Ring binders (loose leaf binders, looseleaf binders, or sometimes called files in Britain) are large folders that contain file folders or hole punched papers. These are held in the binder by circular or D-shaped retainers, onto which the contents are threaded. The rings are usually spring-loaded, but can also be secured by lever arch mechanisms or other securing systems. The binders themselves are typically made from plastic with metal rings. Early designs were patented during the early 1890s to the early 1900s.
The most common type in Canada and the United States is a three-ring system for letter size pages (8 1⁄2 inches × 11 inches). A standard 8 1⁄2 inch × 11 inch sheet of paper has three holes with spacing of 4 1⁄4inches (107.95 mm). "Ledger" size binders hold 11-by-17-inch (28 by 43 cm) paper, and may use standard 3-ring spacing or multiple additional rings.
The distance from the punched holes to the nearest edge of the paper is less critical, since small differences do not affect the compatibility of paper and binder. Typical distance from the paper edge to the center of the hole is 0.5 inches (13 mm), and typical diameter of the hole ranges from 0.25 inches (6.4 mm) to 0.31 inches (7.9 mm) in North American usage.
The lever arch system is helpful when wanting to hold large amounts of paper into a small, easy to carry around folder.
Many personal organizers and memorandum books use a six- or seven-hole system, including Filofax, the FranklinCovey, and Day-Timer®. Most systems have the rings on the left side of the papers as one opens the binder, but there are also binders that have the rings (concealed by the binder cover) at the top edge of the paper, reminiscent of a clipboard.
There are also various options of binder types such as the commonly used vinyl binders or customizable poly binders, turned edge binders, and sewn binders that each offer unique features and advantages.
Most binder covers are made of three pieces, in the fashion of a hardback book, with three pieces of board held together with sheets of vinyl or other materials and hinges. Materials vary widely. Some vinyl binders have a clear pocket on the outside for cover pages, and many have pockets in the inner cover for loose papers, business cards, compact discs, etc. There are also zipper binders, which zip the binder up and keep papers from falling out. Some binders are stored in matching slipcases for greater protection; either with one slipcase per each binder, or one slipcase holding several binders.
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