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Lateral files are typically 20 inches deep and manufactured in 30-, 36-, and 42-inch widths and 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-drawer versions. The 30-inch-wide (760 mm), two-drawer version is popular for use inside cubicle workstations, as it is engineered to fit under or alongside the cubicle work surfaces. Logic for the use of 3-, 4-, and 5-drawer files is similar to that of vertical files. Unlike vertical files, most lateral files allow for side-to-side or front-to-back filing.
For letter-size files arranged front-to-back, the 30- and 42-inch-wide files are the most effective, as the maximum amount of filing per cabinet is enabled. A 36-inch-wide (910 mm) file, with letter-width filing front-to-back has no more capacity than a corresponding 30-inch-wide (760 mm) file, as the additional space would be wasted.
Some users prefer side-to-side filing, as they can search index tabs from a seated position. All-width lateral files can accommodate this configuration, though the capacity of the file is somewhat diminished.
An advantage for lateral files is that access and view of all files can be easier than with a vertical file because the drawers do not extend as far.