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April 2008 -Index Tabs: We Would Be Lost Without Them

The next time you’re searching for a product or service in a buyer’s guide, directory or reference book, be thankful that index tabs were invented. No, they may not be the most eye catching part of a book … or are they? 

Just as the “X” marks the spot for buried treasure,
index tabs can help you find what you’re looking for in a buyer’s guide, directory or reference book.

No matter how plain a bank of index tabs are, their protruding visibility and thick stock draws visual and tactile attention, especially when users need to find something quickly.

For improved strength, index tabs are often coated with Mylar, a sturdy transparent or colored polyester film. Mylar works best when applied at the right temperature over wax-free inks and coatings. If cost is an issue for short-lived products, such as seminar books, lighter-weight paper should be fine for your tabs.

Conferring with your binding partner will go a long way towards ensuring the success of your index tab projects. Discussions should include tab size, width, layout and scheduling in addition to price. Give your finishing company as much advance notice as possible, especially if you need unusual Mylar colors. Mylar is available in a dozens of standard color choices, some of which are certain to complement your designs.

Although tabs have been around for a long time, there are still some sneaky ways for problems to occur. Here’s how to avoid them:

  • If you’re using the standard “S” shape tab, allow 1/2” from the head and foot of the page. This means ten (10) 1” tabs or five (5) 2” tabs will fit on an 11” sheet of paper.  The formula for determining how long your tabs in an evenly spaced bank of tabs can be is as follows:

(page length – 1”) ¸ # of tabs

  • Determine the right height of each tab. Standard tab heights are: 1/4”, 3/8” and 1/2”. Anything other than these need to be custom die cut.
  • Any tab shape other than the standard “S” tab needs to be die cut. However, square, rounded and angular tabs look fantastic and may be worth the extra cost for some projects.
  • Make sure copy is entered properly on the index tabs, spacing is correct, and the tabs are laid out so they don’t overlap each other. Once the product is completed, the set of index tabs should all be equally spaced.
  • Don’t try to include too much information in the small printable tab area. They just look crowded.
  • Index tabs shouldn’t be made from the same text weight stock because the purpose of a tab is to be a divider. If tabs are put on thin paper, they will be flimsy and won’t last long.

The Feiereisen Advantage
Feiereisen, Inc. is a leading provider of post press and finishing services including die cutting, embossing, foil stamping, UV coating, pocket folding, film lamination, tab dividers and more.  Founded in 1933, Feiereisen has locations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa and Kansas City, Kansas.

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