create a sensible way to use a “fountain-like” style while writing. The usual hashes for markdown headings can be clumsy when dealing with the third and fourth level headings (### and ####). They’re also not visually distinctive, and tend to look the same at a quick glance.

So I looked at the symbols used to “force” Fountain to render a line like the writer wants. The spec uses .,@,> for scene headings, characters, and transitions, respectively. I added (,#,##, for parenthetical, titles, and subheadings.


Creating a custom markup format in Ulysses is easy. But there’s no way to export/import these setting. If there was, I’d share my file. So you’ll have to make the changes manually.

In the Markup panel of the Preferences window, choose New Markup… and name it Fountain. If you leave it based on Markdown XL, then anything not changed will continue to work the same as it does now.

Once saved, you can get to work changing things. My settings panel looks like this.

My settings for fake fountain markup.

A summary of my changes:

Heading 1    –  .

Heading 2    –  @

Heading 3    –  (

Heading 4    –  >

Heading 5    –  #

Heading 6    –  ##

Divider      –  ===

Strong       –  ** **

Emphasis     –  * *

Underline    –  _ _

I also renamed Marked to Underline, and Blockquote now has two arrows, >>.

Converting Markup

There’s one last step to make everything work together. You have to tell Ulysses that you’re using a non-standard markup. Simply choose Edit > Convert Markup > Fountain from the Edit menu and your sheet will be setup correctly.

Remember to do this for every sheet you plan to use with fake Fountain. Otherwise you might have output glitches.


The Ulysses markup changes make it easier to write, but what about output?

If you want to print from Ulysses or export to PDF, then I made a stylesheet just for you!

It’s on the Style Exchange with the name Fake Fountain - Dramatic. If you use the headings I’ve defined above, it’ll work just fine. The “Dramatic” identifier is because I have another that I’m uploading soon that will be focused on comic/graphic novel scripts.

Hint: Due to Ulysses not reseting page numbering when it should, it’s best to create a title page on a new sheet and export that separately. Then use the Preview app to merge the pages together (open the thumbnail sidebar, and drag the title page to the first position).

The other way is to export as plain text. This is a little more touchy, but works for pasting into a screenwriting app that uses Fountain. If you omit blank lines after character headings, the export is almost perfect Fountain.

Here’s an example using the script fragment from the Fountain syntax page and my custom fake-fountain markup.


  Steel, in the middle of a heated phone call:


  They're coming out of the woodwork!

( (pause)

  No, everybody we've put away!

( (pause)

  Point Blank Sniper?


  From what seems like only INCHES AWAY.  _Steel's 

  face FILLS the *Leupold Mark 4* scope_.

Copying this as plain text will eliminate the markup characters, and the capitalization and spacing is correct Fountain. Some minor clean up might needed, but it’s 90% there.

Why bother when I could just use another app like Slugline or Highland? Because I like writing my first drafts in Ulysses and having those drafts in the its document library. Also users of Ulysses for iPad might find this useful.