iOS App Review - Vesper

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.
— Steve Jobs

A search for "notes" on the App store for the iPhone, reveals a list of 7851 results! What makes Vesper stand out of this bunch? Simplicity. Vesper is a note taking App designed by well known Apple enthusiasts, most notable of whom is John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame. Anyone who follows Gruber's blog will have no qualms in terming his style as no-nonsense, honest and straightforward and this is true with Vesper as well. Right from the first App screen, Vesper screams "diving right to the point". 

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It has a bold, clear type face and with settings for different text sizes and two different text weights, it is user customizable. Creating a new note (using the "+" button on the top right of the screen) or tapping on an existing note, brings up the note view with a select few options. A header line for the note that is in bold, a subject section below and a tag section (where multiple tags can be added for the same note) complete the note view. The navigation bar on the top of the App has options to choose pictures to insert into the note from different sources (like the photo library, take a new picture with the iPhone's camera and a quick link to the latest picture that is in the cache). There is no save button or anything, in line with Apple's recent iCloud productivity Apps like Numbers or Pages, where everything is saved automatically, here when you hit ""All Notes". There is a simple share screen for emailing the note, texting it to someone or just copying it to the clipboard. 

Sliding the screen to the right on the main screen or tapping the "<" on the top left of the navigation bar, brings up a sidebar with options to choose from all notes tagged with a particular tag, all notes that have been archived, sync (using iCloud to sync across multiple iOS devices) and typography settings. From the list of "All Notes" or in the Archive or anyplace in the App with a list view, you can slide the notes to the left or right for more options like moving the note from the main screen to the Archive and vice-versa or for deleting a note permanently. 

How does the App (Vesper) perform? In one word, just as promised.

So enough with the App design and architecture already, how does the App perform? In one word, just as promised. Critics of this App claim it is over simplified, offering too small a feature set, but I say, compared to what? Evernote? Frankly, Evernote does too much (and they seem to have realized it themselves too). But more to the point here, Vesper promises little but delivers on every little detail. The App is simple, straightforward and performs reliably (the App has not quit or crashed on me even once in the last month of use). Your use case for a note taking App might be different, but I hate Apps that cram in feature after feature for the sake of checking another point on its imaginary list of customer demands. For me after a month of using this App, I don't have anything that this App is missing, but again I might not be a median iOS notes App user. Design, clarity and fore-thought ensure a strong foundation for anything, features are just like more floors that can be built later on top of that strong foundation. 

That’s a real balancing app, I think the core Evernote app is too complicated right now. I don’t think anyone understood design philosophy, especially mobile app design philosophy in the early days, we certainly didn’t.
— Evernote CEO

What are the downsides to this App? Nothing, well actually it again depends on what you are looking for. For example if you need sharing options with a dozen more services, like Evernote or Notability from Vesper? Then you will be disappointed. I on the other hand just use the copy option in Vesper and paste in another App or service. Bottom line is that if a developer keeps up his/her  promise on what the App can or can't do, he/she will be forgiven for "features" that are missing from the App. Vesper as an App reminds me of Apple and its philosophy in every minute detail from the finesse in design to the well kept promises! You can download Vesper on the App store for $2.99 and no, there is no in-App purchase so far and having been following John Gruber for a while on Daring Fireball, I don't think there will be any in the future as well. 

Vesper as an App reminds me of Apple and its philosophy in every minute detail from the finesse in design to the well kept promises!