A filing cabinet
is a piece of office furniture usually used to store paper documents in file folder
A file folder is a kind of folder that holds loose papers together for organization and protection. File folders usually consist of a sheet of heavy paper stock or other thin, but stiff, material which is folded in half, and are used to keep paper documents...
s. In the most simple sense, it is an enclosure for drawers in which items are stored. The two most common forms of filing cabinets are blocky files and diagonal files. A vertical file cabinet has drawers that extend from the short side (typically 15 inches) of the cabinet. A lateral file cabinet has drawers that extend from the long side (various lengths) of the cabinet. These are also called side filers in Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...
. There are also shelf files, which go on shelves. In the United States, file cabinets are usually built to accommodate 8.5 × 11
Letter or US Letter is the most common paper size for office use in several countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, the Philippines, and Chile. It measures 8.5 by 11 inches ....
paper, and in other countries, filing cabinets are often designed to hold other sizes of paper, such as A4 paper.
Office filing cabinets are typically made of sheet metal or wood. The drawers usually use a drawer slide to facilitate opening the drawer which includes an "outstop" to prevent the drawer from being pulled completely out of the cabinet. To open a drawer on most metal filing cabinets, a small sliding mechanism known as a "thumblatch" must be activated to release and open the drawer. Each drawer has a handle
A handle is a part of, or attachment to, an object that can be moved or used by hand. The design of each type of handle involves substantial ergonomic issues, even where these are dealt with intuitively or by following tradition...
to grip and pull the drawer with. On the front face of each drawer, there is usually a label holder to allow the user to identify the contents of the drawer.
Many file cabinets incorporate a keyed lock
A lock is a mechanical or electronic fastening device that is released by a physical object or secret information , or combination of more than one of these....
to prevent unauthorized access to the documents being stored. There are two types of locks. A "cam lock" is activated with a key that rotates the lock. A "plunger lock" is opened with a key but can be closed by merely depressing the body of the lock. The plunger lock allows a user to quickly close and lock several cabinets in a short amount of time.
Some file cabinets have a metal plate or wire structure at the back of each drawer which is known as a follower block. The follower block can be adjusted forward to reduce the length of the drawer so that the file folders contained within remain upright and at the front of the drawer for easier access.
Henry Brown, an American
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
inventor, patented a "receptacle for storing and preserving papers" on November 2, 1886. This was a fire and accident safe container made of forged metal, which could be sealed with a lock. It was special in that it kept the papers separated.
The vertical filing cabinet
(vertical file cabinet
in the United States) more or less as in use today was invented by Edwin G. Seibels
Edwin Grenville Seibels was the inventor of the vertical filing system that has been in extensive use for over a century.-References:...
in 1898. He invented a vertical filing system in 1898 that revolutionized record-keeping. Previously, businesses kept papers in envelopes in turn stored in arrays of pigeonholes often lining a wall. Finding and opening envelopes and unfolding papers was troublesome and inefficient. Seibels reasoned that folding was not necessary; papers could be kept in large envelopes standing on end vertically in a drawer.
The Globe–Wernicke Company of Cincinnati made him five wooden filing boxes, and he applied for a patent; Seibels was told an idea was unpatentable; only a device could be patented. "It was pointed out that by simply varying the size, a filing box could be made which would not infringe my patent. Unfortunately, I overlooked the part played in setting the envelopes upright, and separating them by guide cards. This device, of course, could have been patented."
Thirty-nine years later, Globe–Wernicke presented him a bronze plaque which said: "Business throughout the world has been helped by this idea and on it is founded an industry that provides employment for many men and women."
In 1941 Seibels deposited one of the original boxes in the Smithsonian Institution's collection, at their request.
After World War II, the Home-O-Nize Company was established in Muscatine, Iowa to provide returning veterans with jobs. Founded to produce steel kitchen cabinets, the company soon encountered the reality of the limited availability of steel. So the company began to make products for others. Finally a small amount of steel was secured and the company started manufacturing steel index card boxes. Soon after, larger cabinets began to be produced including filing cabinets. By designing to minimize the amount of steel, the product was an extremely cost-effective design and had huge commercial success. Home-O-Nize never did make kitchen cabinets and in 1961, the company name was changed to HON. Today, The HON Company
The HON Company designs and manufactures office furniture including chairs, filing cabinets, workstations, tables, desks and education furniture...
, a division of HNI Corporation is the predominant North American manufacturer and marketer of filing cabinets.
The demand for filing cabinets was greatly expanded as a result of the commercial distribution of Xerography machines starting in 1950. This event enabled office workers to "have their own copy" of printed materials. Another influence is the expansion of government regulations that require businesses to create and keep forms and other documents. Some prognosticators have suggested the future of the filing cabinet is in doubt as electronic filing systems proliferate and become lower in cost. Nevertheless, most businesses are still purchasing computer systems with printing capabilities. Unless this trend is reversed, filing of paper is still a viable practice.
In the US, these come in two sizes: for letter-size paper and legal-size paper. Most modern commercially-oriented vertical filing cabinets in the US are manufactured in two-, three-, four-, and five-drawer versions in depths of 25, 26½, and 28 inches. The drawers are typically supported on a three-member suspension system that allows the drawer to be fully extended for complete access.
The four-drawer vertical file, letter width, is the version purchased by most businesses. The two-drawer file is sold mostly for use alongside a desk. The five-drawer file is mostly purchased by Federal, State, and Local governments (in a 28 inches (711.2 mm) version), as it typically provides the lowest cost per filing inch. Three drawer files, the least popular version, have the advantage of being at "countertop" height so end users can easily retrieve files and use the top of the cabinet as a work area to examine file contents.
The drawers of most vertical filing cabinets are engineered to accept hanging file folders, as these have come to dominate the way most users store information. Some files still have a "follower block" in each drawer. This is a device that adjusts the apparent depth of the drawer interior so that files are kept upright in the drawer. These are the legacy of a time when most filing was done with manila folders rather than hanging files.
For home offices or lighter use applications, vertical files are manufactured in 18 inches (457.2 mm) versions. These typically have two-member suspensions and the drawers do not fully extend.
Lateral files are typically 20 inches deep and manufactured in 30-, 36-, and 42-inch widths and 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-drawer versions. The 30 inches (762 mm), two-drawer version is popular for use inside cubicle workstations, as it is engineered to fit under or alongside the cubicle work surfaces. Logic for the use of 3-, 4-, and 5-drawer files is similar to that of vertical files. Unlike vertical files, most lateral files allow for side-to-side or front-to-back filing.
For letter-size files arranged front-to-back, the 30- and 42-inch-wide files are the most effective, as the maximum amount of filing per cabinet is enabled. A 36 inches (914.4 mm) file, with letter-width filing front-to-back has no more capacity than a corresponding 30 inches (762 mm) file, as the additional space would be wasted.
Some users prefer side-to-side filing, as they can search index tabs from a seated position. All-width lateral files can accommodate this configuration, though the capacity of the file is somewhat diminished.
An advantage for lateral files is that access and view of all files can be easier than with a vertical file because the drawers do not extend as far.
In most instances, the top "5th drawer" of a five-drawer lateral file is a flipper door with pull-out shelf
A roll-out shelf, also known as a glide-out shelf, pull-out shelf or slide-out shelf is a shelf that can be moved forward on slides in order to more easily reach the contents stored in the back of a cupboard or cabinet. The slide mechanism can also be found in modern chests of drawers...
, as most people would not be able to access the top of a drawer at this height.
A shelf file is a cabinet designed to accommodate folders with tabs on the side rather than on the top. The cabinet has no drawers, only shelves. Some shelf files come with doors that recede into the cabinet. These cabinets are typically 12" or 18" deep, for letter or legal size folders respectively. Like lateral files, they are made in 30", 36", 42" and 45" widths but are usually only installed in 5-high and 6-high applications.
Side tabbed files often use color codes that represent an alpha-numeric filing system. This methodology is a way to ensure files which are frequently retrieved and returned are easy to find and do not get lost. Finding a file is easy as to color-coded tabs easily lead the human eye to the appropriate location in the filing system. Similarly, a misfiled folder is obvious as an out-of-sequence color code is obvious to the user.
Businesses such as doctors, dentists, veterinarians, police, and government agencies use shelf files and end-tabbed folders to manage large filing systems.
Variations on traditional shelf files, designed to offer increased capacity for a given floor area, include Rotary Storage
Rotary storage systems are specialised office filing units designed to offer increased storage volumes per square foot compared to traditional filing units.- Rotary Storage Systems :...
Filing outside the US
Non-US firms offer filing cabinets that permit A4 paper to be used in addition to letter-size. Double file cabinets have drawers which can each accommodate two racks for folders side by side.
Many European companies engineer filing systems that accommodate hanging folders only; there are no drawer bottoms. In the US, most file drawers still have bottoms in the drawers so materials of any sort can be stored.
UK file cabinets are slightly different from US in the width of the rails which support the suspension files, the US ones being narrower; the UK sizes are known as A4
ISO 216 specifies international standard paper sizes used in most countries in the world today. It defines the "A" and "B" series of paper sizes, including A4, the most commonly available size...
Foolscap folio is paper cut to the size of 8 1/2 × 13 1/2 in...