I started to use the bullet journal system to better manage my projects at work at the end of 2015. One year and a Leuchtturm notebook later, if the journal system worked great, I had some trouble with the notes part of the system: they got dispersed among the pages, and neither a strong index nor a smart threading system really helped. I definitely needed some other system to manage my meeting notes and to be able to organize them depending on the related project.
From this point, I’ve been looking for a more flexible notebook, and I’ve been hesitating between the Filofax Notebook and the Atoma one. I couldn’t decide, so I bought both and thought it may help some of you to have a review of them!

Filofax Notebook – Nice details that make the difference

Before buying the Atoma notebook, I gave the Filofax notebook a try.
I searched the entire Internet looking for a full review and users appreciations but failed to find any. So I helped myself and bought it.

Advantages of the Filofax

What attracted me first about the Filofax Notebook was its price: 15 euros, just about the price of a Leuchtturm, and I was able to find it in a local store (I live in Paris), so no need to add shipping costs. The notebook itself looks very fancy and professional and the quality-price ratio seemed to be fair at first sight.

The notebook is a true piece of design. The faux leather cover is beautiful, hard as promised in the specifications, and the notebook can be closed with a loose elastic closure. I would have prefer the elastic closure to be more tight, but it’s there and functional though.
For color lovers, there’s a full range of shades available for this Filofax Notebook. Not really my taste but they’re looking pretty contemporary.

When opened, the notebook lays flat and reveals its details and add-on features: a ruler and 4 dividers. I replaced the dividers minutes after I opened the notebook, for personal taste convenience, but they are handy to organize the content and one of them has a pocket to carry scrap paper or sticky notes.

… And its drawbacks

I gave up the Filofax after a few days of use: the finish of the notebook is really nice, but I couldn’t stand the paper it comes with. The Filofax notebook is initially filled with ruled paper, some squared and some blank pages. As I’m only using paper with a squared grid for bullet journaling and note taking, I bought a refill along with the Filofax notebook when I purchased it.

I was SO disappointed when I first opened the notebook: the paper is very white (which is not a real problem), and the lines of the grid are blue. The contrast between the white paper and the blue lines is strong and the information written is hard to read, especially on squared paper. And I realised that the space between the lines on the squared paper makes no sense. Each square is 0.6cm x 0.6cm. I found this version of squared paper completely useless and it doesn’t match any standard I know…

At this point, I still thought I could craft my own inserts with quality paper. But regarding the price of the whole puncher that match the Filofax notebook, I gave up this idea too.
Quality paper should be the requirement number one for any notebook. In my opinion, the Filofax notebook is a very nice, quality looking product, but I feel like the designers forgot the function of the product: writing things down and reading them easily…


Atoma: simple and effective

A minimal notebook

The first thing that caught my eye about the Atoma disc bound notebook was its look. I really love the minimal, almost austere design of the notebook. This minimalism helps me to focus on the true purpose of the pad: the information it carries. I made myself a gift, picking a metal discs version of the Atoma, but I also like the basic ones, with plastic covers, which are cheaper.

Nothing fancy here, but you can select the paper you want your notebook to be filled with when you put your order. Four grids are available: lined, dotted, squared and blank, which should answer most of the needs.

The paper is ivory, and looks pretty much like the Leuchtturms one. The pages can be easily removed and reorganized in the notebook and the discs hold the pages tight enough so that they don’t move and they stay in good shape.
The basic requirements for a discbound notebook are definitely there: quality paper and moving pages.

Too much minimalism?

I mostly use the Atoma for note taking and a hardcover would have been welcome to replace the thin cardboard one. I can’t take notes without a proper table to write on. So it’s not a problem when staying at the office but can be frustrating on the go. The cardboard offers very little protection to the pages inside the notebook. Expect some damages if you just throw the notebook in your purse or bag of any kind…

The disc binding system is very nice, but I would have appreciated some add-on features: no dividers (they can be purchased separately), and the logo of the brand is printed directly on the cover. It’s not a big deal, but I prefer when the brand name is discreet. I simply turned the cover on the other side to hide the logo and put a piece of masking tape on it to make it disappear.

The last, but certainly not least weakness of this notebook is its availability: I looked for it in many stationery and office supplies stores in Paris (without any success) and there are not too many retailers online. I had to order my squared paper version of the Atoma notebook on a British website, with expensive shipping costs.

And the winner is…

I think the Filofax Notebook is perfect for people who like to write on lined paper, and the add-on features (hard cover, dividers…) are definitely attractive.
But despite all its weaknesses, I prefer the Atoma notebook. I consider that quality paper and good disc bound system are the top priorities for my use, and the Atoma completely fulfil these requirements. I’ll stick with it and I’m thinking of crafting a leather cover to replace the cardboard one and give the pages some protection, adding a back pocket, elastic closure and pen loop at the same time.