What Is an Open File Cabinet?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2019
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An open file cabinet provides open and easily accessible storage space for files. These folders may be kept horizontally or vertically, depending on their size and nature. Such filing solutions can be useful for settings where people need ready access to information or handle files with outsized and unusual contents. They can be organized in a number of ways and many companies make modular units that can be stacked or clipped together to facilitate expansion.

In this design, files are openly exposed. This can be a security issue in some environments. Medical offices, for example, often use an open file cabinet to store patient records, as this makes them easy to pull. To reduce the risk of compromising the information stored inside, the files may be in a locked office area where members of the public cannot go. Coding can be used on the sides of the files to make it difficult for patients to read confidential information if they can view the files from the waiting room or another area.


Many open file cabinets accommodate files stored vertically, with tabs on the end containing information about their contents. Some have doors or sliding panels that fit over the files when the cabinet is not in use to protect the files, while others may remain open at all times. Office staff can organize the files in a variety of ways and may tag the open file cabinet with information to help them locate specific files. Sliding brackets may accommodate cards with information about different sections, for instance, and office staff can move the sliders as the collection of files changes over time.

Others are intended for flat file storage. This can useful at facilities like printers, where files may include large plates and negatives used in the production of print jobs. A traditional closed file cabinet might not accommodate large items. The open file cabinet allows staff to store this information in an accessible area where it can lie flat to minimize damage. In the event they need to reprint a job, they can quickly pull the relevant plates and negatives.

This filing approach can also be used for temporary file storage. An open file cabinet on a rolling cart, for instance, may accommodate files when they are pulled for reference. Staff can move the cart through a facility to grab the files they need, and return files via the same cart.


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