Review of Tops Focus Notes Notepads.

We received a review package of Tops products from the folks at Shoplet and Tops (thanks!). We have two of their newish Focus Notes books to try, the letter-sized and small top-glued style.

The Focus Notes pads are designed for meeting and project notes. There is a top margin for “Date” and “Purpose.” The page is split into two main columns. The “Notes” column takes up the majority of the page, with lines that approximate “college ruled” paper. The left column has no lines and is the “Cue Column.” The bottom margin is for the “Summary”.
The funny thing is that this format was very handy when I filled up a few paged with different kinds of pencil for review purposes, for a graphite assessment, and for a general review. I can imagine these columns coming in handy in the kinds of community outreach and higher ed meetings I used to attend at my last regular job and when I was in AmeriCorps. The lines are a nice, light grey that is easy on the eyes. The lines are even light enough to not interfere with graphite marks, provided Comrades use something darker than a Faber-Castell 9000 HB.
The paper is thin and not enormously opaque; I can see the lines from the page under the one I’m writing on a bit. But the paper is very smooth and takes pencil very well. It lacks the roughness and fragility of typical legal pad paper, in my opinion. I’d much rather use one of these for taking furious meeting notes than a cheap legal pad (or the back of the printed meeting agenda). If it makes sense to say, this paper reveals graphite shades/hues to be pretty true. Some papers make cores look darker, while others make them appear more lightly. This paper does a good job of running to what I feel is the true darkness of a pencil’s core. Smear resistance is shockingly good, and ghosting is no issue, since the pages are only printed on one side.
The printing quality various from good to Okay. Some of the lines have breaks, and the lines on different pages don’t exactly line up. But these aren’t premium-priced French notebooks or pseudo-European books, either. The quality is actually quite good for the price and purpose of these books.
I like the design, but I think it could be a little better with a few changes:

1) The top margin just takes up too much space.
2) The “Cue Column” has the word “column” in it, while the “Notes” section does not. I’m not sure why.
3) Graph paper or a dot grid would be very nice. But the line spacing is nice for meeting notes, as they are.

In all, I think these pads will be useful for pencil reviews, since they help to organize thoughts about them (to be turned into a blogged review) and since the graphite’s core will reveal its true…darkness.

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