02 January 2011

Book Review - Filofax Facts - Ian Sinclair

I came across this book on Amazon, it was published in 1988, so it was written very much in the 'hey day' of Filofax that we now think of as being 'Vintage'.

Although as we know or will learn, 1988 is still fairly 'recent' in terms of the overall history of the company.  The company has of course changed hands several times in it's history which dates back to 1921.... 90 years this year..

The book is some 150 pages, published by David Fulton Publishers Ltd. ISBN 1-85346-106-7 I'm not sure how many copies were printed or sold back in 1988.

The copy I bought from a third party seller on Amazon.co.uk is in good condition, one minor crease on the back cover but otherwise like new.

The book is divided up in to the following chapters:
  • Preface
  • 1. Historical Fax
  • 2. Organising your Time
  • 3. Personal Organisation
  • 4. Doing Business.
  • 5. Communications and sales organisation
  • 6. Data organisation
  • 7. Specialised Organisation
  • 8. The Packaging
The 1st chapter covers the history of the company from 1921 through the war years until 1988, the next chapters describe the numerous page inserts that were available back in the 1980's, a lot of them I remember, although I didn't use all of them! But I will describe them in more detail later in this post. And the final chapter describes the actual organisers themselves which didn't have as many style or size options as we now have!

Reading through the book was quite an enjoyable experience for me because I was able to relate to how business was conducted back in the 1980's, dare I say... some of our younger readers will find it quite amusing, but you have to remember our only communications means back then was the telephone, fax machine, telex there wasn't any internet... although Prestel gets a mention in the books! So yes this book was very much 'my era'

However, I did pick up a few tips from the book which I will share with you in the next few days/weeks. It's going back to this era that made me realise how the company intended us to use certain refills that made me think that may be we aren't using them in quite the way that they were originally intended, so watch this space!

Inserted in to the book are also some period cartoons, for instance picture if you will two tramps walking across some waste ground in very scruffy and torn business suits, and one says to the other 'It all started when I lost my Filofax!'   

So in a little more detail about each chapter:
  1. Historical Filofax
    Details how the brand came in to existence and it's early history under the company called Norman and Hill Ltd. It includes how Grace Scurr saved the company when it's office was bombed during the war because she had all the customer records in her own Filofax that she took home every night.

    The details of what happened to the company during the war and in the years that followed up until 1988. For a more detailed and up to date history you need to read the Chronology of Filofax by Kevin Hall.
  2. Organising Your Time
    This chapter outlines the diary inserts and how they might be used. The diary inserts available in the 1980's aren't that much different to those we see today. There are a few interesting differences, there were more undated pages available back then. I will go in to more detail about how they were intended to be used in a separate post. 

    Also covered in this chapter are the various planner pages available. These included:
    • Year Planner - Horizontal format, which is limited in terms of space for each day, the days are vertically aligned to the same day of the week.
    • Year Planner - Vertical format, which has a larger space for each day to write in. Days are horizontally aligned according to the date in the month.
    • Month Planner - The sheet is in a horizontal format with a column numbered 1 - 31, and separate columns for Morning, Lunch, Afternoon and Evening, plus some blank columns for times and one for you to write in what the day of week the dates are for.
  3. Personal Organisation
    This chapter covers the following inserts:
    • Names and Address inserts in several familiar formats
    • Most used telephone numbers - a paper version of speed dial!
    • Function Planner, which includes spaces for the guest list, venue, date, menu, wines, notes
    • Restaurant review sheet, with details of the restaurant, services offered, location, notes, contact information, name of the maitre'd.
    • House entertainment - similar to the function planner sheet but on the back there is space to draw the table layout and who will sit next to who.
    • Recipe Sheet - with details of the preparation time, ingredients and method of cooking
    • Telephone message sheet
    • Shopping list, this is broken down in to meat/fish, vegetables, canned food, drinks, bread and cakes, groceries, household items. Only for use by the butler I would think!
    • Cellar Notes - For recording all your wine purchases, supplier, prices etc. One sheet I think I will have to recreate soon....
    • Tasting Notes - The follow on to your Cellar Notes, but with areas to record its appearance, nose, palate and conclusions.. ditto this one!
    • Chess Score Record
    • Bird Watchers Checklist - supplied by the RSPB
    • Don't Forget - what we currently know as a To-Do list
    • Memo - the sort of thing you would then pass to your secretary or the typing pool to type and send out
    • Personal Services - a list of contacts in places you visit, the taxi firm, florist, tailor, places of worship, dry cleaner etc. 
    • Hotel record - similar to the restaurant review sheet, so you have all the details etc for the next time you visit.
    • Sports Records:
      • Anglers Catch Record
      • Golf Record
      • Snooker Record
      • Running Record
      • Skiing Record
      • Windsurfing Record
  4. Doing Business
    This chapter deals with recording financial and other business information in your Filofax with different forms of Cash Journals as well as the following inserts:
    • Credit Card Charges
    • Motor Running Costs - Fuel, Servicing etc
    • Personal Expenses - itemised spending sheets with balance and totals
    • Monthly Time Planner - Like an undated planner, but with key objectives and dates to remember included on the reverse side
    • Day Planner - Appointments, To-Do's, Don't Forget
    • Flexible Time Log
    • Letter Planner
    • Messages - similar to a telephone message
    • Agenda Planner
    • Meeting Planner
    • Delegation Brief
    • Travel Planner - Mainly for business travel
    • Exercise Log/Bookings Planner, space for the type of exercise, length of activity, gym location and booking information
    • Weekly Meal Planner
    • Investment and Dividend Record
  5. Communications and sales organisation This chapter covers the use of graph paper to show sales and production information. Does any one still use graph paper these days? This chapter also includes the use of the following inserts:
    • Customer Records - Full details of your contacts and other details, on the reverse side it includes space to record monthly sales to the customer, with space to record several years worth of data to show trends in sales etc. 
    • Customer Enquiry Form - with room to record details such as follow ups when chasing sales. 
    • Maps, Tube Maps, Street Plans and International Data Sets are also discussed.
  6. Data organisation
    This chapter discusses contents of the International and National (UK) Data Sets. I still have these from 1988 in the back of my Winchester Filofax, as they say... Never get rid of anything!

    Some of these information sheets are now included with each Filofax Diary Refill, but as you can see the amount of information within the data sets was quite extensive.

    Within the International Data set there was the following information sheets:
    • EEC National Holidays 1988
    • International Paper Sizes
    • Distances by Road in Continental Europe
    • Details of countries in the EEC all 12 countries (back then) details include the area, population, capital, languages, currency (pre Euro of course), GNP, Income, National Anthem
    • International Clothing Sizes
    • Seasonal Temperatures around the World
    • BBC World Service Frequencies
    • BBC World Service Programmes
    • Contagious Diseases and Vaccinations

    In the National Data Set there was the following information sheets:
    • Sunrise/Sunset - Moonrise/Moonset for London in 1988
    • General Conversion Factors
    • Clothing Sizes
    • Wedding Anniversaries
    • Useful Telephone Numbers for a wide range of organisations
    • UK Travel Information for stations, Inter City booking offices and Motorail services
    • Wine Vintage Chart
    • Some Notable London Eating Places
    • Road Distances in the UK in Miles
    This chapter also discusses Index and Indices, these haven't change much since 1988.

    Also discussed is the Filofax matching accessories including the leather change holder that I bought last year. This item was apparently designed by Diane Keaton and Filofax took up her suggestion and produced this item in several colours, so that they matched the colours of Filofax Organisers on sale at the time. 

    Also available was a leather credit/debit card holder, a plastic visiting card/business card holder, a leather cheque holder that was the correct size for Euro Cheques.

    Long term storage, storage boxes for your unused and archiving of used sheets and diary pages.
  7. Specialised Organisation Filofax created a lot of specialist inserts for the following areas:
    • Art and Design, 
    • Religion, 
    • Photography - I have some of these still.
    • Education,
    • FilmFax
    • Health, Home and Security
    • Medical (GP records)
    • Property/Real Estate
    • Military Course Instructors Records
  8. The Packaging
    The final chapter in the book discusses the different Filofax Organisers, the types of leather, the sizes of the rings, all quoted in inches of course!

    I hadn't realised until I read this chapter that the Deskfax had nine rings arranged in three lots of three rings and that Personal size pages would fit between the upper group of rings and the middle rings and also between the lower group of rings and the middle rings, so you could view both levels with some over lap between the two sets of pages.

    The PocketFax was also mentioned but I believe although this is the same size approximately as our current Pocket size it only had 4 rings not the 6 we now have.
So that was a very quick over view of a very comprehensive book on what used to be available back in the late 1980's. I wish I still had a catalogue from that era because I would now be able to understand it a lot better than I did back then! Trying to decide which inserts to buy was quite a task back then, especially for the new comer like myself!

The book includes pictures of some of the inserts, which for me is excellent because I should now be able to recreate some of the sheets I have seen people mention on Philofaxy in the past, for instance the Weekly Meal Planner.

Initially I will recreate an updated version of some of the older inserts in A5 format, because that size is quite easy to create and print. I will then try to adapt these to Personal size, which is the original size of nearly all of these inserts.

Overall I'm very pleased with the book, it is an interesting insight in how particular inserts were intended to be used. The author had access to the insert designers, which was obviously a big advantage.

I wonder if Filofax would consider expanding the range of inserts again if they saw how many used to be available, or provide similar guidance to users for the existing ones.

In the coming weeks I will pick out some of the inserts and show you what they looked like and how they were intended to be used.

There are some useful tips in the book about how you might make better use of the capacity of your Filofax organiser that might surprise you.

So do any of you remember any of these inserts? Or is there any of them mentioned above that you would like to see again?

Drop a comment in to this post or email me if you are interested in more detail about any particular ones.


  1. "There are some useful tips in the book about how you might make better use of the capacity of your Filofax organiser that might surprise you."

    Ooh - can you do a post on these sometime please??

    Excellent review Steve. How did you find the book? Were you sent it or did you discover it? (Apologies if you have already said that somewhere...)

  2. Hi Amanda
    Yes that post will be on line soon...

    I forget how I found the book, most probably searching for Filofax on Amzaon. I have added a link to the post.


  3. Great review Steve! I'm looking forward to the description of how certain inserts were "meant" to be used. I really like the cellar inserts - I could devote an entire binder to wine/coffee/tea drinks, as I love them all.

    Looking at Amazon US, the book is not available here, just as an FYI to anyone who might be interested. Your review and upcoming posts will probably fulfill my curiosity on what the book discusses.

    Thanks again!

  4. You mention "pocketfax" - i had one. They were indeed the same size as the current "pocket" size, and had 4 rings, which were essentially the inner 4 of the personal's 6 rings. This was so you could take pocketfax pages and insert them directly into your personal sized filofax. A good idea!

  5. Very interesting stuff! One thing I noticed: those restaurant detail inserts, Kate Spade still makes them. They come as part of the annual refill packs. I don't think you can buy them individually. I use them as my "restaurants to try" list, since I don't need any help remembering my favorite restaurants. ;)

  6. Great review!!!!

    I do recall the interchangeability between the "Pocket", "Personal", and "Deskfax", with the latter being "extincted" by now. I feel sorry for that, because it appears to be a limitation. At least for all of us, who use more than one Filo and size.

    Maybe we could ask for that at Filofax UK?


  7. Good to see this book described Steve. I also have a copy, and enjoyed reading it. I liked the reminders it gave of all the double and larger leaves available at that time in personal size.
    And it also mentions the Datex system, which allowed you to arrange 1/4" strips of paper in a transparent, personal sized holder. Sounds very fiddly, but also fun. I wonder if anyone can remember using it

  8. There is a copy of this on Ebay at the moment. Grossly inflated price.


    No it is not my book, and I have no connection to the seller.

  9. Hi,
    I bought my filofax in 1984 (5CLF7/8). I still have a whole range of odd insets I bought around that time including some Drs notes

  10. This post sure brings back memories -- I have this book and read it cover to cover! In 1989 I had recently been promoted to a new job, and needed to be more organised. I tried a Daytimer but didn't like the narrow line ruling. When I came across a Filofax I thought it was perfect! My "local stockist" had just received two copies of this book, and I bought a Filofax and a book on the spot. It was an excellent introduction to the range of Filofax products, and how they can be used. I've never seen the book before or since.
    BTW, one of my favourite discontinued leaves is the Travel Information page, reference 133525. I have a few left, dated 2000. It details your plane or train travel each way, car rental, hotel, places to visit, appointments, travel agent, insurance, time difference, and even the international access code. If you have a multi-destination trip, you can use one for each leg. Perfect for planning a business trip. Upon your return, you could give it to your admin assistant to fill out your expense claim.