The Ultimate WordPress Table of Contents Plugin and How to Use It

A good WordPress table of contents plugin can do a lot for your website, and in ways that are probably a bit outside of what you might be expecting.

This sounds perhaps a bit mysterious at this point, but I’m going to explain everything in just a minute.

In short, if you’ve been on the lookout for a great WordPress table of contents plugin then your search is basically over. In this post, I’m going to show you why Posts Table Pro is the ultimate such plugin, how to use it, and in which unusual ways it can help you make your whole site more reader-friendly.

Posts Table Pro in a nutshell

Posts Table Pro lets you create a table of contents for your entire website. And “entire” is the keyword here.

An example of what that might look like:

WordPress Table of Contents Plugin

  • What you can see in this particular example is a list of posts belonging to a given category. This can be customized (more on this in a minute).

So what sets this plugin apart from its competitors?

Most WordPress table of contents plugins focus on creating a set of jump links within an individual blog post.

Posts Table Pro does something else.

In simple terms, it hooks up to your site’s database and allows you to build a whole site table of contents. This can consist of any number and any combination of blog posts, pages, custom post types, taxonomies, custom fields or any other content type you might have on the site.

But there’s more:

  • Posts Table Pro works through simple shortcodes, which means that you can include your table of contents in any post or page.
  • The structure of your table of contents is fully customizable, and the overall styling is inherited from your current theme.
  • You can present your table of contents as a single-column list, or as a multi-column table that’s sortable, paginated, and offering you a number of side features.
  • You can add a search field to help the reader find any given entry in the TOC.
  • The reader can filter through the website table of contents via a handy dropdown list.
  • Everything is fully responsive and mobile-friendly.

Here’s how to use Posts Table Pro step by step:

How to start using this WordPress table of contents plugin

There are just two simple steps:

Step #1: Install Posts Table Pro

First, here’s where you can get the plugin:

Get Posts Table Pro

After you finalize the purchase, you will be able to download the ZIP containing the plugin. You will also get your personal license key.

Next:

  • Log in to your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins → Add New.
  • Click on the Upload Plugin button at the top of the page.
  • Select the ZIP file of the plugin and follow the on-screen instructions to install and activate the plugin.
  • Lastly, go to Settings → Posts Table Pro and enter your license key. Finish up by clicking on Save Changes.

Step #2: Use the main plugin shortcode

As I mentioned, this WordPress table of contents plugin is shortcode-based. This means that in order to use it, all you need to do is place the following shortcode anywhere in your posts or pages:

[posts_table]

Using this shortcode as is will display a table containing all your blog posts – with fields for their featured images, titles, summaries, categories, authors, and publication dates.

Although comprehensive, you’ll probably want to adjust the presentation to make it more TOC-like… This brings me to:

Customizing the Posts Table Pro shortcode

Here are six specific use cases for this WordPress table of contents plugin:

1. Displaying a simple, minimal table of contents

If you’re looking for a WordPress table of contents plugin then this simple type of presentation is probably exactly what you’ve had in mind.

With Posts Table Pro, you can choose specific posts, pages, custom content types, and even WooCommerce products that you want to feature in your table of contents.

For example, here’s the shortcode to use in order to display a simple table of contents containing posts categorized as “featured”:

[posts_table columns="title" post_type="post" category="featured"]

To display all your pages in a similar manner, you can use this:

[posts_table columns="title" post_type="page"]

The result:

TOC pages

If you want to go super minimal, and also get rid of the keyword search box, the reset button, the “Show X entries” dropdown, and the “Showing 1 to X of X posts” text, you can use this:

[posts_table columns="title" post_type="page" search_box="false" page_length="false" reset_button="false" totals="false"]

The result:

TOC minimal

Note. You can also go the exact opposite route and feature multiple columns in your table of contents. Posts Table Pro allows you to use the following values for the column parameter: id, title, content, excerpt, image, date, author, categories, tags, status, plus any other custom field or taxonomy.

How to exclude pages from your WordPress website table of contents

When I created a sitewide table of contents for our own WordPress website, I was amazed at how many pages I didn’t want to include. This is because like most websites, our site has lots of random pages and landing pages that don’t form part of the overall navigation structure.

Fortunately, you can also exclude certain posts, pages, or even whole categories from the TOC. For example, the following shortcode excludes two posts – IDs 23 and 31:

[posts_table post_type="post" exclude="23,31"]

To exclude a whole category, you can use:

[posts_table post_type="post" exclude_category="some-category"]

2. Making a table of contents for a series of posts

If you happen to be publishing a series of posts on the same topic, it might be a good idea to feature a table of contents at the beginning of each of those posts that would link to the other posts in the series.

Here’s how to do that:

First, make sure that all the posts in your series either belong to the same series-exclusive category or have the same tag (also series-exclusive, meaning that the tag can’t be used anywhere else on the site).

Then, just place this shortcode at the beginning of the posts:

[posts_table columns="title" post_type="post" category="series-name"]

Or:

[posts_table columns="title" post_type="post" tag="series-tag"]

What’s great about this way of handling the series’ table of contents is that if you ever happen to expand the series and add new posts to it, those will be picked up by the TOC in the previous posts automatically.

3. Making a list of similar posts easier to navigate

Imagine running a mobile tech blog that publishes posts like these:

  • “how to record a video on Android”
  • “how to record a video on iOS”
  • “how to record a video on Windows Phone”
  • “how to edit a photo on Android”
  • “how to edit a photo on iOS”
  • and so on

The differences from post to post are only slight, yet very significant nonetheless. If a reader is interested only in iOS, for example, then it can be hard for them to navigate through the blog’s pages and ignore everything that talks about the other platforms.

To improve on that experience, we can create a TOC featuring only titles of the posts, and also let the reader filter out everything that’s of no interest to them.

An example shortcode for that:

[posts_table columns="title,categories" post_type="post" search_box="false" page_length="false" reset_button="false" totals="false" filters="true"]

Here’s how this could play out in practice:

content filtering

4. Displaying a table of contents for custom posts

It’s important to point out that Posts Table Pro also allows you to display a table of contents for your custom posts, whatever those might be.

For example, let’s say you have a custom post type called “books”. You can display a table of contents featuring all posts of that type via the following shortcode:

[posts_table post_type="books"]

Of course, you are also free to use any of the other shortcode parameters – to pick specific columns, add filters, etc.

5. Creating an index of your website content

An index is kind of like a table of contents, only a much bigger one, and listing your articles in alphabetical order.

An example:

WordPress index plugin example

You can create something like that with Posts Table Pro as well. Here’s how.

6. Listing ALL your website content in a single TOC

Granted, taking all your content and listing it inside a single table of contents is a bit extreme. However, it can be useful. Two scenarios:

  • Instead of creating a sitemap by hand (through HTML), you can generate it automatically with Posts Table Pro. Plus it’s going to be searchable and much easier to navigate than a standard sitemap would be.
  • You can take this “mega TOC” and put it on a page published privately (meaning that only the logged in users can see it). This can be a useful resource for your internal editorial team. That’s because using such a TOC to find specific pieces of content on the site is going to be much quicker than going to the WordPress dashboard.

Here’s the shortcode structure you can use:

[posts_table post_type="post,page,custom-post-type-1,custom-post-type-2"]

  • Make sure to replace custom-post-type-1,custom-post-type-2 with the actual custom post types that you have on the site (can be more than two).

See the full knowledge base

To learn all the ins and outs of the plugin and master structuring your shortcode to get the exact effect you desire, check out Posts Table Pro’s official reference file here.

Get the plugin

This sums up how to use Posts Table Pro – the best WordPress table of contents plugin out there. If you have any questions at all, feel free to submit them below.