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- This article is about the paper folder. For file folders in computers, see Directory (file systems)
A file folder (US usage) (or folder in British and Australian usage) 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. Files may also contain other things like magazines, cased in music cd's, etc. sometimes mostly not used for any official use, rather used as normal storage in a home. They are often used in conjunction with a filing cabinet for storage. File folders can easily be purchased at office supply stores. Although the origin of the file folder is uncertain, many theories point to U.S. Civil War lieutenant Joseph P. Meisburger as the first to develop the concept.
File folders are usually labeled based on what is inside them. Folders can be labeled directly on the tab with a pen or pencil. Others write on adhesive labels that are placed on the tabs. There are also electronic labelmakers that can be used to make the labels.
File or folder are other terms used for file folders, but file folders is a common name for the item in the United States. Manila folders are likely the most common, but file folders come in many different forms. In the United States, letter and legal sizes are common.
The exact way to refer to this kind of folder is somewhat unclear. There does not appear to be an internationally standard term. The term file folder seems to be one that dominates North American language, but does not seem as common in other countries. As stated, some refer to file folders simply as folders, but in North America this is confusing because folder can refer to several different things. Others use the term manila folders, but this is confusing because not all file folders are made of Manila hemp. This type of folder is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "vanilla folder."
Another commonly used folder type is the hanging folder, which has hooks on all four corners that slide over a rail. Normally, hanging folders are used to file one or more manila folders, and it is not a common practice to put loose sheets directly into hanging folders. When some documents need to be retrieved, the corresponding manila folder(s) are removed from the hanging folder. The hanging folder itself is left in its place on the rails.
Occasionally, the term for the item changes based on its context. Some may refer to file folders as files when they are being utilized for storage. For example, one might say, "Would you get me the file on the Patterson case?" Or someone might say, "That information is with the files on the insurance claims." File folder or just folder seems to be how many refer to the item when it is being purchased or not containing any paper yet. For instance, someone might say, "Would you give me an empty folder from the box? I need to make a file on the Thompson estate." Or someone might say, "When you run to the store would you get me some legal size file folders?" Then again, office furniture that holds paper documents is invariable referred to as a Filing cabinet or simply a file cabinet, and never a folder cabinet.
The terms are even more distorted in their digital counterparts. In computing, the word "folder" (or, in some cases, "file folder") is often used as a synonym for "directory", while the word "file" is universally used for actual data items on a disk (sometimes called "documents," especially on the Apple Macintosh). In Unix-like systems, this is resolved to some degree by the creed "everything is a file"; folders are themselves just a special type of file, and many commands (to copy, delete, move, or rename) can be executed without knowing whether the file identifies an entire folder or not.
Tabbed file folders
File folders can have tabs in them. Tabs are often helpful when many files are being stored together and there needs to be an easy way to differentiate them. The tabs can be on the top of the folders (common in business offices) or on the end/side (common in medical offices). Tab sizes vary and are designated based on the size of each tab in proportion to the total length of the folder. They can be:
- Straight cut. There is one long tab.
- 1/3 cut. There are three tab positions, each is approximately 1/3 of the total length of the folder. Essentially, tabs are cut to be in the left, center, or right positions.
- 1/5 cut. Similar to the 1/3 cut, except there are five tab positions, each being 1/5 of the total length of the folder.
- 2/5 cut. There are only two tab positions, the right and the right of center (ROC) positions. ROC is somewhat like a left position, but doesn't extend to the end of the folder because the tabs are only 2/5 of the total length.
- 1/2 cut. There are two tab positions, left and right.
Brands of Folders
Some brands of file folders include:
- Find It
- Gartner Studios
- Innovative Storage
- JAM Paper
- Office Depot
- Roaring Spring Paper Products
Because tabs can be cut in different positions, the position of the tab can be referred to as well. For instance, for the 1/3 cut style, folders with tabs in the farthest right position are considered to have a tab in position number three.
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