Filing System Characteristics

Filing System Characteristics 1

The selection of an appropriate filing classification system requires analysis of the information needs of your office.  There are three basic systems:

  • Alphabetic 
  • Numeric 
  • Alphanumeric 

Within these three systems there can be applied a number of variations, designed to the needs of your office.

Because each system has certain advantages and disadvantages, the first step in selecting an appropriate system is to look carefully at characteristics of your office's record-keeping practices. There are four  main characteristics to examine.

How records are used or called for -- The nature of the records and how they will be requested should be the first determining factor in your selection of the system. For example, if vendor files are referenced by name, alphabetic arrangement is indicated; invoices called for by number will best be filed in a numeric system; correspondence, if retrieved by subject, should be filed alphabetically by subject.

How many records are maintained -- In an office that maintains a small volume of records, an alphabetic system is usually adequate; however, in an office where more records are maintained and the filing system may need to be more expandable, the better choice may be a numeric or alpha numeric system.

Size of the office -- The size of your office usually dictates the number of individuals responsible for the filing of records, as well as those who are authorized to have access to the files. Usually, although there are exceptions, the larger the office, the greater the number of people who will process and use the records.

Who uses the records -- The system you select should be appropriate to the people using the records. A subject classification system may be more useful for the records that are best defined by specialized topics, whereas records which fall into easily identified groups and which are accessed by many employees are better arranged by number.


1 Texas State Library, Local Records Division, The Local Record, Summer 1990.
2 Texas State Library, Local Records Division, The Local Record, Spring 1991.