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File Folder Tabs - Which Side?

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  • File Folder Tabs - Which Side?

    This may be a dumb question but I am reading the book "Getting Things Done" and am about 40 to 45% through the book when I decided to start implementing the system. I was going to start with my general filing system when I remembered that I read somewhere or someone once told me when using file folders it is better to have all the tabs on one side or the other or in the middle if I prefered but not to mix them because it makes them harder to sort through????

    Is this true or is it one of those myths that seems to pop up once in a while over time?

    I know nothing about filing systems and my office is a total disaster files/notes/articles and other stuff miss filed in the filing draws and piled high all over the place in my office (which is part of my kitchen area), living room, on chairs, tables, the floor and even on top of my ironing board! I am a one person company right now working out of my small and crowded apartment.

  • #2
    Yes, technically it is better to have all tabs the same. The problem is that file folders are usually sold with mixed tabs, so you end up having to throw 1/3 of them away. Or you can't find the correct tab when you need it, and chaos ensues.

    Mixed tabs are better than no tabs, which is what you have now. Don't worry about it and get on with the filing.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      Left, Middle, Right or Tabs in A-Z Positions?

      I'm very interested in this question, as I'm just building up my new filing system and decided to go with third-cut manila folders and now I'm asking myself if I might be heading the wrong route.

      I noticed that the third-cut left, middle and right tabs are indeed difficult to sort through or look something up.
      I thought that over time it would work in a way that not all tabs would be in strict A-Z order but always show up in groups of three (left, middle, right tab) that are, as a group, in correct order compared to the previous or the following group of three. I noticed that this is not the case.

      I had a hard time finding A4-compliant manila folders here in Germany, and there seems to be only one supplier each for third-cut and fift-cut folders. Now I wonder if it was worth the trouble searching for those.

      There are two mail-order vendors in Germany who sell essentially the same system where there are pre-defined A-Z positions to stick tabs on the files and then sort them A-Z in their box (Classei and Mappei). I shyed away from these systems because of the tabs starting with the same letter being at the same position (and because the tabs were not wide enough for my taste). I always thought that tabs obscuring the following one would be a disadvantage.

      Now I wonder if I should stop my filing project and restart it with one of those other systems. If I decided to restart, I would have to do it quickly.

      Any thoughts on that?

      Alex

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      • #4
        Two position tabs

        This is one reason why I always buy two-positon tab folders instead of the more common ones with three-position tabs. Half of the folders will have the tabs in the "wrong" position but I turn those inside out so that they're in the "right" position. Also, since the tabs are wider than the common three-position tabs, I can put longer labels on them.

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        • #5
          This question comes up every so often. It seems that there are some people who really like all their tabs to line up, but many others who use the assorted tabs in all positions. The advantage of assorted tabs is that more are visible when you open the drawer and fewer are hidden by the tab in front. The bottom line is that it doesn't make that much difference and is a matter of personal preference.

          I can tell you that the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to set up a very functional filing system is to go to a discount store (like WalMart in the US) where you will find manila folders at a fraction of the price you would see at an office supply store. They will almost certainly be the most popular kind: 1/3 cut assorted tab folders. These work very well. Just use these to set up your filing system and let the tab position fall to random chance for each new file created.

          This will let you get your filing done with the minimum of fuss and expense. Just remember that your files are in alphabetical order, so you can find them even if the tab layout does not meet some perfect ideal. Just scan your tabs for a title that is close and then let your fingers poke around in the nearby folders until you find the one you need.

          Another way to speed up the process (while minimizing expense) is to skip the label-maker advice and hand write your folder titles.

          For a general reference filing system, it is usually far more important to have a streamlined file creation process than to have the most perfectly ideal file retrieval process. So just don't overthink the tab thing.
          Last edited by Barry; 06-23-2007, 07:42 PM.

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          • #6
            Straight Cut File Folders

            As a person who found 2 or 3 or 5 postion file folder tabs an annoyance, I've moved to straight cut folders. The entire top of the back is one big tab. Everything lines up nicely, and you can put as long a description as you need without worry of running out of tab space. They cost a bit more, but are a lot easier to work with.

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            • #7
              I buy the left-only tabbed manilla folders when I can. I find they work better with my Tickler file. I bought 1/3 cut tabbed kraft folders for the Tickler (brown instead of cream), and I used the center tabs for the month, and the right tabs for the days. Then, when I put project or meeting folders in the Tickler, the left-side tabs fit perfectly without obscuring the Tickler tabs (see attached photo). A "meeting folder" is what I use to collect all the random agenda items and ideas for a future meeting. I just plunk it into the Tickler daily folder for the meeting date, and as ideas come along, I drop them in. On the day of the meeting, the folder comes out automatically as part of using the Tickler file, and I can head off to the meeting with all my goodies.

              If I have to buy standard 1/3 cut instead of left-only, I tend to use the center and right tabs for most projects, and save the left tabs for meetings. For example, the CSLT in the example photo is for the Creative Services Leadership Team standing weekly meeting. All week it collects stuff, and then it comes out for the meeting.

              Scott
              Attached Files

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              • #8
                If you want third-cut tabs because they reduce obscuring the position behind them, a good way to insert them into your system is to use the cut that is different than the one before and after where you are inserting the new one.

                For example, if you are inserting between a center cut and a right cut, use a left cut. If you are inserting between a right cut and a left cut, use a center cut, etc. While they will not run strictly left, center, right, left, center, right, they will not be lined up directly behind one another and they will be easier to read.

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                • #9
                  Don't make it too complex. Use 1/3 cut standard Manila folders, and don't get hung up on the tab locations. They'll vary depending on random factors, but they're alpha so you'll find them OK.

                  (As an aside, not to pick on Barry, but I don't recommend shopping at WalMart - check out WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price. I realize some people will disagree, but I believe where we shop and how we spend our money is important.)

                  Now back to your regularly-scheduled program...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by fiestaforever View Post
                    I'm very interested in this question, as I'm just building up my new filing system and decided to go with third-cut manila folders and now I'm asking myself if I might be heading the wrong route.

                    I noticed that the third-cut left, middle and right tabs are indeed difficult to sort through or look something up.
                    I thought that over time it would work in a way that not all tabs would be in strict A-Z order but always show up in groups of three (left, middle, right tab) that are, as a group, in correct order compared to the previous or the following group of three. I noticed that this is not the case.

                    I had a hard time finding A4-compliant manila folders here in Germany, and there seems to be only one supplier each for third-cut and fift-cut folders. Now I wonder if it was worth the trouble searching for those.

                    There are two mail-order vendors in Germany who sell essentially the same system where there are pre-defined A-Z positions to stick tabs on the files and then sort them A-Z in their box (Classei and Mappei). I shyed away from these systems because of the tabs starting with the same letter being at the same position (and because the tabs were not wide enough for my taste). I always thought that tabs obscuring the following one would be a disadvantage.

                    Now I wonder if I should stop my filing project and restart it with one of those other systems. If I decided to restart, I would have to do it quickly.

                    Any thoughts on that?
                    I use Classei for some years @office and @home. I like this system very much especially because they have these flexible tabs.
                    I started with the 5-cut using it in the same manner like classei, but beginnung every 5 letters at the left side. So after some time I had spend all folders of the same position (second if I remember correctly) and having a surplus of the others. Then I found classei and since that I'm fan of that. Another advantage of this system is: They have special folders which you can buy in low volumes for special purposes: coloured, transparent cover, various thicknesses ..) so I could customize my system optimally for my usage.

                    @Alex My 5-cut folders are now used by my children

                    Yours
                    Alexander

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I actually bought some pre-configured packages from Classei, and while I see their benefits, the regular tabs are way too small for my taste and even though they now also offer "big tabs", those still aren't as wide as third-cut manila folders (plus, the "big tabs" are too high). Knowing in advance (without having to look into your drawer) where to put the tab, is an advantage, though. And they offer a nice range of folders, that's true. If it weren't for the extra-wide tabs I need, I would have probably chosen Classei. But try to get something like "Taxation - Income Tax - Private Property Sales Gains" onto a 2 1/3" tab.

                      I was thinking about straight cut folders, but no way to get those here. I was lucky to find third-cut ones. Imagine only one supplier offering such folders (and only by mail-order, manila folders are virtually unknown here in office supply stores!).

                      With the third-cut manila folders, I do indeed use the method WebR0ver mentioned. But I'm still wondering why it doesn't work out the way that I get L-M-R packs of three that are in correct A-Z order with the previous and following three. It puzzles me.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        "But try to get something like "Taxation - Income Tax - Private Property Sales Gains" onto a 2 1/3" tab."

                        Suggestions: With my Brother label maker, I think I could fit that if I used the two-line mode. It may also fit with hand lettering, which I prefer. Also, you may be trying to get too much on the tab. Having a title with 3 levels of classification is more than I would use. I limit mine to 2 levels of classification. I would use "Income Tax - xxx" to group all income tax items together under "I" and then let any other tax categories form in their own alpha locations such as "Payroll Tax - xxx" under "P."

                        Alternatively, you could use a hybrid system like "Tax, Income - xxx" and "Tax, Payroll - xxx" which would sort the same as your current system with all taxation files together under "T" but have the brevity of a 2-level system.

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