Straighten Up! How Straight Tab Filing Makes Life Easier

July 17, 2007

I think we can all agree that we live in a less than perfect world, right? Then why do we strive for perfect file structures?

Here are some dos, and don’ts for creating more manageable file structures (for paper):

First off, you’ve got to be realistic when planing your file structure. If your goal is to sit down, and create a “once and for all” file management system, be prepared for disappointment. That’s a very impractical approach, because file systems need to be flexible enough to keep pace with the flow of information which comes in at various times and can have a wide range of subject matter.

A second common mistake is setting folder name tabs in a “staggered” pattern while adding them to hanging folders (first picture bellow). This “perfect” structure looks great until you have to add new categories, and/or remove old ones. Then the tabs end up all over the place, and the goal of better visibility goes bye, bye.


The staggered approach become a nightmare in a hurry, with tabs ending up all over the place.

A more flexible and easier to maintain approach is the “straight tab” approach (see bellow). By arranging all of the tabs (on hanging type folders) in a straight line, you”re creating a straight line of sight which is much easier on the eye.



Arranging the tabs on hanging file folders, makes for a straight line of sight when hunting for categories.

Here are some straight tab filing tips:
1. Use the name tabs only for creating general category sections within a drawer. Like: Customers, Projects, Reports, Product Information, Forms, etc.

    2. Not every hanging folder needs a name tab. Just use the name tabs to create general divisions within the drawer. Example: You have a hanging folder with a tab named “Customers”, it’s ok to have 6 other “customer” hanging folders directly behind it without tabs. Once you come across a new tab, you have moved into a new category (like Projects, Forms, etc.).
    3. Keep your empty manila type file folders in a convenient and easily retrievable location. Consider keeping them in the front of your file drawer for easy access. Keeping in mind that every extra step required is a potential “barrier” that blocks you from completing the activity.

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