The ultimate WordPress table of contents plugin and how to use it

October 1, 2020

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: the best table of contents plugin

Posts Table Pro lets you create an easy 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 TOC 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 WordPress 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 is a user-friendly and simple TOC plugin that works through easy 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. No CSS code snippets required.
  • You can present your table of contents as a single-column list, or as a multi-column table that's sortable, paginated (to prevent scrolling), 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.
  • It can improve your website's SEO in search engines like Google.
  • Posts Table Pro is compatible with WordPress themes as well as page builders like Elementor.

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:

Posts Table Pro
Create the ultimate Table of Contents on your WordPress site now!

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 the plugin's general settings page by navigating 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 into a Gutenberg block anywhere in your posts or pages:

[posts_table]

This is how you can insert the table of contents into your pages if you're using the Gutenberg editor. 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. Keep in mind that titles are H1s i.e. the first heading.

Alternatively, you can also use the Insert Posts Table button in the text editor toolbar to auto insert the table into your page.

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. This helps you deliver better user experience.

For example, here's the shortcode to use in order to display an easy 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

Notice how you don't have to mess around with your WordPress theme's CSS styling. You can also display the table of contents in a widget on your website. To do this, simply add the shortcode to any text widget.

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).

Where to get the plugin

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

 

Posts Table Pro
Create the ultimate Table of Contents on your WordPress site now!

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

2 Comments

  1. Aleksandar Pecev
    December 13, 2020 Reply

    Thank you for this amazing article, it has helped me a lot, however I'm still unable to completely solve my issue. I'm using a shortcode to generate my 'Related Posts' and they're being displayed in the TOC table, I'm using the shortclode as a globally across my website. How can I excluse the shortcode from showing in the TOC table?

    • Edge
      December 15, 2020 Reply

      Thanks for letting us know, Aleksandar. I'm glad to hear our article is helpful. My apologies for missing anything obvious - So that I can better understand your concern and be able to assist you best, please could you describe your concern in more detail by submitting a support request via our Support Center. Please could you also reply with a screenshot or screen recording video to help describe the issue you're experiencing. You can do this for free by going to screencast.com, getcloudapp.com (or a service of your choice), uploading the screenshot and sending us the URL. You can also attach the screenshot file(s) to your support request. Many thanks!

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