15 February 2017

The Great Organiser Hole Spacing Conspiracy Revisited

It is over 5 years since I wrote a similar post to this. This post is an up date/re-write on that post.

You might wonder is it hole spacing or ring spacing? Well in a way it is both, but you either have an organiser with rings of a certain spacing... or paper inserts pre-punched with a particular hole spacing. The fun starts when you start to try and mix and match these things.

Doing research into hole/ring spacing I never imagined how difficult it was or how many varieties of the two there were.

I've decided to concentrate on the most popular ones in our community, but there are many many more, how many more? Well take a quick look at this web page and you will see what I mean! Hans and I have exchanged a few emails on the topic! You always knew I was a Dull Man, you now have confirmation!

The focus of this post will of course be Filofax organisers and what hole spacing they use. As well as hole spacing I will include notes on paper size, so you will at least have the information for Filofax if you come across another brand of insert and you can ask them the right questions with regards to size and hole spacing. 

Before we get in to this too deeply, here is an explanation of what I mean by 'hole/ring spacing' and a picture might save a few words!

This is the dimensions for a European 'Two Ring' binder, in this case the hole spacing is 80mm the drawing also shows the tolerance of ±0.5 mm on that dimension allowed for in the ISO standard for hole punches.... yes such a thing exists!

Filofax Mini 
The Mini size uses 5 rings each spaced by 19mm or ¾ inch. The paper size is 67 mm x 105 mm.

Filofax M2
Filofax M2 uses only 3 rings spaced by 19mm or ¾ inch. The paper size is 103 mm x 64 mm, which is similar to Mini, but it is used in landscape layout rather than portrait

Van der Spek Mini/Succes
The VdS Mini uses 5 ring spaced in 19mm or ¾ inch, 25.4mm(1 inch), 25.4mm(1 inch) and then 19mm(¾ inch) spacing, with a paper size of 68mm x 108mm.

Filofax Pocket/Gillio Pocket/Van der Spek Junior
The Pocket size uses 6 rings each each spaced by 19mm or ¾ inch. The paper size is 81mm x 120 mm. A number of other brands use this size and spacing. Older Filofax Pockets used only 4 rings, details of those are in this post.

Gillio A6/Van der Spek Senior/Mulberry Agenda
These three use a common ISO A6 (148x105mm) paper size with 6 rings are spaced in to two groups of 3 rings. The two groups are spaced by 38 mm(1.5 inches) and the three rings having the common 19 mm(¾ inch) spacing between them.

Franklin Covey Pocket
Franklin Covey Pocket size also uses the same ring spacing as A6, but their inserts are not A6 size, instead they use 3.5 inch by 6 inches (89x152 mm) so narrower than true A6 inserts and factionally taller

Succes Senior
Again the same ring spacing as A6 but their inserts are 95x152mm (same width as Personal) which is yet another combination.

Filofax Personal
Filofax Personal size is a very common size, it uses 6 rings split in to two groups of 3 rings. The two groups are spaced by 50 mm or 2 inches with the three rings having the common 19 mm or ¾ inch spacing between them. The paper size is 95mm by 171 mm.

Whilst the hole spacing is a common feature of other brands, be aware that some brands use paper wider than 95mm, this can cause problems especially in the compact and slimline Filofax organisers, which with their smaller ring sizes have narrower covers. Try before you buy... is the best advice... or if you are buying on line, establish the exact size of the paper or the tabs and make a mock up of your chosen size.

Franklin Covey Compact/Day Timer Portable
The Compact and Portable models both use the same ring spacing as Filofax Personal. However Franklin Covey inserts are 12mm wider than Filofax ones at 108mm wide. Day Timer use the same size inserts as Filofax Personal.

Filofax A5
Filofax A5 uses paper that is 148 mm by 210 mm, exactly the size of European ISO standard A5 paper. However the company chose for what ever reason to use 6 rings, again like the personal size split in to two groups of three rings. The two groups are spaced by 70 mm or 2¾ inch with the three rings having the common 19 mm or ¾ inch spacing between them.

One little oddity or 'did you know' fact about the spacing that Filofax chose for A5, is that you can fit two Mini Pages on to the rings and the pages don't overlap... I can cure any insomniac with these bits of trivia!

Now looking at other brands, it all gets very different to Filofax, so much so that re-punching some of these other sizes can turn your diary insert in to something resembling a Swiss cheese.

Mulberry Planner and Quo Vadis Time 21 size organisers use A5 paper (148x210mm), but with 6 rings are spaced in to two groups of 3 rings which have the same spacing as Filofax Personal size. As we have previously mentioned Mulberry sizes on all of their binders are different to Filofax, a previous Philofaxy post gives all of the details for this brand.

So QV Timer 21 pages need to be re-punched but the Filofax holes fall neatly between the original QV holes.

Time Manager International TMI like Quo Vadis use Filofax Personal hole spacing in their A5 products, but only 4 rings not six, they miss out the middle ring of each 3 ring group. So they have 38mm and 50mm spacing Again re-punching their inserts results in having 12 evenly spaced holes. 

Franklin Covey Classic and Day Timer Desksize in the USA use a page size of 140mm x 216 mm (5.5 x 8.5 inches) which is close to A5 in size (slightly narrower, but slightly taller), but the hole spacing is very different to Filofax. Firstly they use a 7 ring binder, the rings are spaced at 1 inch 1 inch, ¾ inch, ¾ inch, 1 inch, 1 inch. This combination does not line up with Filofax A5 spacing

Punching one of these to fit a Filofax A5 will result in pages that look something like this:

As you might be able to see, the top and bottom holes of the row of 7 holes are very close to the top and bottom holes of A5 Filofax, in fact when punched those holes become oval in shape.

Be aware that some companies sell inserts as 'A5' but they are in-fact 'Half Letter' size (140mm x 216 mm) but they are punched for Filofax A5 spacing. I've also seen another company selling 'A5 inserts' that were 146x210mm in size. Clearly some peoples ideas of standards and tolerances varies!
Filofax Deskfax
Filofax Deskfax comes in two varieties, the first one uses the same 6 ring personal ring spacing but with pages approximately twice the width of personal size. And more recently using a 9 ring mechanism with ISO B5 size paper (176x250mm). The rings are spaced as three groups of three in ¾ inch (19mm) spacing with the groups spaced 2 inches (51mm) apart, which gives you the opportunity to put Filofax Personal pages on to either the top two groups of rings or the bottom two groups of rings.

Filofax A4
As previously discussed the A4 size is 297 mm by 210 mm a standard European ISO paper size, the four holes are each spaced by 80 mm, again which is an extension to the ISO standard spacing (ISO 838) Nearly all binders in Europe that use A4 paper use this four hole spacing so finding alternatives shouldn't be an issue.

In the USA, Franklin Covey Monarch and the Day Timer 'Folio' size which is 216mm x 280mm (11 inches by 8.5 inches) which is a fraction wider than A4 but shorter. These also uses 7 rings spaced 1 inch, 1 inch, 2¼ inches, 2¼ inches, 1 inch, 1 inch. None of these 7 holes aligns with the Filofax 4 holes.

After attempting to create a suitable image on my computer and failing I resorted to pen and paper! I hope this picture puts the text above in to some sort of context.

I have concentrated on the main brands and sizes that we come across on a regular basis in the phILOFAXY community, it is no where near complete in its coverage of all brands/sizes/formats.

I hope things are a little clearer now... if not... please ask questions in the comments and I will try and respond.


  1. An excellent round-up thanks Steve. The diagram is a big help.
    From what I can see, both A6 and A5 could have employed the pre-existing personal hole spacing. That standardisation would have been much handier. I guess the A5 leaves would have been a bit unconstrained at the top and bottom with that approach though.

    1. Yes the odd thing is that Quo Vadis and Mulberry A5's both use Personal spacing so whilst I tend to agree with you with regards the top and bottom of the pages, it seems a bit odd that they didn't think it was an issue

      One of the spacings I didn't include is a European 4 ring A5 spacing, this is similar to Filofax but not identical at all. You can see it in the previous post with a spacing of 45-65-45mm, it misses out the middle rings in the two groups of three and moves the rings further apart by the diameter of the rings, so you would end up with slotted holes if you wanted to use Filofax inserts in one of these. A5 conference binders tend to use this spacing!

    2. Yes, I can confirm this as I have been using a Filofax Clipbook for business note taking, whilst using such a 4 ring A5 ring book as my collecting reference material binder. I had to re-punch every single sheet for the transfer until I found A5 notepaper from the BIND brand with economy paper quality but pre-punched holes that fit both types of ring books. I also believe that the inserts of Chronoplan are providing oval holes that also fit these two.

    3. Time Manager (TMI) deliberately opted for "personal" ring spacing when they introduced their A5. This meant that Personal (they call it "Original" size leaves could be inserted in their A5 binders without problem.

  2. Great post Steve. Thank you for your efforts and nifty contribution :-)

    1. Thank you, yes it takes a bit of brain power to get your head around this sort of thing!! Constantly swapping from inches to mm doesn't help!

    2. You are very welcome :-) and I can understand the challenge arising from these two measurement standards. My brain is wired within the metric system from early school years on. That made it impossible for me to shift it to the inch and stone agenda, during my time in the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.

  3. It's worth noting that the sizes of pocket inserts vary by manufacturer - Mulberry 76mm width, Smythson are 126 mm by 82 mm.

    Hole sizes also differ which in effect changes the spacing. Whilst you can use pocket sized inserts in an alternative manufacturer's binder, mixing and matching means that the inserts lay differently within the binder. If you have ever tried to line up a full set of inserts from different sources into a pocket organiser you will have experienced the difficulty this causes.

  4. Thank you for this thoroughly detailed write-up and diagram! I develop an eye-twitch when I see people online referring to their half-letter Franklin Planners or DayTimers as the A5 size. :)


  5. Great post, Steve.

    Adding a historical North American twist, there have been three standard pocket binder sizes readily available in North America for probably 100 years or more.
    5"x3" (127x76mm) that use the 6 equally spaced 3/4" (19mm) ring sets that the Filofax pocket use. The 5x3" format is still widely available in loose leaf and bound formats.
    6"x3.5" (89x152mm) That was the least common and now seemingly discontinued by all except Franklin Covey in their "Pocket" size,
    6.75'x3.75" (171x95mm) popularized by Lefax and Filofax as the Personal. Like the 3x5, this size is readily available in other formats.

  6. Waow ! Incredible ! I took a look at the page you mentioned, from Hans, it is HUGE ! Never would I have imagined there were so many standards, so many variants, so many lookalikes and differences ! Thank you for all these informations !

  7. Loving that diagram ! Many thanks too Steve for all the info & for always being there to help when I need an immediate answer regarding the Rapesco punches - I always direct my customers to your blog - Regards~ GillEvans @13HickoryDock

  8. Great visual aids, Steve. I have bookmarked this page. One thing I find not addressed, is the Guage of the holes for the rings. My Rapesco punch makes holes so wide for my pocket and mini size, the the pages wobble in the planner. I have resorted to finding a single-hole punch that creates a 3/16th inch hole. I think single-hole punching is tedious.

    1. Yes that is always going to be a problem. The smaller the rings the thinner they are. I have a Filofax Pocket only punch and that does punch smaller holes compared to the others.

  9. I have some paper 1945-49 era that is 95x179mm with two groups of 3 rings. 1 inch or 25mm between the rings, and 1.5 in or 45mm between the groups. I'm looking for a binder for this size. Is there such a thing as a small binder with adjustable rings?

    1. Do you happen to know what country the paper was sold in originally?

      I have a page that isn't published here that has many more hole spacing combinations. I will check yours when I get a chance today.

    2. I've found one that is called US 7-Ring Invoice (Organizer) that is 1 inch 1 inch, ¾ inch ¾ inch 1 inch 1 inch. So the correct hole spacing but with the additional ring in the middle of the page. But I don't know which company as yet that used that format. I will update the comment here if I find out.
      I'm not aware of any binder with adjustable rings.
      An alternative will be to re-punch the paper to fit a current personal, but it will not look very nice!

    3. The given format with 1 inch within the groups, and 1.5 inch center distance sounds strange.
      The 7-ring formats you found on my site would be "Franklin Covey Classic" or "Day-Timer Desk", both with 216x140mm standard paper size.
      There is also an outdated aviation documents format with the same spacing called "AERAD 7SPUS":
      But all of those have the seventh ring in the middle.

      It could be some military, secret service or gouvernment document. The odd format could indicate that the paper is not supposed to mix up with regular documents. But that's just a guess.

      There are three options to file the document:
      1) Add a center punch, if the other punches match exactly the other six rings and use a binder for the 7-ring format.
      2) If all spacings are 1" or 1.5", find somebody who can punch 2:1 format (0.5" spacing) respecting the existing holes, and use regular twin loop wire binding.
      3) Use two pieces of GBC Click/Zip bind 3:1 (three rings per inch) where the second and third rings have to be cut off to get 1" spacing. But these are only available at 8, 12 or 16mm inner diameter.

  10. Thanks for the responses, Steve. For some reason, I didn't see them at the time. I'll look for the US 7 ring invoice binder.

  11. Thankyou for the post Steve, made me brave enough to try hole punching for my mini filofax

  12. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your research!! I still have an address/phone binder (not refillable) my dad gave me in 1985, now falling apart. Recently at a thrift store I found a six ring refillable binder in like-new condition, including a zipper compartment (that had four old coins in it such as a 1937 Indian Head nickle...) and places for credit cards - but with no pages - and no manufacturer of the binder indicated. I found telephone/address 6 hole refills online, but the two groups of rings were separated by 2 inches, not the 1.5 inches for "A6" binders. Now, thanks to you, I know my binder would take "Filofax Personal" refills. Thanks!

  13. So much detailed information about such a random and odd topic, I can not believe my good fortune! This is amazing, Steve is amazing.
    When I clicked the link for the ring/hole spacing variations I exclaimed a ridiculous string of curse words, a sudden and involuntary reaction, I'm sure. Crass perhaps, but also... probably completely appropriate.
    I do have a question if I may? This is in regards to paper sizes and ring/hole spacing in the US. A4 paper is rarely, if ever, used anymore. Largely replaced by the US letter 8.5in x 11in paper size. As a result, finding and fitting A5 6 ring paper feels like a random, free for all, incongruous mashup. A5 paper is listed as 5.83in x 8.27in, 5.8in x 8.3in, 5.5in x 8.5in, or sometimes just the words "half letter" with no measurements at all! Each of these options often have different variations in their 6 ring spacing as well.
    I guess my question is: If the paper size is A5 5.5in x 8.5in... what is the standard ring/hole spacing (if there is a standard)? And is that standard the same whether it be "half letter" or "half A4" or do the two variations have seperate spacing standards?
    Hopefully my confusion on this doesn't cause my question to also be confusing!
    Thank you in advance for your time and considerations!
    - Audrey

    1. Hi Audrey
      You might find my post on 'Popular Paper Sizes' of interest might help with answering your questions.
      There is a page you can print off I'm always referring to it!

  14. You're a life saver. I just bought a binder and some refills from my local 100円 store only to discover that the binder uses one type of spacing while the refills use another. Thank goodness an angel whispered in my ear to get a hole puncher too, because I need it. It was just a dollar (not even, these days), but I'm not one to waste *anything*.

  15. Steve
    I am in the process of making a combined “Planner with Address indexing” system.
    And I would like to know if I may be able to send you a copy.
    Thank you.
    Samir [Sat 7 May 23]

    1. Samir
      That sounds interesting. Drop me an email: philofaxy at gmail dot com

  16. Down the rabbit hole of binder shopping as mine has broken and I wound up here...this has been the most helpful thing I have seen all day. Thank you!

    1. Well there are lots of other posts with hopefully the answers to any of your questions. But we have a couple of Q&A posts every Tuesday and Friday. Please feel free to comment with any questions you might have.