Pocket Moleskine vs. Levenger shirt pocket briefcase

February 11, 2007

The ultimate productivity showdown


Despite my long standing pocket Moleskine fan status and usage, I’d longingly read many a review and quite a few raves about the Levenger shirt pocket briefcase, an overpriced index card holder that promises to usher you into a new social status along with the ultimate in productivity. When I found that particular item on sale at Levenger for $29.95 just before Christmas, I decided to pick one up as an early Christmas present to myself.

Now, three months later and having test driven both systems for task tracking, note jotting and writing, I present the ultimate productivity showdown.

Size matters

Pocketability is one of the obvious criteria here. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never really been happy with the size of either of these tools. I live in Texas, where you need a jacket or an overcoat approximately twice a year. I also work in an office, and cargo pants aren’t exactly business casual. This almost always necessitates that I carry my paper of choice in my front pants pocket, along with my Blackberry, keys, Leatherman Micra, and pen. Real estate is an issue.

While both claim to fit easily in a pocket, the pocket Moleskine definitely wins in this category. Measuring 3.5″W x 5.5″H versus the pocket briefcase’s 3¾”W x 6″H, the Moleskine’s compact form and snappy elastic strap create the most pocketable package. Both feel great in your hand if you prefer carrying around your notetaking bundle. However, if you want to shove it in a front pants pocket, you’re likely to be more uncomfortable with the pocket briefcase. The extra length makes a huge difference.

Winner: Pocket Moleskine

Creating your mobile workspace

When you’re carrying a tool designed to let you be creative, get work done, and spread out your thoughts and ideas on a cafe table or while walking, it’s important that that tool lets you completely create a mobile workspace. The Levenger pocket briefcase stands out in this category. They call it a briefcase for a reason – the open writing area, the secure internal middle pocket and the outer pocket allow you to sort, store, and organize your cards. There’s always one available for quick writing, and you can stow receipts, business cards and other scraps inside.

The pocket Moleskine does, of course, feature the famous rear pocket. However, the Moleskine pocket is flimsy, and real use will quickly wear it out to the point of requiring repair. Anything you store in it will significantly affect the size and shape of the book. The pocket briefcase is softer and has more room (actually a bonus in this area) so it’s more forgiving of “stuffing.”

In terms of creating a truly mobile workspace, the pocket briefcase is the best bet. The sortability and reorganization capability beat out the linear format of the pocket Moleskine.

Winner: Levenger Pocket Briefcase

Tools for writers

I write. Work-related articles, blog posts, emails, fiction, poetry. Whatever tool I use has to be great for jotting down everything from phone numbers, addresses and grocery lists as well as story ideas, article outlines and even entire pieces of flash fiction. This is one place where I had trouble picking a clear winner. The Moleskine is great for keeping a running list of random ideas that you can always go back to later for inspiration. The pocket briefcase would start to get too full if you kept every card in your stack where you jotted down a story idea. However, a fine point pen and a few “inspiration” cards that you go back to time and again might fix that problem.

Outlining a story is much more satisfying with index cards. Laying out plots and subplots, rearranging and stacking them can really help get ideas flowing.

Winner: Tie


Lots of times a mobile workspace means collaborating with others. It can even mean giving a kid something to do while you’re waiting for the movie to start, handing off a jotted-down URL to a friend, or giving others cards to work with. With a Moleskine, you usually wouldn’t want to tear out pages (they’re not perforated or easily torn). In order to collaborate with others, you’d have to pass off your whole book (of ideas, personal thoughts, lists, work-related items) to someone else, which I’m not always comfortable doing.

Winner: Levenger Pocket Briefcase


For my needs, the Levenger Pocket Briefcase is the best tool for the job. Moleskine still rules the land for paper-based planners, journaling, and writing longer articles or fiction (if you do your writing longhand).

14 Responses to “Pocket Moleskine vs. Levenger shirt pocket briefcase”

  1. Jason Says:

    Thanks for the great write-up!

    I currently use the Moleskine pocket notebook. I really like it but I’ve toyed with the notion of a pocket briefcase. Although, I’d probably try to make my own out of duct tape!

    Your article has helped me decide to stick with the Molesskine for now. But I definitely see the benefit in each of them.

  2. aebaxter Says:

    @Jason – glad you got some use out of this one! I am still a huge Moleskine fan and actually have three active notebooks at the moment. The Levenger pocket briefcase mostly just makes me feel extra “executive.” :)

  3. Stuart Carduner Says:

    I have gone back and forth between notetaking systems- electronic,paper, both.. back and forth. Always trying something new when I get frustrated. Finally a few months ago I found the solution for me: 3×5 cards! So the timing was perfect for me to read about the Levenger, although it hardly seems the price is appropriate. Still, in the search to find the system that FEELS right, the Levenger and the preferred pen of the moment will make me feel a whole lot better (even if not a whole lot more organized)

    I still use an online notebook as well. I’ve tried them all for mac OS X. Right now I love Curio…

  4. alan Says:

    Thanks… you helped me make up my mind. I’m buying the briefcase now. I’ve been looking at these for a few months lol, funny how we can get wrapped up with the little things :)

  5. Michael Says:

    dont pick between the two. physically combine them. the back cover of this:
    slides perfectly into the levenger pocket briefcase.

    i have mine in the opposite side of the open writing area so i can flip it over when i need to add or check something off my list in the moleskin.

    the whole thing fits nicely into your back pocket. the only issue i have run into was the cover wanting to tear off the moleskin at the hinge, but a strip of black duct tape around the spine on the outside and inside between the cover and page one and the cover and the last page resolved this. (i get the black moleskins, not the tan ones, so it does not look bad at all)

  6. Steve Sebelius Says:

    Nice analysis. I, too, have tried both products, and love both. I must say the thickness of a Moleskine notebook (I prefer the “Reporter’s Notebook” style, being a former reporter) can get heavy in a pocket, while the “Shirt Pocket” briefcase from Levenger is slimmer.

    Lately, I’ve used the pocket journals from Moleskine, thinner, softcover books that are not as heavy (and don’t have the classic elastic band) but that do feature 16 pages that are perforated for easy tearing out. Warning: The rear “pocket” is not made for storing anything more than a couple receipts, but they are nice for general notes.

    But when I went to Napa Valley recently on my honeymoon, I made sure to take a book-style Moleskine with me, to record the wines that I’d want to purchase later. Some of the handwriting gets a little hard to read, but I wouldn’t trade that notebook for anything. (However, on days I wore a shirt with no pocket, I did have to use the pants pocket, and found even the Moleskine to be too big.)

  7. Twotracker Says:

    Folks! I’ve been waiting forever for someone else to share this, but I’ve not seen it anywere else, so here may be a world premier.

    Why not have it all?

    1) Get yourself a black Levenger Pocket Briefcase.

    2) Put a card or two on the writing deck.

    3) Put some spare cards in the center pocket.

    4) Turn the thing over and slip a small black cahier into the back pocket. You’ll be amazed at the fit. They were made for each other.

    5) Keep your pen in your shirt pocket where it belongs and never buy a shirt without a pocket.

    Enjoy, as I have for about two years.

    • Bill Says:

      Gotta try this! Great idea – I use the PB but having additional writing space is a great idea! Thanks.

  8. Smitty Says:

    If you are really worried about size the Moleskine volant is 2 1/2 x 4, and has 56 pages, all detachable. I am waiting to finish my current cahiers and have not used it daily yet but it is much smaller in a pants pocket.

  9. could not aggree more. great post going to dig around and see what other stuff you have. Very Nice Blog!

  10. David Says:

    Idon’t like the form factor of the 3 x 5 cards.
    5″ is too long and the lines go the wrong way for me. I get 4 x 6 cards and cut them down the middle. I get a 3 x 4 card with the lines running parallel to the short side that just fit inti my shirt pocket without being visible.

    The only problem that I have is the stock seems slippery and a pen just doesn’t write on them well and pencil smears. Any suggestions.

  11. Shirts Says:

    i would’nt give up my Moleskine pocket notebook for anything, i use it constently and have never had a problem with it!

  12. […] Battle to the death: Pocket Moleskine vs. Levenger shirt pocket briefcase. […]

  13. […] great content, including beating me to the punch on an idea I have had in the cooker – “Pocket Moleskine vs. Levenger Shirt Pocket Briefcase“. You see, I have switched from using the Moleskine to using a Levenger Shirt Pocket […]

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