Writing tools

Tools for Writing: Filofax vs. Moleskine

Of all the tools for writing, I use a Filofax slimline organiser, not to manage my diary or contacts but as simple reporter's notebook. I scribble away and then I can shuffle the pages, throw away the rubbish and file the notes once the story is completed.

I use Muji carboard Filofax-compatible organisers that I bought in a sale for a pound or two each for the filing. They don't make them now but Filofax do a similar thing in plastic.

This means I can sort old notes by year and into work and journalism folders. I always want to be able to go back and dig out old notes if there's ever a query about an article or I revisit a subject. It also means that my notebook is thin and tidy and looks suitably weather-beaten. I like going to meetings at Microsoft where they all heft out giant TabletPCs and I have my little notebook.

However, lots of people love Moleskine notebooks. Partly because of their retro bohemian credibility and partly because they are well made of good materials and paper and feel satisfying to use. I use one as a journal to scribble my thoughts in every day. My wife uses a fullscap one for her 'morning pages' (after Julia Cameron's Artist's Way book).

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But what I really want is a digital notebook.

It's funny how technology has moved backwards in some areas. In my life I've used an Epson HX-20, a Toshiba Libretto 70CT, HP 200LX, a Sinclair Z88 and my first encounter with a portable computer was a Tandy 100. My friend Stuart bought a dozen Psion MX5s when they announced that they would stop making them. Where can I buy anything like them today? Here's my specification for a 'notebook computer':

  • A keyboard suitable for touchtyping
  • Instant on, instant off
  • Self-protecting (i.e. I don't need an extra case to stop the screen being scratched)
  • A little handle would be nice
  • Runs for eight hours on two to four AA batteries at a minimum. Ideally, it should go for a week without recharging / replacing the batteries.
  • Easily syncs with my PC, ideally with Microsoft Word
  • No bigger, fatter or heavier than a copy of Wired magazine
  • Less than £500. Ideally less than £200.
  • I don't care if it runs CP/M, Linux or Windows or if it has Bluetooth or Wifi.

Of course that doesn't stop me yearning, like a drooling geek puppy, for an OQO even if I can't touchtype on it.

[Update 10/3/2010. I use an iPhone now. I bought an OQO and it was too noisy, too small for typing and it had lousy battery life. I quite like the Sony Vaio P11D which does most of the things I want but would benefit from better battery life. I'm looking forward to the next generation of ultra portables.]

[Update 13/4/2017. MacBook Air. That is all.]

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Matthew Stibbe

Matthew is founder and CEO of Articulate Marketing.