Posted on Thu 17 November 2016

Review: Slice Planner

I was recently offered a prototype of a new "augmented reality notebook" to review. The Slice Planner is a hybrid digital/analogue notebook that you can support on Kickstarter right now. Thanks to the Slice Planner team for sending out a prototype for me to review.

Slice Planner hard cover

I haven't reviewed a prototype notebook before, so the first thing I noticed was the low build quality. It definitely feels like a prototype. I've been assured the final version will be different, so I don't want to put much stock in my first impressions. I will say, though, that the hard book cloth cover is really nice. There's also a leather cover options that you can keep using with new Slice Planners, which apparently develops a nice patina over time.

The size isn't quite A5—it's the same width, but slightly shorter. It'll still fit in most A5 covers, but if you bought the soft leather cover, you'd only be able to refill it with Slice Planner inserts, unless you wanted to buy A5 inserts and cut them to fit. The great thing about refillable leather covers is how long they last, so this is worth keeping in mind.

Slice Planner daily page

The Slice Planner has daily pages only—no weekly, monthly, or yearly planning here. If all you need is a stepped-up to do list, that could be perfect. Personally I need monthly and weekly sections to plan with, as well as daily pages, so if I used the Slice Planner I'd need something else like my Jibun Techo as well.

Slice Planner flat

The Slice Planner lays flat, but I did have to push hard on the binding to make it do so. It's not as flat as something like a Hobonichi or my Seven Seas Crossfield (seen in the background in the photo above), which I expect is partly due to the thickness of the pages. I've always found thin Tomoe River paper helps with making notebooks lie flat because of how soft and thin it is.

The paper in the Slice Planner is cream, with a dot grid print. It reminds me a little of the paper in a Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, though it feels a little thicker to me. The dots are printed in a faint grey, and are quite small. I really like dot grids and squares that stay out of the way of my writing, and these fit the bill.

Pilot pen test in Slice Planner

Unfortunately this paper doesn't handle fountain pens too well. I tried two very thin nibs, one with Pelikan 4001 ink, which is known to be quite dry, and found both feathered on the page.

TWSBI pen test in Slice Planner

I had trouble showing the feathering in my photos, but I could definitely see it close-up when I was writing, and I can see it now, when looking closely at the page. Because the feathering is so minor, it might not bother everyone, but since I write on Tomoe River paper 90% of the time, I'm used to a high standard when writing with fountain pens.

pen test in Slice Planner

When I tried a couple of Signo gel pens the paper was fine, so I'd stick with ball or gel pens in this planner. The show-through wasn't too bad, either—for the Signo pens it's hardly noticeable (see image below).

Show-through test in Slice Planner

This planner is definitely focused on the functionality of its special features more than just being a high-quality paper product. So let's talk about those special features.

Slice Planner time wheel

Each double-page spread of the Slice Planner includes an hourly timeline on the left and a plain notes page on the right. The timeline page is the main feature of the planner. It's designed in a circle shape—just like the chronodex concept often used in Bullet Journals. The idea is that it mimics an analogue clock, which is supposedly helpful to visual thinkers, but it didn't sit well with me at all.

I think most of us think about time in different ways. Some of us prefer a traditional Bullet Journal-style list for our months, and some of us can't work with a month in any form other than a traditional calendar grid-style layout. For a timeline, a list works best for me. But if the clock-style layout suits you, the Slice Planner can save you the effort of stamping or drawing a chronodex on your daily pages all the time.

And with a notes page on the right, it's a perfect setup for planning your daily events and using the Bullet Journal method for your daily tasks and notes. There are also a few perforated plain note pages in the back of the planner, in case you need to give someone a note or make a quick shopping list to take with you.

By now you're probably wondering where the digital parts of this planner come in. Although I wasn't able to test it, the Slice Planner will also come with a free mobile app. The app has a few cool features to get notes out of your paper planner.

Disclaimer: Although I got my hands on an early release of the accompanying mobile app, I couldn't get it to work as you see in the videos, so I wasn't able to test any of the digital features of this notebook. Everything I discuss below is based on what the designers of the Slice Planner are promising, not based on my actual experience.

To start with, you can plan each day on paper using the chronodex-style timeline, then use the app to enter those events in your digital calendar. If you like having your calendar blocked out for big tasks or focused working periods, this could be a handy way to plan those distraction-free periods in the morning while writing out your task list, and quickly get them all entered into your digital calendar.

There are also sharing options in the app. Each page of the Slice Planner includes icons at the bottom of the page. Marking up these icons will tell the app where to save your captured page to—including your Dropbox account, Evernote, and more.

And perhaps the most interesting feature is that you can capture specific parts of your page. If you just want to save a particular drawing or note, for instance, you can draw a line around that part of the page, then use the app to capture it. The app will save just that part of the page.

At this stage I've only been able to review the Slice Planner as an analogue tool, without the extra digital features. If you're used to using the chronodex-style timeline for everyday planning, the Slice Planner could help you save time every day. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who wants to use fountain pens regularly, or anyone who needs more than daily pages for planning. But if the digital and analogue combination appeals, this is definitely a Kickstarter project worth checking out.

P.S. I make some stuff you might like: Exist, a personal analytics app to help you understand your life, and Larder, a bookmarking app for developers.

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