Please tell my why NOT to use Circa :)

I know that sounds odd, but there are a lot of experienced users here and I would really like ALL of your pros and cons about the Circa system before I take the plunge (and make the investment).

I bought a Circa Junior 5 section notebook a little while ago to give the system a try. I covered it with a cheap fabric bookcover that I got for 99 cents at a back to school sale. This notebook is easy to carry in almost every purse I own and I can fold it over to write on it easily, and of course, move the pages around with any ear shattering ring snapping. I just received a Visa gift card as a leaving gift from my last job, so it's not really even my money right? ;)

I currently use a Classic size planner in a 7 ring Franklin binder. Thanks to this site, I've made many modifications and have been printing my own pages for about a year now (I still buy FC monthly tabs). I have big writing so I need the Classic size, but I am tired of the bulk of the FC binders and constantly opening and closing the rings. I am thinking of getting the Junior sized Circa rings, 1.5 inch, and using the cheap fabric book cover again. I'll put Circa monthly tabs (I prefer to always buy those), my own daily/weekly pages, and probably 10 divder tabs (made from 110 lb card stock) for the assorted pages that I really believe I can't live without wherever I go. I will make the investment for the desk punch since I will be making my own pages on 24 lb paper (until that ream is gone, then I'll switch to 28 lb I guess).

Please advise for or against, and share with me all of your wisdom and experience with Cira. Even if you love your Circa Planner/Notebooks, feel free to warn me about something that might surprise me about using it. Thanks. :)

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I will let others tell you

I will let others tell you why they love the system. I love mine, but I must warn you against false expectations, created by some of the reviews, and some of the description and advertising.

No matter the punch you use, paper wears out, and since the Circa/Rollabind system naturally invites you to pull paper in and out often, that very frequency will tend to damage the smurf holes after a little while, especially at the beginning, because it takes some practice to get the hang of pulling the sheets out just right every time, and pushing them back in, even card stock wears out. If you choose to punch very cheap paper (I punch just about anything, hehehe), just turning the pages a number of times will damage the smurfs, not so much on good paper.

In short, any sheet that gets reused much will be destroyed by the use, so I tend to keep the information of frequently used sheets in my computer, and reprint them as needed. To me this trouble is worth it, it might not be so for others.
Some people actually hate the way putting sheets in and out works. Not me of course.

Thanks for the warning

I've read here before that the pages can wear out, and since I make so many of my own, I think I can deal with that. I might splurge on the plastic dividers, but I only paid $2 for my ream of 110 lb card stock (clearance rack) so it wouldn't really bother me to remake my dividers every once in a while.



In the beginning I was trying to find ways to use it. I made little logbooks for things I would never in my life keep a log of. Now my kids play with the spare discs.

Circa/Rolla is spendy, rare, and almost proprietary. It is not compatible with the other people you meet in your job or life. It is idiosyncratic. You will be more conscious of your adaptations to it's foibles, in part because you have been indoctrinated into the hole-punched, 3-ring, wire-bound, gummed pad, sticky note world. When you remove your smurfed pages from their notebook and try to do something else with them, the smurf holes catch on *everything*. Filing a smurf-punched page in an unmodified hanging file is a pain--and modifying a hanging file so it has discs to hang your stuff from is the work of someone who is working too hard to make it work. :)

Circa is also neat. The ease of removing/moving/replacing is cool. What happens when you have too few sheets to hold the business all together is not. Being able to put a bunch of different page sizes together in a single binder is way cool. But the price of specialty supplies is not. The fact that you can get discs in almost any color is cool, but waiting for weeks or spending a quarter or more per disc is very uncool.

Buying into the Circa/Rolla thing made me look at my stuff a different way. My husband is even using it now that I have the stuff, and he thinks I've been an office supply crazy woman for a while. For him, it's all about the removing/moving. For me it's versatility. I can take the pieces all apart, stuff them in a drawer, and grab them again and make them over into a completely new thing, in a new size or orientation.

The only book I now use on a daily basis that's circa punched is my little book of passwords and contacts. The data is printed on 3x5 cards, and the whole thing has been incredibly durable. Reprinting an occasional card is easy and the plastic covers I made protect it all very well.

My son took some of my left-behind 3x5 cards, punched them, and assembled them into a birdhouse using discs. He's four years old. My daughter likes having a box full of pastel colored discs to play with, like Scrooge McDuck and his gold coins. I guess they go well with her mardi gras beads and dress-up shoes. She's also four.

Maybe when my life gets busier I'll have a need for more books bound with discs. Now that they're sunk costs I'll use them whenever the occasion arises. But I'm no longer looking for things to bind. They don't occupy my mind as they did at first. And I have one book I've made specifically using 3 ring technology instead of discs--because the punch just doesn't go through vinyl sheet protectors at all well, and I'm NOT shelling out the big bucks to get 43 pre-punched sheet protectors for my tickler. :)

I watch the levenger site for new circa developments, but the price tag keeps me away. I'm not likely to use up all my discs any time soon, so it's just covers and accessories anyway.

I'm less and less into overhead these days. I've gone from pre-printed daily forms circa punched and with custom tabs cut into the edges of the pages all the way back to plain paper on a clipboard.

I can't really argue for or against, I don't think. When I bought the circa stuff I had all kinds of purposes in mind. I even did most of them for a while. Then I got tired. Other people might not get tired or even find the overhead tiring. Heck, I've quit binding my recipes even--they're in hanging files now instead of a card box or binder.

Make the form serve your requirements. Don't let the stuff govern how you live.


Totally agree, especially

Totally agree, especially the part about "the smurf holes catch on **everything**". Filing a smurfed page on anything but a disc binder can be challenging at times.

However, I have no quibbles about the cost of the disks, because I avoid Levenger/Circa in general, and metal disks in particular, personally.

storage isn't an issue

I plan to move pages out of my 'current' Circa binder and into a storage Circa binder of some type, or use my Franklin hole puncher and store them in a 3 ring binder (since I have plenty of those). I don't think the punched edges catching on things will be an issue for me. I've used Franklin for years and rarely put those pages anywhere other than Franklin storage binders or generic mini 3 ring binders.

I don't have any grand uses in mind for my Circa, just a better way to carry the stuff I currently carry. My shoulder is getting sore from years of carrying a binder and my ears and thumbs are tired of snapping rings.

I think....

.... you are a prime candidate for Circa/Rolla:

I don't have any grand uses in mind for my Circa, just a better way to carry the stuff I currently carry. My shoulder is getting sore from years of carrying a binder and my ears and thumbs are tired of snapping rings.

If the rings are a pain to you, yet you like the flexibility, I think you will like Circa/Rolla. I was a loose-leaf person for ages, and I find Circa a genuine advantage over a loose-leaf binder. This is especially true if you are a lefty. ;-) There are things to get used to, and subtle changes of habit, but I think the benefits far outweigh these. Print things you will want to have in hand for a long time on stronger paper, and save the cheaper paper for transitory items. Also, you will want to minimize the number of months you keep in your daily binder. I started out using the spiral-bound Daytimer pages (tiny pocket one), and learned to use the monthlies for far-off items, and transfer them to the daily pages as I went. I transferred this concept later to my loose-leaf Daytimer, only keeping dailies or weeklies for the current month or the next two months in my main planner. When I was on the road for extended periods, I would have two binders. One for my archive/future pages, and my daily. The archive binder stayed in my luggage, but my leather binder went everywhere with me--my "man bag". ;-)

But with Circa, this is all so very much easier. I won't ever go back to a 3 or worse, 7 ring binder.



I've read this thread with much interest since lately, I've been wondering why I'm sticking with Circa. It may just be because I'm an office supply geek and I'm bored with my current set up and need an excuse to buy more stuff.

But after looking at all of the posts, I have discovered that the real reason I've stuck it out so far is the flexibility of the system. I agree with all of the 'cons' posted. But none of them overtake the flexibility of it all. I have a foldover notebook and am right-handed, but still can't stand it when those rings get in my way. So I just punch both sides of the long edge of the paper. When I'm done with one side, I flip it over and use the back side. That way, my calendar/to-do list is always on the left, and my notes are always on the right. Not a method for everyone - but just right for me.

DIY and flexibility are the key for me and that's why Circa works in my method of time management. Others may feel more comfortable with forms and tabs and such to help in organization. That is constrictive to me.

Like others have said, it's not about the system. It's about your planning priorities.


So I just punch both sides of the long edge of the paper. When I'm done with one side, I flip it over and use the back side. That way, my calendar/to-do list is always on the left, and my notes are always on the right. Not a method for everyone - but just right for me.

That is such a slick idea! I need to remember that one! Thanks.


i'm with shris...

i liked shris' comments about circa not being compatible with the world around me. this is very true. i found that if i really wanted everything in my planner that i needed, i would receive pages throughout the day from various people or places and would have to take it home every night to punch it, or bring the punch with me everywhere (which wasn't happening).

I use a classic/junion size 3-ring from russel + hazel. not clunkly, cute, affordable... with this i have a punch at home and a punch at work and a small one hole punch in my purse I could use. I can punch letter (fold in half, then punch), classic, or even index card size paper within this one planner. same as circa to me, just easier!!

I also agree with filing smurfed paper. it is a pain! i am not able to archive all of my notes and pages into one binder as some pages have to go in compliance files and such. i started making copies of the notes i needed and filing those, but alot of time the compliance dept wants to see the original notes...

i think it all depends on the person, the profession, etc. but, for me, i find 3-ring binders to be more useful, easier, and much less expensize. also, they are more "real-world compatible" to me!



I also agree with filing smurfed paper. it is a pain! i am not able to archive all of my notes and pages into one binder as some pages have to go in compliance files and such. i started making copies of the notes i needed and filing those, but alot of time the compliance dept wants to see the original notes...

Time to get out the scissors. Just trim off the smurfed edge.


Circa - pay now, or pay later

As you likely have guessed already, the HUGE downside to Circa is the cost. You either end up paying for the nice pre-punched papers, covers, and discs or buy discs in bulk, a hole punch, and your own paper.

On top of this, if you like to have a zippered binder, you either end up paying a lot for a nice one from Levenger or hunting around for one that you can take the rings out and replace it with a Circa notebook.

As for the discs, avoid the "silver" ones in the larger sizes - one inch and bigger. Last I tried them the pages stick when you turn them on the large silver discs. Any other color seems to be fine. You will also want to invest in some of the smaller size discs such as 1 inch or 3/4 inch. I tried the 1.5" expecting I could carry a ton of info with me and felt like I was carrying a paper brick. I find I prefer to carry a slightly smaller notebook and then use the larger notebooks for an archive.



I plan on sticking with one color for the discs, probably navy blue. I was going to try the 1.5" size, the 1" that I'm carrying now for my 5 section notebook doesn't seem big enough. I know I need to reduce the amount of stuff that I keep with me at all times, using Circa might force me to do that.

I don't want a zippered binder. My main reason for switching to Circa is to have a simple notebook that I can fold over, so I just want to use the plain plastic covers with a fabric book cover stretched over them so the discs don't catch on things.

So far I haven't seen anything to really deter me from giving this a try, but I look forward to more input from others. :)

me too

I'm glad I've been reading through all these posts about Circa. Despite the costs and a few snags, I'm still excited about giving it a try too. While the cost is a MAJOR issue for destitute little me, I figure it'll be worth it in the long run. I've always had trouble finding a way to carry my current writing projects with me. Three-ring binders are too bulky and wear out so quickly, and you can't move stuff around in a regular spiral.

I'm planning on getting the starter kit, the sampler kit with the gift card, and maybe the project binder that's on sale to start with. That'll give me a bunch of discs, accessories and papers to get started. I'm getting excited for payday. :^)


I, too, had a brief but passionate affair with Circa. I don't use it all that much anymore though for the reasons already mentioned. The paper to be filed catches on everything, the smurfs wear out so if you want to keep a calendar of monthly pages that you use daily to plan out the next year they will wear out and you will end up rewriting everything onto new pages. Pages and covers just don't turn as easily as I would like either. If I want to turn many pages in a large document I have circafied I have to turn a few pages at a time or they come out/don't turn/get caught on the disks/etc. That lack of "flippability" is the biggest issue I have when using circa vs. ring-bound. If the smurfy-holes were larger then the pages would fall off the circa disks. Then there is the cost. That issue is covered well elsewhere though and just by looking at the catalogs so I won't repeat it here.

My spin on it

As I see it, the only serious down side to the disc binding route is that some of the supplies are expensive and hard to get. OK. However, I bought a punch from eBay a long time ago, found sources of cover material, and figured out (with help from this group) the most appropriate papers to use.

I have a pile of discs and covers, so I am good to go. I love the flexibility of the disc binding that allows you to mix page sizes in one notebook.

Getting set up in any binding method is going to require some decisions and outlay. Rings or combs or whatever has its ups and downs. I love to tinker and experiment, so I have a bit of everything.

Comb binding is great, once you are set up to do it. You need a specialized punch/binding machine that are as expensive as Circa if not more so. One down side is that it is tougher to re-arrange pages. It can be done, but you have to unbind the book , re-arrange, and re-bind.

The good old ring binder is inexpensive, easy to set up, flexible, but a bit on the bulky side.

I have all of this and a few more at home, but then I am something of an odd duck.

There's my opinion.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Perf Paper

Has anyone tried any paper like this?

You can order any color and weight you want, and have a 1/2" perf on the left. When you are ready to file or archive page, just tear off the perf smurf.

Gary R


The cost is a bit high, ain't it ?
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

DIY perforated paper?

I noticed Fiskars makes a rotary trimmer with a perforating blade. What do you think about punching your own paper and then perforating it? (I've never tried it myself.)

Perforated paper

I have a trimmer like that and am very pleased with it. I use it for several things - including DIY planner(s).

The one I have (Rexel SmartCut A425) has a rotating head allowing me to either cut, perforate, make 'bend here' lines and cut in waves. (The latter is good for cards etc.)

I have used "the bender" to create a foldable section in my FiloFax - sort of a 'this is personal' section.
I have used it for fold-out paper too.

The perforater is very effective and I have to be careful with the 70 gram paper I use for my FF.

But - with a little practice it all works very well. I can higly recommend such a 'gadget'.

Here's a pocket perforator

I found this in one of my local retailers. It folds in half and is small enough to tuck in a pocket of my planner
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

This might help...

... or not :)

Yes, it is biased toward Rollabind, but it does kinda quantify how one might rate a binding method.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

I looked at, I wonder what

I looked at it, I wonder what is "CONTEMPORARY STYLING", and why don't regular ring binders have it? I have seen some really cool things for regular ring binders, so this does not make much sense to me.

I don't have a portable Rolla punch, I heard enough horror stories about it that I ended up getting the heavy one.

On the other hand, I still have my cheapy ring binder punch from college days (2-3 bucks I think). Only one I ever had, still works, quite durable.

Circa Likes and Dislikes

* Expensive if you buy from Levenger - cheaper from Rollabind et. al., but quality is lower.
* Punch is expensive, but necessary for DIY. No cheap alternative to it.
* Proprietary - doesn't interchange with other binding systems except Atoma/Myndology.
* The smurfs do catch when you're filing/shuffling pages.
* The smurfs are not as durable as punched holes. Depends on quality and weight of paper, but they won't stand repeated installation and removal.
* Clumsy - if you use something like the foldover notebook, the exposed discs do catch on things. The discs also get in the way when you're writing on the backside of the page, if you're a righty. Frontside of page if you're a lefty.

* Flexibility - this system is the most flexible one I've seen. It's so easy to add and remove pages, reconfigure your notebook/binder, and put various sizes & shapes together
* Creative - get a punch, build anything you want, size and shape don't really matter, express your imagination and individuality
* Quality - Levenger makes high quality stuff - you sorta get what you pay for, and it lasts longer
* Unique - sometimes it's cool to be unique
* DIY - if you have the punch and some discs, you can make the rest yourself. Thanks to, I can print my own pages on paper I like, and save some money.
* Discreet - you don't have the dang snapping of rings
* Customizable - you make it fit you, not fit you to the system
* Recyclable - made of plastic, it don't rust like three ring binders, and you can reuse the stuff.

I'm still using my Circa stuff. I stocked up on enough stuff when it went on sale that I'm pretty good for now. I bought a bunch of the Circa Agendas when they are outdated and clearanced out. I recycle and build a new notebook or planner.

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." - Mark Twain

Thank you

Thank you Walter, this is exactly the type of information and experience I was hoping for. :)

Still using - and loving - Circa

A big part of whether the Circa system works for someone is what they are using it for. Since I use it to keep my notes all in one place, it works exceptionally well. I have a tendency to reach for any plain paper and / or card within reach to make a note, which I then punch and pop into one of my Circa notebooks. Everything fits (well, with the exception of oversized sheets, but even they fit if folded).

The smurfs don't seem to be a problem for me - a punched page even goes through my Fujitsu SnapScan without a snag. (I write in a notebook, then scan the pages, so I have both a physical and digital copy.)

This system works well for me and fits my process, but not everyone is a writer doing extensive research either. I do use Circa notebooks for everyday things as well, so count me on the fangirl side.

Thank you.

I think I can make it fit to me instead of me fitting to it. Your input really helps. I'll probably order my desk punch, discs, and plastic covers soon, while the current sale is still on. That junior project binder for half price is very tempting. :)

I discovered

I really like the Circa system. After buying the circa letter size cloth covered cover, I found that I really like the simplicity of the starter kit translucent plastic covers better. I made a DIY "front" sheet from the template with my favorite picture on it and I can see it under the front cover. That way, I don't feel bad if the cover gets a little scuffed up, and I can see my picture. And, I am not paying a bunch of bucks for a zippered or leather cover.

I use their dividers, and their preprinted note paper, but everything else (calendar pages, weekly organizer, projects, etc) I either created myself or got from DIY so I don't pay alot for the preprinted paper or forms. I go to Office Deport, Staples, etc, and buy my card stock and paper in bulk.

I did buy the punch, and I'm okay with paying a few bucks for that. I really like the fexibility to move things around. Each month, I collect the pages from that month and put them in a folder, in a hanging file folder. The smurfs catch, but I just get them lined up and pop them in with the smurfs on the bottom edge of the folder.

I am now, after about three months of experimenting, about where I want to be with the planner cover, the contents and using the system I created. I traveled on business with it for the first time this week, and found I liked that 1) the planner was light to carry, 2) I could fold it over and write easier during meetings and on the plane, and 3) I had an easy time finding info I needed and moving things around inside the planner.

I'm always tweaking something, but I'm happy with what I have.

I could go on and on about how great Levenger is

but that's not what this post is about.

Not sure if you already bought the system because you originally posted a few months ago but if you haven't taken the plunge, let me advise you: you will go broke.

The Circa system is proprietary so you get hooked on buying from Levenger, especially when you receive their catalog. Shipping is expensive, so unless you live near a Levenger store, this should be factored into the price.

Also, the paper quality is overrated. It doesn't stand up to constant page flipping and rearranging, a feature that is the reason people buy the system in the first place.

I had the Levenger Circa system and sometimes I think about dipping in that Circa kool-aid again but then I remember the recession and the fancy catalog ends up in the recycling bin.

- blackberry addict/paper junkie/bookworm/notetaker

My take on Circa

I've said this before on this forum, but I'm a really capricious "office supply" user. I find something I like to keep me organized, and then the inevitable wandering eye finds something that looks even cooler, even better. It's a hard-knock life when you are always on the prowl to improve an already good thing.

When I first ran into Circa I thought...hmmm...chances are good that I'll think it's cool for a bit, and then sicken of it in fewer than 6 months. I started out slow, buying some cheap Rollabind stuff, and then upgraded gradually to Circa. Six months later, I had invested in more Circa. One year after that, still going strong on the Circa. Here's what I discovered:

1. I really like Circa...because it works for ME. I don't have to worry about my papers being compatible with someone else's system (I work from home).

2. Circa is expensive, but deals can be found (ebay, forum sales, Levenger sales).

3. If you find a non-standard notebook size or style that really works for you, then stock up on it. Levenger is known for skipping around a bit on notebook sizes, discontinuing the Compact and scaling down on the Micro circa offerings. I bought myself three leather Micro Circa notebooks and am glad I did before these became scarce...this is my most used Circa notebook.

4. Circa is very flexible, but a lot of that depends on your creativity and discipline to use that flexibility. It doesn't just organize have to be willing to experiment.

5. Circa can be as easy and plain or as fancy and complicated as you want it to be. I like its ability to "dress down" or "dress up" for any occasion.

6. Circa is not for everyone. If it works for you, bonus. If it doesn't, I hope you didn't make too much of an initial investment.

Good luck!

Re: Circa Thoughts

I can't add much more than what's been stated already but from someone who's used the system now for a while here's my take..

The system is customizable. You can pretty much adapt it for whatever your needs are. It's flexible too. I have a few notebooks that's I've designed for various purposes. I use a letter size for tracking projects in my church. I use a classic size for a planner, and I have one of the Levenger Circa Steno pads for my bible study and note taking. I like it because it's "top bound" like a regular steno pad so it's easy to use. Levenger didn't have much luck with the Steno size though and has closed them out (at least, that's what Steve Leveen told me in a text message).

As others here have stated, start up cost is a bit pricey. You will want a desk punch if you are serious about using the system. The thing is built like a tank and will last (Levenger's). I love mine. It is a bit expensive though and then you have the binding discs. I don't see why these have to be an issue but Levenger is currently at odds with Jack Feldman who owns the rights to the manufacturing process but can't seem to manage production very well. I think at some point, another party will step up and make these cost effective. Rollabind sold me some discs several months back and I'm happy with them. I've just been hearing horror stories from others about service of late. I have enough discs though to last me a long time so I"m not worried. If you can get past the initial cost, then the system is great.

One other drawback is that once you're in, you're committed (unless you like throwing money away). I purchased a kit to try it out and once I liked it, then I bought the punch and discs. If you are already comfortable with this system, then go ahead and take the plunge. Just remember, you're in it for a while and find ways to adapt it to your life.

All if all, I like Circa/Rollabind. Levenger's products are much more elegant but cost more. For certain things, I like the higher quality but I've designed a few books using file folders as covers (chopped 'em myself) and stick on tabs for dividers. Make the tool work for you. Don't be a slave to the tool.