Jason Snell
7 June, 2013
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Link to: Vesper


Q Branch


iPhone (3GS, 4, 4S, 5), iPod touch (3rd, 4th, 5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 6.0 or later. This app is optimised for iPhone 5.

Age Rating:  12+


Available on the App Store Buy
App Guide

Three people you may have heard of – writer John Gruber, developer Brent Simmons and designer Dave Wiskus – have joined forces to create Q Branch, an app development company whose first product is a $4.99 iPhone app called Vesper. The app, released on Thursday, aims to help “collect your thoughts”.

Yes, it’s Yet Another iPhone Notes App. But it’s one that’s meticulously and tastefully designed – not surprising, coming from the principals of Q Branch. I’ve spent the past few weeks beta-testing the app.

A notebook in your iPhone

There’s no shortage of notebook and reminder apps on iOS. I’ve used many of them, including Apple’s own Notes, Evernote and a vast collection of text editors. And yet none of them has stuck for any length of time. The Q Branch group has had the same experience.

“I’d been waiting for [a note-taking app] I liked and wanted to use,” Simmons says. “That one just hadn’t appeared. There are good ones, for sure – but none that fit how I think and none that feel the way Vesper feels.”

vesper app list

Vesper's full list view.

I certainly can’t guarantee that I’ll stick with Vesper for the long haul, but I’ve been using it quite a lot for the past few weeks. The app’s core is a simple list of notes. Each note has a title, displayed in bold, with the first couple of lines displayed below it. Tap and hold to ‘pick up’ a note and reorder the list in any way you like.

Tapping on a note enters the note editor. You can enter in as much text as you’d like, as well as attach a single image, which you can take directly from within Vesper or insert from your Camera Roll. Notes can be mailed, sent via message or copied to the clipboard – there’s no syncing with other devices or any cloud-based sync services. Notes are organised via tags. Tap on the grey Tag button at the bottom of the note to add a tag, and a pretty orange pop-up will appear as you type, suggesting tags you’ve already entered.

From the list view, you can tap the ‘hamburger’ icon in the top left of the screen or just swipe from the left edge in order to display a filter list, which lets you limit the notes being displayed to those that contain a particular tag. There’s also an Archive list, where you can send old notes with a swipe.

vesper app filters

Vesper's tag-filter list sidebar.

Vesper doesn’t do much, but that’s the point. “We built it for ourselves,” Gruber says. “I think anyone who is like us – anyone who appreciates attention to detail, doing a few things really well instead of many things mediocrely – will love Vesper.”

It’s visually striking. I like the typography (the app’s one and only body font is a custom-tweaked version of Hoefler and Frere-Jones’ Ideal Sans) and the design of the tags and the filter list. It’s simple enough not to get in my way with a lot of fiddly organisational features, but provides me with more structure than something like the Notes app. Tagging notes made a lot of sense – I immediately made Work, Writing and Recipes tags. I commingled work notes, ideas for my novel, a favourite recipe for buttermilk biscuits and an idea for my podcast without any trouble. Once I started treating it as the iPhone equivalent of a small paper notebook tucked into a pocket, it all began to fit.

That’s not to say there isn’t more to be done with the app. Syncing notes to other iOS devices (and perhaps a service like Dropbox) would be a natural, though I fear that any feature addition will make the app more cluttered, when simplicity is one of its real strengths. Too many fiddly feature additions and I’ll run screaming from it, just as I often do from Evernote.

by Jason Snell, Techhive

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