How to use WordPress for document management

November 16, 2021

WordPress document management

If you have documents you want to share with your audience, customers, or employees, then implementing a WordPress document management system is the way to go. While this might sound like you need a team of developers, you’re in for a treat. Adding a WordPress document library to your website has never been easier. All you need is a WordPress document management plugin.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at how you can use WordPress for document management. Plus, we’ll walk you through how to do this with the WordPress document management plugin, Document Library Pro.

WordPress document management

A good file management system is hard to come by these days, which is why the best WordPress document management plugin needs the following to hit it out of the ballpark:

  • Help you manage your documents outright in your WordPress dashboard area.
  • Display the documents on the front end for your customers.
  • Have an easy way to search and find the documents.

The Document Library Pro plugin checks all of those marks. Not only that, but it will give you the flexibility you’re looking for to make it quick and easy for your customers to find the documents they need. Especially if you have a high number of documents on hand.

Professional Document Management
Install Document Library Pro today and start managing and displaying documents - the easy way!

What does a WordPress document management plugin need?

WordPress document library

The best document management systems have a few things in common.

Easy and flexible to use

A good document management plugin makes it very easy to add documents. There are various methods of adding a document, depending on the type. With the Document Library Pro plugin, you have the flexibility to choose which method is the most effective for you.

Here are the ways you can add documents to your library:

  • Manually upload a single file.
  • Do a bulk import load (many files).
  • Drag and drop a file.
  • Select files from your Media Library.

Separate backend section

It’s easy to get lost in the WordPress admin area, especially if you have a lot of plugins installed, or custom enhancements.

You want your document library to be easy to view and manage, as well as have it separated from your other items in the WordPress Media Library. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to look for your documents and wasting time doing so.

Search function capability

Your customers are used to Googling all day long and expect their searches to be just as smooth on all other websites they land on.

With the Document Library Pro plugin, you’ll automatically have your documents displayed in a searchable library on the front end of your website. Giving your customers the experience they’re looking for.

Multimedia support

The reality is that everyone consumes content differently. Depending on your documents, or who your audience is, you want to be able to upload different file types successfully. Whether that’s a PDF, presentation, image, audio, video, etc.

The Document Library Pro plugin will add and store your documents in WordPress and then display them in a searchable document library on your website.

Let’s see how it does this in action.

How to add document management and display to your WordPress site

Once you have your document management system set up and customized, all you need to do is maintain it.

But before we get to the maintenance portion, let’s go through the steps to add and display your documents on your WordPress site. Read the written instructions below, or watch this video:

Step 1: Install Document Library Pro

First, download the Document Library Pro plugin from the Barn2 website.

Once you’ve purchased it, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Go to Plugins → Add New → Upload Plugin.
  2. Choose the zip file you downloaded, upload, and then click Activate.
  3. Go to the newly visible Documents → Settings and enter your license key.

With the Document Library Pro plugin now installed, we can move on to setting up your document management in WordPress.

Step 2: Decide how you want your document library to look

You probably have an idea of what you want your document library to look like. This is where we’re going to set up that look and feel for you.

Since you’re already in the Documents area, go ahead and click on the ‘Document libraries’ tab to start the personalization. If you want more information about the options we’re about to go through, you can go here for more information.

Document library structure:

Layout - The most important decision is whether you want to display the documents in a grid or table layout. Choose grid if you want to make each document really prominent. Alternatively, choose table if you have a large number of documents and need the document library to be easily searchable.

Folders - If you prefer your document library to be structured in folders, instead of being displayed as a single list, go ahead and check this box. You’ll get one folder for each category you assign in your document library.

Columns - Similar to a spreadsheet, you can assign the columns you want your audience to see. Examples of columns are document name, description, published date, file type, and download link. You can rename the columns at any time, should you want to.

WordPress document management

Document library links:

Link style - For your download link column, you can assign it a button, a text link, or a file type icon depending on your personal preference.

Link text - In fact, the download link column doesn’t have to be a download. You can change the text to something else such as ‘View’ or ‘Read’ if that makes more sense for your document.

Clickable columns - Here you have the ability to assign each document its own individual page, whenever someone clicks on its link. If you don’t want to have an individual page for each document, then make sure this option is set to ‘none’.

Document preview - Enable a preview option for your audience to view the document online.

Document library extras (table layout only):

Lazy load - Do you have more than about 20 documents in each table on your website? If so, enable the lazy load option to ensure a faster loading time.

Search filters - If you create categories, tags, or a custom taxonomy for your documents, you’ll want to be able to filter through them (go to Documents → Categories to create, edit, and delete categories, and Documents → Tags to create, edit, and delete tags). Add filter dropdowns to help your audience find the documents they’re searching for more easily.

Search box - If you have a high number of documents in your document library, you’ll want people to have an easy way to find what they’re looking for. Enable this option to add a keyword search box.

Design - The Document Library Pro plugin integrates directly with your theme and will fit in automatically on your website. If you do want to restyle it, you can do so in the design settings.

wordpress document library settings

Now that you’ve configured your WordPress document library, and saved your changes, you can start adding documents to it.

Step 3: Add your documents

Before we add a document, let’s first define what a document means. A document in your library can be any of the following:

  • A (downloadable) file that’s uploaded in your WordPress Media Library section. This can be any file format you choose, such as PDF, image, or PowerPoint.
  • A (downloadable) file that you have on an external platform such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
  • A resource that’s readily available for reading directly on your website. It doesn’t have to be downloaded.
  • A resource that’s embedded directly on your webpage.
  • A link to a webpage (on your website, or a different one).

As mentioned previously, there are several ways to add a document.

Manually

Similar to adding a page or a post in WordPress, you can now add a document in this fashion.

Here are the steps to do so:

  1. Go to Documents → Add New.
  2. Add the name, description, and other relevant information you want to display.
    create document wordpress
  3. In the main content area, you can add the full document, write a description, or leave it blank.
  4. In the ‘Document Link’ section, choose one of these options:
    1. File Upload - Upload a file for your audience to download.
    2. Custom URL - Add the URL of the document’s location.
    3. None - Choose this if you’re embedding the document into the main content area instead of having it as a clickable link.
      upload document wordpress
  5. Click Publish to add the document to your document library.

Drag and drop

If you have many files you want to add to the document library at once, then you can use the drag and drop upload. Here’s how to do that.

  1. Go to Documents → Import.
  2. Choose the files you want to add from your desktop or folder.
  3. Drag and drop the files straight onto the page.
  4. Go to the ‘Documents’ section in your admin area to view them.
import documents wordpress

Bulk import

Add all your data and compile it into a CSV file to upload it to WordPress. This is useful if you have a large number of documents you want to add automatically. Here’s how to do that.

  1. Use a spreadsheet program such as Excel to add all of the information into a CSV file. You can download a sample CSV file here.
  2. Go to Documents → Import.
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen to upload your CSV file. You can map your columns from your CSV file to the fields in the document library to connect them.
csv import documents wordpress

Select from Media Library

If you’ve previously uploaded your documents to your WordPress Media Library, then you can select and add them in seconds. Here’s how to do that.

  1. In your admin area, go to the ‘Media’ section.
  2. Switch to the list view if you’re on the grid view (click the icons on the top left to switch).
  3. Select all the files you want to add to your document library.
  4. Select ‘Add to document library’ from the bulk actions dropdown list.
  5. A link will appear to view your documents. Click on it.

All these methods support any file type (PDF, JPG, PNG, DOCx, etc).

bulk document management wordpress

Now that you’ve added all the documents to your WordPress Document Library, you need to manage them.

Step 4: Easy WordPress document management

Now that your WordPress document library is live, it’s important to manage and maintain it on a consistent basis. The Document Library Pro plugin makes WordPress document management a breeze to accomplish.

Given that your document library lives on its own, separate from your WordPress Media Library, you can manage your documents in the back-end of your website easily. This is where you’ll be able to find and filter your documents before you make any changes.

There are several things you can do to manage your documents properly. Here are some best practices.

Updating a document - If you need to replace a document, go to the ‘Edit Document’ page (just like you’d edit any other WordPress page/post) and click on ‘Replace File’ on the top right-hand side of the screen. Follow the same steps as you did when you added a file to replace it.

If you make frequent changes to your documents, you might be better off overwriting the information. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to download and install the free Enable Media Replace WordPress plugin. This plugin also ensures that you don’t have duplicates on hand as it will overwrite the older version with the newer one (without changing the URL or breaking the link).

Displaying the version/modified date - For up-to-date information, add the latest version number to the document name. This way it will appear in the ‘title’ column on your WordPress document library. You can also add/display a ‘date_modified’ column to your document to show the date when you last updated/saved it.

Update the categories/tags - If you’ve created categories or tags, keep track of them as the list grows bigger. Make sure the structure and hierarchy are still relevant as time goes by. Keep it organized and clean so that it makes sense for the documents you have available.

Now that you’ve added and managed your documents properly, let’s take a peek at what they look like on the front end of your website.

Step 5: View your documents

When you installed the Document Library Pro plugin, a page was automatically created and titled ‘Document Library’. That’s the page we’ve been tweaking, personalizing, and adding documents to. Let’s see what it looks like now.

  • Go to ‘Pages’ in your WordPress admin area.
  • Find the page ‘Document Library’.
  • Click on ‘View’.

This is your document library page where your documents are listed, according to the settings you chose in the ‘Documents’ section. As a reminder, this is what your audience sees, as it’s on the front-end of your website.

document library example wordpress

Or if you're using the grid layout then it might look like this:

Grid layout document library tiles

Here you’ll find the categories, filters, columns, and document links you chose to display. Depending on your preferences, you can now see if you want to make any changes to the layout or design of your document library.

If you do want to make tweaks to it, go back to your WordPress admin area, to the Documents → Settings section, and play with the options.

Lastly, if you want to make your document library visible on your website’s menu, go to Appearance → Menus and add the ‘Document Library’ link to the navigation menu.

Now that you’ve added, managed, and viewed your documents with the Document Library Pro plugin, you’re officially done with the setup.

If you’re interested in learning about advanced settings and up-leveling your document library for easier WordPress document management, then here are some extra bonus tips.

WordPress document management bonus tips

To take your WordPress document management system to the next level, here are some tips to do so.

Make your document library private

If you want your document library to be private or hidden (or parts of it), there are several things you can do to make that happen.

  • Create a private document library site.
  • Password protect your document library.
  • Restrict your document library to certain users.

Let’s explore some of these options in more detail.

Create a private document library

If you want to have a standalone document library website that’s hidden from the world, you can make it completely private. Only people with the password can access the website. To password protect an entire website, you’ll have to either ask your hosting company if they have .htaccess protection or install a Password Protected plugin on your WordPress site.

With either option, people will have to enter a password to access your site as a whole.

Password protect your document library

You have a few options to explore. You can:

  • Hide your document library with the Password Protected Categories WordPress plugin.
  • Choose which documents you want to make private (and which ones are public).
  • Show different documents to different people.

Each one of these options can be achieved by password-protected one or more of your designated categories within your WordPress document library. It’s only with a password that a user can unlock a category and view the documents.

Restrict your document library to certain users

If you want maximum security on your documents, then this option might be more suitable for you. By restricting your document library, you can hide all of your documents, just a few, or show different documents to each user.

You’re going to have to create a separate user account for each individual you want to give access to the document library. The Password Protected Categories plugin allows you to restrict the categories to specific user roles (or individual ones if you want).

For more information and detailed instructions on each of the above steps to make your library hidden or private, you can go here.

Update documents without replacing the title

If you want to update a document, there are two ways to manage that without having to replace the title.

  • You can click on the ‘Replace File’ link and upload a new version of the document in the ‘Edit Document’ area
  • You can use the Enable Media Replace plugin to replace the original file in your Media Library with an updated version.

For more information on how to do these steps, go to this link.

Track your document library interactions

If you’re interested in tracking how your audience interacts with your documents, you can use Google Analytics to do that. With the Document Library Pro plugin, you can set up Google Analytics to track how many downloads each document gets.

For more information on how to track the interactions, go here.

Automatically expire documents to save on manual management

To reduce the amount of time you spend managing your document library, you can set an expiration date on your documents so that they get automatically removed.

While this is not a feature of the Document Library Pro plugin, you can achieve this with the free Post Expiration Date plugin.

Get to grips with WordPress document management

Having a WordPress document management system can help make your website more organized, efficient, and impactful for your audience.

With the Document Library Pro plugin, you can make this come to life with a few simple clicks.

Professional Document Management
Install Document Library Pro today and start managing and displaying documents - the easy way!

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