How to Create a WordPress File Manager

Having a WordPress document management system makes it easy to keep all of your documents and files organized and accessible to your team. You can choose to keep it private and available to your team only or share it publicly with your site’s visitors.

WordPress file manager created using the Posts Table Pro plugin

Although there are a number of file management systems for WordPress, only a few allow you to create a functional WordPress file manager that’s accessible from the front-end.

With this in mind, in this article, we’ll show you how you can use the Posts Table Pro plugin to create a functional WordPress file manager. We’ll also explain how you can control who has access to the documents, how users can add documents, and how you can sell documents directly through the file management system.

But before we begin, let’s quickly take a look at how a WordPress document management system can help you maximize productivity and stay organized.

Let’s get started.

Posts Table Pro – the perfect WordPress file manager plugin

Once you have the Posts Table Pro plugin all set up, it’ll automatically create dynamic, interactive WordPress tables that display all of your documents and files on one page.

Posts Table Pro

An easy-to-use plugin for listing files and documents in a fully-functional WordPress document management system.

GET THE PLUGIN

Why your WordPress website needs a file manager plugin

A file manager plugin lists documents, PDFs, text files, presentations, spreadsheets, or any other type of document in a filterable, searchable, and sortable table layout. This makes it easy for people to find the exact document they’re looking for and either read it online or download a copy. Here are a few more reasons why you might consider using a file manager on your WordPress website:

  • Share resources within your organization. With a WordPress document management system, you can share documents and files with team members and colleagues in your organization at the same time. You can also allow them to add more documents and/or files to the list.
  • Intuitive and user-friendly interface. The documents are listed in a functional table layout on your site’s front-end, not hidden inside the WordPress admin. This makes it incredibly intuitive and easy to use.
  • Stay organized. You can organize documents using categories, tags, and custom taxonomies. The plugin also lets users sort and filter the documents based on the taxonomies you used to organize them.
  • Functional table layout. Display documents in a table layout with search, sort, and filter functionality to help people find documents easily on your website.
  • Choose what information to display. You can choose to display different information about the documents you add to the file manager. For instance, you could display image thumbnails, the date the document was published, author’s name, file type, last updated, and/or download buttons.
  • Multiple ways to show documents. There are a number of different ways you can display the document itself:
    • Link to a separate page for each document (it might contain either the full content, an embedded file from Google Docs, etc…).
    • Add a column containing buttons, links, or icons to link to the URL for the file (e.g. if it’s located in the WordPress Media Library, Dropbox, etc…).
    • Use the free Page Links To plugin so that users can download the document directly to their computer by clicking on the link.

Related: How to Create a WordPress Document Library Tutorial

How organizations use file management systems on their websites

Small and medium businesses use document and file managers on their WordPress websites to store all kind of important documents on their private staff intranet. These may include contracts, templates, and policies.

It’s also an excellent way to create an internal knowledge base or a place to store training material and marketing collateral. Having an internal file system for your organization allows you to keep all of your important documents in one place. This way, all staff members can access the documents and files whenever they need them.

Now you know how you can use a file manager on your WordPress website and the benefits of using one. Next, let’s step through a quick tutorial on how to create a document file management system on your WordPress website using the Posts Table Pro plugin.


How to create a WordPress file manager using Posts Table Pro

The file manager will look something like this when your documents are displayed in a table layout.

Preview of file manager with plugin settings configured

In this section, I’ll show you how to create a WordPress file manager for your documents and resources.

We’ll cover:

  1. Install and activate the Posts Table Pro plugin
  2. Add documents and files to your website

Watch the video, or scroll down for step-by-step written instructions:

Step 1: Install and activate the Posts Table Pro plugin

Before we begin, you’ll need to purchase the Posts Table Pro plugin if you haven’t done so already.

Posts Table Pro

An easy-to-use plugin for listing files and documents in a fully-functional WordPress document management system.

GET THE PLUGIN

Log in to your WordPress admin panel, head over to Plugins -> Add New and click the Upload Plugin button. Next, click Choose File and find the zipped Posts Table Pro plugin folder on your computer. Once it’s uploaded, click the Install Now button to install it to your WordPress website.

Install Now button

Click the Activate Plugin button on the following screen to activate the plugin.

Activate button

Finally, navigate to Settings -> Posts Table Pro and enter your license key. Click on the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page to proceed.

Activated license key

Now that we’ve installed and activated the plugin, we need to add our documents and files to our website.


Step 2: Add documents and files to your website

There are two different methods you can follow to add documents and files to your website:

Method 1: Create a custom post type for your documents using Pods

The first method involves using the free Pods plugin to create a custom post type and custom taxonomies for your documents and files. You can add as many custom fields as you’d like to your custom post type. Once that’s done, you can add documents to the custom post type and display them in a searchable table using Posts Table Pro.

Pros

  • Add as many custom fields as you’d like to the custom post type. This allows you to store unique data about each document you upload.
  • Finer control over which fields you’d like your custom post type to support e.g. featured images and excerpts.
  • Create as many custom taxonomies as you’d like.

Cons

  • You have to create your own custom post type before you can begin uploading documents.
  • Doesn’t let you see who has downloaded your files.

Method 2: Add documents and files to your website using WordPress Download Manager

The second method uses the WordPress Download Manager plugin which comes with a pre-built custom post type for adding documents to. You can create as many categories and tags as you’d like for organizing the documents and files you upload. Once you’ve installed the plugin and created categories and tags, you can begin uploading documents right away.

Pros

  • Comes with a built-in custom post type for adding documents and files to so you don’t have to create one manually.
  • Lets you add categories and tags.
  • Gives you a complete download history which lets you see who has downloaded your files.

Cons

  • Doesn’t give you the option to add custom fields to the custom post type. You have to work with the fields that you get out of the box.
  • Doesn’t have built-in options to create custom taxonomies. (However, we’ve provided instructions below on how you can add extra custom fields and taxonomies using this method.)

Method 1: Create a custom post type for your documents using Pods

Head over to Plugins -> Add New and search for the Pods plugin.

Install Now button

Install and activate it to your WordPress website. Next, navigate to Pods Admin -> Add New -> Create New.

Create New button to create a new Pod

You’ll be redirected to the Add New Pod screen from where you can create a custom post type:

  • Select the Custom Post Type (like Posts or Pages) option from the Content Type drop down list.
  • Enter a singular label for the custom post type you’re creating. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll call ours Document.
  • Enter a plural label for the custom post type you’re creating. Following our example, we’ve set ours to Documents.

Next Step button

Click the Next Step button to proceed.

From the Edit Pod screen, add as many custom fields as you’d like to the custom post type from the Manage Fields tab.

Add Field button to add custom fields

Note: Custom fields are for storing unique data about each document such as a document reference number, file size, or download link. Don’t use them to add information that you’d like to be able to filter by; we’ll use taxonomies to do this.

Finally, go to the Advanced Options tab and scroll down till you reach the Supports and Built-in Taxonomies sections. Tick any fields that you want to be available for your custom post type. For example, if you want to include an image column in the WordPress file manager then you should tick the Featured Image to enable this feature.

Supports options and Built-in Taxonomies options highlighted

Click the Save Pod button to proceed.

How to create custom taxonomies for your WordPress file manager

We’ve created a custom post type that allows us to add documents to our file manager. We’re going to need a way to be able to group and filter those documents and files in the file manager. To do this, we’ll create a custom taxonomy using the same plugin.

Head over to Pods Admin -> Add New and select the Create New option.

Next Step button

You’ll be redirected to the Add New Pod screen from where you can create custom taxonomies:

  • Select the Custom Taxonomy (like Categories or Tags) option from the Content Type drop down list.
  • Enter a singular label for the custom post type you’re creating. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll call ours Document Category.
  • Enter a plural label for the custom post type you’re creating. Following our example, we’ve set ours to Document Categories.

Click the Next Step button. From the Edit Pod screen, navigate to the Advanced Options tab and scroll down till you reach Associated Post Types. Select the Documents custom post type that you created a minute ago and click the Save Pod button to continue.

By now, we’ve successfully installed and activated the Posts Table Pro plugin to our WordPress website and we have a custom post type set up that we can add documents to.

How to add documents and files to the custom post type

Adding documents and files to the new custom post type we’ve created is similar to adding new posts and pages. Following our example, we’ll add some documents and files to our Documents custom post type.

Publish button for publishing document on the front-end

Navigate to Documents -> Add New. From the Add New Document screen, enter your document’s information:

  • Give the document a title.
  • Add a short description in the text editor.
  • Add any custom fields, taxonomies, and/or featured image to store additional data about the document. As well as the data describing the document (e..g name, date, file size), you need to add the downloadable document. Please see our separate article which describes the different ways to create download links in Posts Table Pro.

Click the Publish button to proceed. Repeat these steps to add all of the documents to your website.

Tip: If you have lots of documents then you can bulk import them using the WP All Import plugin.

Create your WordPress file manager

Finally, it’s time to create your WordPress file manager and add your documents to it.

With the Posts Table Pro plugin installed and activated, you can add the file manager to any page on your website. Here’s how:

Navigate to Pages –> Add New from the WordPress admin panel and create a new page where you want to add the file manager.

Insert Posts Table icon in the toolbar

Click the Insert Posts Table button in the toolbar to add the following shortcode to your page: [posts_table].

Preview: Using the Pods plugin

Navigate to Settings -> Posts Table Pro and set the Post type option to document.

Post type option set to document

All of your documents should automatically be added to the page. It should look something like this:

Preview of file manager with default plugin settings

If you’d like to further customize your table, be sure to read through the full list of options in Posts Table Pro’s documentation. For instance, you could display the featured image, reference number, and download link by setting these options on the Posts Table Pro plugin’s settings page:

  • Set Columns to image,cf:document_reference_number:Ref. #,title:Title,content,cf:download_link,tax:document_category:Category.
  • Make sure the Shortcodes checkbox is ticked.
  • Set the Search filters option to Custom using the drop-down menu.
  • In the Custom filters option enter tax:document_category.
  • Set the Page length option to Hidden.

Once you’re done, click the Save Changes button. Your WordPress front end file manager should look something like this:

Preview of file manager with plugin settings configured


Method 2: Add documents and files to your website using WordPress Download Manager

Alternatively, you can use the WordPress Download Manager plugin which automatically creates custom post types and taxonomies for you. Here’s how:

Navigate to Plugins –Add New from the WordPress admin panel and search for the WordPress Download Manager plugin.

Install Now button

Install and activate it to your WordPress website. Next, navigate to Downloads -> Categories. You will be redirected to the Categories screen for the Downloads custom post type. From here, you can add new categories for the documents and files you’ll want to add to your WordPress file manager.

Categories added to the Downloads custom post type

Similarly, you can add tags by navigating to Downloads -> Tags.

Once that’s done, head over to Downloads -> Add New to begin adding documents and files to your website.

Add New File screen for Downloads custom post type.

From the Add New File screen, enter your document’s information:

  • Give the document or file a title.
  • Upload the file using the Upload/Browse/URL box in the sidebar.
  • Add an excerpt in the Excerpt text box.
  • Select categories and tags for the document.
  • Upload a featured image.

Finally, add a link (or button) to the main content area. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ve simply linked the word Download to the URL http://www.test-site.com/?wpdmdl=465 since the ID of my downloadable document is 465. Be sure to replace the ID with those specific to your downloadable document.

Note: You can get the ID from the Add/Edit Download URL.

Click the Publish button to continue. Repeat these steps to add all of the documents to your website.

Tip: You can create additional custom fields and taxonomies to display any further information about your downloads (such as file type, size, author, etc…).

Create your WordPress file manager

Lastly, we’ll create the WordPress file manager and add our documents to it.

With the Posts Table Pro plugin installed and activated, you can add the file manager to any page on your website. Here’s how:

Navigate to Pages –> Add New from the WordPress admin panel and create a new page where you want to add the file manager.

Insert Posts Table icon in the toolbar

Click the Insert Posts Table button in the toolbar to add the following shortcode to your page: [posts_table].

Preview: Using the WordPress Download Manager plugin

Navigate to Settings -> Posts Table Pro and set the Post type option to wpdmpro.

Post type option

Your file manager should look something like this on the front-end:

Preview of file manager with default plugin settings

You can customize the table’s appearance by setting these options on the Posts Table Pro plugin’s settings page:

  • Set Columns to image,title,content:Download Link,excerpt.
  • Make sure the Shortcodes checkbox is ticked.
  • Set the Search filters option to Custom using the drop-down menu.
  • In the Custom filters option enter tax:wpdmcategory,tags.
  • Set the Page length option to Hidden.

Once you’re done, click the Save Changes button. Your file manager should look something like this:

Preview of file manager with plugin's settings configured

You can then use the knowledge base to further configure and customize the file manager to your preference.


See who has downloaded your files

With Method 1 (creating a custom post type for your documents using the Pods plugin), there’s no way to see who has downloaded your files. However, with Method 2 (using the WordPress Download Manager plugin to add documents to your website), you’re able to see a complete download history that tracks everyone that has downloaded a document from your file manager. It also gives you options to export it to a .csv file or clear it.

To view the download history, simply head over to DownloadsHistory and you should see something like this:

Download history


Bonus: What else can you do with a WordPress file manager?

To get even more value for money, read through our bonus tips to find out what else you can do with your WordPress file manager to improve user experience and make sales.

Control who has access to the documents

If you’re creating a file manager for your team members or staff, you might want the flexibility to control who has access to the documents. Our WordPress Password Protected Categories plugin provides 2 easy-to-use ways to make them private:

  • One way to do this is by marking categories as Private. Private categories and their documents can only be accessed by logged in users with the correct role capabilities. By default, only Administrators and Editors are able to view private categories. If you want to make them available to other user roles then check out our tutorial on how to choose which roles can access the private content.
  • The other option available with this plugin is to password protect categories within your file management area. This way, only users with the correct password are able to view the files and documents listed under the password protected category.

GET PASSWORD PROTECTED CATEGORIES

Let users add documents themselves

With Gravity Forms, you can let users submit their own documents and list them in the file manager. It works something like this:

  1. You install and activate the Gravity Forms plugin to your website.
  2. Store the documents and files users submit as WordPress posts (or custom post types).
  3. Use the Posts Table Pro plugin to display the documents in a file manager on the front-end.

If this is something you’re interested in implementing, check out our tutorial on how to accept user submissions and display them on the front-end.

Sell downloadable documents

For those of you who want to be able to sell downloadable documents listed in their file manager, the Posts Table Pro plugin works seamlessly with Easy Digital Downloads.

Once you have the Easy Digital Downloads plugin set up, simply add your documents as digital products to Downloads. Then, you can list the downloadable documents in a table layout using our Posts Table Pro plugin.

GET THE PLUGIN


Choosing the right hosting for your document management

Having people uploading and downloading documents and files through your WordPress file manager can quickly become resource intensive. For this reason, it’s important that you take a step back and evaluate your current hosting provider.

Simply put, if you don’t want your site to go down or have your users experience delays, you’re going to need a reliable hosting provider.

We recommend WP Engine for hosting your WordPress website if you choose to allow users to download documents from your file manager or upload files to it. They offer managed WordPress hosting solutions for small and medium businesses. All of their hosting plans come with CDN, SSL, and free migrations.


Conclusion

Having a WordPress file manager on your website enables you to share resources within your organization through a front-end, user-friendly interface. It facilitates document management and makes it easy for team members to access files.

We showed you how you can use the Posts Table Pro plugin to create a functional file manager on your WordPress website to display your documents and files. Hopefully, you’re in a good position now to take things further.

An easy-to-use plugin for listing files and documents in a fully-functional WordPress document management system.

GET THE PLUGIN

What are some of the ways you use file managers on your WordPress website? Let us know by commenting below!