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Using Ulysses as a Database for The Van Halen Encyclopedia

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read
Using Ulysses as a Database for The Van Halen Encyclopedia

My 1999 book, The Van Halen Encyclopedia, was put together using Microsoft Word and stacks of research material. Back then, I wanted nothing more than the skills to put together a database to update each entry, then publish it as a whole book every year or two.

The technology existed back then, thanks to the endlessly hackable Microsoft Access, but I didn’t have the time or expertise to put it together. I could make the database, but I couldn’t compile to save my life.

Almost 20 years later, I’m finding that Ulysses can serve as simple version of this database.

I started by breaking the book down by chapter (or letter):

Then I broke the chapters down into individual entries.

Here’s the best part: You can add updates, citations and images to the entries in the note field. This makes future updates much easier, plus the tags (keywords) make organizing and indexing the book much easier.

For the most contentious part of the book (The Tours chapter), I can upload ticket stubs and tour itineraries as evidence of show dates. It was difficult to convince some fans that their bootlegs were not dated correctly, and that the book had the correct date and location of a show. Now, I can have proof at the ready.

In the future, I can also connect all of this to a website, thanks to Wordpress’s integration with Ulysses, and update the book in real time for readers.

I’m still struggling to adjust my writing to the Ulysses way, but I love the direction the app is taking my organization of the material.

I’m not planning on publishing a new version of the book any time soon. It would take years of hard work at this point to update every entry with all that’s been discovered about the band in the last two decades. But it’s nice to know it’s much more doable now.

My future wishes: Vellum and Squarespace integration.