Wednesday 28 December 2011

Making transparent dividers with floating tabs

I often produce bound reports for clients, so I have a variety of report binding machines. I also have a stock of clear plastic covers, like these:

There are fifty in a pack. Each one will yield three Personal size flyleaves, or two A5 ones, provided you have a ruler, a craft knife and a hole punch. So far, so good.

However, another use for them is to cut them out with tabs at the top or side to make transparent dividers. On the face of it, this is a silly idea, because the one thing you want your tabs to be is visible, but bear with me.

You can either cut from measurements or you can draw around a template using a CD pen. An exisiting flyleaf with a Post-It index tab on it makes a good template to draw around. If you place the straight edges at the corner of the sheet, you need only draw around and cut two edges rather than four.

Use a label maker next to make your tab titles. Use a small setting for the text. I always have to trim the labels my maker produces to use them on tabs. I find that if I use the 'box' setting, the label maker will make some nice cutting lines for me:

Cut down the labels and add to the tabs - front and back - and add to your binder. You'll find the labels seem to float in the air:

It's a nice look. My thanks to Vanjilla, who suggested I write this idea up after I mentioned it on her blog.

Monday 26 December 2011

Print your own Filofax media wishlist

I am a consumer of media. I buy books, music and film DVDs regularly. I tend to scribble down things I want to buy when they are recommended to me or when I am inspired by advertising or reviews. Now and again I'll sit at a PC on the Amazon site and try to find all my little notes so I can buy them all.

There are two problems with this approach. Firstly, I have more than once bought items I already own. And secondly, I often neglect once I own an item to read, watch or listen to it. My media wishlist page solves the problem.

In the 'Type' column I can put a code (B = book, CD = er ... CD.) Each title has two checkboxes: one for when I buy it, the second for when I read, watch or listen to it.

If you would like to use the media wishlist too, you can download either an editable Word file or an Adobe PDF file.

Click to see a bigger version

Both files contain two A4 pages (the first is pictured above), which you should print onto a single sheet of paper. If you have a duplex printer set it to flip on the short edge. If your printer will only print on one side, you'll have to experiment with manually refeeding between prints.

The front of the sheet has crop marks to allow you to position your ruler perfectly when cutting out the pages with a craft knife. The front of the page is set with a left-hand gutter, the back with a right-hand one. This allows for the holes, of course.

As soon as this page was tucked into my Filofax, I started thinking of other applications for the double check box. For instance, how about a delegation record, where the first box records you assigning the task, the second checking it is complete? Or perhaps a correspondence record, the first box recording a sent letter, the second the receipt of a reply?

Sunday 25 December 2011

Spent your iTunes gift card? Repurpose it

There are too many plastic cards in the world. I got another one this morning from my son, who gave me an iTunes gift card, for which I was very grateful, of course. I scratched off the panel, keyed in the code and logged the credit. This left me with a useless plastic card. I gathered some simple tools:

You can see here a steel ruler, a manual single hole punch and a craft knife. The first step is to use the ruler and the craft knife to make some deep cuts along the top and bottom of the card that do not quite run to the sides, like this:

Each of the four corners now needs an additional cut, to join the ones you have made to the long edges, at a slight angle:

Once you have made all of these cuts, you can gently flex and then snap out the two edge strips. This can be tricky if your cuts aren't deep enough, so you may need to go back and use the knife to make them a bit deeper. You'll be left with a sort of bone-shaped card and two thin strips you can throw away.

Next, use the hole punch to make a hole at each end of the card. This takes a bit of strength and risks ruining a less than sturdy hold punch. You could use a drill to achieve the same effect.

Finally, use the knife or some strong scissors to make little V-shaped joins from the holes to the short edges.

Have you guessed what it's for yet?

Yes, it's a headphone cable tidy, which can double as a cable shortener if you only wind part of the cable around. Given the fragility of your average headphone cable you might want to take a nail file or emery board to any rough edges before you use this.

I gave this to my gift-giving son this morning. You see, his new headphone cable was so long he was in danger of tripping over it.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Making Filofax expenses envelopes - A5 version

Last time, I posted on how to make Personal size expenses envelopes. Today I have templates for an A5 version. As before these are provided in editable Miscrosoft Publisher and Adobe PDF formats.

This one has to be printed on 2 sheets and the a little assembly is necessary. Here are the two sheets you'll get when you print out the template:

Some instructions on assembly:
  1. Print out onto the A4 paper weight of your choice (standard 80 gsm is fine)
  2. Cut out both pieces
  3. Fold the first piece (I tend to do the folding before the cutting out, using the corner lines as folding guides, but it’s a personal choice.)
  4. Use the tabs to fold the first peice around the second.
  5. Glue or tape both vertical flaps and the bottom horizontal one to the decond piece (I use double-sided tape)
  6. Punch holes
  7. Add to your ‘Financial’ section
The templates use A4 paper. If you're printing on Letter paper try to adjust your print settings so you don't 'scale to paper size' and end up with an envelope that's not quite the right size.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Dear Santa

This my attempt at a little seasonal satire. I wrote it three years ago at about this time of year. This blog probably isn't the place for it and nor was my old blog, Working On Me, where I first published it. Still, I'd like people to read it, enjoy it, perhaps think about it. I'd like to say I had fun writing it, but I didn't really. It was written to get rid of a bit of NewsRage, that burning feeling of injustice and impotence you get from watching the news sometimes.

Dear Santa,

Having now cooled off after our discussion yesterday, I am writing to tender my resignation. I believe that in the heat of my temper I may not fully have explained my reasons, so I shall endeavour to do so now, in a rather calmer state of mind.

When I first arrived at the North Pole, with hardly a single coin and a floppy pointed hat to my name, I thought myself lucky to have found a benefactor such as yourself. “Mr Claus,” I said to myself, “is a real prince among men.” And so it seemed. Nobody in my family had ever amounted to much, even in gnome terms. As I explained to you at the time, I was the first gnome in our family ever to leave the street. If it hadn’t been for that incident with my Uncle Clem and the border collie next door, I’d have been the first in the family even to leave the garden. And your laughter then made me feel so welcome, although I have had cause to wonder about that laugh from time to time ever since.

My lodgings at the North Pole were modest, as my means dictated. Mrs Whisper was the first elf I had ever met, close up. Back home in the garden, we’d only ever caught glimpses of them as the frolicked and gambolled in the woods beyond the canal (and I’m afraid I still can’t tell the difference between a frolic and a gambol.) How beautiful and exotic they appeared to us. It was my mother who told me about the elves: about how they were Santa’s eyes and ears in the human world, and how some of them worked for you, Santa, making the toys or wrapping them up. I was enthralled by the glamour of it all, but when Dad found out, he spoke severely to Mother about filling my head with such notions and treated me to a full hour’s lecture on the virtues of toadstool-sitting and another on the spiritual rewards of dry fishing. In the years that followed, we would argue many times about this, me suggesting that fishing the canal might be more productive, him maintaining that the lawn was the only proper feature above which to dangle a rod. But I digress.

Mrs Whisper was not like a mother to me. She was a considerate landlady, though, although I now realise that on top of premature widowhood and financial penury, giving houseroom to any lodger – let alone me – must have been humiliating for an elf of her distinction. Well, I say she wasn’t like a mother to me, but in one respect she was: I didn’t appreciate her until she had gone.

Of course, most of my waking hours then were devoted to you, Santa, and your special teams of helper elves. I worked longer hours than any of your other sweepers, and it seemed I had less to show for it than any of them, even before I sent money back home to the garden. That money brought more of my family up here, and other families, too. For some reason, though, there seemed to be almost nowhere for us to live. For more than a year after we were married, Betty and I were sharing Mrs Whisper’s back room with three of my cousins.

Meanwhile, as more gnomes came to the Pole, the elves who had been so glad that we would do all the jobs they didn’t want to started getting grumpy with us. We were called names in the street and our hats were flicked from our heads. In the canteen – in your canteen, Santa – the elves made us all sit in one corner to eat. It wasn’t long before the seats disappeared, to be replaced by wooden, painted toadstools.

Slowly, so slowly, things got better. Some of us got to be supervisors, even managers. We bought houses of our own in the poorer areas, many of which survived the various assaults of elves. The Christmas Spirit always seemed to afford us quite a wide path, but as we prospered times changed, and the new generations started to get along more cordially than we had seemed able. My proudest moment, Santa, was when my Fergus, my wonderful boy, joined the team that filled your Christmas sack. That Christmas Eve, I felt more truly part of the North Pole community than I had ever imagined might be possible.

But of course experience should have warned me that it could not last. While I was raising my children to work hard, be respectful and honour the values of the Christmas Spirit, while all the gnomes I knew worked hard to please you and the elves, trying to forgive the increasingly subtle disdain with which we were treated, one rogue gnome and his lunatic friends were planning to lash out against you, Santa. What happened that day can never be forgotten, of course. But what it seems can be forgotten is who it was that walked with you through the rubble in the days that followed. We were there, Santa. We buried our own people, too. We cried ourselves to sleep at night, grieving our lost brothers and we felt deep shame that a gnome, a wearer of the floppy hat, could possibly have done such a thing.

It seemed, though, that to a certain type of elf, there was no surprise that a gnome had so acted. In the following months, this view spread. The sort of glances I had once been used to, but had believed were a thing of the past, again became common. Fergus was sidelined to a desk job. The poor boy still thinks he could be packing your sack this year, but we know better, don’t we, Santa? How long, I wonder, before his swivel chair is replaced with a painted toadstool? And when it is, what will you do about it? I won’t be here to see. It breaks my heart that I cannot get Fergus to see this, that I cannot spare him the hurt I feel sure will soon come his way. He is staying, but Betty and I are taking the younger children home in the morning.

So, as I explained to you in your office yesterday, Santa, I will not be removing my hat. For the thirty years I have swept your factory floors, my hat has not been a ‘barrier to communication’ nor a ‘badge of militancy’. It seems that whilst any elf may carry his bow and arrows with impunity, a gnome’s floppy old pointy hat is some sort of open threat to public safety.

My hat, my wife and most of my children will return to the garden. I will teach the boys how to dry fish, and no doubt they will grow up to despise me for depriving them of the opportunity to frolic and gambol (yes, they know the difference) with their elf friends here. But I’ll live with that. I went through all that hatred and humiliation so they might have a better life, and just when it looked to have worked, the dream shattered.

Goodbye, Santa, and a Merry Christmas to you and Mrs Claus. Please try to protect my boy from the folly of his decision; do what you can for him, Santa.


Feargal Fisher.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Expenses envelopes for the Filofax Personal

Remember expenses envelopes? You could write all your details on the front and collect your receipts all in one place. I think you can still get them for the A5, but the Personal ones are history. Until now.

Yes, it's DIY time again.

Making your own means that you can put whatever headings you want. So apart from the date, description and amount, I just have a column called 'A/C' that lets me add a code to identify whether I paid from a Visa card, or cash or by switch, say.

The template is available as an editable MS Publisher document and as an Adobe PDF.  I used a font and line weights that makes this look very much like an authentic Filofax product, but you can change this however you like in the Publisher version.

Download your choice and get printing. The picture above should give you a clear idea of the folding and glueing you'll need to do. Here are the steps:

  1. Print out onto the A4 paper weight of your choice (standard 80 gsm is fine)
  2. Cut out
  3. Fold (I tend to do the folding before the cutting out, using the corner lines as folding guides, but it’s a personal choice.)
  4. Glue or tape one vertical flap to its twin (I use double-sided tape)
  5. Glue or tape the bottom flap (keep the top one unglued – obviously!)
  6. Punch holes
  7. Add to your ‘Financial’ section
Note that I've produced these on A4 paper because here in the UK and Europe that's our standard size. If you are using Letter paper, try to adjust your print settings so you don't 'scale to paper size' and end up with an envelope that's not quite the right size. 

I wish Filofax still sold the original envelopes. But the truth of the matter is, designing and making these was fun. And it made me wonder what else I could use full-sized Filofax Personal envelopes for, especially if I were to print on the front in landscape format. Hmm...


I've now made a video showing what to do once you've printed out the template.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Free London Underground Map for your Filofax

I know you can buy these maps ready-made for your Filofax, but:
  1. The map actually changes fairly often, with stations closing and reopening; staying current would cost a fortune; and
  2. London Underground hand out lovely ones for free at every station. 
Here is one of the free ones I picked up today:

It's smaller than Filofax Personal paper and it folds out beautifully:

You don't want to punch holes in that. And if you did, it wouldn't open properly. You could put it in a pocket or clear envelope, I suppose, but here's a better idea: recycle some packaging. Here is something I bought that's sealed in unnecessary plastic:

The back of the package is a little flat sheet of transparent, firm plastic. Using a craft knife, I liberated it, trimmed it and punched it so as to end up with a sort of shorter 'today' marker:

Then, it's just a matter of using glue to attach the map. I used a clear-drying glue so you can even see the content where the join is:

Here it is, stowed away in my Filo:

And here it is, unfurled and in action:

This trick is fantastic for all sorts of little maps and booklets that fold out. What other ones can you think of?

Saturday 10 December 2011

Using envelopes to track tickets with your Filofax

Here is a trick I've been using for years. Yes, there are the transparent envelopes and yes, most Filofaxes have side pockets too, but I still used to find that tickets got lost or forgotten now and again. What I now do instead is punch an envelope and file it in the diary section between pages containing the relevant date. Using a tiny envelope (they come in packs of 50 from WH Smith) works really well:

The tickets are tucked inside. Depending on where you punch the holes you can access them without opening the rings, too:

Here's another method using a more conventional envelope. This one is a C6, too big to use in anything smaller than an A5 Filofax. But we're going to modify it. First, we'll cut off the end:

Another small cut to tidy the flap, and then we can punch it:

And here it is sitting in place in the diary:

You can also try this using one of those transparent CD envelopes, but I find they don't react too well to punching.

The joy of this method is that you can accommodate tickets of almost any conventional size and have them to hand precisely when you are going to need them.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Coming home

Tomorrow eveing I'll be flying home from Bermuda to the UK, so I'm getting my Filofax ready for the trip. All the flight details are noted, of course, and my baggage claim stickers will be in there once I get them at check in.

I've also got in my notes section details from on the trains that will get me from Gatwick to Home by various routes depending on how long passport control, baggage claim and customs detain me (and when I say, 'detain' I'm hoping my choice of words will not come back to bite me.)

The Filofax will be in my hand baggage, of course, fully accessible during take-off and landing.

Thursday 1 December 2011

A5 business setup and tabs

I'm working in Bermuda this week and next, providing consultancy for an organisation here. That means my  A5 Kensington was dusted off last week and filled with my consulting tools and papers relevant to this client.

I'm particularly happy with the new tabs I made. These are plain 160 gsm card, cut down from A4 to 2 A5 pieces, punched with a tab added at the side. Each of those tabs starts off looking like this in MS PowerPoint:
Then I cut them out, apply glue, fold them over so the tab part sticks to itself and the large rectangles attach to the front and back of the cut card. When the glue is dry, I wrap a piece of adhesive plastic film around the whole thing and trim with a craft knife. Here's a closeup of the finished tab:

I like the way these tabs look. They make a great impression on the client too.

Monday 28 November 2011

Make your own diary - source files

Last week I wrote about making your own diary layout if you couldn't find one commercially available that you liked. I also made available a PDF file of my 2012 layout.

Today, I am making available the source files so the more geeky of you can have a play. You'll need this excel file which does all the hard work. You can adapt this to give you any date range you want; simply change the dates in the first column. Have a look at the formulae, which mostly extract elements from the date and are relatively simple. Over towards the right, though, where dates are calculated for the mini calendars, there are some more complex formulae. Importantly, these columns must stay formatted as text, even though the data are numerical in nature; otherwise Word can't cope with them properly.

Speaking of Word, you can also grab the layout template I merged the data into to make my layout. You can adapt this to produce pretty much any layout you could imagine, then merge into a document you can print and punch. A couple of words of warning, though (pun semi-intentional). Firstly, depending on what version of word you're using, Word may put section breaks between every record, which will throw out the mirrored gutter formatting in the format. If it does, the solution is quite simple; do a find and replace on section breaks (^b) to remove them all. You'll also need to add a single page break to the front of the merged document so that a 2-day spread has gutters in the middle. Of course, this isn't an issue on 1-page layouts. You might also need to adjust the top and bottom margins until print preview confines the layout properly to single pages for your printer.

That's it really. If you want to roll your sleeves up you can create the perfect layout that is unique to your own needs. And you need never pay for a diary insert again. Switching mid-year? No problem. Your pages can start and end on any date you like.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Download and print your own A4 or A5 diary pages

Based on the diary layout I designed, this PDF file is a full 2-page-per-day diary for 2012. I'll make the source files available if there's demand so people can adapt the layout and set up for any period they like.

NB: This is in part a test of whether I can use to share files in this way. If it doesn't work, Steve has offerred to host for me at Philofaxy.

Sunday 20 November 2011

My perfect A4/A5 diary layout

When it comes to the larger organisers, the ones that sit on a desk, I tend to prefer page-per-day or even 2-pages-per-day, but none of the layouts available commercially works properly for me. So I made my own:

The hardest part was building the Excel file that serves as the data source for the Word mailmerge. Have a look closely at the top of the left hand page: yes, those mini-calendars are dynamic and will always show the current month plus next month. The formulae that feed all those numbers are non-trivial, but in another part of the collection of odd jobs I call a career, I'm an Excel developer, so it was an interesting challenge.

Print this on a duplex laser, punch it and you have an A4 diary. Mine is A5, so I print this in duplex booklet layout and then guillotine the sheets and voila: an A5 diary, the way I want it.

Once I get file hosting sorted out and playing with Blogger, perhaps I could publish the source files, or at least a PDF. Let me know in the comments if you're interested. Also, now the heavy lifting of the Excel file is all done, developing different custom layouts in Word should be pretty easy, so let me know in the comments if there's a layout you've always wanted. No promises, but I might be able to produce something that works for you.

My unique new today marker

When I made my new home made dividers I made a today marker using the same methods. Here it is:

Saturday 19 November 2011

My new home-made dividers

Don't you hate those plain, buff dividers that come with your Filofax? I do. And I prefer to give the sections my own names, too. So, equipped with a laminator, a hole punch, a craft knife, a label maker and some decorative paper, I often make a set of my own, like the ones I am currently using: