Friday, January 22, 2010

Exacompta Journal 21

Here is my review of the Exacompta Journal 21 (with the beautiful lilac Club cover that I love so much) which was so generously sent to me by Karen at Exaclair in New York. Thank you again Karen!

The Exacompta Journal 21 is a large (5 1/4 by 8 1/4 inches) day per page planner that is refillable with a removable cover.

According to the paper label band that comes on the book, "Exacompta is the Prestige edition of Quo Vadis." The Journal 21 lives up to that Prestige name in every way. The book is elegant, well-made, and shows fine attention to details. According to the Exacompta website, "Elegant and intelligent, Exacompta products follow a French philosophy that even simple tools should be good quality and a pleasure to use." I heartily agree!

The paper band also says the book is made in the USA, which I really appreciate. Thank you for supporting American workers, Exaclair!

I have used many, many different brands of day-per-page planners over the years. (To see just a few of the daily books I have used in the past, scroll down and click "day per page" under Labels in the sidebar.) So I have a good idea of what works in a daily planner, what features are nice, and what is a daily planner fail.

A big problem I've had with most day per page books I've used in the past is that I get "lost in a sea of individual days" as I call it. Without the visual indicator of a weekly layout, I forget where I am in the week, fail to look at what is coming up, and even frequently forget what day it is. Seeing only a two-day spread in front of me allows me to focus on today, but often at the expense of planning ahead for later in the week or month.

The Journal 21 has completely solved this problem with some very clever and extremely useful features to help you keep track of where today is in the context of the rest of the month and year.

On the daily pages, there are calendars for this month and next month, with the current week highlighted. This makes it easy to see where today is in the month and week. Also on the daily page is printed the number of the current week, and where today ranks in the year. Another wonderfully useful feature is that the months are highlighted as tabs along the side of the page, so when you are flipping forward or back in your book, it's much easier to find the month and subsequently the day you're looking for. (I love the monthly tabs!)

Also in the above photo you can see that holidays are printed at the top of the page without taking up too much space for writing the day's priorities or major events. The day and date are printed in large type right at the top of the page, again making it easy to find the date you're looking for.

Perhaps the most glorious feature of the Journal 21 is that it has monthly calendars, with spaces large enough to write in. This makes the book infinitely more valuable than just a regular day-per-page book. This makes it possible to use for forward-planning and monthly overviews of deadlines, things due, or upcoming events.

In addition to the monthly calendars, there are semi-annual calendars with the months as columns, for longer-ranging overviews of upcoming travel, holidays, reports due, long-term projects, etc.
There is also an annual planner for next year, for farther future planning.
I thought this was interesting: there is a notes page holding the spot that February 29 falls on during leap years, thus keeping the exact same number of pages in the book each year. This not only ensures that refills will fit into the covers year after year, but also probably helps keep production costs down to have the standard bound book with the same number of pages each year. They've thought of everything!

Another important feature is that the book lays open by itself (despite me holding it flatter in the above photo). This is extremely important, because as my sister says, "A closed planner is a dead planner." Especially for a day per page book, which I need to have open in front of me all day for maximum visibility. Staying open by itself to today's page is of utmost importance! The Journal 21 does it easily.

The paper: The paper is wonderful to write on, very thick and smooth. But, personal preference here, I don't care for the green tint. The slight greenish tint is designed to be glare-free and easy on the eyes, and recalls the early days of the Exacompta brand when they made ledgers with the same "Registre Azur" tinted paper to make it easy to look at during the long hours of entering numbers by hand. I personally don't find it to be very friendly-looking. I consider my planner to be my constant daily companion, and I look at it all day every day, so I want it to be friendly-looking. I prefer the ivory colored paper of the Exacompta Daily Pocket, shown compared to the Journal 21 paper below. The ivory paper is warm and inviting. So anyway, I don't care for the green tinted paper, I would prefer ivory or white. Just my personal preference.

**Edited later to add: You know what, despite all that, after using it awhile I discovered the slight greenish tint really is soothing to look at. So, I take it back! Yes I would still prefer white paper, which I always do, but the greenish paper really is nice.

(As a side note, the Exacompta Daily Pocket has many of the same features as the Journal 21 including the monthly calendars and semi-annual planner, so if you like what you're reading about the Journal 21 but need a smaller book, the Daily Pocket's the one for you.)

Whatever your preference about the color, there is no arguing that the paper is joyful to write on. Smooth and thick, it's nice to touch and takes ink extremely well. I tested a variety of pens, most of which were liquid ink pens, of various point thickness and all did extremely well. Even the thickest (the Broadpen) had absolutely no feathering or bleed-through to the other side of the page.

The only other complaint I have is a common one: there really needs to be a ribbon bookmark (or preferably two, one for the daily section and one for the monthly). I don't mind tear-off corners for weekly planners, but I am very, very opposed to them in thicker daily books. Day per page books are very classy-looking, especially this one. But when the corners are torn out of the book, that gappy, flappy corner looks sloppy, which is unfortunate. I still haven't decided how I will mark my pages in the Journal 21 without tearing out the corners. I tried using a bookmark but it slides out of the smooth pages. I think I will glue a ribbon page marker to the inside of the spine of the book and use that.

I love that there is a variety of cover style and color choices, adding to the personalization and overall enjoyment of using the book.

I highly recommend the Journal 21 for anyone who wants a larger but still portable day per page planner that is loaded with features that let you focus on each day and also do longer-range planning. It's a good-looking, elegant book that is a pleasure to use, and is also a very powerful planner! Well done Exacompta!


  1. On the semi annual pages, I often wonder what the 4 small boxes (columns are for next to the day. Any ideas?

  2. Hi tangang, those boxes are supposed to be a daily expenses record. You put your total expenses for that day in the spaces, then at the end of the month/ quarter/ year you can total them all up.