Binders provide much needed organization in a chaotic paper world.
Even if it feels like you have fewer papers in your life, with the transition to mostly electronic files and cloud organization, keeping all of your papers in order has never been more important – and shouldn’t be neglected.
It’s a skill and practice that we shouldn’t let go extinct just because we have more paperless files in our life. In general, when we do have something in paper form, it’s because it’s really important — which is all the more reason to keep it organized and safe.
And that where the versatile binder comes in. Binders are a clean, simple, and organized way to store and sort all your hard copy paper files. But maybe you’ve had a bad experience using binders or think they’re just plain ugly.
Believe us when we say, you have more stylish, sophisticated, and professional options to choose from than when you were a kid.
Pinched fingers, primary colors, and flimsy covers no more; here are all of the things you should look for in a functional yet professional, grownup binder and a variety of options we would buy ourselves and recommend to you!
Binder options abound
Beautiful and professional, super functional binders are out there. To find the best binder for you, let’s break down the various options you have to choose from and sort out what it is you need.
1. The outside of the binder and what you see first
Plain colors and covers that bend and tear at the seams are problems that plague the common binder. But if you’re going to store binders on a shelf in your office or take them with you to meetings, you need something more put together and cohesive, right?
Consider a few things first:
- Where is this binder going to live (out in the open on a shelf or behind cabinet doors)? Do you want a cohesive look among all your binder sizes/shapes or the space that they’ll be stored in?
- Does it need to reflect the aesthetic elements of an area in terms of color, pattern, material, size?
- Will it be going around town with you or to meetings? It might need to stand up to spills, travel, and wear and tear if it does.
Depending on your needs, the most durable binders that can stand up to travel and high use, use sturdy materials, like Davey board, not just plastic or thin cardboard. Davey board is a high density fiberboard commonly used in bookbinding that is generally thick and sturdy no matter the thickness it comes in (it comes in different thicknesses).
You’ll also want to pay attention to split resistant edges so that the spine holds up well to travel and frequent opening and closing.
On a similar note, another great feature is reinforced corners! Just a bit of metal on the outside of the corners keeps the binder from bending or getting caught and ripping. A small feature that pays off in big ways.
Color, material, and pattern options abound, so whether you need basic black and white or more modern metallic colors, you’ll likely be able to find both in non-plastic materials. For example, bookcloth (a cloth like material with a paper or sturdy backing) and patent/vegan leather options are more sophisticated and professional exterior binder materials for your adult life. With just a bit of detailing on the exterior of the binder, a plain binder still has an elevated feel.
2. Binder sizes and dimensions
Consider how many papers you have to file and what kinds of papers you’re going to use it for, to figure out how big of a binder to get. Don’t forget to think about weight too; the more you want to file away in the binder, the heavier the binder will be regardless of how heavy the binder is itself on its own. Common 3-ring binder sizes (in thickness) that fit 8.5×11 sheets of paper include:
- 0.5 inch
- 1 inch
- 1.5 inches
- 2 inches
- 3 inches
- 4 inches
Binders do come in smaller, mini-size options that are best for 5.5×8.5 sheets of paper.
3. The super important role of binder rings
This is often where binders fail us. The binder might look great on the outside, but when you go to open or close the rings and actually use it for its intended purpose, the rings snap dangerously, are hard to work, or don’t allow smooth paper flipping, either because of the shape of the ring or the rings don’t come together evenly.
Binders that have a thicker or cushioned tab lever/button makes opening binders much easier, as it gives you something to grip. If you’ll be frequently putting papers in or out of
When it comes to ring options, there are at least 4 to choose from:
- O ring – shaped like an O
- Slant ring – round on one side, but flat and at an angle on the opposite
- D ring – shaped like a D
- Smart ring – a neat, openable ring system that allows you to move sheets around easily, more like in a notebook
The binder ring shape you choose, including the size of the binder itself, will affect how many sheets of paper you can fit in your binder. For example, a 1.5 inch binder with an O ring can hold up to approximately 280 pages, versus 318 pages in a slant ring, and 375 pages in a D ring (for a more detailed chart, check out the Company Folders website).
So if you need to maximize your space, an O ring might not be your best option.
4. Binder bells and whistles
The goal of a binder is to store papers securely, which is very important, but you have the option of selecting binders with some handy extras that maximize its use.
- Some binders have exterior inserts, slips or a window along the spine that allows you to easily and quickly label the binder accordingly. This helps you stay extra organized.
- Other binders have interior pockets for those loose or small items that you need to stash quickly and will file accordingly later. These pockets are commonly in the front and/or back of the binder, for easy inserting and accessibility. Some may come with vertical insert options too, if that appeals to you!
- A unique feature we found in several binders is a dry erase interior! This is a fun and easy way to take down quick notes or ideas without using paper.
- Binder dividers are the best way to organize and separate the documents you store in your binder. Cardstock is sturdy yet not significantly heavy, providing support and separation.
Our top binder picks for you
- Metallic Book cloth 3-Ring Binder: In gold and rose gold bookcloth material, with reinforced corners, Davey board binding, dry erase interior, and gold exterior accents, this a beautiful, functional choice for work and personal projects.
- A leather-like binder in a black vegan leather and white patent are classics. Both options have similar detailing and features as the metallic binder above, with lightweight durability.
- Vintage Hardback Book Style Round Ring Binder comes in a unique and sturdy style with the same texture and feel carrying over onto the inside of the binder. Plus, it has interior pockets.
- Avery Durable View Binder comes with no tear, split-resistant edges in basic color options.
- Binders by Bloom Daily Planners are bright, colorful, and come in fun patterns. They don’t come with interior pockets and are only available in the one inch size option, but they’re made of sturdy, non-plastic material.
- Binder Paper Pockets perfectly marry the benefits of a divider with the function of pockets. If your binder doesn’t come with interior pockets, but you have a need for storing loose papers, this is the solution.
- We love these 8-Tab Dividers because they give you the option of labeling the different sections of your binder either along the top, side, or both. There’s even a spot to write down a few details about what that section of your divider contains. Need more space for notes? Even the backside of each tab is lined too!