Review: Staples Arc System Notebooks and Refills

My partner was in the market for a planner but needed something that would also work as a notebook. The BF Planner didn’t fit her needs, she really needed more room for notes and the ability to take pages out of the planner as they needed to be discarded or filed. She also needed enough room to plan the day from morning to late afternoon. Bonus points for a planner that didn’t include times, as many of her tasks are fluid. We looked at Target found nothing and then headed to Staples. I’d mentioned the disc binding system to her in passing, this let me show it to her in depth as well as show her how pages could easily be moved around. Even better, Staples had them on sale for 40% off that week. She purchased a full sized calendar model and I picked  up a half size notebook.While they had a plethora of fun designs in a variety of color, I went with a relatively plain black and white patterned cover with shiny black disks. I’m likely to cover it with stickers so the pattern mattered less to me than getting something that wasn’t too, bright. It was filled with 60 pages of what seems to be the standard ruled ARC system paper. It should be noted here that after I got my notebook home I noticed that it had a copyright date of 2012, and that the paper has changed since then and is much better for fountain pens. The paper in mine was pretty terrible for any liquid ink, feathering and bleeding. The new paper is great. So check and make sure that your ARC system notebooks and refills have a recent copyright date.

The system itself uses mushroom shaped slots on the binding edge that wrap around a disc with a rounded edge. The slots fit around the disc and the shape keeps the page secure, while allowing you to easily remove the page by pulling up from either the top or bottom edge. The page can be easily reinserted into other parts of your notebook simply by fixing the slots around the discs again. It’s rather ingenious.I found that I could easily insert items of other sizes into my notebook by punching the holes and slotting the item in. I needed to have a fax number handy while I made phone calls the easiest thing was to use the punch and create 2 slots on the edge of the card and slot it into the notebook in the right spot. Eventually I’ll write the numbers into the work bible* but for now, it’s very easy to move the card in an out of the notebook as I’m working.I knew I wanted to have an assortment of lined and dot grid pages. I used gridzzly to print off some of each, which I chopped in half and then punched to fit into the notebook. According to the info insert, my discs can hold 150 pages. I’ve got 100 in there now and it feels decent. I’m not sure I’d want to cart around 150 pages though. The larger discs can hold 200 pages.The punch I was able to get at Staples can only do 2 sheets of paper at a time. Which is annoying. I’ve been told that the most of the disc binding punches work for the Staples discs too, but many of those punches will only do 3 sheets at a time, though they are easier to use than the mini punch we bought. I also made some quick dividers to separate my various types of paper from one another.

The poly cover I picked up is thick and sturdy. It’s slightly flexible and forms to the things in my backpack. When I have the notebook opened over onto itself I can write in hand, but It is not quite as stiff as I would like. The covers are about an inch wider than the pages, giving plenty of room for tabs and stick on pen and pencil holders.I didn’t buy any pockets or folders to add to my notebook, but I immediately wished I had when I started to use the book at work. I had a few self guided trainings I wanted to take home with me, but didn’t have anywhere to stow them easily. A pocket would have made that job easier.I’ve been carting my ARC around with me for a few weeks at this point and it’s really doing well being pulled in an out of my bag and being tossed onto a desk and leafed through as I make calls to insurance companies. I’ve moved pages from one section to another and around as I group information for insurance company calls. I’ve also been able to tear out individual pages and toss them without mess.

There are many advantages with the disc bindings over standard 3 ring binders- the mushroom shaped slots are less likely to tear, the pages don’t shift as much so if you use pencil your writing is less likely to blur. A decided down side of the system is that the punches are ridiculously expensive and the cheaper versions are still much more expensive than even a  decent 3-hole punch. If you plan on using this system at all you NEED a punch. It is the only way this system makes sense. You could go all in and buy all the various parts and pieces at Staples/Office Depot/Levenger/ online and never print your own paper or inserts but at some point you may want to corral work info or a print out  into your system and you’ll need a punch. The punch we purchased, the only one available at our local Staples is only capable of punching through 2 sheets of 20lb paper or 1 sheet of cardstock at a time. Let me tell you, the 40 pages of paper I printed? That went really slow at 2 sheets at a time. Very annoying. In sharp contrast the $20 3-hole punch I own can punch 20, 20lb sheets at time. It’s a beast.

In short the disc bound system is awesome. It works great. The pages don’t shift or rub against one another. It was cheap at 40% off to get into, but if I were looking to start out at full price the entrance fee can be VERY intimidating, especially if you are looking at using the leather or fancier covers. The purchase of a punch is also a big investment and like I detailed above, completely necessary if you plan on going all in on the system. Frankly I like the system, but I have been a huge fan of 3-ring binders for years. If you are someone who likes to move info around or need to the disc systems will appeal to you. If you can find a coupon you can get a setup of the Happy Planner at Michael’s for 40 to 50% off. I like the system a lot and it is very functional and useful for planning out projects and gathering research. So worth it but pricey.*informational post on the Work Bible is upcoming.

No affiliate links this week. Head to Staples and look for the ARC system.

  • Hoyt Clagwell

    Or head to Office Depot for the Tul System or to Levenger.com for the Circa System. All are interchangeable and compatible.

    • lessherger

      I wish we still had Office Depot in the area.

  • MK Buike

    I prefer the Circa Sliver cover. It’s lighter than the Arc heavy covers but sturdier than the flimsy vinyl ones. Sign up for emails from Levenger to be notified of sales. The punches were recently on sale. They do email almost every day, though. I use mine as a sketchbook and put good watercolor paper in it.