wpDataTables Review: Create Responsive Tables and Charts from a Range of Data Sources
wpDataTables is a plugin for WordPress that allows you to create tables, charts and graphs for your posts and pages either by uploading a file or querying a database. The tables have the option to be responsive for use on a range of devices, and there are a number of charts to choose from for creating a graphical representation of your data.
We got a review of the new version of wpDataTables [Aug 2017]
The tables can also be made interactive, allowing your readers and site visitors to filter, sort and even export the table data, depending on how you’ve configured the plugin. There are also plenty of options for customising the appearance of the tables too, using colours, and fonts.
If you need to create tables and charts for your WordPress site by uploading a file or querying a database then wpDataTables might just be the tool you are looking for. To find out if it meets your needs keep reading for our wpDataTables review.
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Features of wpDataTables
wpDataTables is a premium plugin for WordPress that gives you plenty of options for creating tables and charts from a range of data sources. With this plugin you can upload a file containing data, such as an Excel file, and then let the plugin present that data in a nicely formatted table within one of the posts or pages on your WordPress site.
As well as creating the table and chart from an uploaded file, the plugin can also be used to query a MySQL database allowing you to create dynamic tables and charts based on the data held in the database.
The different options for sourcing the data for the tables and charts consists of:
- Excel file
- CSV file
- MySQL query
As well as creating a table from the data, the plugin also has the ability to create a range of charts based on the data used for the table.
The options for creating a graphical representation of your data include:
wpDataTables uses the Google Chart Tools for rendering the charts and when it comes to actually creating one for your site, it’s as easy as selecting the appropriate chart from the drop down menu on the table creation page and selecting which columns to include. Providing your data is suitable for the chart-type you have selected, you will get a great looking chart added to your posts and pages in no time at all.
Once the table has been created and published on the page, users get a number of options for interacting with the table. The features of this type from wpDataTables include the ability to:
All the above can be done by either clicking on the table rows and columns, or by using the set of buttons that are displayed above the table, allowing the user to export the table data to Excel or elsewhere.
However, the settings of the plugin allow you to decide how your visitors can interact with your data and most of the above is optional, giving you plenty of control over how your tables function.
Creating a MySQL Based Table
Although you can create a table by uploading a file such as an Excel or CSV file, you can also create a table by using a MySQL query to integrate a database. That database could be the same one you use for your WordPress site or it could be a remote database located elsewhere.
Although creating a table using this data source requires a few more steps than uploading a spreadsheet file, it’s still pretty straightforward as long as you have some knowledge of SQL. When creating the table, you must select MySQL query as the table type and then enter your MySQL query to determine which data to pull from the database table.
If you plan to create tables that are dynamic, with the data updating on an on-going basis then using a database as the data source would be a better option than creating a static table by uploading a file.
Other Features of wpDataTables
Other features of this plugin that can be utilised when creating tables and graphs for your WordPress site are as follows:
- Responsive mode for small screen devices
- Print, Save to PDF/CSV/Excel, Copy to clipboard table data from the frontend
- Row grouping
- Create charts
- Fixed or frozen header rows and columns
- Column filtering by text, numbers, ranges, dates, selections
As you can see, wpDataTables is a feature-rich plugin for creating great looking tables and charts from a range of data sources with lots of options for formatting and presenting your data.
As this is a premium plugin available through Code Canyon, you must download the files and then upload them to your site, either through the WordPress admin dashboard, or via FTP to your site’s server.
It’s important to note that this plugin requires PHP 5.4 for most of the features to run, beyond simply inserting a basic table and chart into your posts and page. So it’s worth checking if your web host is running this version of PHP, and if not, if it’s possible to upgrade. My host wasn’t using this version, but switching to 5.4 was just a case of adding two lines to the htaccess file on the server.
Once the plugin is installed a new top level menu item is created, with three sub-menu items:
- wpDataTables (view all tables)
- Add new (create a table)
The settings for wpDataTables allows you to control how the table and chart creation process works and how they are presented on your site. You can set things like the position of the table by using offets, and setting the colours and fonts.
The plugin supports odd and even row background colouring to make your data easier to read, as well as being able to set a colour for selected rows and columns.
The settings and other admin-side pages for the plugin are all built using the native WordPress UI so they are easy to navigate and get to grips with quickly.
Creating a Table
When it comes to creating a new table for displaying data on your site, the process is very straightforward. The first step is to give the table a title, an optional step which if used will display a header above the table when it is published; select the table type, which relates to how the data will be sourced; and then work through the additional or optional settings.
These additional settings cover areas such as:
- Make the table responsive for use on multiple screen sizes
- Add filters to the table
- Enable saving to Excel, CSV, etc.
- Enable sorting
- Limit tables width to 100% of container
- Enable word wrapping
- Number of entries per page
- Freeze the header row or columns
- Add a chart (area, bar, column, line, pie)
Once you’ve gone through the settings and options for your table you can then save it or preview it to get an idea of what it will look like when published on your site.
The user interface for the settings and the method of creating a new table is seamlessly integrated with the rest of the WordPress admin area, making the plugin feel like a part of the WordPress core functionality.
Once a table has been created, it can then be accessed from the wpDataTables page, along with any other tables that have been created with the plugin.
From here the tables can be edited, or deleted as necessary. You can also view the shortcodes for inserting each of the individual tables into your WordPress posts and pages.
Inserting Tables and Charts
When it comes to inserting one of the tables you’ve previously created with this plugin, it’s simply a case of pasting the shortcode into the page or post editor at the position where you would like the table to be displayed. If you’ve enabled a chart for the table data then it will be displayed along with the table in the position you previously determined in the settings.
There is no shortcode button added to the post editor menu as is sometimes the case with other plugins that make use of this method for inserting their content into posts, but it’s not a problem to quickly open the wpDataTables page and then copy the shortcode for the corresponding table before pasting it into place.
Then, once the shortcode, or shortcodes, have been put in place, the post can be previewed or published as usual in order to display the table data and optional chart.
Depending on how you have configured the settings, users can then interact with the tables in a number of ways including sorting, filtering, and exporting the data.
The wpDataTables plugin for WordPress is available from the Code Canyon marketplace for $25. If you need to add great looking, responsive tables and charts to your WordPress site with a good set of options for defining the source then this is good value solution.
wpDataTables looks like it might be quite a complicated plugin on first inspection but after using it for a while, it is actually very easy to use. If you are just uploading files, such as Excel spreadsheets or CSV files, then it’s very easy to create a table or chart, with the whole process only taking a few minutes at most.
If you are creating a table or chart from a database, by using a MySQL query then you will obviously need to be able to write the SQL query to get the correct data out of the table. However, as this isn’t the only way to create a table it’s not a prerequisite for using this plugin.
It is worth pointing out that this isn’t a plugin like TablePress which allows you to create a table entirely from within WordPress. wpDataTables has been developed to allow you to create a table or chart from either an uploaded file or a database.
The options and setting for formatting your tables, including their appearance and how they function, are very useful and all easy to use and make sense of, adding to the ease of use factor of this plugin.
If you are looking for an effective solution for creating tables and charts for your WordPress site from either a MySQL database or by uploading a file then wpDataTables is a great choice.