The Galen Leather Zip Folio

Friday, Apr 07, 2023

Although I'm not really a folio guy these days, when I need a folio for an on-site meeting, the Galen Leather Zip Folio has become my folio of choice.
Although I'm not really a folio guy these days, when I need a folio for an on-site meeting, the Galen Leather Zip Folio has become my folio of choice.

I’ve had the chance to try out a couple folios over the last few years. They’ve never ended up sticking. To me, folios are best suited for toting oft-used items between home, office, and on-site. They provide instant access to trinkets like business cards and pens, a pad of paper, and perhaps the mail you need to bring to the office.

What they don’t tend to do is become part of my everyday carry. And it’s usually because they aren’t able to carry enough stuff.

I admit, I carry more stuff than I rightly should back and forth between the office and home. I tote my MacBook Pro, AirPods Max, Plotter notebook, and a few pens and cables to and from the office. They all fit nicely inside the Bellroy messenger bag I received years ago, which all fits nicely in the front seat of the car I drive to work most mornings (in the summer, I have the same carry, but inside a Côte et Ciel bag Jaclyn and I purchased years ago as I ride my bike to work more often).

Putting a folio inside a messenger bag is double trouble. It doesn’t make a ton of sense in my mind to stuff things inside something that’s just going to be stuffed inside something else.

So all in all, folios end up being more of a thing I take with to a client’s office or into an off-site meeting. If it’s simply between home and the office — which is most of the travel I do — then the folio gets left behind.

Right off the bat, the Galen Leather Zip Folio had its back up against the wall. I had tried my share of folios and none of them ever stuck. And ultimately, I don’t think the Galen Leather Zip Folio is going to become my everyday carry either.

But if I keep the Galen Leather Folio nestled inside the folio category in my life, then it’s going to become the most used folio I’ve ever received. The Galen Leather Zip Folio — this one is a B5 extra-large size — is a wonderful tool for carrying a nice writing pad, various business credit cards or business cards, a couple pens, one or two wound cables, your keys, and some mail.

It’s a near perfect version of a folio I’d want to take into a client’s office.

Leather, Build, and Organization Features

I had to do a double-take when I saw the B5 Zip Folio’s purchase price on the Galen Leather site. At $200, this isn’t a cheap folio, but it is also much less expensive than other folios you’ll find on other sites. I’ve reviewed more expensive folios by a mile — specifically, the Bellroy Work Folio — and the Galen Leather Zip Folio feels better made for a third of the price.

The Crazy Horse Smoky leather has a ton of character. I have a few scratches on the front already, but even without the scratches, there's more than enough grain and character for anyone.

One of my favourite pieces of the Galen Leather Zip Folio is the flat back and front. There’s no puffiness to the leather covers; it feels flat, firm, and smooth, ensuring any writing you do inside the folio is provided a more solid surface.

The front of the Zip Folio doesn't have any logos or anything. I love this. There's a beautifully debossed logo on the back if you want some branding.

This leather is firm. Really firm. And I have all sorts of leather around to compare:

  • Compared to the Traveler’s Notebook: Zip Folio has less flex, feels smother, but feels slightly thinner.
  • Compared to Plotter with Liscio leather: Plotter is significantly more flexible; the Plotter also smells better, has about the same thickness as the Zip Folio, but feels of higher quality than the Zip Folio as well.
  • Compared to any Bible goat leather: Goat leather is on the ultra-flexible and ultra-soft end of the spectrum, whereas the Zip Folio is on the ultra-firm, ultra-sturdy opposite end of the spectrum. Of course, one is goat leather and the other cow leather.
Galen Leather Zip Folio on the left. Bellroy Work Folio on the right. 
  • Compared to the Bellroy Work Folio: The differences here are more nuanced, but Bellroy’s leather is slightly softer to the touch with slightly more friction. It’s softer and more flexible. The Zip Folio is sturdier again, smoother again, and for whatever reason, the Zip Folio feels heavier and beefier despite the difference in size between the Work Folio’s A5-sizing and the Zip Folio’s B5 sizing.
There's quite a size difference between the Zip Folio and the Bellroy Work Folio. 

Almost the same words can be spoken about the Bellroy Work Folio’s and Galen Leather Zip Folio’s zippers — the Work Folio’s zipper is more flexible and the Zip Folio’s is larger and sturdier. It could be because I’ve had my Work Folio for longer, but the zipper also tends to catch much more often than the newer Galen Leather zipper. As of this moment, the Galen Leather zipper is one of the unsung qualities of this folio.

The left side of the Zip Folio can store four pens (and additional pens with the included removable pen holder insert), various credit cards, and larger items like a set of AirPods Pro and a cable.
The removable pen holder insert can slide right into this slot. I don't have enough pens to fill the insert, however.
Instead of the pen holder, I insert a Standard & Poor file folder for holding folded letters and mail.

Inside are a smattering of organization options. You have card slots vertically lining the left side with an extra large slot for carrying third-folded paper. This slot is normally for the removable 4-pen slot holder, but I’ve removed the holder and tend to fold letters and mail into a Superior Labour Leather Folder, which still fits in the extra large slot. It’s tight, but it fits.

There are four more large pen slots (these are clearly designed for fountain pens, so smaller Bic-pens will just slide right through), two holders for AirPods and cables, and a removable keychain in the middle of the Zip Folio’s spine.

You can fit an iPad Pro underneath all the organizational slots, but it's pretty tight in there for an iPad Pro. I think this is better suited for an iPad mini.

Underneath the left organizational holder is a large slot for holding an iPad. This slot is a bit tight for my 11-inch iPad Pro with an Apple Folio case, but naked the iPad slides right in. I see this working best with an iPad mini.

I love that this slot is stitched with a large opening rather than just an insertable slot for a paper notebook. You don't always want to store a paper notebook here and this slot ensures you can quickly remove the notebook if required.

On the right side is a B5 notebook slot, which Galen Leather graciously filled for me with their own B5 Tomoe River Everyday Notebook. I’ll discuss the notebook down below. This slot is likely best filled with a paper pad from the likes of Rhodia which allows for writing on the right side only — the Zip Folio’s organizational options on the left side hinder any writing on the left side of a notebook, so a letter pad is a much better option.

It’s clear, even based on Galen Leather’s own product photos, the Zip Folio can carry quite a lot and is an ideal candidate for traveling into and out of a client’s office.

Miscellaneous Thoughts on the Zip Folio

I have a few anecdotes for using the Galen Leather Zip Folio after a few months.

  • I really appreciate the way the Zip Folio lays flat when open. It lays flat — truly flat. There’s no fold-back whatsoever. This is awesome.
  • I also appreciate the right side’s notebook slot being a diagonally-sewn slot rather than sewn on three sides. This makes sliding a notebook in and out of the slot quicker, easier, and incentivizes notebook changes. If you’re a paper aficionado, the Zip Folio won’t be a headache to work with.
  • The Crazy Horse Smoky grey colour has a lot of character. It comes out of the box a variety of grain and colour changes. Normally it takes a long time for leather to look like this, but Crazy Horse has that character right out of the box.
  • Speaking of the box, Galen Leather’s packaging is perhaps the best packaging I’ve ever seen. The Zip Folio came in a heavy cardboard box and was accompanied by a little baggie of Turkish goodies. There was a handwritten note in the bag as well. This kind of company character makes the customer relationship that much easier to create.
  • The Zip Folio’s price is basically eyebrow-raising. You receive a really high quality leather good, great packaging, and extra Turkish goods all for only $200 CAD. This is one of the better priced folios I’ve come across.

Wrap Up

The older I get and the more products I have a chance to review, the more I find I need extra time to understand the product’s nuances. I’ve had the Galen Leather Zip Folio in my possession for three to four months now and I still don’t come away with a ton of extra miscellaneous thoughts. The Zip Folio advertises the promise of carrying your goods to and from the office or a client’s office and this it does well.

It does more, to be honest. I particularly like the Zip Folio’s Crazy Horse Smoky Grey colour. The leather is firm, sturdy, and lays flat. The leather is nice and understated. Galen Leather’s logo is on the back, not the front.

The Galen Leather Zip Folio is a great folio option at a great price. If you don’t need much for everyday carry, this could well be the only thing you need to tote around. If you need a bit more, then this is likely not the right category to be looking at entirely.

My sincerest thanks to the Galen Leather team for reaching out and giving me the chance to review the Zip Folio.

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A Few New Editing Style Trials

Monday, Feb 20, 2023

February is basically depression month of the year, right? Maybe it’s not, but I hate February. It’s always cold where I live. The days are short. You’re still in the comedown from Christmas, meaning you shouldn’t really shop for anything. And basically everyone you could be envious of takes a vacation to a hot destination.

So basically, I’m in the middle of wishing I was somewhere warm, wanting to shop for anything and everything, and wanting to shoot photos in sunlight.

Because none of those three desires are capable of realities right now, I’ve ventured down the path of re-editing some old photos instead. I love re-editing old photos. Taking your old favourites and giving them new life — it’s just so inspiring for the months ahead. Lightroom’s “Versions” feature makes it super easy to fool around on all your favourite photos from the past.

I’ve used my favourite photographer on the planet, Marcus Lloyd, as recent inspiration. There’s zero chance I can replicate his style. I’m not even sure if he has a “style” — it could well be that his photos are only minimally edited, but in a very particular way. You can find Lloyd’s work on his personal site, Exposure, and Youtube. I especially liked his video on shooting portraits with the Leica Q. His work is stunning and incredible.

Here are a few attempts I’ve made at making a simpler edit at some older favourite or fun photos. Off the top, I’m sure I’ve failed — you can see how Lloyd’s photos are all shot with lots of depth of field. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays around with exposure compensation to ensure he captures for highlights as well. Just a guess though.

Lake Louise in the early morning.
Moraine Lake, but looking the opposite direction of where you normally view Moraine Lake.
Emryn is now 5 years old and in kindergarten! How time flies.
Johnston Canyon.
Banff, Alberta, Canada.

I can’t wait for summer to arrive to get outside and try some new ideas. (I would recommend turning off The Newsprint's dark mode to better view the photos above; the dark mode nicely mutes colours to be easier on the eyes at night, but also mutes the best colours in each of these photos. Click the little switch at the very top of the site.)

Comparing the Twelve South Curve Flex to the Original Curve

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2023

The somewhat new Twelve South Curve Flex is my endgame laptop stand.

Twelve South continues to make some of my favourite desk accessories for the Mac. Through purchase and review opportunities, I’ve looked at between 15 and 20 different Twelve South desk accessories over the last 5 years. Most are absolutely fantastic. There are a few duds in there, sure, but most are fantastic.

Side view of the original Twelve South Curve laptop stand.
The stands share a range of design choices, but ultimately differ in a huge way.

It’s rare though where I’ve had a chance to look at seemingly competing Twelve South products — the Curve and the Curve Flex. Both serve basically the same purpose. Both are built the same way. Both have the same design language.

They differ of course in the Flex’s height adjustability. Using the included allen wrench, you can loosen the Flex’s hinges and adjust it to better suit your workspace. When you’re done, you can fold the Flex down and stow it in the included travel pouch (though I see literally nobody toting this thing in their carry-on bag).

The original Curve is one-size-fits-all, done and done.

I have a few additional anecdotes though, some of which may be applicable to you and some of which may not be:

  • The height adjustability of the Curve Flex means the stand can squeeze your MacBook into new places. For me, this actually means I can now fit my MacBook Pro under an overhead shelf built right into my workspace. The ability to move the Curve Flex lower provides just as much utility as the ability to position it higher.
The Curve Flex folds up neatly and can nestle itself into small areas for storage.
  • The two-fold design enables the Curve Flex to sit in new places. I have a Grovemade Desk Shelf spanning the working area of my workspace. With a Studio Display on top, there isn’t a ton of space on either side of that shelf to boost up a laptop. But thanks to the two-fold design of the Curve Flex, I can actually position the Curve Flex on the desk and slide it slightly underneath the Grovemade Desk Shelf. If you look at Grovemade’s own laptop stand, they’ve built it in such a way as to slide underneath the Desk Shelf as well. The Curve Flex isn’t as perfectly designed for the Desk Shelf as Grovemade’s own laptop stand, but it works pretty well.
Unfortunately, you'll need to keep the included allen wrench close by. If you constantly adjust the Curve Flex, everything loosens and the stand tends to sag.
  • The Curve Flex’s hinges sag over time. If you constantly adjust and readjust the Curve Flex’s height, the weight of the MacBook Pro will eventually cause those hinges to sag. At first, I thought I had a faulty unit. In reality, I hadn’t recognized I needed to tighten the hinges with the included allen wrench. After realization though, this became an annoyance — now, if you want to adjust it at all, it requires using that allen wrench. For a laptop stand designed to be portable (I’m simply looking at the travel pouch included in the package to prove this), needing to use an allen wrench for adjustability each time is a pain in the neck.
  • The Curve Flex can fold down to little more than an inch-and-a-half thick. If you have small spaces you want to keep the Curve Flex while it’s not in use, the stand folds down nice and thin for easy stowing. I keep mine in the smaller secondary shelf built into the Grovemade Desk Stand. It’s freaky how nicely the Curve Flex fits into this shelf.
  • The Curve Flex has some impressive rigidity. Once you’ve tightened the hinges, the Curve Flex stays impressively stationary. I’ve used the Curve Flex on a sit-stand desk for the first few months of use and it doesn’t wiggle or rattle at all when raising the desk. In general, the Curve Flex is rock solid.
  • The Curve Flex is a perfect iPad stand for Stage Manager and external displays. You can see my photos above showcasing exactly how the Curve Flex perfectly slides underneath the Grovemade Desk Shelf and provides a perfect stand for using the iPad with an external display, keyboard and mouse. The height of the stand ensures you can still tap the iPad if you need and the rigidity of the stand ensures you can write on the iPad with the Apple Pencil. This has increasingly become my favourite way to work when I’m at home.

And how is this a comparison to the original Curve?

You can quickly tell between this photo and the one below how much lower the Curve sits by default.
  • The Curve doesn’t have height adjustment capabilities, though the singular option is a reasonable height for many different desk setups.
  • The Curve’s design is sort of U-shaped, meaning it won’t be able to fit under other accessories the same way the Cure Flex can.
  • The Curve is also rigid, but it isn’t nearly as sturdy as the Curve Flex. You can press on either Curve arm and bend or flex it downward. There’s no flexing the Curve Flex.

The added height adjustability in the Curve Flex adds $20 to the purchase price over the original Curve. To me, that $20 might be the easiest $20 you could spend on Twelve South’s store. You have every capability provided by the original Curve in the newer Curve Flex, plus height adjustability, a foldable design that gets out of the way or fits into new spaces, and a significantly sturdier experience with fewer wobbles and rattles.

The Twelve South Curve Flex may well be my end-game laptop stand. If I were to move into a new office or redesign my home office, the Curve Flex would be on that desk.