Best WordPress table plugins: Usage, tips, and case studies (2020)

November 16, 2020

WordPress table plugins offer a convenient method for adding tables to WordPress sites without using HTML tables. Whether this is in a post, a page, or even more complex implementations such as a WooCommerce store, these plugins let your visitors quickly navigate large amounts of information and, importantly, find what they’re looking for quickly.

This post will answer every question you can possibly have about WordPress table plugins. We’ll start with the basics, including how to add a table to a WordPress post. We'll then proceed to more innovative implementations which can dynamically create WordPress tables for you – or even dynamically create a table based on the contents of your WooCommerce store.

We’ll assume you have a WordPress site, and things like hosting already. If not, you can read our WordPress hosting guide to get you started. We’ll also assume some basic WordPress backend knowledge, but nothing complex; this guide will take you step-by-step through the world of WordPress tables plugins.

By the end of this post you’ll know how WordPress table plugins work. You'll know how you can use them on your site, and how to access the capabilities of the most innovative solutions. We’ll survey the whole market, but focus on Posts Table Pro, our highly innovative WordPress table plugin. Let’s get started :)

Posts Table Pro
Create your own unique and tailored table on your WordPress site today!

What's the best basic WordPress table plugin?

The basic WordPress table plugins are something you’ve probably seen before. At its most basic level, one of these will let you add a table to a WordPress post or page. This will, obviously, have all the advantages of a simple table: it allows visitors to view a large amount of information in one place.

A basic plugin will let you add these tables to posts, pages, or widgets, but nowhere else on your site. Furthermore, the data entry will be very similar to a word processor; you’ll create the table, and then need to enter the data manually, or import from an existing spreadsheet into table cells. There’ll be no options for complex or automated data entry.

The most popular basic table plugin

The most popular basic WordPress table plugin is TablePress, a free plugin which has hundreds of thousands of installations. You can extend its core functionality using paid add-ons. This will let you create tables which can be sorted by contents, and with extra features such as links, images added, and pagination for large tables.

Once the plugin is installed, you’ll have an extra menu item – TablePress – added to your WordPress admin panel, where you can create and manage your tables. You can Add New to create a table from scratch, or Import to create your table from an existing file (like Google Sheets or a CSV file). For example, lets say you wanted to create a pricing table:

Screenshot of the TablePress manual table creation

Once your pricing table data is added, you can use the Table Content section to customize what data displays, the Table Manipulation section to control how the data displays, and the Table Information section will show the shortcode (such as [table id=1 /]) which can be pasted into a WordPress post, page, or text widget, in order to display the table on your site. At the bottom of the page, you can control if your table is sortable.

Showing your table on the front-end of your site is straightforward: copy the shortcode, and paste it in the post, page, or text widget you want it to display. The pricing table might look something like this:

Demo of the TablePress, one of the basic WordPress table plugins

You can now show off your table to visitors! If you need to update any of the data, return to the TablePress options, select your table, make the changes, and then save.

There are several other WordPress table plugins available, including wpDataTables (pro version supports drag and drop table builder), Advanced Tables and UltimateTables (free version). All of these work in broadly the same way, and have the same limitations as TablePress. You need to manually enter and update data, and extra features such as links to other content are possible, but frustrating, time-consuming, and tedious to do in practice. You can import data from Google Sheets or Excel for most of these, but bear in mind you'll have to export to a CSV file rather than copy and paste the content directly. For most of these plugins you can't export data, export tables, or work with, say, Excel files directy.

To tackle these limitations, you’ll need to turn to a more innovative solution. This is precisely what we’ll look at next.

Best WordPress table plugin: dynamically generating tables in WordPress with Posts Table Pro

Posts Table Pro is an innovative improvement to WordPress table plugins. Posts Table Pro is the best table plugin, and it creates tables dynamically, using information already on your WordPress site. This could be posts, pages, products (from any e-commerce plugin), documents, upcoming events (from any events plugin), portfolio items, and literally anything else. You can even create comparison tables.

If you have data stored as a post or custom post type in WordPress, Posts Table Pro can automatically create a sortable table for you. This makes it incredibly easy for you – as there’s no data entry, no data to ever update, and everything happens automatically. It's also incredibly easy for your visitors, as they’ll be able to quickly find what they’re looking for in an always-up-to-date, sortable, and searchable and responsive table that looks great on mobile devices.

Custom post types are WordPress’ way of storing data: plugins such as WooCommerce, The Events Calendar, and advanced plugins such as Pods (which lets you create custom data setups), all create custom post types. Technically, any WordPress post or page is a custom post type too; essentially any kind of content stored in WordPress is probably a custom post type.

As Posts Table Pro can dynamically create tables form any custom post type, this makes it incredibly powerful.

WordPress table plugin

In addition to all this, Posts Table Pro comes with a ton of premium features. These include superb styling (no HTML code or custom CSS needed), easy linking to content used to generate the table (this makes it perfect for creating libraries and databases like a simple MySQL table), lazy loading for faster load times, and advanced data table builder from WordPress posts (as mentioned), and also custom post types.

You'll get user-friendly tables which make it easy for your visitors to quickly find the information they need.

As you can see in the example above, for example, it's possible to filter by categories or tags using the dropdown menu, and you can see the alternative styling on the table rows makes it easy to see the content.

Posts Table Pro
Create your own unique and tailored table on your WordPress site today!

How to automatically create your own tables

As you’d expect, automatically creating your own table with Posts Table Pro is easy :) You’ll need to get the plugin here, and then download it from your Barn2 account. Head to PluginsAdd NewUpload plugin, and then select the ZIP file you just downloaded. Install, and then Activate the plugin. You’ll find the settings under SettingsPosts Table Pro; head here, and activate your licence key. You’re now to create your tables!

Creating your first table is disarmingly easy: just enter [posts_table] on any WordPress post, page, or text widget, and you’ll automatically get the default configuration, which is to display your site’s latest posts in a table.

Posts Table Pro, an auto generating WordPress table plugin

From here, you can start configuring your shortcode in order to customize what displays. If you wanted to, for example, switch from displaying posts to displaying pages you’d use the following shortcode:[posts_table columns="title,content" post_type="page"].

Posts Table Pro automatically generating a table of pages in WordPress

Whatever your shortcode is setup, Posts Table Pro handles everything automatically. Posts Table Pro will automatically update everything as new content is added, and you literally never have to worry about it. That’s the power of dynamically creating your own tables :)

There’s a wealth of possibilities here. You can see the full list of parameters here, or get some inspiration with five of our favourite advanced use-cases below.

Advanced usage: creating document libraries, events calendars, and more with Posts Table Pro

The most exciting thing about Posts Table Pro is its flexibility means you can use it to create WordPress tables in all sorts of scenarios, and for all sorts of advanced usages. In this section we’ll share some of our favourite advanced usages for our advanced WordPress table plugin.

We often find the best ideas for using Posts Table Pro come from our customers putting the plugin into practice on their website, so if you don’t see a usage which strikes you as something you need in this list, we’ve included a couple of real-world case studies which might provide the spark of inspiration you need.

Top five advanced Posts Table Pro usages

WordPress table plugin Posts Table Pro

Below we've listed our top five advanced usages for Posts Table Pro:

  1. WordPress Document Library: this presents a library of your documents in a file-manager style format, which makes it easy for you to create a knowledge base, publications database, or share files. Posts Table Pro makes it easy to add any extra options you need on your document library, such as download links, file types or sizes, or any custom metadata.
  2. Events table or calendar: this lists upcoming events somewhere on your WordPress site! Plenty of plugins can do this, but Posts Table Pro lets you create a sortable calendar. This is perfect for large numbers of events, or where visitors will need to search to find what they need. This can be good for SEO too as all your event information will be on a single page.
  3. Member directory: this lets you create a sortable list of your organisation’s members, for either internal or external usage. Obviously, with Posts Table Pro, you can add whatever extra data is needed, and as the members are added as custom post types, it’s even possible to click-through to read more about each individual.
  4. Library of audio files: this lets you embed audio files in a filterable and sortable table. Whether you’re previewing album tracks, or audio recordings, Posts Table Pro makes it easy for you to add all the information a visitor needs to see, and for the visitor to quickly find what they need.
  5. Library of videos: this lets you create a grid of embedded videos, which can be filtered and sorted for the convenience of your visitors. If you’ve got a large quantity of videos, such as for a conference, this is perfect for you.

These are, of course, only a selection of what you can do with Posts Table Pro. You’ll find more detailed tutorials under our WordPress tutorials category :)

Case study: see Posts Table Pro used to make a sortable list of a large quantity of products

It’s easier, of course, to imagine how these implementations of Posts Table Pro would look like on your site, when you can actually see a real-world example. Here’s one from Dr. Claudia Welch, a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and author of several books and courses. She teaches a lot, and has a created a wealth of courses which are for sale on her website.

Dr. Welch found that some students prefer to buy individual chapters from her courses, rather than the full thing. This means she offers a lot of different products – 46 to be precise. Dr. Welch’s website uses Posts Table Pro to list all of these courses, sortable by name, category, and price. Visitors can click on any of the courses to find out more information, and buy if they wish.

Without Posts Table Pro, Dr. Welch’s site would have a very large number of individual products available, and no easy way for these to be navigated. A traditional archive would be much slower to browse, and a manually made table would not necessarily be sortable, and would need to be updated as every new product is added.

Posts Table Pro makes it simple to dynamically generate a sortable table which displays all of Dr. Welch’s courses. Easy for visitors, and easy to maintain. This is a great case study of how Posts Table Pro can make a website better for everyone :)

Posts Table Pro
Create your own unique and tailored table on your WordPress site today!

Helping customers navigate your WooCommerce store with WooCommerce Product Table

WooCommerce users can take things one step further with WooCommerce Product Table. WooCommerce Product Table is purpose-built for the world’s best e-commerce platform, and automatically lists products in searchable and sortable tables.

This makes it ideal for WooCommerce stores with complex product setups, such as wholesale stores, restaurants, and any catalogue or order form.

Plus, it comes with extra features specifically for WooCommerce, including stock, review listings, and add to cart columns. The plugin is easy for you to use, as everything is done automatically, and easy for your customers to use, as they can find the products they need faster. The result of all of this is a store with higher conversions, more sales, and more profits :)

WooCommerce Product Table Demo

The setup process is straightforward: get the plugin here, and then download it from your Barn2 account. Head to PluginsAdd NewUpload plugin, and then select the ZIP file you just downloaded. Install, and then Activate the plugin. You can enter your licence key under WooCommerceSettingsProductsProduct tables. Save changes, and then use the options to set your default table settings.

Screenshot of the WooCommerce Product Table settings

You can create your first product table by adding [product_table] to any WordPress post, page, or text widget. This will automatically generate a sortable table of your WooCommerce products like the one above. You can overwrite any of these settings by adding extra parameters to your shortcode, and create as many tables as you and your customers need :)

Get inspiration from these examples and implementations

WooCommerce Product Table is incredibly powerful and flexible. We’ve written dozens of tutorials showing examples of how to use the WordPress plugin. Here are a couple of our favorites to inspire your table design:

  1. Create a WooCommerce restaurant ordering system: use WooCommerce Product Table to create your very own Just Eat alternative online food ordering system.
  2. Make a WooCommerce directory: use the WordPress plugin to create a product directory to sell books, audio, music, or anything which is displayed in a directory.
  3. Create a WooCommerce-powered “build your own product” store: this is one of the most complex and exciting WooCommerce Product Table integrations, showing how to create a store which offers “build your own” items such as veg boxes, luxury food, or gift boxes.
  4. Create a WooCommerce order form: WooCommerce lacks a good order form out of the box, and WooCommerce Product Table solves this problem.
  5. WooCommerce for photographers: use the plugin’s advanced features in order to build a fully featured WooCommerce store ideal for photographers.

These advanced integrations are just the tip of the iceberg. This is a plugin which can add much-needed functionality, tailored to your site. If you’re using WooCommerce and need to create a table of your products, WooCommerce Product Table is the plugin for you.

Posts Table Pro is the best of the WordPress table plugins

Screenshot of Posts Table Pro in action

This post has been your complete guide to the best WordPress table plugins. We’ve explored all your possible options, from simple manual tables, to advanced auto-generated tables. We’ve also looked at how users of WooCommerce can enjoy benefits designed specifically for them. Here are some of the key points recapped for your convenience:

  • Posts Table Pro is the best WordPress table plugin. The plugin can automatically create (and update) your tables for you, saving you a huge amount of time. You also get advanced features such as integration with a huge number of plugins, professional support, and frequent updates. We recommend this for the vast majority of sites. Plus, you don't have to add JSON, HTML, or CSS to your site and can still benefit from responsive tables.
  • WooCommerce Product Table is the best in class for WooCommerce stores. If you’re running a WooCommerce store, this plugin is going to automatically generate product tables for you, and in doing so increase your conversion rate – and profits. This is a hugely popular plugin, and is loved by customers for a good reason! It works, and it works really well.
  • Basic WordPress table plugins aren’t ideal, as they require manual data entry. They also miss advanced features. If you have to use one of these, then go for TablePress (free version) or wpDataTables (premium version).

Posts Table Pro
Create your own unique and tailored table on your WordPress site today!

We also cited a number of WordPress table plugin tutorials throughout this guide; you’ll find all of these here, as well as other WordPress tutorials which can improve your WordPress site :)

We’d love to hear from you next: which plugin will you choose? How are you using WordPress table plugins on your website? You can share your thoughts and input in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and enjoy your tables.

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