Effortlessly create stunning tables with the new WordPress table builder

WordPress table builder plugin featured

Looking for an easy way to add searchable tables to your website? The new WordPress table builder makes it easier than ever - try it today!

Posts Table Pro has been an essential plugin for many WordPress website owners and developers since its launch in 2016. Over the years, it has become one of the most popular plugins in our collection. Thousands of people rely on it to create searchable tables listing various content types on their websites. This ranges from indexes of their blog posts to member directories, audio libraries, and much more.

Member directory dynamic filters

However, the process of creating tables was not always easy because you had to use shortcodes. Shortcodes are very flexible, but some people find them difficult to use.

To make things easier, we have been working on a new feature called the WordPress table builder. This provides a simple, visual interface to create tables and add them to your website. We are excited to announce that this tool is now available and can help you create beautiful tables effortlessly!

Watch this tutorial to see Sam create a new table from scratch in just a few minutes. This video also covers setup instructions and some of the most popular plugin use-cases.

What's wrong with shortcodes in WordPress?

I love shortcodes because they:

  • Work anywhere. You can use them in pages, posts, custom post types, widgets, etc. It doesn't matter whether you use the Gutenberg block editor, Classic Editor, or a page builder plugin like Elementor. Just add the shortcode anywhere on your WordPress site.
  • Are 100% flexible. Shortcodes can have an unlimited number of customization options. Lots of people love them because they're not limited by a visual interface and you get complete flexibility.

However, shortcodes have major downsides. I'll illustrate this with a real-life example.

Let's say that you wanted to use Posts Table Pro to create a table listing posts from the 'News' category which is sorted by date in ascending order, with columns for image, title, excerpt and a button to read the full post. You'd need to use this shortcode:

[posts_table category="news" columns="image,title,excerpt,button" sort_by="date" sort_order="asc"]

That's very flexible, but not exactly user-friendly! And Posts Table Pro comes with more than 50 different shortcode options, so your shortcode can easily become very complicated.

I believe that WordPress plugins should be intuitive to use. This means that you should be able to figure it out for yourself, without having to refer to the documentation. Complex shortcodes absolutely don't fit into this category.

That's why we decided that our users deserve a WordPress table builder which does the hard work for them.

I'm not saying that shortcodes are bad. In fact, we will continue using them in Posts Table Pro. What I'm saying is that where shortcodes get complicated, people need a more visual alternative. And that's where the WordPress table builder comes in.

Overview of the new WordPress table builder

We have completely restructured the back end of Posts Table Pro to center it on the new WordPress table builder. As well as adding a new settings wiarThe plugin now looks like this in the WordPress admin:

  • Instead of hiding the plugin options in the 'Settings' section of the WordPress dashboard like we did before, there's a new 'Posts Tables' section in the admin.
  • There's a new 'Tables' page which lists all the tables you have already created. Each one has a simple shortcode which you can use to insert the table anywhere on your site. (This is just for people who are using page builder plugins etc. If you're using the WordPress block editor then you can add a table using the Post Table Gutenberg block.)
    WordPress table builder plugin - All tables
  • You can generate new tables and exist existing ones from the Tables page.
  • Finally, the old Posts Table Pro settings page still exists. This is still useful because you can use this to set defaults for the new tables that you create with the WordPress table builder. For example, if you always want to sort your tables by title in ascending order then you can set it centrally here, and have this option pre-selected whenever you generate new tables. However, now Posts Table Pro contains a visual table builder, I doubt that many people will end up using the settings page.

Step-by-step instructions on how to use the new table builder

When you activate Posts Table Pro for the first time, a setup wizard containing the WordPress table builder will open. This will guide you through the process of creating your first table.

Each page of the table builder has a visual interface for choosing a different part of the table. For example, you can add your table columns and then drag and drop them to change the permission. It's easy to make changes such as customizing the table column headers.

Step 1 - Name your table

Posts Table Pro table builder create table in WordPress

The first step is to name your table. This is just for your internal use, and it will appear on the list of tables in the WordPress Dashboard.

You also need to choose which post type you want to display. If you haven't created a content type yet, then you can easily do this with our free Easy Post Types and Fields plugin. We've integrated this with the WordPress table builder, so you just need to click on the 'Create a new post type' link (which will include an option to auto-install the plugin if you haven't already installed it). You will then be directed to create a brand new custom post type for storing the data which you will be displaying in the table.

Step 2 - Choose your posts

PTP table builder select posts to include

On the next page of the WordPress table builder, you have the option to choose which posts (or custom posts/pages/etc.) to include in the table.

The options here will change depending on your post type. For example, if your post type has custom taxonomies then these will appear in the list.

Step 3 - Customize your table columns

Customize columns in WordPress table plugin

Next, it's time to choose the columns which will appear in the table. The table builder makes this easy. Just choose the columns one by one, and then optionally change the column name (or hide it completely). Use the drag-and-drop interface to change the order of the columns.

Step 4 - Add filters

WordPress table builder plugin with filters

If your table will contain more than a few posts, then adding filters is a must. These appear as dropdowns above the table.

The WordPress table builder makes it easy to add filters. It's exactly the same as the process for adding columns, which we saw on the previous screen.

Again, this page will change depending on your post type. It will display all the taxonomies which are available for the post type. As a minimum, this will normally include categories and tags. It might also include any other custom taxonomies, for example if you have created any using the Easy Post Types plugin.

Step 5 - Speed up the table

Posts Table Pro generator lazy load

If you have 100's or even 1,000's of items in the table, that's fine. Just use the next page to enable the lazy load option. This loads one page of the table at a time, so you will never have performance problems with the page load time - even if you have a huge number of posts.

Step 6 - Choose how to sort the table

Change sort order WordPress table

Next, you can use the generator to choose how to sort the table when it first loads. There are plenty of options to sort the table by title, date, and so on.

Step 7 - Final page

Table created Posts Table Pro generator final page

And that's it! You have finished using the WordPress table builder to build a table.

This final page tells you how to insert the finished table anywhere on your website. There are two easy ways to do this:

  • Either use the Gutenberg editor to insert a 'Post Table' block...

Posts Table Pro Gutenberg block

  • Or if you're not using the block editor, then copy the shortcode from the final page of the WordPress table builder and paste it anywhere on your site. You'll need to use this option if you're using a page builder plugin like Elementor.

Posts Table Pro Elementor shortcode
It's easy to insert the table shortcode into page builders like Elementor

How to edit tables

You can also launch the table builder at any time by going to Post Tables → Add New in the WordPress Dashboard.

Posts Table Pro edit table

Can I generate more advanced tables in WordPress?

We have intentionally kept the main WordPress table builder simple, focussing on the main options which the majority of people use. This makes it quick and easy to create new tables in WordPress.

However, we don't want to remove the flexibility that people love so much about the plugin. As a result, there are several ways to access more advanced settings for your tables:

  • When you 'Edit' a table, additional options appear. This includes features such as the number of rows per page of the table, and sorting options. These features are popular, but are not used by the vast majority of people like the ones that we included in the main WordPress table builder.
  • You can also include additional options directly in the shortcode which is created by the table builder. Obviously this brings us back to working with shortcodes, which we were trying to avoid in this project! However, I'm only talking about the most advanced options which only power users tend to use. For example, you still need to use shortcode options to do things like control which table columns are visible on mobile, and minor details like that.
    Posts Table Pro advanced shortcode options
  • As well as the shortcode for inserting a table which you have built using the WordPress table builder, the original Posts Table Pro shortcode still exists with its 50+ options. I doubt that many new users will use this - however, it's still there for existing users.

Posts Table Pro still contains all the amazing options that it always did. The only difference is that now there are more user-friendly ways to access the most popular options.

The table builder will keep getting better and better

This is just version 1 of the new WordPress table builder. In future, we plan to listen to customer feedback and keep making it even better. For example, we intend to add a 'Duplicate table' option to save people time when creating multiple tables.

In addition, Barn2 fans will know that Posts Table Pro isn't our only WordPress table plugin. We also have:

Over the coming months, we plan to bring the new WordPress table builder to these plugins next. We started with Posts Table Pro because it was the simplest of the three. For example, Document Library Pro comes with a grid layout as well as a table, so we need to consider how to include this in the "table" generator. However, that is our next challenge and we look forward to improving usability in these plugins too 🚀

Grid layout document library tiles

Where to get the new WordPress table builder

The WordPress table builder is now part of the Posts Table Pro plugin. If you're already using it, then you can update to version 3.0 from your WordPress Dashboard.

Otherwise, get the plugin now and start creating tables in WordPress - the easy way!

List information from your WordPress website in a searchable table.

Please share your thoughts...

Your email address will not be published.