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What to look for in notebooks & pads

From jotting down quick reminders at home to taking important notes at school or work, notebooks and pads are quite handy tools, even in an increasingly digital world. Taking notes by hand can be a helpful way of avoiding distractions or of quickly writing something down without worrying about battery life or load times. Understanding the basic features of a notebook or pad can be the key to finding exactly what you need.

Notebook and pad features to consider

You'll find there are a lot of differences between various notebooks and pads. Some of these difference are quite obvious at a glance, but others are more subtle and may not become apparent until you use them. Make sure you choose the right item by deciding what kind of features you want in each of these categories and looking for products that match.

  • Size: Overall dimensions of a notebook or pad make a difference in how you can transport them and how long they'll last. This means that you should look at length and width measurements in addition to page counts to make sure you get the right thing. For example, when you need to buy a small notebook that you can keep inside your purse or computer bag, look for an option that's just a few inches wide by a few inches long.
  • Binding: The individual sheets in notebooks and pads can be held together in different ways, and this can affect the way you use them. This is especially true of notebooks, which can be easier to open completely when they're spiral bound rather than sewn together. Notebooks with large spiral bindings may be more difficult to store in a small backpack or tote bag, though, so keep this in mind as you look at bindings.
  • Cover type: While not all notepads have covers, most notebooks do. The cover can help protect the paper inside and keep pages from getting damaged or torn. Paper covers are generally less protective than covers made from thicker materials such as plastic or cardboard. You can decide what kind of cover you need by thinking about how you'll use the notebook. When you need to carry your notebook by hand in rainy or snowy weather, a waterproof cover material like plastic is probably a better choice than something thin like paper.
  • Paper color: Notebook and pad paper color is largely a matter of preference. Though legal pads are often yellow, there isn't an official reason for this. Choose fun neon colors for things like pads of sticky notes that you'll use to write important notes to yourself at your desk. You can stick with plain white paper for notebooks that you'll spend a lot of time looking at.
  • Paper format: Notebook and pad paper can be formatted in a variety of different ways, from completely unmarked paper to lined or dotted formatting that helps keep handwriting even and straight. Or choose notebooks or pads with pages that are specially formatted for bookkeeping or billing purposes with built-in line item space.
  • Perforation: When you need to tear pages out of your notebook, look for perforated pages. A perforation is a small series of holes in a row that allow you to easily tear a page out of its binding and avoid damaging the notebook or the page itself. Notepads can also be perforated, but some styles use a simple glue binding that allows you to peel pages away without worrying about tearing along a dotted line.
  • Separators: Some notebooks are designed for multi-subject use and come with built-in tabs. These are useful for students who need to juggle multiple classes. Other notebooks may include folder pockets at the front or back for storage of notes and accessories. Still others may include a ribbon bookmark so you can easily find your place in the notebook. These features are less common for notepads.
  • Adhesive: Notepads can come with a sticky backing that allows you to hang them up without additional supplies. While convenient in some situations, that adhesive backing can be just as much of a nuisance as an asset when you need a notepad to use for other purposes. Be on the lookout for words like "sticky" or "adhesive."