Would you like to provide your members with searchable, digital access to your society’s archives? With WordPress and the TablePress plugin, you can!
For some time now I’ve been looking for a web-based app to present the article index for my society’s quarterly. We are celebrating our 50th anniversary this year so we have an impressive collection of articles. I found a lot of interesting apps but most were either too expensive or too difficult. Then I stumbled onto TablePress.
TablePress is a plugin for self-hosted WordPress installations that will turn just about any kind of a spreadsheet into a beautiful data table in a matter of minutes. The short description for this plugin states:
TablePress enables you to create and manage tables, without having to write HTML code, and it adds valuable functions for your visitors.
Since our article index had been created using Excel, it didn’t take me long to prove that statement.
I installed the plugin on my test site (Never try these things on a production site!) and then pulled out the index spreadsheet. The spreadsheet had more than 4400 rows of data and required a bit of cleanup before I tried importing it. Blank rows needed to be deleted and some of the columns needed to be reformatted (from text to numeric, for example). The first row should contain the heading for each of the columns. The result looked something like this.
Once the spreadsheet is ready, go to the TablePress section in WordPress to begin the upload process.
I started at the Import tab where I selected the spreadsheet file for uploading, selected the correct format for that file and chose to add it as a new table. When all was ready I clicked the Import button and sat back. It took several seconds for the upload and import to complete. Once it finished, I was taken to the table editing screen.
Here I can adjust the table’s name and description as well as edit the contents of the table itself. In the example above, only the row of headers is visible because of screen size. A view of the actual data appears in the example below.
While I can make changes to the data from this screen, I don’t recommend it – especially for larger tables. Working in the online editor is incredibly slow and even worse if you have to scroll down hundreds of rows to find the record you need to update. It’s much faster to update the original spreadsheet and upload it again using the Replace existing table option.
Note that in the top right corner of the editing screen is the shortcode for this table. I copied it to place on the page or post where I want my table to appear.
As you can see here, I’ve created a page for the index and included some introductory text at the top. The shortcode sits on a line by itself at the point where I want the table to begin. Once done, save and publish the page.
Here you see the finished product. TablePress has also generated several very useful tools for the table. There’s a drop down box on the left that will let the visitor choose how many rows to display at a time. On the right is a search box which will search this table and display any records that match the query. In the header row, each column has up/down icons which the visitor can use to sort the table in ascending or descending order by that column. Each of these functions are impressively quick.
There is one error in the examples shown here. Have you noticed it? I left a blank column to the right of the Submitter column and it has been imported and displayed here. That’s easy to fix. Just go back to the spreadsheet and delete the column then save it. Now, on the Import tab in TablePress, select the file but choose the Replace existing table option and select which table you are replacing from the drop-down box. When everything is right, click Import.
We are currently working on importing our cemetery inventories and have begun the planning effort to bring our library catalog online too. Oh, and the WordPress search widget searches through the data tables as well as your other content. It will present you with the page/post where the table resides that has content matching your results. You can then use the table’s search to find the exact record. Thanks to TablePress, we are now able to give our members and all researchers easy access to our society’s archives without breaking the budget. The plugin is free to use, but it’s well worth sending the developer a nice donation.
You can see TablePress in action at the Southern Genealogist’s Exchange Society archives.