Vesper, Adieu. Trello, Hello!

If you’re just interested in getting your Vesper notes into Trello click here. If you’re interested in my process to get there, read on.

The simple and elegant note-taking app Vesper is shutting down. It’s a sad week for both the app’s loving users, and the great indie team that’s had to move on.

I always appreciated Vesper’s simplicity and power, but if you’re like me you probably need a little bit more. I was an early Vesper user but I was pleased to find Trello. I left for better cross-platform support and collaboration, but with its many features and integrations (called power-ups, and now available for free accounts) I’m sure you’ll find everything you need and then some.

While there may be something to be said about Indie App Reliance and owning your data, companies like Google have shuttered countless apps as well. In the end, it wasn’t too difficult to write a helper to get all of Vesper’s active and archived notes and pictures into Trello.

screencast

Vesper to iCloud Drive

The first step to getting your data into Trello is to get it out of Vesper. The latest update brings the ability to backup to iCloud Drive.

Although you should be able to use the same destination picker to backup to Dropbox or Google Drive, I could only get iCloud Drive to work.

iCloud Drive to Google Chrome

I investigated a couple of ways to get the notes out of iCloud.

A mobile website would be ideal, and although Mobile Safari lets you select files from your iCloud Drive, the notes are exported to a folder. Currently no major iOS browser supports folder inputs. Apple’s CloudKit.js sounds like it might help, but it’s not meant for iCloud Drive.

I ended up relying on desktop Chrome’s support for uploading folders. It’s a hard dependency, but even the users that don’t already have Chrome would still prefer to download it instead of a third-party app anyway. It’s also cross-platform to support iOS users that can use the Windows iCloud Drive client.

Decoding the Vesper Note Files

Notes are exported in a simple text format:

Title
content
content
content
Picture: attachment.jpg
Tags: tag1, tag2
Created: Aug 26, 2016, 12:54 PM
Modified: Aug 26, 2016, 12:54 PM

The file wasn’t too hard to parse, some notes like “Untitled Photo”s don’t have any titles, and unfortunately you lose the priority of the notes since that isn’t exported. The export has two folders, for Active and Archived notes, each has its own Pictures folder.

Vesper Notes to Trello

Trello’s API documentation could use some work but it’s supplemented with their own Trello board, and the official client.js makes the authentication step easy.

One interesting point is that Trello card labels are limited to 10 visible colors, and a gray color that doesn’t show up on your dashboard. The easiest way for me to colorize all the uncolored Vesper tags was to delete all the existing ones and recreate them, cycling through the hard-coded list of supported colors.

The official client also only supports JSON requests, which meant adding attachments needed to be done manually, using FormData.

Creating the Helper

Although React may seem like overkill, I’ve been curious about trying Facebook’s new create-react-app and the addition of async/await support earlier today removed my last excuse (“ejecting” it to a more configurable state kind of defeated the purpose for me).

All the notes are imported as cards on a single board, with pictures as attachments, tags as labels, and archived notes become archived cards.

Using Trello like Vesper

Using Trello’s mobile app, to view and create notes is remarkably similar to Vesper. You may need to go back into your specific Vesper board when launching the app, but that’s about it.

Archiving and deleting requires another click instead of a swipe, but nothing too major.

To view labels you just need to filter for them, but there’s helpful autosuggestions.

Conclusion

The real advantage of switching (beyond your data still being able to sync!) is using multiple boards. Maybe tags was all you needed but I’ve found a mix of both tags and folders (via boards) is the best way to stay organized. In the end, the interface ends up being a little bit more crowded, but it enables you to do a lot more.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.