Kickstarters upon Kickstarters, that seems to be the theme for this month! Out of all the projects that I've had the opportunity to review, however, the Slice Planner has been the first where I've seen the project and thought, "I have a clear use case for that and I can't find it anywhere else on the market."
The Slice Planner claims to be "built around [the] core concept of easy synchronization between your paper notebooks and all your digital calendars, whether you use Outlook, Google, or Apple." It looks to accomplish this by combining a high-quality notebook with an app that makes it easy to scan handwritten entries into your digital calendar. Other companies have attempted similar "digital notebooks" in the past, with middling success. The most well known has been Moleskine, which sells an Evernote-integrated notebook and a "smart writing" pen/notebook set, which appears to have since been integrated on some level with the Livescribe 3 Smartpen. Slice Planner looks to take this idea a step further by offering reliable calendar integration.
So why does this project interest me? Recently, I've been looking for a notebook which can serve as a kind of "work journal," keeping track of how much time I spend on the various projects I have going on at any given time (including both the day job and the blog). The Slice Planner struck me as a good candidate. More than one week in, I'm very happy with how things have worked out, and can see myself using this notebook in this role going forward, regardless of how the app turns out.
The Notebook and "Clockface"
Before I even get into any of the "techy" features, or how the Slice Planner fares with its stated goal of "bridging the physical and digital divide," I want to say this: the Slice Planner is a great notebook, and the notebook itself is enough for me to back this Kickstarter, even if I never end up using the bundled app.
The notebook measures 5.5 x 8 inches, is clothbound, and contains two ribbon bookmarks and the omnipresent elastic strap to hold the book closed. The book itself seems very well made, and has held up well to my daily use. It's ever-so-slightly larger than a Baron Fig Confidant, but sports a similar cloth binding and lay-flat design.
The inside of the Slice Planner features an undated, two-page-per-day layout. I love undated planners and notebooks, which avoid wasting paper on days when there isn't much to "plan" (such as days off, vacations, holidays, etc.). The left-hand page contains a "clockface" diagram which tracks 12 consecutive hours of time. You determine where on the diagram you want your day to "begin", and go from there. The right-hand page contains blank dot-grid paper for notes, diagrams, drawings, whatever.
Many people have noted the visual similarity to the Chronodex, by Patrick Ng. While the Slice Planner certainly borrows from the Chronodex, in the sense that both use the "clock face" circular layout, it's not an exact copy. For one thing, the Slice Planner tracks only 12 hours of time, whereas the Chronodex is designed to track up to 18. The folks at Slice Planner explain this based on a survey showing that, on average, most people do not plan more than 9.5 hours a day. Personally, I find the simplified Slice Planner diagram easier to use than the Chronodex, which never stuck with me. Since I don't use the Slice Planner as my primary calendar, the 12-hour limitation isn't an issue for me.
Yes, the Paper Is Reasonably Fountain Pen Friendly
Per the Kickstarter project page, the notebook contains "224 pages of acid-free premium Swedish paper for sketching and writing." I'll go ahead and get this out of the way first, because I know it's what everyone wants to know: Yes, it works fine with fountain pens. I experienced no bleed-through using any fountain pen I tried, which were limited to extra-fine, fine, and medium nibs. The only pen I used that exhibited some bleed-through/show-through was the Baron Fig Squire rollerball refill (which is the same as the Schmidt rollerball refill that ships with Retro 51 pens). Lamy Copper-Orange ink didn't work great (feathered a bit), but the the flip side of the page was still usable. I never tried to push this paper with especially wet nibs, but I imagine that you might see some feathering and bleeding with double broad nibs and stubs.
And, finally, we get to the digital-analog integration aspect of this project. The project page makes it pretty clear that the Slice Planner app is NOT intended to replace your regular digital calendar, but rather to complement it by providing users with extra flexibility and making it more convenient to import things like appointments and notes into your phone or tablet.
The build of the Slice Planner app that was made available to me had limited functionality, but if it works as promised, I could see how I would use it occasionally. My day is often hyperscheduled with conference calls, appointments, hearings, etc., and needs to be broken down into time increments smaller than what I suspect the Slice Planner would be able to handle. I do plan to give the fully functional app a chance once it is released, and I'm excited to test the accuracy of the handwriting recognition feature.
That said, I'm not entirely convinced that opening a third-party app, waiting for it to access the camera, scanning in the information, correcting any handwriting recognition errors, and verifying that the entry is correctly reflected in your calendar app of choice ends up being more efficient than simply opening Fantastical or Omnifocus (two absolutely awesome apps that I use to manage my life) and entering an appointment/task manually or via Siri or Google Assistant. I'm pretty quick with my phone. That said, I'm excited to see developers and companies acknowledging that people still use paper planners and notebooks, and trying very hard to come up with thoughtful ways to accommodate these preferences. The Slice Planner app/calendaring system may end up working very well for some people; given my specific needs, it will require a lot more testing before I know whether it's something I can incorporate into the rotation.
Should You Back It?
I backed the Slice Planner immediately, simply because I want two more of these notebooks. As discussed above, I probably won't use this as a classic planner, but more as a journal/notebook for tracking time management and work progress. While the App could be a nice bonus, it's not what's driving my decision to support this project.
You can back the Slice Planner by visiting their Kickstarter project page. The project is almost fully funded with 30 days to go, and rewards are still available for December delivery. Clothbound and leatherbound notebooks are available; the leatherbound notebooks accept a refill which Slice Planner will be selling aftermarket.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a prototype Slice Planner for review purposes, free of charge. I was not otherwise compensated in any way for this review, and the funds that I used to back the project are my own. This post contains affiliate links.