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If you want to take WordPress from “blog content management system” to “full-featured content management system,” you need custom post types. But custom post types are understandably intimidating for those of us who aren’t WordPress developers.

Toolset offers a code-free path to creating advanced WordPress sites with custom post types. Whether you’re a regular user or a developer looking to speed up the development cycle, Toolset offers plenty of functionality.

In my Toolset review, I’m going to try to dig into as much of this functionality as possible. But - spoiler alert - there’s a lot going on. So bear with me as I try to hit the highlights!

Toolset Review: What Does It Do?

Toolset is a collection of various “components” that all add different functionality surrounding custom post types. Basically, Toolset lets you do everything from:

  • Creating custom post types, custom fields, and custom taxonomies.
  • Displaying them on the front-end in a variety of ways
  • Allowing visitors to search your custom post types with advanced queries
  • Letting users submit content via front-end editing/creation forms.
  • Lots, lots more.

I’ll go through the different core components below:

  • Types - the core (and free) plugin that lets you create custom post types, custom fields, and custom taxonomies.
  • Views - helps you display your content on the front-end, including custom search boxes for your visitors to query custom post type content.
  • CRED - allows you to build front-end forms for creating and editing content (including custom fields).
  • Layouts - lets you build responsive layouts that include custom fields and queries using a visual editor.
  • Access - lets you add custom user roles and control their privileges.
  • Maps - lets you display anything you want on Google Maps.

Hands-on With Toolset And Its Components

As I mentioned, Toolset offers massive functionality. Unlike my normal reviews where I try to show you every part of a plugin, there’s no way I can do that here without dedicating 20,000 words to the topic.

And lest that statement causes any confusion, I view that wholly as a good thing in this case. I’ve been playing around with the plugin for hours now and I still keep finding new things (though I think I’ve got all the standards down now!).

All that to say, instead of trying to show you everything, I’m just going to touch on the big features.

Creating a Custom Post Type With Toolset Types

Let’s start with the basic things that you can do with the free version of Toolset Types - create custom post types, custom fields, and custom taxonomies.

Creating a post type is as simple as giving it a name and then choosing taxonomies and post fields to associate with the post type:

toolset review

In the example above, you can see that I already created three custom fields when I was playing around with the plugin.

I did that by going to the Post Fields menu and adding them like so:

The custom fields interface has three options that I love and, as far as I know, aren’t offered by Pods:

  • The ability to easily create repeater fields (that is, fields where users can “repeat” the field to enter multiple values”)
  • A checkbox to let you decide whether or not to include that field’s information in text searches throughout the site
  • Conditional display settings for when to display the field

Once you’ve set up custom fields, a custom post type and (if desired) some custom taxonomies, you can start creating new custom posts from the backend. For example, if I go to the Movies custom post type that I created, I can add information to the custom fields:

Ok - that Template for Movies reference leads me naturally to the next section...which coincidentally is where Toolset starts getting really cool.

Creating Layouts With Toolset Layouts

In the previous section, I showed you how to create a custom post type and fields with Toolset Types. That’s great! But none of that information will display on the front-end until you tell it to...which is where Toolset Types Layouts come into play.

It lets you display your custom post type data on the front-end without needing to know any code.

Toolset Types template and layout system is...awesome. Trying not to fanboy here, but it’s a big step up from the Templater on my beloved Pods.

It works on a basic grid system - that is, you select a specific number of “grid blocks” for each element in your layout. These allow you to easily create responsive rows and columns, which you need CSS for with Pods.

For example, here’s me selecting some grids:

And once you select your grids, you can choose the content you want to insert. You can put in the Visual Editor if you’d like to insert your custom fields, as well as tons of other options, including site elements like a comments section or CRED Forms (more on these later - they’re super cool).

Honestly - I could spend a whole post on using this. The functionality is deep. You can basically build out a completely custom site with this tool.

It definitely takes some time to play around and get a feel for what you can do - but it offers up so many cool ways to use and manipulate your custom data.

That being said, I’m going to use a simple example. All I did was add my three custom fields to a column. Then, when I go to my custom post type, I see the actual data from those fields:

Creating Front-End Submission Forms With Toolset CRED

Another neat thing you can do with Toolset is creating front-end submission forms that allow your users to enter data into a custom post type. You can then save that data as any status you’d like (e.g. Published or Draft).

These make it easy for you to accept user generated content. For example, I run a t-shirt discovery type, and being able to add these forms to the front-end would be awesome because it would allow me to let my users submit their own t-shirts.

You can add front-end forms in the Post Forms tab:

Then, on the front-end, users can submit a new entry through the form:

Building Custom Search Forms With Toolset Views

Another feature that I love with Toolset is the ability to easily create custom search forms for your users to search your custom post types. With Pods, I had to turn to a third-party plugin for this. But with Toolset, the feature is built into the Views component.

For example, without any coding knowledge, I can quickly create a search form that allows readers to specifically search the three custom fields that I created:

You can also make your forms more complex with drop-down ranges, weighting, and lots more. There’s some seriously powerful functionality here.

Other Cool Uses for the Views Module

Beyond search forms, the Views module also gives you a ton of control for internally querying your own post types.

With it, you can do everything from:

  • Creating a post grid on your homepage with the latest additions to your custom post type.
  • Displaying custom post types that fit “category X” or have “author Y”
  • Tons, tons more.

General Thoughts on My Time With Toolset

Because I couldn’t cover every single feature in the hands-on part of the review, I want to take this section to give you some of my more general thoughts on my time spent with Toolset. Remember - I’m not a developer, but I have spent a good amount of time working with Pods to create custom post types for a couple of my side projects.

Honestly, I still like Pods...but I kind of wish I would’ve built my sites with Toolset this point. With Pods, I ran into a few snags where I had to implement subpar workarounds. If I were a real developer, I probably could’ve figured things out...but not with my knowledge level.

On the other hand, with Toolset, I know I could’ve implemented that functionality...without needing to use PHP.

Some of the issues I ran into with Pods were:

  • Creating archive pages that did exactly what I wanted.
  • Implementing front-end search forms.
  • Querying posts in ways the Pods shortcode doesn’t allow.
  • Adding responsive grids to my single post templates (I’m not very good at CSS!)
  • Creating flexible front-end submission forms (again - Pods has this functionality, but I don’t think it’s nearly as flexible as Toolset...at least for a non-developer).

Again, I don’t have enough knowledge to say whether these are problems “real” developers would run into. But if you’re not a “real” developer, I can say that Toolset does these things better.

How Much Does Toolset Cost?

The core Toolset Types plugin is free. But all the cool stuff that deals with the front-end requires the paid components.

These components are still quite affordable for the depth of functionality. A single site license only costs $69, and an unlimited agency license will only run you $149.

Final Thoughts

Custom post types make WordPress so much more flexible than its out-of-the-box configuration. But if you’re a non-developer, custom post types are intimidating (and rightfully so).

Toolset makes custom post types about as easy as they’re going to be. While you’ll still need some basic technical knowledge to not feel lost, I only have the most basic of basic PHP/HTML skills, and I was able to confidently navigate my way around the interface.

So, if you’re an intermediate WordPress user looking to unlock the power of WordPress custom post types, or a developer looking to build complex sites more quickly, you should definitely check out Toolset.

Go to Toolset

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Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer and long-time Internet marketer. He specializes in digital marketing, WordPress and B2B writing. He lives a life of danger, riding a scooter through the chaos of Hanoi. You can also follow his travel blog.

2 thoughts on “Toolset Review – Create WordPress Custom Post Types the Easy Way

  1. As a Toolset user for few years now, I can attest that your review is spot on. Toolset is a huge project, and it brings WordPress on par with the best complete & awfully expensive CMS solutions out there.

    Granted, it’s not that easy to grasp it all right away, but the guys behind it have put tremendous efforts in the last 2 years in making it as easy as possible to understand and use it.

    It’s also worth mentioning that the firm behind it is the same one behind WPML – a sure sign of professionalism. As a previous users of Pods, ACF and before that a few Joomla components that tried to achieve the same goals as Toolset, I can honestly declare that none of them came even close.

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