20 October 2011

Size matters...

Anyone who knows me well enough, will know that I love playing around with spreadsheets to look at things from a different point of view, to see things from a different angle and may be to discover something new I hadn't realised before....

So yes you guessed it, I couldn't resist plugging some numbers in to Excel the other day in connection to Filofax organisers, to see if there was something I had over looked or may be explain why some sizes are more popular than others.

So I decided to use the page area of the different sizes to see how they compare to each other between the different sizes.

Size H x W (mm) Area (sq mm)
A4 297 x 210 62370
A5 210 x 148 31185
Personal 171 x 95 16245
Pocket 120 x 81 9720
Mini 105 x 67 7035

Then looking at the page size in terms of percentage of each other and say 'converting' from one size to another size. In the table below, lets say you are using a Personal size and you are going to A5. You start on the top Personal and go down to A5 on the left hand side. This indicates that A5 is 192% in page area relative to Personal size (nearly double the page area)

Current Size
Future Size A4 A5 Personal Pocket Mini
A4 100% 200% 384% 642% 887%
A5 50% 100% 192% 321% 443%
Personal 26% 52% 100% 167% 231%
Pocket 16% 31% 60% 100% 138%
Mini 11% 23% 43% 72% 100%

Another example, this time Personal to Pocket, your page size would be 60% of your current page size.

This got me thinking... if people are tending to cycle between A5 and Personal size. The sort of thing we hear is people like the extra space that A5 gives them, but they don't like the additional bulk of an A5 organiser.

Seeing the figures above it doesn't come as any surprise really as to why the A5 has such an advantage over the Personal size, but people are swapping too much between sizes.

There's almost a case for another size between A5 and Personal, one say that in the same ratio as an A5 page 1:1.4142.  This ratio is the same as the square root of 2, or the inverse of Sine 45 degrees, so there is some magic about the ratio of the height versus the width of the European paper sizes.

So I picked a page area roughly between the two sizes about 23000 sq mm, in that ratio you get a page size of 180x127mm or put another way, slightly taller than personal, but about a third wider compared to Personal size or 41% bigger than personal size. This page would look something like this in blue:

So I compromised slightly and made it the same height as Personal (171mm) in the same ratio as A5 that gives a page width of 121 mm and a page area of 20691 sq mm Or 27% bigger than personal size.

This is what it would look like and how it compares to Personal and A5 size.  An organiser in this size would need to be wider, but it would be the same height as a Personal size... think of it as Personal + 

I doubt if we would ever see organisers available in that size, but it might prove to be a more popular size if it ever did go in to production.


  1. great post Steve....thank you

  2. Excellent post Steve. I would definitely benefit from personal plus! However they will probably never create that size to encourage us to keep swapping and buying more organisers.

  3. Oh and I love the title of this post! Haha.

  4. Are people up really late or really early today?

    I've never really understood the rationale behind the personal page size - it always feels too narrow for its height. Personal plus would be great!
    Does anyone know why filofax went for A4 and A5 but not A6 for any of the sizes?

  5. Really interesting Steve. My theory is that the original personal sizes may have been based on some division of a standard size that was current at the time.

    Of course the opposite may have been true - create a binder size that customers *have* to buy inserts from you.

    I can see the appeal of A4 and A5 because they are a division of our current paper sizes.

  6. hahaha. that´s the perfect breakfast-post! excel and filofax <3
    thank you steve ^^

    and that brings a question in my mind:

    the width/height ratio from personal is 1,8 and the ratio from A5 is 1,4189...
    In comparison with the GOLDEN RATIO (1,61803) personal is closer to it.

    when the golden ratio suggests us subconscious beauty in nature, then why doesn´t the golden ratio work on paper sizes???

  7. If you divide the height of personal paper (171 mm) by the Golden Ratio, you get 105.7 mm.
    A page 171 x 106mm would be a great size to work on!
    (Hang on... isn't that about the same size as the Time Manager paper?)

  8. A6 is a popular/useful notebook size/paper ratio that has the extra width for actual writing as opposed to notes/facts/lists of personal sized paper, for me that extra width appeals. However, as a user of Slimline size for wallets (all currencies fit in their length of pocket) I’d hate to see the height go … but then I have enough of the older Slimline Fax’s to last a lifetime.

    It if Filofax’s decision to continue with both mini and pocket sizes that amazes me as there seems to be little between them. Just look as how many were left unsold and ended up being dumped for 9euros.

  9. Steve what you have described as Personal+ is very close to the Franklin Covey Compact size. Same page height as Personal but a little wider. Their binders though are notoriously chunky with larger rings and a wider body.

    What I want to know is the ratio of the Personal binders' size and weight vs. the A5 binders'. Even though people love the extra page space of the A5, the bulkiness and weight of the binder does them in. Seems like the A5 binder is over many people's threshold of what they are willing to carry on a daily basis. (It's certainly over mine!) Yet the personal size binder is tolerable for many people. I wonder what size binder would give a larger page size than the Personal but would still be tolerable for many people to carry?

    There's got to be an algorithm for that! ;D

  10. Hi All
    I don't know the origin of the original Personal Page size, but like you I do find it odd in proportions from time to time.

    The height is ok but the width too narrow, if that makes sense.

    I hope I got my maths correct! In working out the height and width for a specific area, I did it by trial and error.

    There has to be formula for the length of the sides of a rectangle in a given area and ratio of height to width but I couldn't figure it out correctly last night... so I did it the quick and dirty way with a formula in Excel and kept varying one of the numbers until I got the right area!

    That little bit of extra width I'm sure would benefit the design of diary inserts...

  11. I could never get on with Filofax Personal. As a left-hander, it's bad enough struggling to write around the ring mechanism let alone the narrowness (95mm) of the paper. Time Manager (TMI) original is 180mm x 110mm and has always (to my mind) been a better size. It is also easier to print sheets as just folding a trimmed (lengthways)and punched sheet of portrait A4 (210mm width), 10mm off-centre fits a TMI binder perfectly.

    Printing and trimming to fit Filofax Personal is much more fiddly than A5.

  12. In considertion that the personal sized paper and original Lefax binders fit (like a slimline) into a jacket pocket, I assume that the Lefax file of facts was intended to be carried around by those professionals who wore a jacket.

    Therefore, was not the width of paper decided by the width of jacket pockets?

  13. I think that the width of the personal page per-se is not so much the problem, it's when it is added into the binder and the rings get in the way that you find the useable width is in fact much less than you thought.

    My writing is quite large so the A5 suits me better - added to which it is easy to make my own inserts or just punch and file something I need. I'm lucky that most of my work is done at home - and if I go out I would take a briefcase or laptop bag.

    I can understand that those who have to cart their filofax around everywhere would have an issue with A5 - even some personal binders can be a bit too large for this.

    I really like the idea of the personal plus and would consider it if it ever made the drawing board!

    For me, I have decided to commit to the A5. I have ordered some Time Manager index tabs (they make so much sense to me and only have 4 holes so easy to re-punch). I've also decided to go for a month on two pages and the daily business pages for my planning. I'm thinking of colour coding the todos with different colours for each of my clients. We'll see about that. However next year is the year I start goal setting properly so my trusty filofax will hopefully help me with that journey!

  14. It was always my understanding that the personal size was originally designed to fit into a men’s pocket of some description. I was told the filofax was originally designed for scientists (or army personnel or some other profession) where they might wear a jacket, lab coat or cargo (army) trousers with pockets in the knee/legs.

    My memory is a bit dodgy on the exact details but I think Scoot is correct; the size was to fit into some kind of professionals’ jacket pocket.

    Very interesting post Steve, the extra width would be a much better size.

  15. That was very good but i thought size doesnt matter its how you use it HAHA!!!!!!

    Sorry i just had to try a bad joke!

    Was very interesting to see the variation in sizes though :-)

    Thank you and sorry for lowering the tone!!!

  16. Alison - don't forget that Time Manager (TMI) Original has 6 holes and has the same spacing as Time Manager A5 (4 holes = 6 minus the middle holes) and that Filofax Personal (6 holes) has the same spacing as TMI Original (6 holes). BUT Filofax A5 (6 holes) has a completely different spacing! So, if you're buying TMI A5 dividers to use with Filofax A5 paper, you'll end up with 10 holes! If you're looking for decent plastic tabs to use with Filofax A5, then Filofax Time Management tabs are the way to go. Hope that's clear(ish)! Tim

  17. As an experiment, I have just holed 20 sheets of A6 paper and popped it into a slimline. The extra 1cm width, in reality not much, actually looks quite dramatic and appears to give so much room to write. I will use it as notepaper in my slimline for a week or two. The downside is that the side of A6 paper sticks out the side by 2mm, though soon to be cut off, and you can’t see tabs down the side …... though I can use lots of tabs at both top and bottom!

  18. Alison, TMI offers an unpunched version of their regular size dividers (to be used in their storage box). You might want to check if they have an unpunched version of the A5 dividers as well. That way, you won't have 10 holes.

  19. As someone who has been switching between Time Manager (TMI) original,compact and A5 and then to and from - Filofax A5, I know the issues well. The TMI box dividers can be punched and used in binders but are not the same colours and subjects as the binder dividers. In particular there are no numbered key areas. They have never made unpunched binder dividers in any size.

    A5 Filofax Time Management dividers are sold in one pack, punched and include numbered key areas (but only 1 to 7).

    A5 Time Manager (TMI) dividers are wider than Filofax ones and will protrude from some Filofax binders. Oh and the holes are a bit wider than TMI holes!

    The 10 hole thing does work - it just needs careful punching and aesthetically isn't great. It's also just about possible (because TMI dividers are wider) to cut off a few milimetres to make them the same width as Filofax dividers and then punch holes to suit Filofax binders.

    This is all sounding a bit "anoraky". If only the different manufacturers had agreed common standards in the 1980's!!!

  20. Hi, I'm new here - just bought an A5 Domino yesterday as a trade from my neglected Personal Classic (I had a go with ff mini and then Organised Mum Life Book). I'm going back to work after maternity leave and also have a blog and business to keep organised so I didn't think the Personal was big enough for my needs. I love the extra space in the A5 but couldn't help but look longing at my Personal one. I thought, 'if only they had a size in between' and here you are suggesting the same thing. Great minds, as they say, think alike! :)

  21. Wow, that was a lot of math!!! But in the end it totally makes sense- I FF+ binder would be great!

    But I agree w/ Laurie- the page size is very similar to Franklin Covey Compact which is why I'm switching over to them in 2012. The Malden's flexibility should allow this to happen flawlessly!

  22. My view about Personal sized paper (and my Lefax paper matches filofax paper) being based upon fitting a professional's suit pocket is based upon the original LEFAX front sheet ...

    A pocket-size system of loose-leaf data sheets and blank forms for keeping facts at your finger tips"

  23. I, too, thought of FC pages when I saw the illustration for the "personal plus" page. Very interesting post, Steve! Lots of food for thought! (But I'm still in the honeymoon phase with both my personal and A5)

  24. I love this! My hand wants a bigger surface area than the personal paper to write on, buy my shoulders don't like the A5 heavy/bulkyness! But I love the squareness, and additional size, of the paper you designed! I would definitely buy a filo that was that size!!

  25. @Tim. I don't like the Filofax professional dividers. I have a set and:
    1. I don't like the colour (mostly grey) and
    2. The key areas don't nest as they do in TMI
    3. I don't like the divider tab names -i could probably use my labeller to rename but that would probably look messy with white tabs on the coloured plastic dividers.

    They aren't very expensive really so I'll either put up with more holes or trim them to suit. The TMI ones just seem more intuitive. It's a shame really that Filofax don't do better inserts (or at least more variety in A5) or TMI or others don't do nicer binders! I'll let you all know how I get on.

  26. I would like a binder that takes Din A6 paper.

  27. Alison - I agree, but we'll have a long wait for any new Time Manager products! They were streets ahead in the 80's and 90's, but there has been absolutely no product development since Hans Moeller (the time management guru) sold the company a few years back. The UK arm has closed down it's online shop and everything now has to be ordered directly from Denmark. I was a Time Manager devotee, but the product range is tired and very dated, whereas Filofax is continually revamping theirs with products like Flex.

    Anyway, to avoid boring other folk, who'll want to get back to chatting pure Filofax, we should stop talking about other ranges now! Good luck with your dividers!

  28. I might try cutting some of my own paper that would go to the width of current tabs and maybe a bit (so a Personal+ to a smaller extent) and then using top tabs....

  29. I realise this comment is coming long after the original post, but then again I only discovered this site recently. :-)

    There is actually an official ISO size very close to what Steve is describing. It's B6, which measures 176 x 125 mm, or approximately 7 x 5 inches. For readers who aren't aware, the B series is an alternate set of ISO sizes designed such that the area of each B size is the geometric mean of the surrounding two A sizes. The base sheet size, B0, measures 1414 x 1000 mm, for an area of 1.414 square metres (as opposed to A0's 1189 x 841 mm, which has an area of one square metre), and the sizes go down from there.

    Filofax has produced an organiser in a B size before. The Deskfax was designed to use pages of size B5 (250 x 176 mm), which is geometrically midway between A4 and A5. Although Filofax no longer makes organisers of that size, they do still make refills for it. I can't imagine it would be overly difficult for Filofax to produce an organiser in the B6 size, particularly given that the height of a B6 sheet is 176 mm (just 5 mm taller than a Personal sheet) so it would logically use the same 6-ring mechanism that the Personal uses. Maybe we should petition Filofax to consider making an organiser in the B6 size.

    Maybe I'll try making one myself. :-)