Filing and Indexing


Concept of Filing

Filing is the systematic act of organizing and storing company documents and records so that they are readily available when needed. This technique is critical for protecting the integrity of documentation and facilitating information retrieval.

Filing is an essential administrative task that entails sorting, organizing, and keeping documents in a systematic manner to enable for easy retrieval when needed. This method is essential for keeping an organized record of transactions, correspondence, and other company activity. Effective file systems assist firms in keeping track of their activities, complying with regulatory obligations, and ensuring that vital information is maintained and accessible, thus improving overall efficiency and productivity. A well-implemented filing system, whether physical or digital, is essential for effective organizational management.

According to George R. Terry, “Filing means the systematic and scientific collection, store and arrangement of letters, documents and records of past and present for future reference so that they can be safe and easily obtained at the time of required.”

Purpose of Filing

1. Documentation: Filing preserves historical records and transactions for future reference.

2. Legal Compliance: It ensures that all necessary documents are available for legal scrutiny.

3. Efficiency: Proper filing enhances operational efficiency by reducing the time spent searching for documents.

4. Security: It protects sensitive information from unauthorized access.

5. Memory Aid: Filing serves as an organizational memory, holding details that might otherwise be forgotten.

6. Decision Making: Access to well-filed information aids in informed decision-making.

Types of Filing System

A. Traditional System of Filing

The traditional system uses paper-based ways to organize papers in folders and cabinets. This form of file system was employed during the beginning of office management when the business was small. However, they are still used in organizations where a minimum amount of letters and documents must be stored in files.

1. Pocket or Baggage Filing: This system is designed for mobility, using folders or envelopes that can be easily transported. It’s ideal for individuals who need to carry documents between different locations.

  • Portable and convenient for traveling professionals.
  • Protects documents from physical damage.
  • Economical and requires minimal space.
  • Easy to categorize small volumes of paperwork.

  • Limited capacity for document storage.
  • Not suitable for large organizations.
  • Can be cumbersome to manage if overfilled.
  • Lacks robust security features.

2. Misil Filing: It is a temporary filing method where documents are placed in folders or binders in a loose manner. It’s often used for active files that require frequent handling.

  • Ideal for temporary storage of active files.
  • Quick access to frequently used documents.
  • Simple to use with minimal training.
  • Low-cost setup for small businesses.

  • Not practical for long-term storage.
  • Risk of misplacement or loss of documents.
  • Inefficient for handling large volumes of files.
  • Provides little protection from environmental factors.

3. Wire or Rod Filing: In this type of filing system, documents are hung from wires or rods, usually within a frame or cabinet. This system allows for easy viewing and access to hanging files.

  • Saves desk space by utilizing vertical storage.
  • Visible labels for quick identification.
  • Easy to add or remove documents.
  • Suitable for displaying notices or memos.


  • Limited privacy for sensitive documents.
  • Can become cluttered if not managed properly.
  • Not ideal for heavy or bulky documents.
  • Potential safety hazard with sharp edges.

4. Pigeonhole Filing: This type of filing system utilizes a shelving unit with small compartments called pigeon holes. Each compartment can hold documents related to a specific category, making sorting and retrieval straightforward.

  • Multiple compartments for categorization.
  • Easy visibility of file headings.
  • Convenient for sorting incoming mail or documents.
  • Can be customized to fit various office layouts.

  • Not secure for confidential files.
  • Space-consuming if not efficiently designed.
  • Can lead to clutter without regular maintenance.
  • Difficult to scale for larger organizations.

5. Cardboard Filing: This filing system involves the use of cardboard folders or boxes to store documents. It’s a lightweight and cost-effective option, though not as durable as other materials.

  • Lightweight and easy to move.
  • Recyclable and environmentally friendly.
  • Cost-effective for startups.
  • Flexible for various document sizes.

  • Susceptible to wear and tear.
  • Vulnerable to water damage or pests.
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty use.
  • Can look unprofessional in formal settings.

6. Box Filing: In this filing system documents are stored in boxes, which can be stacked and labeled for organization. This method is secure and protects documents from dust and light, suitable for long-term storage.

  • Sturdy and durable for long-term storage.
  • Stackable design saves floor space.
  • Protects contents from dust and light exposure.
  • Can be locked for added security.

  • Can be bulky and difficult to transport.
  • Requires labeling for efficient retrieval.
  • Not ideal for immediate access to files.
  • Higher cost compared to other filing methods.

B. Modern Filing

In the digital age, the way we manage documents has evolved. The modern filing systems have replaced traditional methods, enhancing accessibility and efficiency in the workplace. Some of the types of Modern filing systems are explained as follows:

1. Flat or Horizontal Filing
Flat filing involves laying documents flat in drawers or shelves. It’s often used for large-format items like maps or blueprints.

  • Preserves the condition of large documents.
  • Easy to view and handle items without folding.
  • Simplifies the organization of oversized materials.
  • Can be stored in architecturally designed cabinets for aesthetic appeal.


  • Consumes significant office space.
  • Not suitable for high-volume document storage.
  • Can be challenging to manage and maintain order.
  • Retrieval can be time-consuming without a proper indexing system.

2. Vertical Filing
Vertical filing stands documents upright in folders supported by drawers or racks, a common sight in many offices.

  • Space-efficient, maximizing storage in minimal square footage.
  • Facilitates quick browsing and retrieval of files.
  • Can be easily integrated into most office environments.
  • Supports the use of tabs and labels for easy identification.

  • Papers can slip out if not secured properly.
  • Overfilling can lead to disorganization and damage.
  • Requires precise placement to maintain order.
  • May necessitate additional accessories like file supports.

Differences between Horizontal filing and Vertical filing

Basis Horizontal Filing System Vertical Filing System
Orientation Documents are stored flat, one on top of another. Documents are stored upright, side by side.
Space Requires more floor space due to the layout. More space-efficient as it uses vertical space.
Visibility Documents on the bottom may be less visible. All documents are visible from the top.
Capacity Better suited for larger documents or drawings. Ideal for a higher volume of standard-sized papers.
Accessibility Retrieving documents may disturb others on top. Individual files can be accessed without moving others.
Expansion Limited by the physical size of the storage unit. Can be expanded by adding more files vertically.
Ergonomics May require bending or lifting to access files. Generally at a comfortable height for access.

3. Hanging Filing
Hanging filing uses suspended folders that slide along built-in tracks in filing cabinets or desks.

  • Prevents documents from falling or getting mixed up.
  • Offers high visibility of file labels.
  • Easy to add or remove files without disturbing others.
  • Efficient for managing large numbers of files in a compact space.

  • Initial setup can be more expensive than other systems.
  • Limited to the size of the hanging folders.
  • Can become cumbersome if overfilled.
  • Requires specific furniture or cabinets designed for hanging files.

4. Lateral Filing
Lateral filing systems store files side-by-side in wide drawers or shelves, often seen in open office spaces.

  • Provides quick access to files from an aisle or desk.
  • Suitable for both letter and legal-sized documents.
  • Offers a large filing capacity in a single unit.
  • Can double as office partitions or counters.

  • Can be more expensive due to size and construction.
  • Takes up more wall space compared to vertical filing.
  • Lower drawers can be less ergonomic to access.
  • May require additional space for drawer extension.

5. Open Shelf Filing
Open shelf filing places files on shelves without drawers, allowing for direct access and visibility.

  • Immediate access to frequently used files.
  • Eliminates the need for opening drawers, saving time.
  • Can be customized with adjustable shelves.
  • Encourages a clean and organized workspace.

  • Less secure, as documents are exposed.
  • Can be less aesthetically pleasing.
  • Dust accumulation requires regular cleaning.
  • Not ideal for confidential or sensitive documents.

6. Electronic Filing
Electronic filing digitizes documents for storage on computers or cloud-based systems.

  • Vastly reduces physical storage needs.
  • Enables quick search and retrieval with keywords.
  • Facilitates sharing and collaboration online.
  • Supports backup and disaster recovery plans.

  • Dependent on technology and power supply.
  • Requires data security measures against cyber threats.
  • Can involve a learning curve for new software.
  • Initial setup and digitization can be resource-intensive.

Qualities of a Good Filing System

A good filing system is the backbone of efficient organizational management. Here are seven qualities that define an effective system:

1. Simplicity: It should be easy to understand and use, even for new employees.

2. Flexibility: The system must be adaptable to accommodate the changing needs of the business.

3. Accessibility: Files should be easily retrievable without significant delay.

4. Economy: It should be cost-effective, considering both setup and long-term maintenance.

5. Space Efficiency: The system should make the best use of available space.

6. Safety: Documents should be protected from physical damage and unauthorized access.

Consistency: Filing procedures should be uniform across the organization.


Indexing is the methodical act of giving identifiers or keys to documents and entries in a filing system to make them easier to locate and retrieve. This might range from simple alphabetical or numerical labels to more complicated computerized database search algorithms. Indexing's essence resides in its capacity to convert a random collection of information into a structured, navigable resource. It's similar to a library's catalog system, which allows users to swiftly locate books among thousands of others.

In the business world, indexing is the silent sentinel guarding the information gateway, ensuring that the right document is always just a few moments away. It's more than just saving time; it's about improving the flow of information, which runs the machinery of decision-making and planning.

According to S.P. Arora, “Indexing can be described as a method of providing indicators for a body of data or collection of records.”

Purpose of Indexing

The purpose of indexing extends beyond mere organization; it’s about optimizing the entire information retrieval process:

1. Speed: Indexing enables quick access to files, crucial for time-sensitive tasks.

2. Accuracy: It reduces errors in file retrieval, ensuring the correct document is found.

3. Productivity: Efficient indexing saves time, boosting overall productivity.

4. Traceability: It allows for tracking document movement within an organization.

5. Integration: Indexing can integrate various types of data for comprehensive analysis.

6. Security: Proper indexing includes access controls to secure sensitive information.

7. Compliance: It aids in maintaining records in accordance with legal requirements.

Types of Indexing

A. Invisible Indexing

a. Book Indexing
Book indexing is found at the end of publications, listing key terms and topics with page references.

  1. Concise: Provides a quick reference to important content.
  2. Structured: Organizes information in a logical sequence.
  3. User-friendly: Enhances the reader’s experience by simplifying navigation.

  1. Space-consuming: Takes up pages within the book.
  2. Static: Cannot be updated once printed.
  3. Limited: Only includes terms deemed important by the indexer.

b. Loose Leaf Indexing
Loose leaf indexing uses removable pages that can be updated individually.

  1. Flexible: Allows for easy updating and customization.
  2. Adaptable: Can expand to accommodate additional information.
  3. Accessible: Individual pages can be removed for use without disrupting the system.

  1. Disorganization Risk: Pages can be misplaced or lost.
  2. Time-consuming: Updating requires manual effort.
  3. Cost: Involves ongoing expenses for replacement pages.

c. Card Indexing
Card indexing involves cards arranged in a specific order within a filing system.

  1. Modular: Easy to add or remove entries.
  2. Portable: Individual cards can be taken out for reference.
  3. Durable: Cards are typically more robust than paper pages.

  1. Volume: Can become unwieldy with a large number of cards.
  2. Maintenance: Requires regular updating and cleaning.
  3. Space: Needs dedicated storage space for the card catalog.

B. Visible Indexing

a. Visible Card Index
Visible card indexes display tabs or edges that can be seen without flipping through the cards.

  1. Immediate Recognition: Quick visual identification of categories.
  2. Efficiency: Saves time in locating specific entries.
  3. Customizable: Tabs can be labeled according to need.

  1. Wear and Tear: Frequent use can damage tabs.
  2. Limited Space: Only a small amount of information can be displayed on tabs.
  3. Aesthetics: Can appear cluttered if not well-maintained.

b. Strip Card Index
Strip card indexes use long strips that can be inserted into a frame to display information.

  1. Visibility: Large surface area for information display.
  2. Organization: Facilitates grouping of related information.
  3. Update-friendly: Strips can be replaced without affecting the entire system.

  1. Bulkiness: Requires more space than traditional card systems.
  2. Complexity: Can be difficult to navigate for new users.
  3. Cost: More expensive to set up and maintain.

c. Rotary Card Index
Rotary card indexes are circular files that rotate to bring cards into view.

  1. Space-Saving: Compact design utilizes vertical space.
  2. Ease of Use: Simple rotation mechanism for file access.
  3. Versatile: Can be used for a variety of information types.

  1. Capacity Limit: Can only hold a certain number of cards.
  2. Mechanical Failure: Moving parts can wear out over time.
  3. Accessibility: Not as quick as flat or visible card indexes for large volumes of data.

Qualities of Good Indexing System

A good indexing system is the linchpin of document management. Here are seven qualities that make an indexing system effective:

1. Comprehensiveness: It should cover all necessary topics and entries.

2. Clarity: Entries must be clear and understandable.

3. Consistency: The system should follow a uniform standard.

4. Accessibility: Users should be able to retrieve information quickly.

5. Flexibility: It must adapt to the changing needs of the organization.

6. Durability: The materials used should withstand regular use.

7. Efficiency: The system should streamline the retrieval process.

Management of Electronic Index

The advent of electronic indexing has revolutionized the way we store and retrieve information. An electronic index is a digital list or database that allows for rapid searching and sorting of information across various parameters. Managing an electronic index involves several key steps:

1. Data Entry: Accurate and consistent data entry is foundational.

2. Software Selection: Choose indexing software that meets your specific needs.

3. User Training: Ensure users are proficient in using the system.

4. Maintenance: Regular updates and backups are essential.

5. Security: Implement robust security measures to protect data.

6. Audit and Review: Periodically review the system for efficiency and accuracy.

7. Scalability: The system should grow with your organization.

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