The End of Vesper

August 22, 2016 by

Q Branch is closing down, and Vesper will no longer be developed. Here’s what that means for you, as a Vesper user:

  • You can no longer create new sync accounts.

  • The sync server will go offline, permanently, at 8:00 PM Pacific on August 30, 2016.

  • Upon shutdown, we will be destroying all sync data on our server. It will not be recoverable by us or anyone else. IMPORTANT: The notes and data stored by Vesper on your device will not be destroyed — only the data on the sync server.

  • Vesper itself will be removed from the App Store on September 15.

  • Vesper now has an Export feature. You’ll find it at the bottom of the sidebar. You do not need a sync account to export your notes. You can export to iCloud Drive, Dropbox (if you have Dropbox installed on your iOS device), or any other destination provided by an app with a Document Provider extension.

  • Each note is exported to a plain text file. Images are exported as well.

We three at Q Branch — Dave, John, and Brent — are greatly appreciative of everyone who has used and said good things about Vesper. We love this app. But the time has come to say goodbye. We thank you, sincerely, for your support and enthusiasm.

Native Support for iPad and Landscape

February 27, 2015 by

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. When we announced Vesper Sync back in June, we also announced that our next focus was on Vesper for Mac.

Trust me, nobody wants to see Vesper for Mac more than we do, and we remain hard at work on it, along with a few other interesting projects. But plans need to adapt to the environment, and with iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the environment for Vesper changed.

Until today, Vesper has been an iPhone-only app. No matter what else we want to be working on, it’s important that Vesper remain an excellent iPhone app. That meant adding proper support for the new display sizes of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which we shipped in version 2.004 back in September.

Here’s the thing. When the iPad came out in 2010, creating a universal iOS app that natively supported both iPhone and iPad was, broadly, much like creating two versions of your app’s interface. With iOS 8’s new features for supporting different screen sizes and orientations, that’s not really true any more. It’s now more like creating one interface that adapts to different display sizes. The work that we did to support the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus left Vesper fairly close to being able to natively support the iPad — and to support landscape orientation on all devices. (iPhone 6 and iPad display size support are so similar in iOS 8 that back in September, our friend Marco Arment shipped an “accidental” iPad app.)

Now that Vesper supports all iOS device layouts, we’re raising the regular price for the app to $9.99. With fast, reliable, unlimited sync, we think that’s a great value. But for a limited time, we’re making this version available for just $7.99. And it’s a free update for everyone who’s already purchased any previous version of Vesper, all the way back to 1.0.

Stay tuned for more.

Vesper 2.004

September 18, 2014 by

iOS 8 is now available, and with it comes a new release of Vesper. There’s really only one change in this version, but for a lot of you, it’s a really big one: we’ve fixed the scrolling/cursor placement bugs that plagued Vesper throughout the iOS 7 era.

There are a number of technical details that Brent can clarify, but the bottom line is that UITextView on iOS 7 had a number of significant technical problems. iOS 8 brings fixes for most of them, which allowed us to work around the rest fairly reliably. If you find any lingering problems, please let us know.

Also, while not technically a feature, we did use 2.004 as an opportunity to provide support for the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. When you get your new phone, Vesper should look great.

And now back to focusing on Vesper for Mac and beyond.

Vesper: Year One

June 16, 2014 by

It’s been one year since we first released Vesper. We’ve had two major updates: version 1.007, with full support for iOS 7, and just a few weeks ago, version 2.0, which added syncing. (Finally.) Today we released version 2.001, with a few bug fixes and one much-requested new feature: an “Untagged” notes group.

Given that Vesper is still only an iPhone app, sync is a “That’s great, but what’s in it for me?” feature for most people, but it’s already proving essential for me personally. I’m running the new betas of iOS 8 on my year-old iPhone 5, while I keep the stable version of iOS 7 installed on my iPhone 5S. I did the same thing last year with iOS 7 and 6, and it was a constant annoyance that my Vesper data wasn’t in sync between the two devices. This year, it’s a different story. Vesper Sync has been working exactly as designed: quickly, reliably, and almost invisibly.

We’re hard at work on Vesper for Mac, which is where sync is really going to shine. We’ve got a ton of great ideas on the board for Vesper on iOS too.

But before we get too carried away thinking about what we’re working on for Vesper’s second year, we thought we’d take a moment and raise a glass to celebrate the first one — and to thank all of you for supporting our work. So until we sober up, Vesper is available for just $2.99.

How to Make a Vesper: Sync

May 29, 2014 by

Since the release of Vesper 1.0, the single most requested feature has been sync. While the vast majority of the decisions that make up Vesper 2.0 are code-related, building a pleasant, nearly invisible system required a good deal of thought. Here’s a look at how we approached sync design.


Vesper 2.0 and Vesper Sync

May 27, 2014 by

Today we released Vesper 2.0, which introduces our new sync system, which we’re calling Vesper Sync.

We’ve tried to make it as easy and simple as possible to use. Here’s how it works. First, you create a Vesper Sync account using an email address and a password. Then, your Vesper data — the text of your notes, your image attachments, your tags, everything — syncs to our cloud service. Sign in using the same account on another device, and your Vesper data will appear on that device.

That’s it.

There is no charge. No subscription. You just create an account using your email address as your identity and it works. I’m as suspicious of a free lunch as the next guy — probably more so, in fact. But Vesper Sync is not a free lunch, because Vesper is not a free app. Sync should be a feature, not something you have to pay extra for.

Back in September, I announced that sync was the next big thing we were going to tackle:

Also: syncing is a notoriously difficult problem to solve. There is no easy way. From the outside, it may seem as simple as “Just use _____”, where the blank is iCloud or Dropbox or Azure or S3 or anything else. From the inside, every option we have presents hurdles, limitations, and a ton of work. […]

How long is it going to take? We don’t know. I’m going to say a year. I know what you’re thinking: What? A year! I’m sure sync is hard but a year sounds crazy. That’s nuts. And you’re right, that does sound crazy. If I were to tell you what I honestly thought, I’d tell you I think it’s going to take several months. But I don’t want to disappoint you, so let’s stick with “a year” and hope that we can unveil it months ahead of schedule, instead of months behind.

That was exactly eight months ago to the day. I could joke and say that means we’ve shipped four months ahead of schedule, but it’s actually not that much of a joke. Sync really is hard. I was about to write that Brent has spent more time developing Vesper Sync than on Vesper itself, but that’s the wrong way to look at it. Vesper Sync is part of Vesper. In today’s world, an “app” is often no longer just the executable binary running on your device — it’s the entire experience of using it, including code running (and data stored) in the cloud.

Our goal for Vesper Sync was to achieve excellence in every way: performance, reliability, security, and privacy. Only time will tell if we’ve succeeded, but I feel confident that we have. From our privacy policy, which I encourage everyone to read in its entirety:

We take security seriously, and use several measures to protect your data. To start, all communication between the app and our sync servers takes place using HTTPS. Passwords are never stored on our servers. Instead, passwords are hashed and salted. If you ever forget your password, we cannot send it to you; you will need to reset it. Passwords are stored on your device, in the keychain.

The text of all notes is stored encrypted on the server. Tags, attachments, and other data and metadata are not encrypted. Though it’s theoretically possible for Q Branch to read the decrypted note text or view image data, we don’t have a mechanism in place to do that, and we won’t create a mechanism unless legally ordered.

What’s Next

When we shipped Vesper 1.0 a year ago, the sharpest criticism we faced was, An iPhone notes app that doesn’t sync to the cloud? This year, with Vesper 2.0, I’m sure the sharpest criticism will be, What’s the point of sync if Vesper is only an iPhone app?

And that’s valid. At this point, Vesper Sync is effectively more of a backup service than a sync service. You can run Vesper on an iPad, though. An iPhone app running on an iPad is far from optimal, but it is something. But the simple truth is that Vesper Sync is an essential first step to a world where there are multiple Vesper clients.

We have several ideas for future Vesper clients, but we’ve decided which one we’re going to tackle next: Mac. We did the iPhone version first because the iPhone is the one device you have with you everywhere, and we remain convinced that was the correct decision. Ubiquity is essential to a notes app. The Mac, though, is the device where we’re most productive.

How long will it take? I don’t know. For one thing, much will depend on what Apple unveils next week at WWDC. But we’ll document our progress as we go, with Brent’s engineering diary at Inessential and here on the Vesper blog.

You have to walk before you can run; with Vesper 2.0 and Vesper Sync under our belts, we’re ready to run.

Support Guidelines

November 4, 2013 by

In addition to my duties as designer (and sometimes office manager) here at Q Branch, I also handle our support inbox. There are several benefits to doing this myself, including some interesting implications for product design and road map planning. I also noticed pretty early on that the emails we were getting had a common theme of being written by smart, thoughtful people, which got me thinking: Contacting support is part of the experience of using Vesper, so how can we design this part of the experience with the same care and consideration we put into the software itself?


Vesper 1.008

October 25, 2013 by

Vesper 1.008 is now available. Release notes:

• You can now pan from the detail view to the list view by dragging from the left edge of the screen.

• Fixed a bug that could cause tags to dip below the keyboard when the extended status bar is active.

• Fixed the flicker when returning from photo view.

• Fixed a crash when tapping Next on an empty tag.

• Fixed a bug which made it possible to drag multiple notes at once.

How to Make a Vesper: 1.007

October 3, 2013 by

When Vesper 1.0 launched, it represented months of discussion, planning, consideration, and scrutiny. Our real goal was to create an experience that we ourselves genuinely enjoyed, but we also made a number of educated guesses about where iOS might be headed. This past June when Apple unveiled iOS 7 — mere days after our own launch — our first reaction was relief: We had gotten pretty close to the mark. Our second thought: With iOS 7, many of the tricks and concepts we invented for Vesper would now be standard operating procedure. How could we ensure Vesper stands out in a post-7 world?


Vesper: What’s New and What’s Next

September 30, 2013 by

Yours truly, over on Daring Fireball:

That said, we’re going to make an exception, quite possibly
just this once, and announce what we’re working on next for
Vesper: Sync.

We’re breaking with policy to announce this because sync is so
important to so many of you that it was becoming untenable to do
otherwise. We want you to know that our priorities align with
yours. Sync is the feature that almost everything else on our
roadmap hinges upon.

And over on Inessential, Brent Simmons has some technical notes on updating Vesper for iOS 7:

You remember in Lord of the Rings when Gollum finally gets the
ring and he’s holding it up and dancing around? That’s me and

So happy together.