There are three main options in pre-folds. You can get fitted diapers, which really isn't a pre-fold, but you use it the same way, you put it on and put a cover of some kind over it, so I am including them in this discussion. There are traditional pre-folds which are flat with extra layers down the middle and there are flats which are probably the oldest and most traditional form of diaper.
Lets talk about how to use each style
Traditional flats are just that, a large flat piece of fabric, it can be anything from a flannel sheet, Birdseye cotton, organic bamboo or osnaberg for example. They are usually anywhere from a 27" square up to 32" square. The nice thing about them is that you can fold them any way you like to customize the absorption area of the diaper. For folding examples click here. Another advantage of flats is quick drying time. Because they are a single layer, they will dry very quickly in the dryer or on the line. They are also fairly economical ranging in price from $1.00-$2.00 each for plain cotton up to $8.00 or $9.00 for an organic hemp or bamboo type fabric.
Pre-Folds are the next generation from flats. Instead of having to fold your diaper every time, these are smaller with a thicker section in the middle, so you simply have to fold in the sides and flip up the front. There are also several different ways to fold a pre-fold to get the same customized results. Click here for a nice youtube video explaining them. Pre-folds are easy to use, they are the usual diaper you get from a diaper service, they are easy to find and they will not dry as fast as a flat, but wash and dry very easy. They range in price from $2-3.00 each on up for the organic or fancier fabrics.
Fitted Diapers I am including fitted diapers in this discussion, as they basically work the same way, you put them on and put on a cover. Fitted's come in by far the biggest range of fabrics and cuteness. You can find a lot of different styles of fitted diapers from our Etsy sellers here. A fitted does not need folding. It is already pre made to put on and snap, velcro or snappi up onto your baby. Fitted diapers can have elastic or gussets around the leg, or be more plain. They will sometimes snap/velcro or they will just have flaps to fold over. You can find them lined with lush bamboo velour, or made from dads old T shirts. Many sellers customize their fitted's for excellent night time absorption, or use organic fabrics on your baby's bum. Because they are fitted, it basically means a nice snug good fit. The advantage of fitted diapers is the ease of putting them on. No folding, no trying to keep baby from wriggling away while you get the fold just right, you just put them on! Fitted diapers will cost a bit more, but they are worth it for the customized absorption, nice fabrics and a nice snug fit. There are also several patterns out there if you want to try your hand at making your own.
As with any other diaper item purchase, it is a good idea to try different styles to see what works best for you and your baby. Happy Diapering!