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Lateral filing cabinets offer filing flexibility; most will accommodate front–to–back or side–to–side filing. The decision whether to file front–to–back versus filing side–to–side is, for the most part, a matter of individual preference. However before you choose a filing style, consider the following.
If there's enough room to stand in front of the cabinet when the drawer is open, then the front–to–back method would probably work well for you. If there's not enough room for you to stand in front of the drawer, then the side–to–side filing method may be preferred as you may stand on the side of the drawer instead.
If you're looking for maximum file space, very often, the front–to–back method can increase the number of files you can fit in each drawer by up to 15% – that’s about a foot of additional file space per drawer.
If you file side–to–side, and find yourself stretching to insert or retrieve a file folder at the far end of the drawer, you may wish to consider switching to the front–to–back system.
If you're filing alphabetically, you may prefer the side–to–side method, this way the alphabetical system remains in one straight line. Otherwise, you have to decide whether to use one front–to–back section for your A to M files and the other front–to–back section for your N to Z files, or any other breakdown.
These breakdowns may later cause a problem, if one section of the files begins to outnumber the other sections. You may have to take the time to move some files around.
Additionally, it's sometimes easier to glance at one long line of folders when looking for a folder that is filed alphabetically, then to look in two or three front–to–back sections. In other words, your eyes will have to scan section by section, which may prove to be more time–consuming. The same holds true if you're filing chronologically.
If you're filing by subject matter, the front–to–back method may work better. For instance, let's say you have a lateral filing cabinet that you've broken into three front–to–back sections. You can now use one section for past employee files, one for current, and one for prospective future employees – each subject would have its own unique section.