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OT: Favorite notebooks and pens

by dws (Chancellor)
on Jul 19, 2003 at 08:15 UTC ( #275841=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

When away from a keyboard, I carry a notebook and a pen. Both have varied over the years, as I was reminded while doing some cleaning in my study. (A dozen old, dry Pilot razor tip pens finally got tossed.)

My current favorite notebooks are Japanese B5 format student notebooks from "Campus". Great paper, a good size. Smaller than 8.5x11 and A4, but larger than the mid-sized wire-bound books available in the U.S.

My current favorite pen is the Zebra "SARASA", which come in 0.7, 0.5, and (my favorite) 0.4mm, in a number of colors of Gel ink.. (The blue/black is great for scribbling Perl, and the dark red works well for editing someone else's code. It's a good simulation of blood.) They write very smoothly. Friends I've lent them to invariably say "Nice Pen. Where'd you get it?" I get the notebooks and pens in a local Japanese stationary store (across from Standford University).

What are your favorites? What notebooks and pens would you recommend to friends and coworkers?

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by gmax (Abbot) on Jul 19, 2003 at 11:26 UTC

    Until one year ago, I used to carry with me a moleskin notebook1. It fitted nicely in one of my jeans pocket, lasted forever and I could use it everywhere. The pen that usually went with it is a Parker ballpoint.

    In June 2002, however, I surrendered to the temptation of a Palm handheld and I haven't traveled without it ever since. It is not the same thing as writing on paper, but I realized that the advantages of it were worth the initial time invested learning the usage. I write and type faster than scribbling on a handheld, so I put some steroids on my Palm with a software for word auto completion and a mini keyboard. This way I can write whole articles while traveling, and I can transfer them to my laptop in seconds when I am back home.

    I kept carrying a notebook with me for a few weeks, but I stopped when I realized that it was staying untouched in my pocket.

    1 The link is not advertising, just for the picture. I used to buy them from a cheaper place. :)

    _ _ _ _ (_|| | |(_|>< _|
      The link is not advertising, just for the picture.

      But Dick Blick does rock and I've found the prices there to be generally reasonable. Just for the record, I've got no affiliation with them other than being a satisfied customer.

      "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by Abigail-II (Bishop) on Jul 19, 2003 at 11:05 UTC
    I usually don't carry notebooks around, but I almost always have one or more notebooks around where I'm working, including working at the computer. I haven't bought a notebook in years, I've gotten so many for free. Same with pens actually. For notebooks, I usually use A4 and A5 sized notebooks. Most of the time lineated, but I find 5mmx5mm grids useful too. My favourite place for a notebook when I'm working at the computer is placed between myself and the keyboard.

    Currently featuring my desk: a A4 notebook from my previous place of employment, turned 90 degrees, situated between myself and the keyboard. Halfway through, top leaf is empty. On my right an A5 notebook (brand "1 Classic" - no idea when it got into my possession), a few leaves used. Top leaf shows the name of a friend in Norway and his cell phone number. On my left, halfway burried under a Krause world coins reference guide, an old 'scribble block'. No lines on the brownish leaves, a low quality recycled paper. Same length as A5 paper, but narrower. On my far left, an A4 notebook from SUN education. Just a few leaves left.

    As for pens, I've tons of pens, and just like notebooks, I cannot recall buying one. I'm not very picky with pens - but if I have one that doesn't write nicely, I toss it away. The only thing that I do buy are mechanical pencils - the type you can refill. 0.5 mm is my favourite size. A few years ago, I bought a dozen of them, and now they are scattered all over the house and in some bags. I seldomly have to look long for them.


Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by phydeauxarff (Priest) on Jul 19, 2003 at 12:15 UTC
    I understand DaVinci carried a notebook with him everywhere he went. I guess great men think alike ;-)

    I have tried scribbling on a CE and carry a laptop with me pretty much constantly, but there is still something about a piece of paper that makes jotting down ideas much easier.

    I go through a few notebooks a year usually. They are crammed with thoughts, code snippets, and other stuff I have drawn or glued into them.

    My current notebook is hardbound book I picked on one day at a bookstore in the bargain rack....500 sheets of 7"x9" archival paper with lines. It looks like a nice hardback book with a foax leather binding. Oh, and of course it has a nice #!/usr/bin/perl sticker on the front. ;-)

    My pen of choice is the fine point sharpy...loads of colors to choose from and they will write on anything.

Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by Albannach (Monsignor) on Jul 19, 2003 at 13:48 UTC
    Paper: Not fancy: most often one-size used letter sheets left too long at the printer, cut down to 5.5" x 8.5" or even 5.5" by 4.25", held together in pads using those big black fold-back clips. As an added advantage, the partial remains of what was printed on the back side can sometimes serve as Oblique Strategies, though one has to be careful not to leave scraps of "sensitive business information" lying around. I also keep a stock of blank standard newsprint sheets, and drafting vellum, both handy for drawing large schematics like database designs (the vellum being for overlays). In a pinch I'll use 8.5" x 11" metric grid paper (;-) but I simply loath horizontally lined sheets - can't quite say why.

    Implements: I do the bulk of my writing/designing/planning/calculating with 0.5mm mechanical pencils, of which I have a wide variety, as I alternately prefer very thin or very fat versions, and I like to have both 2H and HB leads. To go with these, a large white plastic drafting eraser, and a small set-square. While lately I've been trying out coloured 0.5mm leads, I always have on hand some PILOT Hi-Tecpoint V5 Extra Fine pens in blue, black and red, sometimes green. I obtained a large stock of these some years back and still find them the best for my writing style (i.e. very tiny). I'm running low now and need to find a new supply, but have not seen them around lately.

    Lately I've been taking meeting notes on my Handspring Visor in order to make distribution easier, using a Targus folding keyboard (a master of engineering that is!). Unfortunately it is still way too restrictive for the little-scribbles-in-the-margins style I need, so I still have my paper/pencil/eraser at hand. What I really want is some way to scan my scribbles from paper, getting good OCR and vectors from the sketches at the same time.

    I'd like to be able to assign to an luser

(jeffa) Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by jeffa (Bishop) on Jul 19, 2003 at 13:55 UTC
    Any notepad/book will do (old bank transaction slips, receipts, pieces of a paper bag), but using one's left hand while writing a language that reads left to right requires a pen whose ink dries on contact as quickly as possible. Pilot's V5 Series has been my favorite for almost 10 years now. :)


    (the triplet paradiddle with high-hat)
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by sauoq (Abbot) on Jul 19, 2003 at 11:02 UTC

    I'm not real choosy about paper. I like the 9.5 x 6 inch spiral bound notebooks with 150 or 200 sheets. They usually claim to be 3 or 5 subjects, but I use them straight through. Those or graph paper (10 squares per inch).

    I'm more particular about my pens though. I like Sanford Uni-Ball ultra-fines, Sanford Uni-Ball Visions, and Pilot V-Ball Liquid Ink Rollers.

    "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by tilly (Archbishop) on Jul 19, 2003 at 16:32 UTC
    I have never cared enough about pens or paper to have much of a preference.

    But back in graduate school, I noticed that mathematicians (including myself) universally used mechanical pencils. Easy to write with, easy to read, easy to erase and write over, and no sharpening. :-)

    Out of habit I continue to use mechanical pencils even though there isn't much difference between them and anything else for my current needs.

      In our department the pens are quite mixed. My professor uses every pen that is in his reach (he gives them back).

      I use a mechanical pencil with 0.5 mm B mines (HB is to hard for me, 2B to soft). I use no notebook, but for scribbling we have usually large stacks of printouts of previous versions of papers or the postscript code printed on paper (sometimes the printer drivers do not work). If things are more final I write them up in the computer (in LaTeX), then I can use grep and friends to find things.

      Yes, I used to program in Assembly Language at a job and everybody used a pencil type 'B', a soft white rubber and some big squared papers. It was a sin to use other things!

      I still believe that it is the best way of programming! It feels better.

Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by Steve_p (Priest) on Jul 19, 2003 at 13:36 UTC

    My notepad of choice for quite some time has been a simple Steno Pad from AMPAD, spiral bound at the top with green paper. I've found that the green is easier on the eyes than white or yellow if you're reading it for a while.

    My pen of choice varies regularly, but is always a Parker. They were made in my hometown until the Gillete a-holes shut down the factory.

Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by blue_cowdawg (Monsignor) on Jul 19, 2003 at 15:13 UTC

    Notebook of choice?

    That depends on what I'm up to. I have yellow legal pads all over the place strategically placed so I can grab one when I need one. At home this has become problematic as my children will raid my yellow legal pads for their scribbling and random stuff. That's just the price of being a DAD I guess.

    Since I come out of an engineering background I have a tendancy to use serialized ledgers and such for ideas and project notes so I can go back in time and figure out what I was thinking when I did something. At home I have these in various places and are mostly by subject. For instance I have one for programming projects, one for my beer brewing and another for keeping track of my experimental recipes (developing hot sauces and Buffalo Wing sauces right now.) For my recipes and brewing I can then easily keep track of what went right and what went wrong with a particular batch of whatever.

    On top of all that I have three different Palm OS devices two of which are actively in use. One of my personal goals for this year is to develop an application for the Palm that will allow me to track progress in my dogs' training and agility trial results.

    Writing Implements

    I really don't have a favorite per se because I lose them so readily. In fact I have been running around the last week without one because I just lost the one I was carrying previous to that.

    As for the technology of the pens I prefer roller ball pens of both the 0.3mm tip and the 0.5mm tip. Black is my preferred color and that preference is probably a hold over from my days in the US Navy where everything was supposed to be written with black ink.

    Peter L. BergholdBrewer of Belgian Ales
    Unix Professional
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by simonm (Vicar) on Jul 19, 2003 at 16:09 UTC
    I prefer writing pads with perforations, so you can tear sheets out and sort them into file folders. Any white letter-sized pad will do, but my favorites are Levenger's heavy-quality paper with wide margins.

    For pens, I like the Uni-ball Vision pens, either the "fine" point for general writing or the thinner "micro" point for diagrams and annotation, with black ink for everyday work and a couple of bright colors for places you need highlights or variation.

Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by Louis_Wu (Chaplain) on Jul 19, 2003 at 17:21 UTC
    When I was in university (Mechanical Engineering) I had 2 types of writing stick/paper combinations - for homework and for taking notes. Homework was mechanical pencil and graph/engineering paper. (Engineering paper usually has a border around the grid and some sort of "title block" area. It was the standard in my department.) Taking notes I used copy paper and a rollerball pen. The copy paper was thick enough to prevent the ink from smearing or flowing, and it was completely blank - letting me draw sketches and FBDs anywhere I wanted. Since most of my classes were math-based, with lots of little pictures, this worked really well. Punch holes in it, and stick it in your binder, and less expensive than most other decent paper. ... BTW, my rollerball pen was capless, similar to this one.

    Perl programming and scheduling in the corporate world, as explained by dragonchild:
    "Uhh ... that'll take me three weeks, broken down as follows: 1 day for coding, the rest for meetings to explain why I only need 1 day for coding."
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by simon.proctor (Vicar) on Jul 19, 2003 at 19:37 UTC
    Best pens for me are the uni-ball micro pens from Mistubishi. My co-workers try to steal them from me but I buy them myself as my company only buys generic ball points. Easy to hold and great for scribbling with.

    For notebooks I tend to just use whatever is in the office though I do like the moleskien books. Almost too nice for scribbling in though :)
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by thraxil (Prior) on Jul 20, 2003 at 01:39 UTC

    as an artist, and compulsive doodler, i can be pretty snobby about writing implements.

    i can't stand lined paper. probably because any time i'm writing there is the distinct possibility of it turning into a sketch and i don't want the lines to interfere. the 8x12 artist sketchpad i currently carry is pretty typical for me.

    i don't like writing with pencils. pencils are pretty much exclusively for sketching. i usually carry a range of Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils just in case.

    my current pen of choice is the Pilot EasyTouch medium. blue and black are both good. i like ball-point pens with relatively dry ink that doesn't bleed too much; they let me get a whole range of shades almost like a pencil, but less prone to smudging.

    anders pearson

Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by hsmyers (Canon) on Jul 20, 2003 at 03:03 UTC
    A 'steno pad' (6in x 9in or 15.2cm x 22.8) plus 'click' pencil (5mm HB) with a side of Sanford(c) 'Magic Rub' vinyl eraser. Not to mention the required pad of post-it notes, world's best book mark!


    "Never try to teach a pig to wastes your time and it annoys the pig."
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by valdez (Monsignor) on Jul 20, 2003 at 16:10 UTC

    Nice meditation dws!

    I'm left-handed so prefer to use pen with ink that dries fast; last few years I've been using Stabilo point 88 with 0,4 tip. I have at least 50 of them, in different colors; of course I don't use all of them, they're in most cases with blue ink; the other ones are used to break ice with clients: try to pull out many coloured pens from your toolbag at the beginning of a meeting and let me know what happens:)

    I never write code on paper, I think that the only thing that should be written are user requirements or sketches of your ideas and projects. A4 is my preferred size; paper weight is 60 g/m2 for everyday use and 80 g/m2 for special needs. My preferred paper is carta di amalfi, which was used for my wedding invitations.

    Ciao, Valerio

Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by allolex (Curate) on Jul 20, 2003 at 17:24 UTC

    Out of guilt, I tend to use the reverse side of A4 printing experiments from work that have gone wrong. With seven people feeding the same scratch paper pile, there is always enough. We're trying to encourage people to print to Postscript and check formatting on the screen using a viewer, but we haven't had much luck because we mainly have CRT's and not LCD's*.

    As for pens, I have a hard time finding ones that I like. I currently use the Mitsubishi Pencil Co.'s Uni-Ball "Eye", fine tip, blue. I do not use pencils because they smear, even after years.

    I bought a Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 handheld about a year ago and use it for notes and thoughts I think I'm going to re-use. (I also have Perl installed on it, which works very well.) The OpenZaurus paint program is great for jotting down small, handwritten notes and doodling. I try to use the Z for all my note-taking, but paper is a hard habit to break.


    * - Another good link on the topic

Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by dbush (Deacon) on Jul 20, 2003 at 10:23 UTC

    For the whole of my career (coming up to ten years now - gulp - how did that happen?) I've always had a Black n' Red hardcover notebook on the go. I started off being a proponent of the case bound A4 ruled but have become a wire bound A5 person of late as I find it more convenient when taking notes in meetings.

    The "blame" for my notebook preference can be laid squarely at the door of my first boss. Up until that point I always took my lecture notes on loose-leaf paper and stored them in binders. At first I continued to do this but mislaid some notes that I had taken during a meeting (didn't really matter that time). On hearing this, my boss gave me his spare notebook (Bn'R A4 case bound) and convinced me that a notebook was better as it was impossible to lose individual pages. I did point out to him that you could lose the whole notebook, therefore losing all the notes but he suggested that it would be "best not to do that".

    My business card is stuck on the inside of the front cover, with the words "cash reward if returned" underneath. Work stuff goes in the front of the book and personal stuff goes in the back. When they meet in the middle it's time to get another one (worryingly this usually happens at about the 4/5 mark - does this indicate a poor work/life ratio?). I also attach a number of record cards to the back cover using a small fold back clip. These cards are useful for capturing stuff like tasks that might be overlooked in the bulk text of notebook itself. The clip is also useful for attaching any papers, receipts, etc that I need to keep hold of. In the UK these clips are sometimes called bulldog clips but I'm not sure this is the case elsewhere?

    I was inspired to see just how many notebooks I've got through and despite my frequent diagrams and mindmaps, I'm half way through only my 14th. Perhaps my handwriting is more compact than I thought.

    I was never as brand loyal with pens. Whatever was to hand, as long as it was black, would do (BTW: am I alone in hating writing in blue?), although the classic Bic Crystal was a bit of favourite. This changed recently as my brother gave me a Mont Blanc Meisterstuck Bordeaux Classique Rollerball for my 30th birthday. A very nice pen to write with indeed; very comfortable to hold, smooth and fast drying. This last factor is very important to me as I am left handed and hate smudges.



    My other note taking mechanism is a trivial script that I can run on my PC to create a new text file in my notes directory and open it my text editor. The code is shown here in some embarrassment as it was one of the first things I ever wrote in Perl and it shows (note the missing "use warnings") but I use it multiple times a day and it does what I need.

Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by parv (Parson) on Jul 20, 2003 at 07:36 UTC

    I am in USA; two mostly used paper sizes seem to be letter (8.5"x11") and legal.

    For note taking in a school setting i prefer to have a thick notebook which will not undo itself due to its own weight and binding.

    The spring coiled ones have a tendency to free/tear the paper near the start/end of the notebook . Other problem is that they cannot be bent/molded or the spring starts to unfold. The perforated ones unravel when bent around the binding ever so slightly. Binders (w/ loose leaf paper) are just plain bulky/clumsy to take notes.

    So the only thing that discourages the notebooks not to be undone is to use thin versions. I have yet to find a stable, thick, reasonably priced notebook like thing.

    On work (as in job), i much prefer loose leaf paper (in a binder clamp) or a pad w/ perforations.

    These days, i carry pads around 7.25"x5". There purpose is to take small disjointed notes, unsuitable to sketch out algorithm, truth table or such. For that purpose i have blank 20lb (next time i am going to 24-28lb) laser printer paper, or unused side of paper received in mail.

    For sketching or pencil doodling i prefer heavy weight paper; pen doodling is best done on smooth 24lb copier/printer paper.

    In any case, I prefer to use unused side/portion of a clean paper before recycling/throwing/shredding.

    My writing style involves writing w/ very light pressure. If i need to consciously press the pen to write, that pen is not for me. Some gel pens are a delight to write with in that regard.

    Parker Vector -- a rollerball pen, ~$6 -- is hideous mostly because the writing point becomes coarse, skips at certain angle, and the ink container leaks (from/near the writing point) when shaken.

    I use pencils only when required. I do use colored pencils of my own free will for sketching and like.

    Non-refillable pens are avoided. I love the jotter variety of ball pens. They write far more than regular ball point ones (gel pens included). Only problem is that one does not know if ink is running out until pen stops to write.

    Portability is best provided w/ those pens which do not have loose caps or accidental pushing of button at the end to worry about. That leaves the pen housing design which can the twist for me.

    I like the shell to be on the thicker side with some weight, unlike skinny Parker or Cross Classic (description) versions. Currently i have three-four identical Sheaffer Prelude housings. (The one i have is not shown; imagine it to be the base finish like the one at the bottom w/ gold(en) trims.) I once bought and returned another Prelude pen w/ high gloss chrome like finish as it hurt my eyes.

    I am accustomed to blue ink, but some entities like things to be filled out in black ink. Any other color ink (not as dark as blue or black) w/ good contrast on light (colored) paper is good enough for editing, annotations, etc. Any writing is best done w/ fine point, unless the paper is rough. Medium point (in dark ink) is versatile when it comes to doodling.

    Real men write in ink.
      - me
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by chunlou (Curate) on Jul 20, 2003 at 06:51 UTC
    Anyone uses one of those giant writing pads (4 - 5 feet tall, paper)? Pretty nice to use when discussing ideas with a couple of people, write things down on the giant pad, and then present them to a larger group of people for further discussion. Get plenty of color markers too, and an easel if you don't want to hold the big pad up by hand.
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by naChoZ (Curate) on Jul 21, 2003 at 03:44 UTC
    I wish I knew what kind of paper it was, but my company provided memo pad of paper (with the logo and our names on it and stuff) is actually very very nice paper. I believe it is a4 size.

    For pen, I'm not too picky really, other than the fatter the better. For some reason, the 'scratchiness' of a skinny pen turns my handwriting to garbage. A nice fat pen that liberally dumps ink and I can write oddly well. It's always made me wonder about the pen sizes, medium, fine, micro, etc, are easy to find. What about the full size? Extra large? Give me something with a ping-pong ball in the tip. ;)

    Has anyone tried their hand at making wooden pens? I'd love to give it a try, but finding a wood lathe that wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg is tough.


Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by castaway (Parson) on Jul 21, 2003 at 07:48 UTC
    I always have a wire-bound A4 squared-paper notebook lying next to my keyboard. At work it gets used for notes on what I'm doing, have to do, notes in meetings etc. At home it is usually lying under a pile of other junk, but gets used every now and then to write down programming ideas, algorithms, phone numbers and whatever else needs noting in the spur of the moment.

    Most of this gets written into a generic ~/stuff file on my computer though, chronologically sorted and never deleted. (Currently 56k and first entry from around 5 years ago, it looks like ,)

    Since work only provides biros, I habitually carry a pen in my back pocket, which gets replaced when I lose it, which is more often than it actually running out. Currently its a Mitsubushi Uni-Ball fine, which is a new brand for me, I carried some other uni-ball for years (but no idea which) - which the place where I bought them doesn't stock any more (I hate it when that happens!)

    I bought a Psion way back and used it for note-taking etc. at work for ages, then I got a Psion 5mxPro, which eats batteries compared to the old one, and doesn't get carried around as much consequently (not recently anyway.. maybe again when I can afford its hunger ,). Still they usefully replaced my address book+calender :)


Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by ajdelore (Pilgrim) on Jul 21, 2003 at 16:41 UTC

    I always write with fountain pens... My current favorites are a black Platinum Very Presidential filled with black ink, and a Waterman Phileas with violet ink that is really useful to mark up printed material.

    At work I normally use yellow legal pads, but outside of that I like notebooks from Clairefontaine, as they have great paper for the fountain pen ink.


Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by Rex(Wrecks) (Curate) on Jul 21, 2003 at 18:43 UTC
    I have been gifted with a memory for details. I don't usually use anything but my grey matter, and if the bulk of information is such that I can't assimilate it in the time given, I usually have my laptop around and open by then.

    Of interesting note, my handwriting has gotten horrid, I rarely use a writting tool to do more than sign a credit card reciept anymore, so taking notes probably would not help in the long run anyway, I wouldn't be able to read them :)

    "Nothing is sure but death and taxes" I say combine the two and its death to all taxes!
Re: OT: Favorite notebooks and pens
by benizi (Hermit) on Jul 21, 2003 at 16:32 UTC
    Not at all picky about my notebook. Lately I've been using a Stegosaurus-shaped party favor notepad that I found left over from my 8th birthday.

    For my pens, however, I swear by my blue 0.3mm-tip Pentel Hybrid Gel Rollers (Pentel K-105C), with NO grip.

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