What Is a Folio in Desktop Publishing?

Color paper zigzag tiles

Photo ephemera / Getty Images

There are several meanings of the word folio that all have to do with paper size or pages in a book. Some common meanings are described below with links to even more details.

  1. A sheet of paper folded in half is a folio. 
    1. Each half of the folio is a leaf; therefore a single folio would have 4 pages (2 each side of a leaf). Several folios placed one inside the other create a signature. A single signature is a booklet or small book. Multiple signatures make a traditional book.
  2. A sheet of folio-sized paper is traditionally 8.5 x 13.5 inches. 
    1. However other sizes such as 8.27 x 13 (F4) and 8.5 x 13 are also correct. What is called Legal-size (8.5 x 14 inches) or Oficio in some countries is called Folio in others.
  3. The largest common size of a book or manuscript is called a folio. 
    1. Traditionally it was made from the largest, standard size of printing paper folded in half and gathered into signatures. Generally, this is a book of about 12 x 15 inches. Some sizes of books include elephant folio and double elephant folio (about 23 and 50 inches tall, respectively) and Atlas folio at about 25 inches tall.
  4. Page numbers are known as folios. 
    1. In a book, it is the number of each page. A single page or leaf (one-half of a folded sheet of paper) that is numbered only on the front side is also a folio. In a newspaper, the folio is made up of the page number plus the date and name of the newspaper.
  5. In bookkeeping, a page in an account book is folio. 
    1. It can also refer to a pair of facing pages in the ledger with the same serial number.
  6. In law, a folio is a unit of measurement for the length of documents. 
    1. It refers to a length of about 100 words (US) or 72-90 words (UK) in a legal document. An example: The length of a "legal notice" published in a newspaper may be charged based on a folio rate (such as $20 per folio). It can also refer to a collection of legal documents.

More Ways of Looking at Folios

  • In the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, a folio is made up of one or more articles that may or may not be intended for publication. It's an organizational and article management tool.
  • Brooks Jensen Arts describes a folio as "a collection of loose, unbound prints defining a content that is more like a book than a random stack of unsequenced prints." It's a bit of a personal definition based on traditional ones.
  • The term folio is also used to describe (or name) a variety of traditional printed or digital collections of books, articles, technical reports, databases, photos, and other information sources. A portfolio (portable folio) is such a collection as well. It can be personal (as in a graphic design portfolio of creative work or an individual's financial portfolio of investments) or belong to a group or organization.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "What Is a Folio in Desktop Publishing?" ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, thoughtco.com/folio-in-printing-1078052. Bear, Jacci Howard. (2021, December 6). What Is a Folio in Desktop Publishing? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/folio-in-printing-1078052 Bear, Jacci Howard. "What Is a Folio in Desktop Publishing?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/folio-in-printing-1078052 (accessed June 1, 2023).