How to Create a WordPress File Manager

By Updated: October 28, 2019 6

Having a WordPress file manager system makes it easy to keep all of your documents and files organized and accessible to your team. With the right WordPress file management solution, 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 WordPress file management systems, 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 upload files and 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 for easy WordPress file management.

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

Why your WordPress website needs a file manager plugin

A WP 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 displayYou 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 WordPress 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.

The plugins we’re using in this tutorial are easy to use, and so it’ll be easy to keep your WordPress file manager updated. The user permissions required are Contributor or higher, so you only need to allows users’ role access that they need – no changing things they don’t need, or unnecessarily overcomplicating!

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.

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 zip file for the Posts Table Pro plugin 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 for the PTP WordPress file management plugin

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 three different methods you can follow to add documents and files to your website. To help you choose, here’s a summary of each method. Use these to decide which method is best for your WordPress file manager:

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 new file that you upload, like the file type, file size, etc.
  • 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, as well as other file operations. 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 to your WordPress file management system 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 3: Upload documents to the WordPress Media Library and display them directly on the front end

Methods 1 and 2 involve creating a ‘post’ for each download, and using this to link to the downloadable file in the Media Library. If you’d rather display files from the WordPress Media Library directly on your website, then you can do this with method 3.

Pros

  • No need to create a separate post (or custom post) for storing the information about each download.
  • Easy to set up if your downloads are already in the Media Library.

Cons

  • Your downloads will appear alongside all the other files in the Media Library (e.g. website images) – you won’t have a dedicated ‘Downloads’ area in the WordPress admin.
  • By default, WordPress doesn’t store much information about media files. However, you can easily add extra data by adding custom fields, categories, and taxonomies.

Now you’ve chosen a method for WordPress file management, you can skip straight to the setup instructions and get started!


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 for file management in WordPress

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 for file management in WordPress

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.

Create a custom taxonomy for WordPress file management

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.

The next step depends on whether you’re using the Classic Editor or Gutenberg:

  • Classic Editor – Click the ‘Insert Posts Table’ toolbar button. This adds a [posts_table] shortcode to the page.
    Insert shortcode icon in WordPress text editor's toolbar.

Gutenberg – Add the [posts_table] shortcode to a ‘Shortcode’ block.