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I know that engineering paper exists, but are there any companies that make programmer-specific notebooks for notes/pseudo-code/designs?

Paper is my preferred way of outlining things, so the addition of a specialized pad to my list of tools would be greatly beneficial.

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Most programmers I know prefer graphing paper for this, and I've seen graphing paper notebooks. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Apr 28 '11 at 18:46
    
@frustrated: I actually prefer high-end drawing paper. The lack of lines is nice, and the heavy weight means I can scribble big diagrams, and cross them out, and still be able to use the other side of the page. –  Satanicpuppy Apr 28 '11 at 18:57
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What would you want in a "programming notebook"? How would they be different from normal e.g. college notebooks? –  Anto Apr 28 '11 at 19:52
    
@Anto - Not sure, that's half the question honestly. I'm wondering if anything clever exists targeted at programmers. –  Chuck Callebs Apr 28 '11 at 20:07
    
@Chuck: That's true; sometimes you won't realize that you need something before you have actually tried it out. I'm quite interested in the outcomes of this post. –  Anto Apr 28 '11 at 20:11
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6 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

They aren't necessarily programming focused (or economical), but I've found Moleskine notebooks to be pretty useful for programming notes.

Upsides

  • Durable - Moleskines are more durable than any other notebook I've dealt with (e.g. simple wire-bound notebooks)
  • Hardbound - The fact that its hardbound helps with the durability and ensures that you don't necessarily need a proper writing surface to take notes.
  • Variety of paper types - Moleskines are available in lined, grid, and plain paper, so you can choose the type of paper that you're most comfortable with.

Downsides

  • Price: Moleskines are ~$12 for the 3x5" and ~$18 for the 5x8" version. Larger versions go up in price from there.
  • Pretentiousness: The Moleskine website and literature is really, really pretentious. There's a lot of talk about these being "legendary" notebooks, and their being used by famous artists and writers (e.g. Chatwin, Picasso, etc.). None of that is true. While artists and writers used notebooks similar in design to Moleskine, none actually used these particular notebooks. Its annoying, but they're fairly good notebooks, so I put up with it.

Conclusion

I really like Moleskines. They work for me. I've filled up 2 so far with programming notes, and I'm going through a third. That said, I'm still looking for something that's almost as good but cheaper.

EDIT: Added link to Moleskine site; Added formatting for clarity;

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I found one of the large ones on Amazon for just $10. I'll probably pick one up just to see how it is. Thanks for the suggestion. –  Chuck Callebs Apr 28 '11 at 19:08
    
+1 for this. If you're going paper, Moleskine are pretty nice. –  Ryan Hayes Apr 28 '11 at 19:10
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I'm hooked on computation books. These are bound books of graph paper with pre-numbered pages, and they totally rock. I buy 'em five at a time online, and use a new one every time I start a new project.

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Having them bound keeps your notes together. And the numbered pages are great for intellectual property purposes. If you write the date down every time you start a new day's notes, not only can you find things in chronological order, but if you ever have to go to court about when something was invented, they make fantastic evidence.

They're also great for taking meeting notes. On one multi-year development project, I became the go-to guy even for the managers, because I had better notes than anybody and never lost them.

In the US, you can get good ones made by Ampad and TOPS. You can also get them with several kinds of bindings: stitched, "perfect" (glued), or wire rings. The glued ones will fall apart, so I avoid them. Stitched is great for the intellectual property stuff, so I use them when I think that could be an issue. But my preferred version now is the wire ring type, because you can open it flat.

The only disadvantage is they're expensive - about $15 each. A college lab notebook with graph paper pages might work, too, and it would be cheaper, but I don't think they're as sturdy and the pages aren't as big.

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+1 The pre-numbered pages are great if you're regularly working on multiple projects or even a single complex one; being able to write "continued from page 6" or "see page 47" is quite handy. (That said, I find it impossible to believe that a handwritten date in a notebook serves as any meaningful evidence in court, as nothing in the world prevents you from leaving blank pages that you later fill in when you need "evidence.") –  Matthew Frederick Apr 28 '11 at 20:43
    
Do you have a particular store or website where you get these? As my reply above indicates, I use Moleskines, but I'm not 100% happy with them and these might be a good alternative. –  quanticle Apr 28 '11 at 20:54
    
@quanticle: The big box office-supply stores mostly carry the glued ones that fall apart, but you can find the stitched and wire-bound versions at Amazon and other places online. –  Bob Murphy Apr 29 '11 at 0:26
    
@Matthew: There are standard practices that add great weight to these notebooks when placed on the civil litigation scale of "preponderance of evidence". I used to use them when I was a research chemist. One of my ex-bosses was involved in a patent suit where well-kept lab computation books were key to his company winning. –  Bob Murphy Apr 29 '11 at 2:34
    
But I must add, those practices go beyond just hand-writing a date. You can look them up if you're interested. –  Bob Murphy Apr 29 '11 at 2:34
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I'm a big fan of 8 1/2 x 11 yellow legal pads, personally. They sit flat on the desk; they're pretty thin, so you can write all the way to the bottom; and after I've filled a few pages and resolved the issues described in those pages, I tear them off, punch them, and put them in a 3-ring binder. It's a little elaborate, sure, but it beats having to fight with a notebook to keep it open.

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As opposed to the rest of the high voted options this one is cheap, and great for stuff you do not intend on saving. I've someone who instead of punching them into a binder just folded pages he knew he'll need to the back and tore off the pages he didn't need-it does create mess but I think it's great for quick idea sketches. I know that when I'm having an eureka moment I write messy and fast-and this fits the style. –  Ziv Apr 28 '11 at 22:17
    
@Ziv Yeah, I fold back a few pages until I feel like I've covered enough ground to copy back what I've missed and dispose of the rest... it really helps me to keep track of the 90,000 things that I'm working on over any given period of time. –  kivetros Apr 29 '11 at 13:13
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I've been working on this problem for ages, here are some thoughts. My problem is I love having little notebooks and a couple of coloured pens, for sketching, prototyping, making notes there's nothing quicker, but it's paper goddammit, and there's no undo.

For actual coding I use either a PC with a couple of 1080p monitors. I could get higher res or larger ones, but for the price would of shot up. I also use a Sony VPCZ1 laptop. It's 13" but also 1080p. It's actually a little too hirez for general stuff, but it works perfectly for coding.

Right, here's the interesting bits.

To replace the notepads I've tried the following.

LightScribe pen. This is a pen with an onboard computer. It watches what you write and records it as an image. It uses special paper, but you can print your own pads of the stuff so you're not tied to their stationary. It works pretty well, but it becomes a problem when brainstorming with people. If they don't use your pen you don't get their notes recorded...

iPad. I found using your finger just doesn't feel intuitive or accurate enough, so now I have an iPad stylus. It's about the size of a pen and helps. This is currently my preferred route for digital sketching.

Wacom tablet. Not portable, well it is, but it's not the sort of thing you want to carry or pull out in a meeting, on the train, etc.

laptop with touch screen. I've got an HP with touchscreen which you can swivel round to be tablet format. I actually don't like it, I can't put my finger on why, it feels a bit laggy perhaps, strokes with the stylus aren't recorded in sufficient resolution I think. The applications I used with it weren't optimised for stylus use either, unlike the ipad apps, so it felt more clunky than it should be.

Paper and pen + scanner and doc management software. I own a copy of PaperPort which I use for all my document management stuff, so it wasn't a killer step to scan paper pages and put them in there. Still a bit of a pain. I use the red and black series of hardback notebooks in a variety of sizes, everything from an a6 I keep in my jacket pocket up to A4. Oh I use the four colour bic biro pens. I like to use different colours :)

Edit: Oh one extra thing, recently I've started using an iphone app called jotnot or something like that. There are loads of them, all it does it process a photo for use as notes. I use that to photo notebook pages and then email them to myself.

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I obsess over stationary and have been trying to answer this question for myself for ages. My favorite solution is a Rhodia wirebound graph pad with a Micron Pigma pen. Rhodia paper is superior to all I've tried and they have a number of size formats to suit your writing style. I also find a small architect's template to be handy for making diagrams. Both pen & pad are easily acquired in the US at any art supply store.

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I use graph paper notebooks and love them. They're hard to find in the US, but very common in Latin America. I picked up a taste for them in Ecuador, but my last purchase was from a Mexican Wal-Mart, where they were available for less than $1 each.

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