Finding a notebook that works with your life is key when it comes to organization and productivity. A good notebook can also be a place to start a bullet journal, record your creative ideas, or just spend time doodling. Writers, artists, students, and researchers all benefit from having a notebook handy at any given moment.
The best notepads and notebooks have the right type of paper and size for your lifestyle.
Here are the best notebooks to consider.
Moleskine Classic Notebook, Soft Cover, XL
Multiple styles of paper
Many colors and patterns
Hard- and softcover options
No spiral option
Moleskine’s Classic Notebook is the standard against which all other notebooks are measured. You can choose from ruled, blank, and grid-format pages as well as numerous colors and even limited-edition patterns. Moleskine makes both hard- and softcover notebooks, which are equally durable. Basically, whatever configuration you need, you can find it.
The Classic Notebook is our top pick because the soft vinyl cover can be folded without losing its shape or durability. It wipes clean if you get something on it and secures with a built-in elastic. If you’re taking your notebook on the go, this is a key feature. Whether you are using it for making a to-do list or creative writing, the pages are extra thick and a true luxury to write on (and ink won’t bleed through). You can use a pen or pencil, though they aren’t designed for artwork or sketching.
There isn’t a spiral-bound option, which may be helpful for younger writers or students. You do need to keep this notebook open as you write, though the spine is very bendable. The more you use it, the easier the notebook will fall open to your last page. You can also use the built-in bookmark ribbon to mark your place.
Price at time of publish: $24
Dimensions: 7.5 x 9.75 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Faint-ruled, plain, dotted, squared | Pages: 192
Best for Studying
Staples 1-Subject Notebooks
Pack of six
Smart digital notebooks have their place, but sometimes you want something simple that gets the job done without a lot of extra features or cost. The Staples 1-Subject Notebook is the perfect pick—and it comes in a budget-friendly pack of six! Each notebook is wide-ruled with a simple metal spiral on the side. There aren’t any extra pockets for papers or pens, just reliable paper for taking notes.
While they aren’t highly customized, these notebooks do come in six different colors: red, blue, yellow, green, purple, and orange. This makes them great for color-coding at school. You can use a different color for each subject and still enjoy the familiar setup and feel every time you take notes. All of the notebooks are bright enough to spot even in a full backpack or bag.
Price at time of publish: $10 (pack of six)
Dimensions: 8 x 10.5 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Wide-ruled | Pages: 70
Black n’ Red Professional Polycover Notebook
Durable hard- or softcover
Double spiral binding
Can write on both sides of the paper
Cloud storage scanning app compatible
App requires each page be scanned individually
The cover of the Black n’ Red Professional Polycover Notebook is what makes it special. It’s made of durable plastic (the “poly” in its name) and comes in either a hard- or softcover version. While the hardcover is more durable, the softcover gives you flexibility. This notebook also has a double spiral binding that prevents pages from accidentally tearing out. The pages are also extra thick, so you can write on both sides without worrying about ink bleeding through. The notebook comes in two sizes, and the smaller option has a securing bungee to keep the pages closed.
As an added perk, the corners of each page have a small icon that works with the Scribzee app. In the app, just scan the page and it’ll upload your notes to the cloud. You can then organize and store them so you never need to worry about losing your notebook. This does take some time, however, since you have to scan each page individually. Regardless, this notebook is a great choice if you are needing a notebook for work or for creating a decorating plan for your home.
Price at time of publish: $15
Dimensions: 8.5 x 11 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Lined | Pages: 70
Best for Students
Five Star 1-Subject College-Ruled Notebook
Works with other Five Star products
Can be stored in a binder
Color availability varies
The Five Star line of notebooks and school accessories features products that work together to keep you organized as you take notes and learn. The student-friendly 1-Subject College Ruled Notebook from Five Star offers college-ruled paper, although there are also wide-ruled options for younger students or those who just prefer more space on each line. It also has three holes so you can keep it in a Trapper Keeper or other binder. The pockets on the inside of both covers hold worksheets, handouts, and other materials you may need for class.
This notebook is definitely designed for classroom use, and it’s not very portable on its own. It measures 8.5 by 11 inches and fits nicely in your favorite backpack. The pages can be torn out on perforations to turn in written assignments with neat edges. It comes in multiple colors, although you may not be able to choose the color when ordering.
Price at time of publish: $4
Dimensions: 8.5 x 11 inches | Ruled Paper Options: College-ruled | Pages: 100
Best for Writing
Moleskine Cahier Journal
Comes in a set of three
Writers never know when inspiration will strike, so they always need to have a notebook handy. Called a “writer’s journal,” these notebooks should be portable, have nice paper, and be set up for loose notetaking and idea generating. The Moleskine Cahier Journal is a great mix of all three. Each journal has 64 pages, including 16 that tear out. The best feature? The journal is very slim. You can fit it in a pocket, purse, bag, or even between the pages of your favorite book. It also comes in a pack of three, so you can keep one on your nightstand, one at work, and one with you. This would make a great addition to a gift basket, along with other items such as pens and candles.
If you prefer to have one notebook for all of your ideas, you might want something larger or with more pages. This multipack does come in dotted and ruled options and as a blank journal. Moleskine notebooks do also tend to be a bit pricey for their size. However, for avid writers, the superior quality and durability is worth the higher cost.
Price at time of publish: $11 (pack of three)
Dimensions: 5.5 x 3.5 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Blank, ruled, grid | Pages: 64
Rifle Paper Co. Spiral Notebook
Matches other desk accessories
Only one size available
Rifle Paper Company is known for its charming botanical prints, and the popular Colette print is on the cover of this stunning spiral notebook. The spiral itself complements the overall color scheme and has a double spiral to keep the pages in place and help support the notebook’s spine. You can lay it flat on the desk as you write or fold the cover and previous pages back for a smaller writing surface.
The notebook, however, is available only in a smaller size. This does make it ideal for travel. It coordinates with other Rifle Paper Company desk accessories for an overall look. While it is a bit expensive, if you get inspired by the beautiful design, it may be worth the higher cost.
Price at time of publish: $20
Dimensions: 8.25 x 6.25 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Lined | Pages: 150
National Steno Notebook Top-Bound Spiral Pad
Easy-to-flip top spiral
Vertical line helps separate notes
Eye-friendly green paper
No customization options
It’s easy to take notes with the flip-top National Steno Notebook Top-Bound Spiral Pad. The top spiral lets it lay flat when open and keeps previous notes behind fresh pages so you always know on which sheet to start anew. It’s also small enough to fit in a pocket or into your laptop bag. There is a vertical line down the middle of each sheet, ideal for separating notes or ideas. It’s faint enough that you can write through it if you prefer, too.
The Steno pad’s green paper is also easier on your eyes. However, it’s the only option–so if you prefer yellow or white, you’ll have to find a different notepad. There aren’t unlined options, either. While the design, color, and style are great in most cases, a Steno pad may not be the best choice for those who like more customization in their notetaking.
Price at time of publish: $4
Dimensions: 6 x 9.3 x 0.4 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Lined | Pages: 60
Best for Journaling
Lemome Thick Classic Notebook with Pen Loop
Built-in pen loop
Elastic securing strap
Some paper options are more expensive
You never need to worry about losing your pen when inspiration strikes or you need to write down some strong feelings in a journal—at least, not if you’re carrying Lemome’s Thick Classic Notebook. This notebook has a built-in elastic loop on the side to hold your pen as well as a pocket for other notes or photos you may want to have on hand. Like many of our favorite journals for self reflection, the hard cover protects your private thoughts inside from dirt and spills, while the elastic makes sure the journal stays closed when you want it to be.
It does have wide-ruled paper, which some people may not like. There are also dot grid and college-ruled options; these are slightly more expensive and don’t come in the same cover color options, though. You may need to trade off certain features for others that are more important for your journaling style.
Price at time of publish: $17
Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Wide-ruled | Pages: 180
Rite in the Rain Weatherproof Top Spiral Notebook
Writing won’t wash off
Multiple colors available
Fits in a pocket
Expensive for size
Like the name suggests, you can literally write in the rain using Rite in the Rain’s Weatherproof Top Spiral Notebook. This waterproof notebook is pocket-sized, which makes it great for field research. Its many bright color choices ensure it won’t get misplaced or left behind, either. Rite in the Rain also makes a rainproof pen that pairs with this durable notebook (and we think it’s worth the extra cost). It won’t run when it gets wet, and it still writes smoothly even in the elements. Together, this is a must-have duo for anyone who plans to write in rugged conditions.
However, these notebooks aren’t particularly large, and they have an odd feel compared to traditional notebooks. Plus, they’re expensive for their compact size. If you want to use this waterproof pick as your go-to, it can get expensive quickly. Instead, we recommend using these notebooks when outdoors and a less expensive option when working and writing indoors.
Price at time of publish: $11 for blue
Dimensions: 4 x 6 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Lined | Pages: 50
Field Notes Grid Notebook, Set of 3
Durable tear- and curling-resistant cover
The benefit of using a grid notebook like the Field Notes Grid Notebook is that you can make drawings and diagrams using a scale. In fact, many design professionals use grid notebooks for this very reason. This particular set of three grid-page notebooks is also helpful for illustrating complex topics and doing equations and calculations. Featuring rounded corners and pages made of thick cardstock, your notes will resist tearing and curling, even with wear. The paper is acid-free, too, so you can still see your precise drawings, even after a lot of time has passed. The notebooks also come in three-packs of blank and ruled page options, as well as a mixed three-pack that offers one blank notebook, one ruled notebook, and one grid notebook.
Each notebook contains 48 pages, which is slightly fewer than other options. They are pocket-sized, making them more portable. Depending on your use, however, the thinner profile might be a benefit. They’re designed to be taken into the field and used to record measurements and diagrams. Keeping them lightweight and portable makes that easier.
Price at time of publish: $13 (pack of three)
Dimensions: 13.5 x 5.5 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Grid, lined, black | Pages: 48
Best Legal Pad
TOPS The Legal Pad Writing Pad
Multiple colors and sizes
Some people prefer the longer length and perforation of a traditional legal pad, and Tops' The Legal Pad is the gold standard. These sturdy notepads come in white or yellow, with multiple sizes to choose from, all with the legal-paper orientation at different scales. Each page is perforated at the top so you can easily tear it off. You can also fold the pages over the binding at the top if you want to keep them accessible.
Just note that there isn’t a cover on this traditional legal pad, so your top sheet may see some wear, especially if you throw this notepad into a bag or backpack. However, the pages and perforations are especially durable. You won’t need to worry about the pages tearing off unintentionally. The backing is also thick, and you can write on the legal pad without the need for a desk or other writing surface.
Price at time of publish: $24 (pack of 12)
Dimensions: 8.5 x 11.75 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Lined | Pages: 100
Rocketbook Core Smart Reusable Notebook, Letter Size, 8.5” x 11”
Scans and saves all notes
Works with multiple cloud storage platforms
Easy to organize
Not a lot of pages
If you’d rather find one notebook and stick with it, the Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook is perfect. Forget about tossing paper pages in the trash—with this smart alternative, you can record your notes, drawings, diagrams, and ideas on the pages and keep them forever. Just use the Rocketbook app to scan and save your notes on a variety of cloud storage platforms. You can organize them by topic, date, or any other method that makes them easy to find. Then, erase your scribbles with water and use the notebook again. You will need an erasable pen, which comes with the notebook.
You’ll also need to be able to access the smartphone app to retrieve your notes later, which requires a stable internet connection. You can store your notes on Google Drive, Evernote, OneNote, or any other document storage platform. This would make a perfect college or high school graduation gift.
If you prefer something low-tech, the Rocketbook features won’t work for you. It’s also delicate and not ideal for rugged outdoor use, such as taking notes at a work site or when doing research.
Price at time of publish: $34
Dimensions: 11 x 8.5 x 0.25 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Lined | Pages: 36
TUL Discbound Notebook
Elegant leather cover
Pages can be reordered
The Discbound Notebook from Tul is part of the brand’s innovative note-taking system. It has a brown or black leather cover; interior pockets to fit multiple sizes of notes, business cards, and letters; plus ruled pages with a designated place for the date and a title. When you want to remove a page, simply slide it out from the unique disc binding. You can reorder pages, refill the notebook when you run out of space, and add additional accessories, such as planner pages.
There aren’t a lot of cover color options, however, and all of them are quite pricey. But if you’re looking for a classic, elegant notebook that’ll last, the leather choices from Tul are ideal. The Discbound design is meant to be reused and not replaced, offering good value. If you know that you tend to misplace your notebooks or just want the novelty of a new notebook each time you fill one up, this may not be the best option. You’ll also need a way to store your past notebook pages if you do want to keep them.
Price at time of publish: $30
Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches | Ruled Paper Options: Ruled | Pages: 60
Our top pick, the Moleskine Classic Notebook, is a favorite among writers and artists for the many paper, size, and cover options as well as the high-quality paper inside the cover. For a more budget-friendly choice, try Staples 1-Subject Notebooks. They come in a pack of six and are perfect for studying and note taking.
What to Look for When Buying a Notebook
Notebooks come in a variety of sizes. The most common are 8.5 x 11 inches, the same size as a piece of standard printer paper; 4.9 x 8.26 inches, also known as A5 notebook size; and 2 x 3 inches, which is perfect for a pocket. However, you can also find less common sizes, like the legal-sized Tops' The Legal Pad Writing Pad, if you need a more customized size for your notes.
Thicker paper is not only more enjoyable to write on, but it can also prevent your ink from bleeding through to the other side. This ensures you can get more out of your notebook, as you’ll be able to use both sides of the paper. These notebooks do tend to be more expensive, however. Paper can also be described by weight, often referred to as grams per square meter, or GSM. The higher the GSM, the thicker the paper.
Look for a notebook that’s well-suited for its primary purpose. For taking notes, writing, and helping you stay organized, a lined notebook is very helpful. Artists and doodlers often prefer blank notebooks so they can let their drawings run free. Engineers and mathematicians may like grid or dotted notebooks that are helpful when drawing diagrams. If you want your notebook to save your notes in an easy-to-find way, a smart notebook like the Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook may be the best fit.
Not sure how, exactly, you want to use your notebook? Some, like the Moleskine Classic Notebook, offer a wide range of different options to suit every type of note taker. You can even find multi-packs that include ruled, blank, or grid paper in a set of multiple notebooks so that you have an option for every need you might encounter.
You should also consider size when finding the right notebook for your use. Pocket-sized notebooks, like the Moleskine Cahier Journal, are good to take on the go, while larger letter or legal pad notebooks are good for taking notes at a table. Some have pockets included to store extra papers as well.
Smaller notepads tend to have fewer pages than large, full-sized notebooks. Between 50 and 200 are very common. Consider if you can use both sides of the page without the text bleeding through, since that can mean double the actual notetaking space.
What makes a high-quality notebook?
The best quality notebooks are made with durable, thick paper that’s easy to write on and a cover that will protect your notes, without tearing or curling pages. Some have additional features, such as built-in pockets, a ribbon bookmark you can use to mark your spot, and elastic to secure the cover in place. The more “extras” a notebook offers, the better quality it likely provides.
What is the difference between a notebook and a notepad?
Notebooks are typically bound at the side, while notepads have a top binding. Either can be spiral-bound, although it’s more common in notebooks than notepads. Notepads are often smaller, and the pages can be easily torn away to take with you.
What size notebook is best?
It really depends on your individual needs. A standard letter-sized notebook is the most popular choice because you can use it to take notes in class or while working, record creative ideas, and slide it in a backpack or bag alongside other books and planners. The standardized paper size makes it compatible for a wide variety of needs. Smaller notebooks, however, are a better choice for those who want to keep their notebook handy in a pocket or purse. If you’re short on storage space and don’t plan to jot down extensive notes, a pocket-sized notebook will serve you well.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Katie Melynn, a freelance writer specializing in home and family products. She has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. Melynn has tried a variety of notebook styles, sticking exclusively with Moleskine for the last four years. As a writer and creative writing teacher, she uses a notebook daily for her own ideas as well as for working with young writers.