How to create a WordPress file manager

March 10, 2021

Having a WordPress file manager system makes it easy to keep all of your documents and files organized and accessible to your team. With the right WordPress file management solution, you can choose to keep it private and available to your team only - or share it publicly with your site’s visitors.

Although there are a number of WordPress file management systems, only a few allow you to create a WordPress file manager that’s accessible from the front-end.

With this in mind, in this article, I’ll show you how to use the Document Library Pro plugin to create a professional WordPress file manager. You'll learn how to control who has access to the documents and how users can upload files and add documents. I'll also show you how to sell documents directly through the file management system.

Before we begin, let’s take a quick look at how a WordPress document management system can help you maximize productivity and stay organized.

Let’s get started.

Document Library Pro – the best WordPress file manager plugin

WordPress file manager created using the Posts Table Pro plugin

Once you've installed the Document Library Pro plugin, it will automatically list your files in searchable, interactive WordPress tables on the front end. It displays  your documents and files on one page (or multiple pages!) for easy WordPress file management.

Create a WordPress File Manager
Install Document Library Pro today and start adding and displaying files - the easy way!

Why your WordPress website needs a file manager plugin

A WP file manager plugin lists documents, PDFs, text files, presentations, spreadsheets, or any other type of document in a filterable, searchable, and sortable table. This makes it easy for people to find the exact document they’re looking for and either read it online or download a copy.

Here are a few more reasons why you need a file manager on your WordPress website:

  • Share resources within your organization With a WordPress document management system, you can share documents and files with team members and colleagues in your organization at the same time. You can also allow them to add more documents and/or files to the list.
  • Intuitive and user-friendly interface The files are listed in a functional table layout on your site’s front-end, not hidden inside the WordPress admin. This makes it incredibly intuitive and easy to use.
  • Stay organized You can organize documents using categories, tags, and custom taxonomies. The plugin also lets users sort and filter the documents based on the taxonomies you used to organize them.
  • Functional table layout Display documents in a table layout with search, sort, and filter functionality to help people find documents easily on your website. Either display all the files in a single table, multiple tables, or automatically structure the file management system into folder-based categories.
  • Choose what information to displayYou can choose to display different information about the documents you add to the file manager. For instance, you could display image thumbnails, the date the file was published, author’s name, file type, last updated, and/or download buttons.

How organizations use WordPress file management systems on their websites

WordPress document library plugin folders

Small and medium businesses use file managers on their WordPress websites to store all kind of important documents. These might be public, or they might be published on their private staff intranet. An internal file manager may include contracts, templates, and policies.

An online file manager also an excellent way to create an internal knowledge base. You can use it to store training material and marketing collateral. Having an internal file system for your organization allows you to keep all of your important files in one place. This way, all staff members can access the latest version of each file whenever they need it - no more version control nightmares!

Now you know how you can use a file manager on your WordPress website and the benefits of using one. Next, let’s step through a quick tutorial on how to create a document file management system on your WordPress website.

How to create a WordPress file manager

Preview of file manager with plugin settings configured

In this section, I’ll show you how to create a WordPress file manager for your documents and other resources. We’ll cover:

  1. Install and activate the Document Library Pro plugin
  2. Add documents and files to your website

Watch the video, or scroll down for step-by-step written instructions:

Step 1: Install and activate the file manager plugin

Before we begin, you’ll need to purchase the Document Library Pro plugin if you haven’t done so already.

  1. Log in to your WordPress admin panel, head over to Plugins → Add New and click the Upload Plugin button. Next, click Choose File and find the zip file for the Document Library Pro plugin on your computer. Once it’s uploaded, click the Install Now button to install it to your WordPress website.
  2. Click the 'Activate Plugin' button on the following screen to activate the plugin.
  3. Finally, navigate to Documents → Settings and enter your license key. Click on the 'Save Changes' button at the bottom of the page to proceed.

Now that we’ve installed and activated the plugin, we need to add our documents and files to WordPress.

Step 2: Add documents and files to WordPress

There are 4 different methods you can follow to add documents and files to your website. To help you choose, here's a summary of each method. Use these to decide which method is best for your WordPress file manager.

Method 1: Add files manually

Adding files is just like creating a normal page or post in WordPress. The only differences are that you do it in the 'Documents' section of the WordPress admin, and there are some extra fields for your file manager:

  1. Navigate to Documents → Add New.
  2. Add all the information about each file, such as the title and an excerpt or description. Ignore the file size because this will be calculated for you automatically.
  3. Go to the 'Document Link' panel and select the File Upload option. Use this to upload the file to the file management system.
  4. Click the blue 'Publish' button to finish adding it to the WordPress file manager.
  5. Repeat the process for each file.

Method 2: Add files already in the Media Library

Add Media Library files to document library

Perhaps your files are already in the WordPress Media Library. You can still use Method 1, which I described above - simply select the existing file instead of uploading a new one. However, it's easier to just convert your existing Media Library files into 'Documents':

  1. Open the WordPress Media Library (the 'Media' section of the WP admin).
  2. Make sure you're viewing the files as a list rather than a grid. There's an icon at the top left which lets you toggle between the two Media Library views.
  3. Use the checkboxes on the left to select the files that you want to display in the file management system.
  4. Open the 'Bulk actions' dropdown and click on 'Add to document library'.
  5. Now go to the 'Documents' section of the admin, and you'll see all the files listed. The filename has been added as the document title. You may wish to edit these to change the title to something more user-friendly, and to add extra data such as an excerpt, categories and tags.

Method 3: Drag and drop file upload

This is similar to Method 2, except that it is for files which aren't in the WordPress Media Library yet:

  1. Navigate to the Documents → Settings page in the WP admin.
  2. You'll see a drag and drop file upload area. Drag one or more files here, and wait for them to upload.
  3. As with Method 2, each file will be added to the 'Documents' section of the admin. Edit these are needed to add information about each file.

Method 4: Upload files from CSV

If you have a very large number of files to add to the WordPress file manager, then CSV upload is your best bet. It takes time to prepare the data, but is then incredibly quick to add to WordPress.

To upload files via CSV, use the instructions in the plugin knowledge base. These include a sample CSV file that you can download to make sure your data is in the right format.

Add file manager categories and tags

When you add files to Document Library Pro, you can structure them into categories and tags. This is an excellent idea if you're adding lots of files to the WordPress file manager. As well as allowing you to list files from different categories separately, visitors can filter the file manager by category or tag. This makes it much easier to find specific files.

You can do this in the 'Categories' and 'Tags' pages in the 'Documents' section of the WordPress admin. Once you've created the file manager categories and tags, you can select them for your documents/files. Alternatively, you can just create them when you add or import files.

Create your WordPress file manager

Now you've added all the files to WordPress, it's time to display them on your website.

The good news is that this has already been done for you! To find your WordPress file manager page, go to the 'Pages' section of the WordPress admin and find the page called 'Document Library'. If you like, you can rename this to something else like 'File Manager'.

View the page and you'll see all your files listed in a searchable table. It should look something like this by default:

Preview of file manager with default plugin settings

Perfecting the file manager page

Now you've seen what the WordPress file manager looks like straight out of the box. It's incredibly flexible, so the next step is to customize it to your exact needs. For example, you can add filter dropdowns to help visitors to find files more easily. You can also change which columns of data are displayed about your files, add download buttons, and more. You can also spread the file manager across multiple pages or tabs, for example structuring them into folders or listing different categories on each page. (See a full list of file manager options here.)

To configure the table listing your files, go to Documents → Settings → Document Libraries and change the options as needed. There are lots of options, and I particularly recommend these ones for a WordPress file manager:

  • Folders - If you have created categories, then you might want to enable this option to display the WordPress file manager within folders. If you do this then the file manager page will be structured as a list of hierarchical folders, representing the structure of categories and sub-categories that you created in Documents → Categories. If you don't want this then leave it unticked, and all the files will be listed in a single table. Visitors can still easily find files by category by using the filter dropdowns.
  • Columns - Choose which columns to include in the table. For example, you might want to add file_type and file_size columns. (The data in these columns will be generated automatically based on the file that you uploaded to the file manager plugin.)
  • Link style - Set this to either button or icon. That way, visitors can either click on a button to download the file; or they can click on a file type icon.
  • Filters - Set the Search filters option to Custom using the dropdown menu and add doc_categories, doc_tags. (Only do this if you have structured your WordPress file manager using categories and tabs.)

Once you're done, click the Save Changes button. Your WordPress front end file manager should look something like this:

Preview of file manager with plugin's settings configured

How to list items from a specific file manager category

So far, we've learned how to list the entire contents of your WordPress file manager automatically. The files will either be listed in a single searchable table, or structured into clickable folders based on their categories.

The Document Library Pro file manager plugin also comes with a shortcode to list files in more flexible ways. It's very flexible and you can use it to list specific files based on their category, tag, date, author, and much more. See the documentation for a full list of the possibilities.

For example, the following shortcode will list files from the 'Finance' category only:

[doc_library doc_category="finance"]

The shortcode method has lots of useful applications for your WordPress file manager:

  • Add multiple lists of files to the same page - for example, with a different heading between each one.
  • Create a multi-page file manager on your WordPress site and list different files on each page.
  • Use your page builder plugin (e.g. Divi Builder or Elementor) to create tabbed layouts and list different files in each tab.
  • List files in relevant places throughout your website, for example by listing technical downloads on the product page on an e-commerce site.

What else can you do with a WordPress file manager?

To get even more value for money, read through our bonus tips to find out what else you can do with your WordPress file manager to improve user experience and make sales.

Bonus: See who has downloaded your files

Most WordPress websites use Google Analytics to track how people are using the site. You can use the instructions in this tutorial about how to track how many people who are downloading your files.

Control who has access to the documents

If you’re creating a WordPress file management system for your team members or staff (either public or internal), you might want the flexibility to control who has access to the documents. Our WordPress Password Protected Categories plugin provides 2 easy-to-use ways to make them private:

  • One way to do this is by marking categories as Private. Private categories and their documents can only be accessed by logged in users with the correct role capabilities. By default, only Administrators and Editors are able to view private categories. If you want to make them available to other user roles then check out our tutorial on how to choose which roles can access the private content.
  • The other option available with this plugin is to password protect categories within your WordPress file management area. This way, only users with the correct password are able to view the files and documents listed under the password protected category.

Get Password Protected Categories

Let users add documents themselves

With Gravity Forms, you can let other users upload files and list them in the file manager with a frontend file upload form. It works something like this:

  1. You install and activate the Gravity Forms plugin to your website.
  2. Store the documents and files users submit as WordPress posts (or custom post types).
  3. Use the Document Library Pro plugin to display the documents in a file manager on the front-end.

If this is something you’re interested in doing, check out our tutorial on how to accept user submissions and display them on the front-end. You can even limit your frontend file upload form to specific user roles. For example, you might do this if you want employees within your organization to be able to upload files, but not the general public.

Ongoing file management

The Document Library Pro plugin is easy to use, so it will be easy to keep your WordPress file manager updated. Any user with a role of Contributor or above can add and edit the files, so you don't need to worry about them breaking anything else on your site.

To update or replace files in future, simply go to the 'Documents' area in the WordPress admin and make the changes. This normally means uploading a new file to replace the previous one.

It is also possible to overwrite the existing file, so that the old one is no longer in the WordPress Media Library. To do this, install the free Enable Media Replace plugin. This adds a 'Replace' button to each file in the Media Library.

Where to get the plugin

Having a WordPress file manager on your website enables you to share resources within your organization through a front-end, user-friendly interface. It facilitates document management and makes it easy for team members and/or the wider public to access files.

I have showed you how to use the Document Library Pro plugin to create a file manager to display your documents and files on your WordPress website. Now you're ready to take things further:

Create a WordPress File Manager
Install Document Library Pro today and start adding and displaying files - the easy way!

What are some of the ways you use file managers on your WordPress website? Let us know by commenting below!

12 Comments

  1. Ros Ivison
    November 15, 2020 Reply

    It looks to be very good, but I would like to ask a question? Is it possible to add and upload files and other documents on the frontend, so frontend users can upload documents straight to the table?

    • Edge
      November 15, 2020 Reply

      Hi, Ros. Thanks for your comment and for asking. Please see my reply to your other similar query at this link. Thanks!

  2. Bright
    May 15, 2020 Reply

    Can i also add a read me button and a direct downloadable button like, read or download using the same code you stated above.

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