The Various Names for Microfiche

What is definition of “Microfiche”?

And why do some people call it different things?


Every industry has its own lingo. Sometimes even within the industry professionals use different terms.

Oxford Dictionary defines microfiche as “a flat piece of film containing microphotographs of the pages of a newspaper, catalog, or other document”. says the term came into use in 1950, from French.

“Micro-” of course is the prefix meaning small, and “fiche” the French word for “card, index card, slip, form”.

Those in the micrographics field are used to the word “microfiche” because that field has mastered the technique of photographing written or printed pages in reduced form to produce microfiche.

Microphotography has its roots from the 1800s as it was a form of art. It eventually became used in espionage and passing coded messages.

It should be simple to understand that microfiche is a flat sheet with shrunken images on them.

So why do some people call “microfiche” microfilm? And what’s up with microfiche jackets, COM fiche, step-and-repeat microfiche, duplicated fiche, Microx, and aperture cards?

Well, it doesn’t help that the Wikipedia editors decided to have roll film and microfiche in the same article entitled “microform”. Microform is indeed the generic, all-encompassing term for all types of microphotographic reproductions. However, if someone says that they have “a drawer full of microform”, there is no indication of what type of film or fiche is in the collection, or they actually mean a “mixed collection of various media”.

To add insult to injury, jacketed microfiche is actually made up of cut microfilm which is then inserted into channels (jackets). Therefore, jacketed fiche are indeed composed of cut microfilm. And, of course, “film” can be strips or spooled. So as you can see, it is easy to fall into a word trap here!

Microfiche can also be 16mm, 35mm, and have various colors (clear positive, black negative, purple or blue duplicates), shapes, and organization.

Sometimes it is easier to remember things by visualization. Let’s keep it simple:

Microfiche is a flat sheet with reduced documents on them, like this:


THIS is microfiche

Or this:

combo fiche

35mm and 16mm combo fiche


Or this:

computer output media

COM Fiche


Or other various types of flat sheets.

It does not look like a spool or reel of film. Nor is it opaque on cardboard. Nor is it a Kodak mounted slide.