*For a better view, click on any photo to see the full-size image.
As I mentioned in my wrap-up post from National Stationery Week, I was unlikely to continue using the ring-planner I had set up due to size issues and personal preferences. The more I think about it, the more useful I find that experiment was – it forced me to consider what does and doesn’t work with the planning set-up I have been using this past couple of years.
My very strong preference has always been to use an A5-ish size page which hits the sweet spot of portability and ease of use. For a while now, I have been eyeing the Filofax A5 Notebook which offers minimal ring intrusion coupled with the ability to move pages at will and, with the correct punching, to add your own items. I was loath to try one, though, because of my experience with the paper quality in Filofax’s other notebook system – the Clipbook – which I tried a few years ago. I had a couple of big problems with that design:
- The cover felt unpleasant, particularly where it bulged around the 6-ring mechanism and I found it awkward in use.
- The paper was thicker than the standard Filofax used for their traditional ring-planner inserts, but the quality wasn’t up to using fountain pens and inks. There was feathering and bleed-through a-plenty.
Whilst many users had said the paper in the Notebook products was fountain-pen friendly, I wasn’t sure if I should trust that. However, this design did seem to offer the potential to incorporate my diary and notebook in one very portable cover, so yesterday I trotted off to my local department store’s stationery shop* and purchased the Vista Blue notebook. I must say, so far I am very impressed with it and it scores highly on the following points:
- The paper is really good as the above pen test photos illustrate. The only pen to bleed through was the Pilot CD marker which is not a pen I would ever use on paper anyway. The wet-writing Parker 51 with a medium (?) nib produced the most show-through, but my regular pen and ink combinations were perfect, I certainly wouldn’t have any trouble using both sides of the paper.
- I like the cover which is a stiffened plastic with a very pleasant feel and lays completely flat when open. When required, the cover folds back on itself allowing you to write easily with it held in one hand. There is an elastic band attached to the back cover to hold the notebook securely closed when you have it in your bag.
- Because the wire binding is almost completely covered, it is a lot less likely to squash than a standard wire-bound notebook; I think it also gives a very neat look to the book.
- You get 56 sheets of 6mm ruled paper – I’d prefer it a bit wider ruling, but it’s still practical, plus an additional few sheets of plain and 5mm grid paper to try out. You can buy replacement paper pre-punched from Filofax in various designs.
- The notebook includes four dividers which seem to be made of a slightly plastic-feeling card – one of these is designed to form a pocket which is useful.
- The size is just perfect, giving plenty of space to write easily on either side of the paper but in a format that slips easily into a handbag to carry out with me. It’s nice and lightweight, too, which increases the portability.
- There is a good choice of covers online, but availability locally will be dependent upon the retailer.
I have just a couple of very minor negative points:
- The plastic ruler/page marker included with the notebook is very flimsy and doesn’t stay securely attached to the rings. I have now covered mine completely with washi tape on both sides and re-cut the holes which seems to make it a bit more secure. I can see good reasons to keep the marker as thin as possible, but having it detaching from some of the rings as I’m turning it is a slight irritation.
- From watching a few review videos on YouTube (I can recommend the bullet journal one from Goldspot Pens), I could see that it can be difficult to turn the pages if you have the notebook stuffed. I’ve gone for a minimal layout, incorporating three months of week on two pages diary and 25 sheets of lined paper, with three of the dividers.
- The replacement paper packs are not badly-priced, but they only appear to have 32 sheets of paper which is rather meagre and I envisage I’d be buying more than one pack at a time – a lot of plastic wrap could be saved if there were 50 or more sheets to a pack. The pastel and marble papers Filofax offer appear to have 60 sheets per pack which is better.
Filofax sell a punch to cut holes of the required size and shape to suit the notebooks and I think that would be a useful tool to buy in the fullness of time. The ability to punch different papers and other items to slot into the notebook is one of the primary selling points of these notebooks. Whilst I have the A5 size, they also do this design in a pocket size and an A4 – the hole spacing is uniform across the different sizes and the hole punch will work for any of them. However, you don’t have to have the special punch – it is possible to use a standard hole punch and cut slots into each hole, which is how I have incorporated the pages from my A5 Mark + Fold diary into this cover:
I shall be very interested to see how this notebook holds up over time, but my first impressions are positive and I am more likely to use this long-term than the ring-planners I have used before, or than a bound bullet journal style of book.
Hope this has been of a little interest to you. I feel next week it would be nice to get away from the stationery theme and share something different – we shall see. Until then, I hope you all have a good weekend and find some time to enjoy yourselves.
Jarrolds is a department store based in Norwich with a long history of stationery and art products, not to mention a decent book department. They have gone rather up-market over recent years and have recently moved their stationery from the ground floor up to the third floor, but I am trying not to hold that against them.