Archive for the ‘Filing System Help’ Category

How do you figure out what kind of stationary shelving will best suit your filing system needs?

Read my Article “Questions to Ask Before Choosing Shelving for Your File Folders” for a list of questions designed to help you figure out your particular shelving needs.

I have listed stationary storage units with advantages and disadvantages associated with each type of unit. I have only included units that have a finished look (not industrial) suitable for an office or a record’s department. Units included in this comparison are: Vertical 4 drawer file cabinet, Lateral 4 drawer file cabinet, Stackable Open Shelving , and L&T Open Shelving.

For simplicity purposes I based the comparison calculations on letter size file cabinets.

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An organized filing system can be arranged in a number of ways including:  Alphabetical, Straight Numeric, or Terminal Digit order.

This article focuses on Terminal Digit filing.

Example of a Terminal Digit System

With Terminal digit filing the last two digits of the filing number determine the primary location of the file.  Then you go to the middle two digits, then the beginning digits  (how many digits depends on the size of the number).

A simple way to describe how to file a six digit number in terminal digit order is: last two, middle two, first two.

For example:  the number 13 76 20 would be filed in the (20) section,  then in order by the (76), then in order by the (13).

You are basically taking the entire file room and dividing it up into 100 sections.  The sections start at (00) and end at (99)

You look at the last two digits first (last two) which means the first section in the file room contain all the numbers that end in (00) and the last section contains all the numbers that end in (99).

Terminal Digit File Room Illustration

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39
40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49
50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69
70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79
80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89
90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99

These sections pretty much stay constant so knowing the last two digits of the filing number means knowing the section of the file room that contains that record (a number ending 50 will be in the middle of the file room etc.).

Now that the record is in the primary section the next digits to file by in that section are the (middle digits). Then you go to the next digits back (first two with a six digit number).

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In an organized filing system folders are arranged in some kind of order (we hope!). Some commonly used methods include: alphabetical, straight numeric, terminal digit numeric, or by some category. Sub categories can also be added to the above methods.

 Straight numeric filing is basically putting the folders in order of lowest number to highest number.

Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of the various systems upfront will allow for an informed decision based on your particular needs.

This article provides information regarding straight numeric filing.

1) Choosing a Number

Before putting the files into numeric order you have to decide what number will be used to designate each folder. Some numbers commonly used are: medical record number, account number, billing number, assigned number etc.

2) Determining if Straight Numeric is the Correct Choice

-How folders many will make up the filing system?

-The number of digits that make up the chosen number?  

-How long the records will be kept in the system?

-What factors will determine when they are purged?

-Will the records be color-coded?

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Designing a new filing system may seem like a daunting task! One of the most exhausting parts of filing system design is choosing shelving,  because shelving is available in so many different styles and these styles vary in significant ways.   

Making a mistake purchasing shelving can be very expensive since most companies penalize for returns.

To make matters worse, the problems are often not discovered until well into the project. When it finally is discovered, removing media and taking the units apart is very costly and time consuming.

Reversely, deciding to live with such a “big mistake” may result in years of hassle and even more expense.

Answering a number of questions upfront before making any shelving purchases will help avoid these perils.

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You have decided you need a really strong folder and you want to use pressboard folders for your files. This is the easy step. Now you have to decide what “type” of pressboard folder to choose.

Buy Classification/Pressboard folders here!group pressboard 3

Go here for a quick buying guide.

Pressboard Paper Explanation:

Pressboard paper stock is the kind of paper that these folders are made out of and is available in an array of colors and styles. FiberMark is one of the premier manufacturers of pressboard paper. Basically they take recycled pulp board and press it together (multi-ply construction) to form pressboard paper. You can tell a folder is made out of pressboard when it kind of resembles thick cardboard. A lesser weight folder is usually made out of Manila or Kraft paper.

Type and Point of Pressboard Paper:

Pressboard paper uses two measurements to help determine the durability and thickness of the paper. The first measurement is the Type of paper. The highest paper quality has the lowest “Type” number. Paper quality is determined by the the ingrediaents used for the paper along with how the paper is manufactured.  The second measurement is the weight which is called “point”. The thickest paper measures the highest “point”. (Paper you use in a copier, printer, etc. is measured in “pound”.)

-Pressboard manufactured to be used for folders is available in Type III, Type II, or Type I.

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What is the difference between top and End tab filing? And how do you decide which would work best for your needs? Keep reading for answers to these questions.

Top Tab Filing

Top tab filing is where the tab is located on the top of the folder. This is the type of folder to use if the folder will be filed into a drawer.

If you try to put a side tab folder into a file drawer it will probably not fit.


-Most people are familiar with this type of filing.

-Using a top tab allows the indicator (name, number, code, etc.) to be seen when you open the file drawer.

-If records are going to be drop filed (no fasteners) the records may be more secure in a drawer.

-Good choice if the filing system is very small.

-Very inexpensive top tab folders are often used with file drawers which lessens cost.


-Usually need to use hanging files which add to expense and tend to break.

-Drawer filing uses more floor space than a side tab option.-More difficult to spot misfiles

-Limited choice of folder style-Risk of cutting hands while reaching into the file drawer to retrieve files.

End Tab Filing

End tab filing is where the tab is located on the side of the folder. This is the type of folder to use in an open shelving situation.


-Good choice for large file rooms.

-Using a side tab allows the indicator to be seen while standing in front of the shelving.

-Allows for efficient use of color-coding designed to spot misfiles.

-More folder style choices are available in side tab.

-Using open shelving and side tab folders allows for more efficient use of floor space.

-Reduces risk of cutting hands on folders while retrieving files.


-People are not as familiar with side tab folders.

-A side tab filing system is more difficult to lock.

For situations where a folder will filed both in file drawers and open shelving combination top/side tab folders are available.

Based on my filing system experience I would recommend a side tab/open shelving system if you have or are expecting more than a couple hundred records. Much time and aggravation will be saved by starting with the most efficient system to begin with.

What has your experience been regarding top/side tab file folders?


Classification folders are folders that contain separated sections that allow for quick filing and retrieval of individual documents. Sounds simple, right? Wrong! Knowing when to use these folders and then deciding which kind to buy can be extremely confusing.

I have taken the guesswork out of choosing a pressboard folder.

Purchase classification folders here!

A quick guide to specifications is available here!

Classification folders are applicable when:

-Each Record is very large

-Records have a high retrieval rate

-Documents filed in the folder that you need to access quickly

-Currently use multiple folders to separate an individual’s record

-Multiple file folders that are condensed into one folder will help the loss of segments of the record

-Need to file batches of records into one folder (for example: records are filed in a folder based on the date the record was created)

Classification folders are available in so many different configurations that it would be impossible to cover all options in one article. In the spirit of brevity I am listing the most commonly used options below. The easiest way to decide what works best for you is to look at each folder attribute and compare the available options to your filing situation. After you have picked your options you can put together the perfect classification folder that is designed for your particular situation.


-Based on the media that will be filed into these folders you have to choose legal or letter sized folders. Making sure the folder will fit into any existing shelving is also important.

Location of the Tab:

-Top Tab: These folders are designed to be used in file drawers

-Side Tab: If you have open file shelving this is the style to pick-Combination

Top/Side Tab: Used when the folder will be used in both drawers and open shelving

Type of Tab Cut on the Tab of the Folder:

-Straight Cut: Tab goes straight across, no cut out (most commonly used in side tab folders) Advantage is the tab is stronger and provides more room for labels and any text written on the tab.

-1/3rd Cut: Tab takes up 1/3rd of the space on the folder. The position of the tab can be located in one of 3 positions (most commonly used in top tab folders) When the tab position is spread over the 3 positions each individual file is easier to see in the file drawer. Disadvantage is the tab is not as strong as a straight cut tab.

-2/5th Right of Center: One tab position and is located almost in the center of the space. The size of the tab is in-between 1/3rd cut and straight cut. Does create a stronger tab than 1/3rd cut.

Weight of the Folder:

-Manila or Colored Paper: The most common weights used are 15 & 18 point. Used when need to separate the papers exists but folder does not get heavy use.

-Type III Pressboard: This is a good choice for most applications and is available in the more colors than Type II. The least expensive choice of the pressboards and used when budget and availability of colors is important.

-Type II Pressboard: Very similar to Type II (difficult to tell the difference) but because of the higher grade paper the folder feels a little smoother. Type II has very limited color chooses. -Type I Pressboard: A harder, shinier finish, expensive, many colors available. Choose this folder for heavily handled folders and when the budget allows for the extra expense.

-Type I Pressguard: A harder, shinier finish that has a pebbled look. Really expensive, many colors available. Great when folders need to have a finished, professional look.


-The folders come in a variety of colors dependent upon which weight of material is chosen. You can get creative by using colors to designate something like a type of record or the year record was created.

Fasteners Applied onto the Folder:

-Fasteners can be attached into the folder in a number of positions. The most common positions for a classification folder are the top of the front and top of the back of the folder. Using fasteners keeps the papers from falling out which lessens the incidents of lost papers.

Number of Attached Dividers and Expansion

-One Divider: Creates 4 sections and has 1” expansion

-Two Dividers: Creates 6 sections and has 2” expansion

-Three Dividers: Creates 8 sections and has 3” expansion

The divider is made up of 17 point craft material.

Each divider has what is called a dual prong fastener that allows for the papers to be attached to the divider on both sides (a bonded faster can also be used on both sides of the divider).

Deciding on how many inner dividers to use is based on the amount of papers contained in the record and how far you need to go with separating the record into different categories.

Tyvek material is usually used for the gusset that creates the expansion. This is very durable material (commonly used in housing construction) and very seldom rips.

Read my article “Pressboard Folder Type-What Does This Mean?” for information regarding pressboard paper.

Now you can make sure that the classification folder you use meets all your requirements thus allowing you to get the most “bang for the buck” out of your purchase.

Can you think of any other aspect of a classification folder that you would like to investigate?

In an organized filing system folders are arranged in some kind of order. Some commonly used systems include: alphabetical, straight numeric, terminal digit numeric, or by a category.

Sub categories can also be added to the above methods. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of the various systems upfront will allow for an informed decision based on your particular needs.

This article looks at alphabetical filing.
Before putting the files into alphabetical order you have to decide what will be the designator of the file. This will allow you to get an idea of the total quantity of files in the system.
Using a name is the most commonly used factor. Most systems put last name first, then the first name. For example: Beth Smith would be filed before Pam Smith.
-Most people are familiar with this type of filing because libraries (at least partially) and home filing systems are usually alphabetical.
-The staff should be able to learn and become comfortable with the system in a timely manner.
-The total amount of shelving available for the system can be divided into alphabetical order before you start to add records (the chart below shows how to estimate space for alpha sorted files).
  File Room Alpha Breakdown
(A=3.2%) (B=9.7%) (C=8.0%) (D=4.9%) (E=2.2%) (F=3.8%)
(G=4.9%) (H=7.8%) (I=0.4%) (J=2.6%) (K=3.6%) (L=4.5%)
(M=9.3%) (N=1/7%) (O=1.3%) (P=4.5%) (Q=0.2%) (R=4.8%)
(S=10.2%) (T=3.4%) (U=0.4%) (V=1.0%) (W=6.8%) (X=0.1%)
(Y=0.5%) (Z=0.2%)

- The need to shift the records after purging records is reduced because which records that are removed is usually random.

-The records that are then added to the system will also be random and fall across the entire filing system.

- A cross reference may be avoided if the situation is such that the name used on the record is easily available.

-This system does not work well with very large filing systems. With a large amount of files the chance of duplicate names is great which can lead to confusion and increase retrieval time.
-Color coding is more difficult since you need to have 26 colors or combination of colors to designate all the letters of the alphabet.
-Spotting misfiles can also be harder.
-Trying to remember where a letter falls in the alphabet adds to the time of filing and retrieving the records.
-Dealing with some of the rules of alpha filing can be very confusing. (For example, does Mc come before or after Mac?) Every time I go to the library I stand at the stacks trying to remember these rules (and I have to keep going through the alphabet to find a particular book on the shelves).
-If confidentiality is an issue having a person’s name on the file may be a privacy violation.
-Chances are increased that an unauthorized person can find a particular file.
In conclusion, making the decision on what system to use depends on your needs and how you rank the advantages and disadvantages list above.
See my article "Analysis of Terminal Digit Filing"  and  "Analysis of Straight Numeric Filing"  for information about numeric filing.
Need folders for your filing system?  Efficiency Solutions carries a wide range of filing products!
Do you have any advantages or disadvantages to add to my list?
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