Skip to main content

Vesper, a minimalist notes app from John Gruber and Brent Simmons (hands-on)

Vesper, a minimalist notes app from John Gruber and Brent Simmons (hands-on)

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

vesper app
vesper app

In an App Store entirely oversaturated with notes apps, it's not easy to stand out. Vesper, an iPhone app which launches today, is at first glance remarkable because it was built by Apple pundit John Gruber (of Daring Fireball), developer Brent Simmons (known for MarsEdit and NetNewsWire), and veteran interface designer Dave Wiskus. The supergroup met up several months ago and communally longed for a dead-simple notes experience with tags on iPhone. Soon after, they decided to form a software company together called Q Branch, named after James Bond's crafty quartermaster. Today, Vesper hits the app store, but is it as impressive as its pedigree would suggest?

Is the app as impressive as its pedigree would suggest?

Vesper feels like a pared down version of Simplenote, a note-taking app which already had just a few core functions in mind. All you can do in Vesper is create a note, type some text, add a photo, and list some tags like "Recipes" or "Ideas." From here you can email, message, copy, or delete the note you're working on. Back in the app's main "list view" screen you can rearrange notes, filter notes by tag using the app's drawer, and swipe to archive a note you no longer need. There's no cloud syncing to speak of, gallery views for all the photos you've added, or settings menu to change font sizes. Vesper is simply a list of notes and tags.

Vesper for iPhone screenshots


"Collect your thoughts," is the app's tagline, an indication that it doesn't aim to replace Evernote as much as it hopes to help you record moments, ideas, recipes, and other snippets of things as quickly as possible. Vesper is a good app, but won't feel "feature complete" to people looking for a modern, multiplatform notes experience. Its price tag ($4.99) is bound to scare away many people, especially since the app offers no killer functionality to make it a must-buy. It instead strips away functionality for the sake of being easy to use, which for some, could lower the barrier to pulling out your phone and tapping around to compose a note. Yet, Day One, a "journal" app that also costs $4.99, manages to pack in far more features inside an almost equally simple interface.

"Our goal was to make it such that, if a quick little thought entered your head that you might want to put in Vesper, the appeal of using the app would push you over the edge to do it, to put it in Vesper rather than just keep it in your head. A complete reduction of friction," Gruber said in an interview with Macworld. Vesper doesn't have as much bite as the drink of the same name James Bond once ordered, but for those looking for a truly simple and cloudless notes experience, it could be worth a shot.