Staples | End-tab Filing

End–tab Filing

An Efficient and Easy–to–Use Filing System

Business reality — every company has to maintain files and records.

Business myth — filing has to be time–consuming and tedious.

Business solution — end–tab filing.

What is end-tab filing?

End–tab filing is an open–shelf system that is based upon color–coding. You've probably seen end–tab (also known as side–tab or open–shelf) filing in use at your doctor's office.

In fact, medical, dental, veterinary and government offices have been the primary users of end–tab filing. When you explore the benefits of this system, you may want to convert to it.


According to Bill Sanford, a product manager for Smead® Manufacturing Company, by using end–tab filing you can accomplish the following goals:

  • Reduce labor costs
  • Save time
  • Improve productivity
  • Eliminate lost or misfiled records
  • Decrease workplace stress
  • Use less space
  • Minimize equipment costs

Save time and improve productivity

Picture the following: open shelves lined with files. Each folder has a color tab on it. Each color is associated with a letter of the alphabet. When you want to file a folder, you look for the color, head straight for it, spend a second finding the exact spot for the file, and then pop the file in the slot. Mission complete.

The math is simple. Your staff will spend less time filing and more time on other tasks.

No drawers to open. No flipping through several hanging file folders, then doing the same for the files within the hanger.

End–tab filing is all about speed and ease. "Your retrieval [of files] is 40% to 50% faster. Your re–filing time is 40% to 50% faster," says Barbara Volkov, a certified records manager and founder of File Pros.

Fewer lost files and less stress

Think about how annoyed you felt the last time you lost or misplaced a file. Now remember the scrambling you did to find it or, worse, to recreate all of the information inside of it.

You may be surprised to learn that such filing mistakes cost your company over $100 each when you factor in recovery and re–creation time, according to Smead.

The color–coded labels on end–tab files help prevent misplacement. If you put a file with a red label into the yellow section you'll break the color band, immediately notice your mistake, pull the file, and put it in the correct spot.

Save space and money

When you use traditional (also know as top–tab) file cabinets, you need to leave room to open and shut the cabinet's drawers. Not so with the open–shelf units of end–tab filing, which resemble bookshelves and require about half the floor space of traditional cabinets, according to Smead.

Filing cabinets End–tab open shelves
58 inches of floor space 28 inches of floor space


Top–tab systems also limit how high you can stack file drawers. With top–tab "you can only go about four [drawers] high because you're [probably] not tall enough to reach over anything higher. With end–tab you can go seven or eight [shelves] high because you can read from the side."

In addition to being easy to use, the open shelves needed to employ end–tab filing are generally less expensive than traditional filing cabinets.

Getting started

Setting up an end–tab filing system will initially take longer than creating a top–tab system because you have to place two labels on each folder (a colored coded one and a name–specific one).

You'll also need to decide if you want to establish an alphabetical or numerical filing system. Whichever one you choose, build in time for your staff to learn the system.

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