Shoplet.com sent me some office supplies to review, and this time we have TOPS Idea and TOPS Cornell Note Taking System Notebooks and Journals.
The cover is hard like many other comparable notebooks, and you can see a bit more thought has been put into the design vs. a plain, smooth, black surface. This may be too far away for some traditional tastes out there, but I like something different.
You get a dedicated section for the date, which is somewhat more professional though a bit more prescriptive in terms for allowing for free form. At work I love having stationary with a date on it, but I feel pressure when I have to add a date for my personal writing. I can't ding a product for my own divided perspectives, so I'm going to say that you may or may not enjoy this feature. That being said, I think this will be perfect for recording thoughts on new approaches to documentation, marketing, and process improvement at work.
The TOPS Idea Journal also includes the standard pocket in the back. If you remember to use it, this is a great feature. Recipes, receipts, extra scraps of paper, fortunes - it's certainly nice to have the option for additional storage.
The paper feels smooth and leans towards premium paper, thought it is thin and transparent. I wasn't sure about how well the paper was going to perform, but I had a feeling it was going to be pleasantly receptive to liquid ink pens.
On the front side, gel, ballpoint, and thin plastic tipped pens did great, but this was not the case for the Vivo Micro Fine and the Sanford Liquid Expresso.
As you can see, this paper has some serious show-through. There's no chance of using the back side of this paper to write on, except maybe for pencil or a thin gel. At the end of the day, the paper is very nice to write on, and the product as a whole isn't too expensive @ $5.42/each. For the money, this is a pretty darn good notebook. I'm going to say that I like Piccadilly notebooks better, at least when they're good, but I would absolutely choose the TOPS Idea Journal over a Moleskine, which is easily the most over-rated notebook on the market (that I've seen).
Next up, the TOPS Idea Notebook:
I'm going to keep this one pretty brief, because the paper experience was the same. The Notebook is 10" x 7.5", and comes with 48 sheets (96 pages), even though the Shoplet.com site incorrectly lists this as having 96 sheets. The color of the pages is cream, and the paper is 80gsm.
You get two notebooks for $11.91, which is pretty reasonable. The show-through is less severe, and these are perfectly decent notebooks. Yes, I'd personally prefer something from the Clairefontaine family of papers, but this is a great alternative if you want something more affordable and don't care about the show-through and feathering of liquid inks.
Both the Idea Journal and Idea Notebooks are wide ruled, and neither one of them is made with recycled content if that is important to you.
Lastly, we have the TOPS Cornell Note Taking System, as Shoplet calls it, though the product is actually called 'focusnotes'. I was really excited about these, because I'm always looking for an optimal methodology for taking notes, tracking action items and questions, and organizing the note taking process for later analysis.
Though I had heard of the Cornell Note Taking System, this was my first exposure to it, and I love it.
Shown above is a writing sample as well as the general layout. You have your primary notes area on the right, while your 'Cue Column' is on the left. The Cue Column is for your Questions, Reminders, and Key Terms, as suggested by TOPS, though you may have other ideas for how to use the Cue Column.
Not shown is the Summary section, which spans along the bottom; I cropped this section out by accident, but I doubt I have to explain a Summary section that takes up a horizontal block along the bottom of the page.
I don't know the gram weight of this paper, but it's on the thinner side. Not only is there significant show-through, but you also get imprinting (embossed lines) from just about anything. The liquid ink pens feathered, and there was some bleed through from the Schneider Xpress and Sharpie Ultra Fine, which is to be expected. You can see the bleed-through in the image below but, yes, what doesn't bleed through with a Sharpie besides a select few?
I'd be curious to see if TOPS ends up offering high-end selections at some point, but these are a great start.