The days of manually inputting data into an HTML table on your WordPress website are long gone. The latest WordPress responsive table plugins will dynamically create tables using information already stored on your website. Creating instant tables in WordPress is now simpler, less fiddly and easier to maintain than doing it the old way.
So today, we bring you the ultimate guide on the best plugins to create fully dynamic, 100% responsive WordPress tables.
What’s the difference between static and dynamic WordPress tables?
To create a static WordPress table, you can either:
- Use raw HTML to build a table from scratch. You can do this by writing the HTML code yourself or using a WordPress table code generator such as this one.
- Use a WordPress table generator plugin. There are lots of great plugins that provide user-friendly interfaces for creating responsive WordPress tables. You don’t have to write any HTML yourself which is great if you’re not a developer or coder. My favorite static WordPress table plugin is TablePress, which lets you generate fully searchable, sortable tables for your website.
Whichever method you use to generate static WordPress tables, you need to manually enter the data to be displayed in the table.
A dynamic WordPress table plugin works differently than this. Instead of manually entering the data, the plugin automatically generates a table using information already stored on your WordPress website. This creates many possibilities that aren’t possible with static table plugins. Suddenly, you can use WordPress tables in ways you never thought possible.
How to Use Dynamic Tables on Your Website
To help you understand the benefits of dynamic WordPress tables, I’ll provide 3 widespread examples of how you might use them on your website.
1. Index of blog posts or website table of contents
Perhaps the most obvious use of dynamic WordPress table plugins is the opportunity to list pages or posts from your website. For example:
- A lot of WordPress websites use a plugin to automatically create an index of all their blog posts. This is ideal for blogs with large numbers of posts. Readers can benefit from an instant way of finding posts about a specific topic or sorting and filtering through a list to find what they’re interested in. For example, Journey with Omraam uses a responsive WordPress table plugin to automatically generate a table listing all their blog posts. They still have the traditional blog category pages elsewhere on the site, but the blog is fronted by a dynamic table to provide better navigation.
- Other websites use WordPress table plugins to create an instant table of contents listing all their pages. This is more advanced than a basic sitemap because a table is more dynamic, can display more information about each page and can include search, sort and filter options. For this reason, it’s also better than most so-called WordPress “table of contents” plugins which are quite basic. A website table of contents is useful for bigger sites with many pages. I recommend adding this towards the start of the navigation, for example after the “Home” menu link. Visitors can then browse your list of pages, see how everything relates to each other and quickly navigate to the page they’re looking for.
The reason these WordPress tables are dynamic is because you don’t have to manually add all your blog posts or pages into the table. Your website already contains your pages and posts, and the table plugin automatically generates a table listing this content.
The other benefit is that every time you add a new page or post (or remove or rename an old one), the table will update automatically. The plugin generates the WordPress tables in real time every time a visitor loads the page. This means that you don’t have to worry about keeping your blog index or website table of contents up to date – ever.
2. WordPress publications library
Surprisingly, the dedicated plugins for creating a WordPress publications library for your documents are quite limited. Lots of people use a responsive WordPress table plugin to create a document library instead.
A responsive table is a great way to display documents, resources or publications. Depending on your plugin, the table can be fully searchable and sortable, with extra features such as the ability to filter by category or tag.
This lets you display documents in an interactive publications library. All your publications can be listed in the table by default. Your visitors can then drill down to find the documents they’re looking for by performing a search, sorting the table by clicking on a column header or using the filters.
You can generate a table-based publications library using a static WordPress table plugin. To do this, you would manually add the information about each document into an HTML table.
However it’s much better to create a document library using a dynamic table plugin.
A lot of people do this by creating a “Publications” or “Documents” custom post type. They then add information about each document into the post title, main content area, categories, tags etc. If you’re feeling clever then you can use a plugin such as Advanced Custom Fields to store extra data about each publication. For example, if you have downloadable documents (PDF’s etc.) then you can create a custom field to add the file URL as a link. You can have custom fields for other information such as file type, size and revision date.
Once you’ve set up your Publications custom post type and added all the data, you can use a dynamic WordPress table plugin to display your documents in a responsive table. You can have separate columns in the table for each field of data about the publications.
Another benefit to dynamic WordPress tables is that you can have a separate page for each publication. With a static HTML table, you would normally add data about each document to each column of the table with a direct link to download the document. You can do all this with a dynamic table too. However, you can also link the table to a separate page for each publication in the table. The table plugin would list all your publications, with the title linking to the single post page.
This lets you provide more information about each publication. For example, if your publications are added directly to your website instead of being downloadable then you can add them within the single post page. (Or if you prefer, you can disable the link to the single post page and just have links to download the document. Or both.)
When you need to add/edit/remove any publications, you can easily do this via the custom post type in the WordPress admin. The table will update itself automatically so this is easier and more user-friendly than doing it manually using a HTML table.
3. Directory of information
The third most popular use case for dynamic WordPress table plugins is to create a directory. A directory can be used to store and display any sort of information on a WordPress website. This might include:
- Local business directory
- Directory of books, videos or CD’s
- Staff directory or telephone list
- Database of articles or knowledge hub
- List of upcoming events
- Database of all your products
The other great thing about dynamic WordPress table plugins is that they have extra features that you don’t usually find in static table plugins. For example, the best ones support multimedia content. You can display images, embedded video or audio tracks and even entire playlists within a responsive table. Visitors can view all this content directly from the table without having to click through to another page. This can be really useful for a table-based directory, for example if you have a directory of CD’s, music or video samples.
Tried and tested – the best WordPress table plugins
As you can see from these use cases, dynamic table plugins have much more potential than static HTML tables. Next, I’ll talk you through which plugins are available. These are all responsive WordPress table plugins because most websites are mobile-friendly these days, so you need to be confident that your tables will work on all devices.
I’ve intended this to be a comprehensive overview of ALL dynamic WordPress table plugins to help you see what’s available. Don’t worry, it’s not a very long list as this is a fairly new area of the WordPress plugin world. As with any type of WordPress plugin, some are better than others, and I’ve included advice to help you choose the best table plugin for your website.
Posts Table with Search + Sort – Free Plugin
This free WordPress plugin generates instant tables listing all the blog posts on your website. Downloaded over 3,500 times, it’s a popular way to create an index for any WordPress blog.
Posts Table with Search + Sort is quite flexible for a free plugin. The table is fully responsive and mobile-friendly. You can choose which columns display in the table. You can control the table’s behavior – for example, the default sort order.
If you think creatively, then this free WordPress table plugin can be used in many different ways. This is because WordPress posts can be used for so many purposes. You can add various information as posts (perhaps in a dedicated category to separate it from your other posts) – e.g. News, Articles, Publications or Documents. You can use the plugin to automatically list them in a responsive WordPress table.
The main limitation of Posts Table with Search + Sort is that it doesn’t support custom post types or custom fields. While WordPress posts CAN be used for different purposes, it’s best practice to store each type of content within a separate post type. So if you’re using normal posts for your blog then you should really create a custom post type for other information such as Publications. This gives you a dedicated “Publications” area within the WordPress admin which keeps things organized.
If you want to display custom post types or other data such as custom fields, then you’ll need the Posts Table Pro plugin featured below.
The other limitation of the free WordPress table plugin is that it has fewer features than the Pro plugin. As I said, it’s pretty flexible for a free plugin. However, if you need more advanced features such as the ability to display filter dropdowns above the table or to control where different elements appear (e.g. the search box), then you’ll need the Pro version.
How to use the free WordPress table plugin
It’s really easy to use Posts Table with Search + Sort:
- In the WordPress admin, go to Plugins > Add New and search for “Posts Table with Search + Sort” in the plugin repository.
- Install and activate the plugin.
- Add the shortcode [posts_data_table] to any page, post or text widget on your website.
This will generate an instant responsive table listing all the posts from the “Posts” section of the WordPress admin.
By default, the table will include columns that are relevant for blog posts such as Title, Author and Publication Date. There are detailed instructions on how to change which columns are listed in the table. There are also other options that you can configure to customize the table to your needs.
SortTable Post – Free Plugin
SortTable Post is a simple plugin that displays WordPress posts in a sortable table.
It has pretty bad reviews and hasn’t been updated for over 2 years. You’re better off using Posts Table with Search + Sort instead, as it’s actively supported and much better reviews – or Posts Table Pro (see below) if you need extra features. For this reason, I’ll move on straight away…
Posts Table Pro
Posts Table Pro is a much more sophisticated responsive WordPress table plugin. You can use it to create dynamic tables listing a much wider range of content from your WordPress website.
This table plugin can create tables containing any post type from your website. Given the diverse ways in which people use WordPress, this creates many opportunities for generating tables dynamically.
Custom post types can be used for many different purposes. You might use them for:
- Publications or Documents
- Staff members or contact details
- Storing multimedia content with additional data such as images, galleries, music tracks, MP3’s, video or playlists
- The list goes on…….
You can store any of this content on your WordPress website and use the Posts Table Pro plugin to list it in a dynamic table. Even better, Posts Table Pro supports custom post types created by other plugins. For example, if you use a plugin to add events, products or something else to your website, then you can display your events, products, etc. in a table. You just need to know the correct slug for the custom post type and any custom fields that it uses to store data. (The plugin author can help you with this.)
The plugin lets you generate as many tables as you like, each with its own settings and options. This lets you use dynamic tables for different purposes on different parts of your website.
How to use the premium WordPress table plugin
Posts Table Pro can be just as simple to set up as the free version. However, you’ll probably want to delve deeper and spend some time configuring your responsive table to your exact needs. The options are explained very clearly in the plugin documentation to help you create your WordPress tables.
- Buy the Posts Table Pro plugin, download the files and copy your license key.
- Go to Plugins > Add New > Upload in the WordPress admin.
- Upload and activate the plugin.
- Go to Settings > Posts Table and enter your license key.
- Go to any page, post or text widget and insert the shortcode [posts_table]. This will generate a dynamic WordPress table listing the posts in the “Posts” section of the admin, with a default set of column headers.
- You can then use the documentation to finish setting up your responsive table. For example, you can configure the shortcode to display a specific post type. You can control how many rows are displayed in the table, where elements such as the search box and pagination buttons display, whether to include filter dropdowns above the table, how the responsive table behaves on mobiles, and much more.
WordPress Post List Table
This plugin creates dynamic tables of your WordPress posts or a custom post type. It works in a similar way to Posts Table Pro.
It has quite a few features, and you can choose which columns appear in the table, whether to display featured images and more. You can search, sort and filter the table just like the other plugins featured in this article.
The tables generated are fully responsive and work on mobiles, tablets and other devices.
WordPress Post List Table was released in July 2015 and has only had 42 sales to date, which is worrying. A plugin with so few sales is likely to have more bugs and less support than a more widely used plugin. This is a common problem with the WordPress industry, as plugin authors need an incentive to improve and support their plugins, which is bad news for customers of less popular plugins.
There are no reviews on the CodeCanyon marketplace where it is sold. The Changelog hasn’t been updated since November 2015. Given the questionable reputation of many plugins on CodeCanyon and their quality control process, I can’t really recommend this plugin.
You can see from the demo site that the tables are a bit clunky. For example there are alignment issues, inconsistent sizing and it doesn’t look as professional as the Posts Table Pro demo. For all these reasons, you’re probably better off using Posts Table Pro.
How to use the premium WordPress table plugin
WordPress Post List Table is quite easy to use and the annotated screenshots are helpful.
- Buy WordPress Post List Table and download the files.
- Go to Plugins > Add New > Upload in the WordPress admin.
- Upload and activate the plugin.
- Go to any page or post and add the shortcode [posts_table].
- Open the file in the Documentation folder that you downloaded in step 1, and follow the instructions to configure your table.
But as I said, this is a risky choice of table plugin, and it’s not one that I would recommend.
WooCommerce Product Table
While you can use Posts Table Pro (and possibly WordPress Post List Table) to display products, if you have a WooCommerce store then you’re better off with the dedicated WooCommerce Product Table plugin.
WooCommerce Product Table instantly creates a responsive table view of products from a WooCommerce online shop. This is perfect for any website that would benefit from a space-saving way of displaying products.
The standard product category view that comes with WooCommerce takes up a lot of space for each product. For larger stores, customers might have to scroll through many pages to view all your products and find what they’re looking for.
By providing a dynamic table view of your WooCommerce products, customers can view everything on a single page. This is useful for creating a WooCommerce order form or one-page product catalog. It’s also good for presenting products in a grid format that is less visual, for example for a trade area or directory of thousands of products.
WooCommerce Product Table integrates more closely with WooCommerce than other WordPress table plugins. For example, it can display WooCommerce-specific data such as stock status and star rating from reviews. It can also display quantity selectors and Add to Cart buttons. I believe it’s the only WordPress plugin that can display product attributes and variations in a table, with the ability to select variations and add to cart directly from the table.
How to use the WooCommerce Product Table plugin
This WordPress table plugin only takes a few minutes to set up. You can then use the documentation to tweak the table to your exact requirements.
- Buy WooCommerce Product Table, download the plugin files and copy your license key.
- Go to Plugins > Add New in the WordPress admin and Upload the plugin files.
- Upload and activate the plugin.
- Go to WooCommerce > Settings > Products > Product Tables and activate the license key.
- Go to any page, post or text widget and insert the shortcode [product_table]. This will create a responsive WordPress table view of all your WooCommerce products.
- You can then use the documentation to finish setting up your responsive table. This includes options to choose which columns display in the table, which products display and various other settings.
Choosing your responsive WordPress table plugin
I think that static HTML tables still have a role in WordPress, as they’re useful for displaying small amounts of static data. However, they’re currently over-used because most people don’t realize the benefits they could get from a dynamic WordPress table plugin.
By generating tables automatically using content already stored on a WordPress website, you can create a table much more quickly. The data displayed in the table is easier for you to maintain and prevents duplication, as the table is created and updated instantly.
Nowadays there are several good plugins available for creating instant tables. I hope this article helps you choose the best WordPress table plugin for your own WordPress website. Also, drop us a line in the comments below if you’ve had experience with these table plugins. Which is your favorite?