Updated May 09, 2018 by Sam Kraft

The 10 Best File Cabinets

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This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in September of 2015. Thanks to the growing availability of home-based positions and the increasing ability for employees to work remotely, many people have office spaces these days. If that includes you, one of these file cabinets will let you store and keep track of all your paper documents easily. Of course, we've included some large models that can handle the rough and tumble of a busy workplace, too. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best file cabinet on Amazon.

10. CommClad Commercial

9. Nexera Essential

8. Lorell Mobile

7. Calico Designs 51100

6. Z-Line Designs Lateral

5. Devaise 3 Drawer

4. Hirsh Industries Pedestal

3. Julie-Home Cart

2. Scranton & Co Letter

1. Laura Davidson Stockpile

Safe, Secure, and Sturdy

Lateral cabinets can be placed in wider locations or attached to individual working cubicles.

Regardless of whether you have a home office or you work for a large corporation, chaos cannot be part of the equation when it comes to doing your job. Resources and information must be in a place that's easily accessible and properly organized. While a computer's filing system can help cut down on paper clutter, one can't depend on this technology to maintain documents indefinitely, especially if those documents contain sensitive or private information requiring additional security. For that reason, a file cabinet is a necessary tool for both professional and domestic use.

A file cabinet is a multi-drawer piece of furniture typically constructed from sheet metal, steel, or wood designed to store and organize documents into separate labeled folders that are easy to access. The majority of cabinets are either lateral or vertical in design. Lateral cabinets are wide and offer side-by-side storage of folders and documents, whereas vertical cabinets are taller with front-to-back organization of their file folders. Vertical cabinets are deep, but they take up less wall space than lateral cabinets, making them useful for office storage where space is limited. Lateral cabinets can be placed in wider locations or attached to individual working cubicles.

The drawers of most file cabinets have a handle, thumb latch, compressor, and sliding mechanism. The compressor is an adjustable steel mechanism that moves either backward or forward to allow the manipulation of individual file folders from inside the drawer itself. The sliding mechanism allows the drawer to be opened or closed and its outstop will prevent the drawer from being pulled out completely. The thumb latch for most file cabinets is located near each drawer's handle and must be pressed or pushed to one side in order to open the drawer and access its contents.

Many cabinets also have drawer labels to help the user identify the contents in each compartment. Because they store private and sensitive information, most cabinets incorporate a keyed lock to prevent unauthorized access. Should a file cabinet not have an integrated lock and a business requires additional security, then a locking bar can be installed on the cabinet's outer frame around the drawers to serve a similar purpose.

Choosing Your Cabinet Design

Decor, aesthetics, available space, and storage requirements all play important parts in the type of file cabinet you'll be choosing. The most important consideration is the amount of available space in your home or place of business. For example, if you work for a law firm with small printing and file rooms on the premises, then a vertical cabinet will be easy to place into corners as long as there's enough room to extend the drawers.

The most important consideration is the amount of available space in your home or place of business.

If you need additional storage options for your workforce, then lateral file cabinets can also work to an employee's advantage, as these are wider and shorter than their vertical counterparts. That said, they can fit easily under a cubicle desk. Lateral cabinets are also helpful when needing to access the same files several times a day.

A lateral file cabinet allows the user to peak inside and see a variety of file labels all at once. Vertical file cabinets offer a great deal of flexibility for folder organization by letter, number, or subject classification.

Vertical file cabinets are also quite easy to expand due to the depth of their individual drawers. Those cabinets made from heavy, reinforced steel are often fireproof, which adds an additional level of security to documents containing sensitive data.

So is a vertical cabinet better than a lateral one? Both organization styles offer their own advantages. Regardless, they both keep information organized in their own ways. Knowing where one's documents are located, and the knowledge that information is kept secure, makes a person's job easier than if they had to search for individual files all over their workspace with no logical order to them.

One must also consider if they will need to move the cabinet from time to time. Some filing cabinets are built onto caster wheels, which is useful when one requires the need to move the unit from one office room to another without first removing the contents of its drawers or disturbing the organization of those contents.

Since certain cabinets are prone to tipping, researching file cabinets with anti-tip mechanisms such as interlocking drawers will be beneficial as well.

A Brief History Of File Cabinets

The earliest methods of filing systems date back almost five thousands years and included ancient Sumerian use of clay tablets for writing Cuneiform language used to document important information such as weather data and crop yields. These clay tablets were stored in large libraries.

The earliest vertical file cabinets were made from heavy woods and were soon replaced by steel.

Other early forms of file systems included the use of both leather and papyrus scrolls that were sealed in either stone or earthenware vessels. As early as 2,300 years ago, Greek scribes would fashion books and copies using ink on papyrus and parchment, a thin material made from animal hides. Scrolls would then be stored in large libraries such as the Library at Alexandria.

Fast forward to the invention of the printing press and it suddenly became easier and cost effective to produce multiple copies of publications like newspapers and books than ever before. The documentation and storage of information evolved into a compact form and by the late 1800s, several new methods of filing emerged to organize information both alphabetically and chronologically into small containers. Among these inventions were Shannon files and storage bellows. By 1868, the first multi-drawer file cabinet became available, but it was cumbersome to use because documents had to be laid flat, making the information difficult to organize.

Dr. Nathaniel S. Rosenau is credited with one of the first applications of the vertical filing system, which was also one of many objects presented at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. The earliest vertical file cabinets were made from heavy woods and were soon replaced by steel. Vertical file cabinets are still among the most common types of file cabinets used today.

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Sam Kraft
Last updated on May 09, 2018 by Sam Kraft

In addition to his corporate career as a marketing and communications professional in Chicago, Sam runs a popular blog that focuses on the city’s flourishing craft beer and brewery scene. He received his degree in journalism from DePaul University (which spurred his interest in freelance writing) and has since spent years developing expertise in copywriting, digital marketing and public relations. A lifetime of fishing, hiking and camping trips has left him well-versed in just about any outdoors-related topic, and over several years spent working in the trades during his youth, he accumulated a wealth of knowledge about tools and machinery. He’s a travel junkie, a health and fitness enthusiast, and an avid biker.


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