n. ~ 1. Container or shelf used to store documents and planar materials in a horizontal position, parallel to the shelf. - 2. Containers designed to hold documents unfolded. - 3. Computing · A file containing data that has no structure or markup. - 4. Computing · A data structure that is nonhierarchical, having one record per row; a table.
Flat file3 is often used to describe a formatted document that has been stripped of all internal codes that affect the appearance of the content, such as a word processing file or web page saved as plain text. - A flat file4 may have fixed-length fields or delimited data.
†(Yates 1989, p. 31–32) Flat filing2, which emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century, was a more satisfactory interim storage technology [than pigeonholes] that increased efficiency of retrieval as well as capacity. The various types of flat files, in which documents were stored flat rather than folded, eliminated abstracting, reduced retrieval problems, and allowed unlimited expansion. Forms of flat files ranged from bound volumes, simple imitations of the bound press book used for copies of outgoing correspondence, to rearrangable cabinet flat files, harbingers of the vertical filing systems that were to revolutionize storage and retrieval of documents.