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How to upload and manage PDF files in WordPress

June 20, 2022

upload and manage wordpress pdfs

Are you looking for an efficient and scalable way of uploading and managing PDF files on your WordPress website? You've landed on the right page. In this tutorial, I'll take you through a step-by-step guide on setting up a WordPress PDF library on your website with the Document Library Pro plugin.

For most users, uploading PDFs to a WordPress website is not trivial, but managing a huge WordPress PDF library can be challenging. And that’s not just for the admins. If the PDFs are not structured properly, they can even hinder the user experience of website visitors.

For this, you need a scalable and efficient system to make it easy to upload, categorize, sort, filter, and manage PDF files from the WordPress dashboard.

Thanks to our Document Library Pro plugin, building extensive WordPress PDF libraries is made easy and straightforward. Not just the initial setup, but overall managing WordPress document libraries is also made effortless with the best WordPress PDF library management plugin.

Install Document Library Pro today and start adding and sharing documents - the easy way!

In this article, firstly, we’ll see why and where you should host your PDF files. And later, we’ll dive into a step-by-step tutorial on how you can upload PDFs to WordPress and manage them with Document Library Pro. I’ll also cover the installation and setup process along with how you can add a downloadable PDF to WordPress.

Before jumping into the step-by-step guide, let’s first answer this question.

Why upload PDFs to WordPress?

WordPress PDF Library Plugin

Should you upload PDFs to WordPress, or should you upload them to a third-party server and link them to your site?

For this, consider answering these questions:

  • How many PDF files do you plan to upload?
  • If not on your website, where will you rather host your PDF files?
  • How often do you need to add or upload new PDF files?

While you always have an option to upload your files on a third-party service like Dropbox or Google Drive, you need to consider how it can affect your overall PDF files management.

If you have lots of PDF files, it makes sense to upload them to a third-party server, as PDFs can take up quite some space and affect website performance. But if PDFs are hosted on another server, it creates a dependency on the platform. So, if the host server goes down, your PDF files can be temporarily inaccessible.

And, if you need to regularly add new PDFs, uploading them on an external server and linking them later can add extra work.

 Takeaway: if you don’t have lots of PDF files, you can upload them directly to the website. And if you need to bulk upload once and keep aside a tonne of PDFs, you can opt to upload them on an external server such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

The only consideration is that if the PDFs are hosted elsewhere, the users won’t be able to see them in a lightbox or the PDF viewer. Lightbox preview is only possible for PDFs and documents hosted on the same website.

Using Document Library Pro for seamless PDF management

Managing multiple PDF files on your WordPress website can be a daunting task, but this can be way more efficient if you have the right toolset.

The Document Library Pro plugin comes with various features that can help you manage your documents or PDF library in the most efficient way possible.

On top of making things more organized for admins, Document Library Pro gives your customers the flexibility to easily find their desired PDF files with advanced sort and filter options.

demo document library pro

Here are some of the most notable benefits of the Document Library Pro plugin:

  • Along with PDF files, you can upload and manage other file formats such as jpegs, docs, gifs, PDFs, audio files, and dozens of other file formats.
  • Manage all your documents (including WordPress PDFs) directly from your website's admin dashboard.
  • Super flexible with 50+ customization options such as show/hide download button, links, document previews, and document download analytics.
  • Display PDFs in grid and table format.
  • Let your customers sort, filter, and search the tables to locate the PDF file they are looking for in seconds.

Here’s a case study on how Document Library Pro helped a customer create and manage a multiple category documents library.

Case study: NER Model Railroad Association

The Northeastern Region Model Railroad Association uses our Document Library Pro plugin to list multiple PDF files such as meeting minutes, monthly publications, and handbooks.

While all the PDFs are hosted in the same place, they are segmented with the help of the categorization feature.

nmra documents list document library pro

On the Documents page, NER has bifurcated the WordPress PDFs into multiple categories with the the custom shortcode feature of Document Library Pro.

The users can sort the tables in ascending or descending order by clicking on the column heads. If they want to download multiple files, they can simply select the checkboxes and click the Download Selected Documents button.

Here's what the customer has to say:

Just What I Needed
By Jim Seroskie
The decision to go with WordPress for my non-profit website required we find a good means of handling a LOT of documents of various types on multiple pages. I found that Document Library Pro excelled in table layout view using shortcodes. Configuring each table was easy. Shortcode documentation is outstanding. Table display is really fast.

Like NER Model Railroad Association, you can also set up Document Library Pro and create PDF libraries on your websites in no time. Let’s see how you can do that.

Installing the Document Library Pro plugin

Before you can start setting up the plugin, you need to download it. You can download Document Library Pro from the Barn2 website.

Install Document Library Pro today and start adding and sharing documents - the easy way!

After downloading the plugin, here’s how you can install it.

  1. After logging into your WordPress admin dashboard, go to Plugins → Add New → Upload Plugin.
  2. Upload the .zip file you downloaded earlier and install it. After installation is completed, click on the Activate button.
  3. To activate your license, head over to Documents → Settings page and enter your license key.
activate document library pro

You are all set! Now we can start setting your PDF library.

Setting up the Document Library Pro plugin

Next, we’ll configure the Document Library plugin. This is where we’ll define how your PDF library will behave and look on the website’s front end.

I recommend checking and going through plugin configuration settings page. But if you are looking for a quick setup, here are the options you must configure before uploading PDF files.

  • Layout - You get two layouts to choose from, Table and Grid. Depending on your requirements, you can choose the layout. I recommend going with the table layout if you plan to add lots of PDF files to your library.
  • Folders - This option enables the folders structure to make navigation and sorting more organized.
  • Columns - Select the columns you want to have on your PDF table. There are multiple columns to select from, and you can even rename the columns if required.
  • Link style and destination - The link style defines how the clickable link column is displayed on the website, and the destination tells what happens when someone clicks on a link to a PDF or a document.
  • Sorting and Search box- For improved navigation, you can use the sort and search box feature to help users find documents quickly.

If you have newly installed the Document Library Pro plugin, you can customize almost all the settings above using the setup wizard. If you wish to relaunch the wizard, you can go to Documents → Settings → General → Setup Wizard.

setup wizard document library pro

After setting up the plugin’s look and behavior, it’s time to define the structure of your PDF library.

Structuring your WordPress PDFs library

Before you can start uploading PDFs to your website, it’s highly recommended that you create custom categories to build a scalable structure for your WordPress PDFs.

If you look closely at the NER case study we checked earlier, all the documents are categorized in multiple categories, such as handbooks, annual meeting minutes, monthly magazine publications, and style guides. All WordPress PDFs are strategically structured to group similar ones easily. As a result, generating custom PDF tables for similar PDFs became a lot more straightforward.

Even if you do not have many categories to work with, it is recommended that your structure your files more mindfully at the beginning.

document categories demo

Here are the two primary ways you can categorize your PDF files:

Document categories

The document categories work just like WordPress post categories. You can create a hierarchical structure for categories and subcategories depending on their nature.

To create a new category, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Documents → Categories. You can add a new category on the left, and all the existing categories are listed on the right.
  2. To add a new category, type in your category name and slug. If you want this to be a subcategory, select the parent category from the dropdown list.
  3. Give your category a short description and set the visibility.
  4. Finally, hit the Add New Category button.
  5. Repeat the steps to add more WordPress PDF categories.
add new wordpress pdfs category

Restricting access: If you wish to restrict the category from certain users, you can use the Protected or Private visibility option. All subcategories and PDF files within the category will inherit the same protection. This option is powered by the Password Protected Categories plugin and has good compatibility with the Document Library Pro. If you wish to use this feature, you can get the two plugin bundle for a discounted price.

Document tags

Just like adding tags to blog posts, you can add tags to PDF uploads. You can then fetch the PDF or document files with the same tag or label. For example, you can add tags such as publisher, publish month, niche, interests, or anything else and display or embed PDF files with the same tags using the shortcode.

To add new tags for PDF files and other documents, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Documents → Tags. You can find all the existing tags on the right.
  2. To add a new tag, type in your tag name, slug, and tag description.
  3. Click on the Add New Tag button. Your newly added tag will start showing up in the table on the right.
  4. Repeat the above steps to add more tags.
document tag settings

Additionally, if you want more control over your PDF library structure, you can create custom taxonomies to further group your PDFs. For example, you can use the built-in Author taxonomy to group the files with the name of document authors. You can also add a search function to make navigation easier.

Now once you have your categories and tags structure in place, you can start uploading WordPress PDFs to Document Library Pro.

How to upload PDF files to WordPress

There are five different ways you can upload PDFs to WordPress. All of them are pretty easy, and you can go with the method that works best for you.

  1. Upload PDFs to WordPress manually
  2. Link to PDFs hosted externally
  3. Select PDF files from the Media Library
  4. Drag and drop PDF files
  5. Bulk PDF files CSV upload

Let’s check each method in more detail.

Method 1: Upload PDFs to WordPress manually

The most straightforward method is using the Add New option. This method lets you upload a single PDF to your website at a time. Here’s how you can do it.

  1. Go to Documents  → Add New.
  2. Fill in all the relevant details. Enter the document name, description, slug, and featured image, and select from the list of categories and tags.
  3. To upload the PDF file, select the Document Link at the top right corner as File Upload.
  4. Now click on the Add File button and go to Upload Files → Select Files. Choose the PDF file you wish to upload and click on Add File button.
add new pdf

Method 2: Link to PDF hosted externally

If you do not wish to upload PDFs to WordPress site, you can host it externally, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, and add a link to your document library. Here’s how you can do this:

  1. First, go to Documents  → Add New.
  2. Just like the previous method, add all the relevant details such as tags, categories, name, slug, etc.
  3. Select the Document Link at the top right corner and select a custom URL from the dropdown.
  4. Paste the live link to the PDF and publish the document.
add WordPress PDFs with link

Do keep in mind that if the file isn’t hosted on the website, your users won’t be able to preview it before downloading.

Method 3: Select PDF files from the media library

If you already have PDF files hosted on your website in the media library, you can follow this method to add them to the Document Library. Here’s how you can do this:

  1. Go to your WordPress Media Library.
  2. Switch to list view and select the PDFs you wish to add to your PDF library.
  3. From the Bulk Actions dropdown, select Add to document library and click Apply. All the selected PDFs will be imported successfully.
  4. Since you might need to add tags, categories, and other details for the newly imported PDFs, click on the link at the top to review and update recently imported WordPress PDFs.
add pdf from media library

Method 4: Drag and drop PDF files

If you wish to upload multiple files simultaneously, you can use the drag and drop method. Here’s how you can do this:

  1. Go to Documents → Import.
  2. Select the PDF files you wish to import from your PC or desktop.
  3. Drag and drop the PDFs on the Import page → Drop files to upload area.
  4. Go to the All Documents section to make changes to the uploaded PDFs individually.
drop files to upload pdfs

Method 5: Bulk PDF files CSV upload

This method is slightly more advanced than the drag-and-drop method as here you can predefine all the details for individual PDF files. The only difference is that since you need to add PDF files to your

Here’s how you can use this approach:

  1. Create a new CSV file with a list of all the details of the PDFs, such as PDF URL, category, tags, document authors, etc. If you’ve added custom taxonomies, you can add new columns with the same taxonomies and map them later.
  2. Once you have your CSV ready, go to Documents → Import.
  3. Follow the on-screen steps to map the columns to your document library fields.

You can use this sample CSV file to upload PDFs to WordPress easily. This is what the CSV file looks like:

custom csv for PDF upload multiple
sample CSV file

How to display WordPress PDFs on the frontend

Once you have your PDFs in your library, you can finally check them on the front end. This section will talk about how you can add a downloadable PDF to WordPress.

Document Library Pro creates a main document library page that lists all the documents in the library. To access this web page, go to Pages → Document Library page → View.

If you want to display filtered WordPress PDFs based on categories, authors, or tags, you can use the shortcode functionality to list specific documents on any web page. You need to have shortcodes enabled to use this feature.

document library pro design WordPress PDFs

For example, if you want to display the PDFs for the category ‘Fiction’ from the year 2022, you need to use this shortcode:

[doc_library doc_category="fiction" year="2022"]

Learn more about Document Library Pro shortcodes

See a WordPress PDF library in action: International Arctic Research Center (IARC)

International Arctic Research Center has multiple lists of PDFs on the website. To make this more organized and structured, IARC uses the shortcode feature to list different categories of PDFs on multiple pages.

They use it to list reports, academic publications, previous research activities, and case studies on different pages.

iarc case study example
Publications listed on the IARC website

Each document table is accompanied by a quick search box and filter dropdowns to help the viewers find their desired documents.

Just like IARC, you too can take control over displaying PDFs on your website with the document Library Pro plugin.

Tips for efficiently managing WordPress PDFs

While creating a PDF library on your website is made pretty easy with the Document Library Pro plugin, you can make this more efficient by following some pointers. Here are some tips on managing WordPress PDFs more efficiently and effectively.

Utilize categories and tags effectively

Before you start uploading the PDFs, create a rough structure on how you’d want to group your PDF files. What sets them apart, and what groups them together. This will help you create scalable libraries from the get-go. You can always update categories and tags later, but it is recommended to have basic categories and tags in place before you start uploading.

Restrict tables to a specific audience

If you wish to restrict some categories or PDFs to a specific user base, you can use the Visibility settings to limit access to the library. With this feature, you can easily create a private WordPress document library.

Use analytics for insights

With Document Library Pro, you get an in-built download counter to keep track of individual document downloads. You can use this data to identify the most downloaded PDFs.

Document library author and download count column

Password protecting WordPress PDFs and libraries

If you want to hide your entire document library behind a password wall, you can do it with the Password Protected Categories WordPress plugin. If you simply want to hide categories, you can do it with the password-protected visibility feature.

Create hidden areas within your WordPress site - the easy way.

Leverage sort, filter, and search features

The Document Library Pro plugin comes with useful sort, filter, and search features to help your users easily find the PDF they are looking for. Even if you have a small documents library, these features can help your website visitors in navigating through the documents. The table can also act as a PDF viewer for users to view pdf files.

Wrapping it up!

With the Document Library Pro plugin, you can easily upload, set up, and manage your PDF library in no time. Not just PDFs, you can host and manage other files such as images, videos, and audio files.

  • Easy setup process
  • Seamlessly upload PDFs to WordPress
  • Advanced shortcode functionality
  • Perfect for non-developers and novice WordPress users
  • Advanced control over WordPress PDFs behavior and functions
  • Access to future updates and new features
  • Try it risk-free!
Install Document Library Pro today and start adding and sharing documents - the easy way!

I hope you found this tutorial useful. If you have any questions regarding this guide, please let me know in the comments section below!

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