A “table” can be defined as:
A systematic arrangement of data usually in rows and columns for ready reference.
– Merriam Webster
Tables once were (and still are, at times) a layout tool for websites. Better ways are available for designing and implementing page layout, but tables are still useful for displaying data in an organized and logical way.
Creating and formatting tables from scratch does take some basic HTML and CSS knowledge, so naturally, plugins have been developed for WordPress that eliminate the need to “know” code, and yet still produce elegant table displays.
In this article, I will be reviewing two plugins. There are many out there, but I chose these two based on popularity, and ease of use for non-coders.
TablePress, formerly WP-Table Reloaded, is likely the most popular and well known of the table creating plugins. It is free, donations gladly accepted, and has a number of extensions that add functionality and features. The extensions are also plugins, and require TablePress to be installed; they don’t work standalone. A very complete review of TablePress can be found on Jay Hoffman’s site, Tidy Repo.
TablePress is quite easy to implement and produces very nice table displays without having to write any code. Within the plugin interface, you create a table, define the parameters, and enter the data that is to be contained in each table cell. The table is given a unique ID, and you simply enter the shortcode containing the table ID ([table id=1], for example) on the WordPress page or post where you want it to appear.
2. Easy Table
Easy Table uses a different approach to table creation, and while it is not as robust or as full featured as TablePress and its plethora of extensions, it is elegant in its simplicity. Once installed, and your basic parameters set up, there is no need to go back to the plugin to edit your tables. The table data is entered directly into the page or post, enclosed in [table] [/table] shortcode tags, with columns separated by commas.
Column1, Column2, Column3
Row 1Data, Data, Data
Row2Data, Data, Data
Once you go beyond a very simple table layout though, you might as well just write out the table in HTML!
One interesting aspect is how easily it can dump a .csv file into a table with one line of code: [table file=”path/to/file.csv”][/table] DONE! If all you need is a basic table, and all your data is in a .csv file, this is by far the simplest way to put it in a WordPress page!
I have used both of these plugins, in addition to hand coding tables into WordPress pages. Which method I use depends greatly on who will be maintaining and updating the site once it is complete, and how complex the table needs to be. Here are my personal recommendations:
• TablePress – Ideal for non-coders who need a lot of design and flexibility in the table, and like to get creative! It is well documented, updated and current, and has multiple extensions to expand the capabilities to just about anything you might need. And it’s all free.
• Easy Table – If all you need is a basic table, or you have a .csv file you want to display quickly and simply, this is your answer. The code is entered on the page or post for easy editing without leaving the page or post. This plugin is also free.
• Hand coding, no plugin – There are times when it is simpler for me to write the HTML and style the table with CSS, rather than try to get a plugin to behave the way I want it to! In cases where I am the only one touching the code, I’ll just skip using a plugin and write the code and be done with it.
What is your go-to table generator?
Sue Laren is a freelance website designer/developer living in the SF Bay Area (North Bay), married 33 years, with four grown children and two grandchildren. She taught computer lab (basic computer skills) at a local elementary school for many years, and in 2007 started her own web design business, Laren Net Works. Follow her on Twitter at @LarenNetWorks.