How to create a WordPress document library

Here’s the easiest way to build a WordPress document library

Written by Casey Burridge Marketing Coordinator at GravityKit since 2021, Casey is an expert on Gravity Forms, WordPress, and marketing.

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Do you know what almost every business has in common? They all make extensive use of digital documents and files.

However, ensuring that documents are organized and easy to find can be a challenge. That’s why an effective document management system is so important in today’s data-oriented world. 

In this post, we’ll show you how to create a WordPress document library in minutes without any special technical knowledge!

Keep reading to find out more 📄👇

💡 Check out a live demo of the finished document library and get your own free trial site preloaded with all GravityKit add-ons!

Download the free document upload form template now!

Import the template into Gravity Forms and customize as necessary.

Sneak peek at the finished WordPress document library

Here’s a quick look at a simple WordPress document management system using GravityView DataTables.

What is a WordPress document library?

A WordPress document library is a collection of digital documents presented in a manner that’s easy to navigate. A document library helps you stay organized by allowing you to store, and quickly find, the files you need.

WordPress is a popular content management system and website builder, making it the ideal platform on which to build a searchable document library.

Why build a WordPress document management system?

Many companies face obstacles managing their digital assets! Creating a custom document library is the perfect solution for any business wanting to organize their files.

Creating a document library allows you to:

  • Manage your internal company resources
  • Store educational materials
  • Create a repository of your marketing materials
  • Safely store your legal documents

Working with paper documents is slow and inefficient. A WordPress digital document management system ensures that each member of your team knows where a document is housed, how to find it and whether it needs updating.

Why GravityView DataTables is the best WordPress document library plugin

GravityView is an add-on for Gravity Forms that allows you to display form entries on the front end of your website. GravityView includes different layout types, allowing you to build different kinds of web applications.

One of GravityView’s most powerful layouts is the DataTables layout. DataTables is perfect for storing, searching and filtering your digital assets. Here’s why GravityView DataTables is the best WordPress document library plugin. 

  • Securely upload new documents using Gravity Forms
    Gravity Forms allows you to upload documents to WordPress in a secure and safe fashion. You can also restrict file formats, change the max file size and more.
  • Search and filter your documents
    The GravityView DataTables layout allows you to add sophisticated search functionality, enabling you to filter and sort your documents from the front end.
  • Delete and replace documents from the front end
    The GravityView Edit Entry layout allows you to delete and update your files from the front end. You can also edit the information attached to those files such as the category, date, file type etc.
  • Supports any file type
    Gravity Forms allows you to upload files of any type. This includes pdf, docx, csv, Excel, txt and more.
  • Custom download buttons
    Using GravityView’s Custom Content field, you can create your own custom download buttons or links. This will allow users to download files directly from the front end.
  • Categorize, tag and name your files
    When you upload your files, you can create other fields for extra information. This allows you to categorize, tag, name and date your files. All of these fields will be searchable from the front end.
  • Easily share files with others
    Creating a front-end document management system using GravityView DataTables makes it easy to share files with your colleagues.
  • Add notes to files
    Using Entry Notes, you can add notes to documents and notify team members by email when you update a file.

Failure to implement a robust document management system can hinder your business operations, resulting in lost revenue and wasted resources.

GravityView DataTables for document management

There are several WordPress plugins for document and resource management. The problem is that many of them fail to deliver on certain key features. The GravityView DataTables layout, however, is a powerful tool for building an efficient WordPress resource library.

How it works

First, you’ll need to create a document upload form using Gravity Forms. You can include any fields in the form that you feel are necessary. 

GravityView will then take that information and display it on the front end in a searchable table layout. You can configure the document library to your liking with custom download links and more.

What kind of documents can I display?

GravityView is perfect for building a WordPress document library for docs and PDFs. But why stop there? Gravity Forms and GravityView support all file types that are allowed in WordPress!

  • Upload documents of any file type
    Save all types of digital files to your document library, including pdf, docx, Excel, csv, epub, txt, mp4 and more!
  • Documents for business or personal use
    Legal contracts, financial documents, marketing brochures, technical documentation, sales letters, contact lists, data sets, manuscripts, blueprints, templates, educational materials, maps, manuals.
  • Create a WordPress audio or video gallery
    Using GravityView DataTables you can also embed content from other websites, such as YouTube or Soundcloud. This allows you to build a WordPress video gallery or an audio library.
Businessman adds file to big folder

Building your WordPress document library step-by-step

Now let’s go through the process of building a WordPress document gallery using GravityView DataTables.

1. Ensure you’ve got everything you need

The first step is to ensure that you have installed all the necessary plugins. Here’s what you’ll need:

Gravity Forms (any license level)Paid
GravityView (you’ll need Core + Extensions license as this includes DataTables)Paid

Install GravityView, your WordPress document library plugin

To install GravityView follow this helpful guide. Although GravityView has many use cases, it’s perfect for use as a WordPress resource library plugin.

Install the DataTables layout

To install the DataTables layout, hover over Views and click on Manage Add-Ons. Now scroll down to DataTables and click Install. When the layout finishes installing, click Activate.

The Manage Add-Ons link under the Views menu item in WordPress

You’re all set 😎 On with the tutorial we go!

2. Create the document upload form

After installing all the required plugins, the next step is to create the document upload form. To do this, hover over Forms and click New Form. Next, give your form a name and description and click Create Form.

Now, you can construct your document upload form using the Gravity Forms visual editor. The most important field is the File Upload field, as this will allow users to upload documents to the library. You can find the File Upload field under the Advanced tab on the right.

The Gravity Forms File Upload field

Now feel free to add any other fields you feel are necessary, as all of them can be displayed on the front end using GravityView!

The Gravity Forms drag-and-drop form editor

When you’re done, make sure to save your form. Here’s what our document upload form looks like on the front end.

A document upload form allowing you to upload documents to the WordPress document library

Save time by downloading the free document upload form template now!

The next step is to create a new View using the DataTables layout.

3. Create a new view using the DataTables layout

To create a new View, hover over Views and click New View. Now give your new View a name (“Document Library”) and select your document upload form as the data source.

Setting the 'Document Upload' form as the 'Data Source' when creating a new View in GravityView

Now you’ll see a new meta box appear, prompting you to choose a view type. Ensure that you choose the “DataTables Table” layout, as this is the best layout type for a WordPress document library.

The GravityView DataTables Table layout

The next step is to add fields and widgets to your document library.

4. Configure your document library

Start by scrolling down to the Entries Fields section. Here you can add fields to your document library by clicking on the ‘+ Add Field’ button. Each field you can here is display as a column in your table.

The GravityView View editor

💡 Pro tip: If your form contains a lot of fields, and you need somewhere to display extra information about each document, you can add additional fields to the Single Entry Layout

As you can see, the File Upload field displays the file name of your documents as a clickable download link.

Documents in a document library with a clickable download link

However, you can replace this with a download button using the Custom Content field. 

5. Create a download button

First, add a Custom Content field to your View Layout and open up the settings by clicking on the gear icon.

📝 The Custom Content field allows you to add HTML, shortcodes and Gravity Forms merge tags to your GravityView applications!

Inside the custom content code editor, add the following HTML code:

<a class="download" href="{Document:1}" download="">Download</a>

The most important part of this code is the href={document:1}. {document:1} is a Gravity Forms merge tag that adds a link to the uploaded document. Make sure to replace this with your own merge tag by clicking on the button to the right of the editor and selecting your File Upload field.

HTML anchor link inside a Custom Custom field

This code will display a download link, but to style it to look more like a button, add the following CSS:

.download {
background-color: DodgerBlue;
border: none;
color: white;
padding: 12px 20px;
cursor: pointer;
font-size: 16px;
text-decoration:none !important;
A download button

The next step is to add search inputs.

6. Make your document library searchable

GravityView allows you to add widgets to your front end applications, such as search bars, page links and other tools for navigating your View.

To add a search bar to your document library, scroll up to the Top Widgets section, click on the ‘+ Add Widget’ button and select Search Bar. To configure the search settings, click on the gear icon next to the widget label.

The 'Top Widgets' area in the GravityView View editor

Here you can adjust the way searches are performed, add multiple search fields and more. In this case, we’ve added search fields for the Category, Format, Entry Date and Keywords.

The GravityView Search Bar settings

The next step is to make your documents editable from the front end.

7. Make documents in your library editable from the front end

Sometimes you may need to delete or update existing documents in your library. To make your documents editable from the front end, you’ll need to add a link to the Edit Entry layout.

The 'Link to Edit Entry' field in GravityView

The Edit Entry page is where you can update document entries from the front end of your site. Here’s what it looks like on the front end:

The GravityView Edit Entry page, allowing you to edit form submissions from the front end

💡 Pro tip: Learn more about the Edit Entry layout in GravityView.

8. Add notes to document entries

With any document management system, it’s helpful to have a way to add notes to your files. This allows you to log updates and tell other team members when you make changes.

It’s easy to add comments and notes to document entries using the Gravity Forms Entry Notes functionality. All you need to do is add the Entry Notes field to your Single Entry Layout in GravityView.

A note added to a document entry that says 'I updated the brochure to account for our new Winter line"

💡 Pro tip: Learn more about Entry Notes in Gravity Forms.

9. Embed your document library on a page or post

When you’re finished configuring your document library, the next step is to embed it on your website. To do this, simply copy the GravityView embed shortcode and paste it inside a WordPress Shortcode module.

The GravityView embed shortcode

You can find the embed shortcode inside the View editor above the Update button.

10. Restrict access to your WordPress document library

If you’re building a document library for your business, you may need to restrict access to protect the confidentiality of your files. One way to accomplish this is by making certain fields only visible to logged-in users.

To do this, click on the gear icon to open the field settings for a given field in your document library. Now scroll down to the Visibility settings and check the box that says “Make visible only to logged-in users?”. 

The dropdown field below allows you to select which user roles can see that field.

GravityView field visibility settings

Another way to make your document library private, is by restricting access to your entire View. This will ensure that only authorized users can access your document library.

💡 Pro tip: To see a detailed breakdown of all the ways to restrict and protect your content in GravityView, read GravityView: Restricting a View by Login Status or User Role.

People examining documents

That’s it! Now you’re ready to start building your very own WordPress document library for business or personal use 🙌

Alternative WordPress document library plugins

You may be looking to create a WordPress resource library using a free plugin. Here’s a list of some of the most popular free document library plugins available for WordPress!

SP Project & Document Manager

SP Project & Document Manager allows you to store your files using an unlimited number of folders and subfolders. The plugin supports a wide range of file types, from basic image formats, PDFs and docs, to spreadsheets and videos.

SP Project & Document Manager allows WordPress users to easily add and modify project/document folders. You can also share documents with clients and allow them to make changes directly on your site.

WP Docs

WP Docs is a simple document management plugin for WordPress with a clean user interface that’s easy to use. WP Docs makes it easy to organize your files as each file has a thumbnail and document preview!

WP Docs is especially useful for educational institutions and schools looking for a secure way to share files with students. The plugin allows you to create an unlimited number of folder and edit/delete files whenever you need to.


FileBird is more of a WordPress media library categorization tool than a document library plugin. The plugin allows you to better organize your files in the WordPress media library by creating folders and subfolders. You can also arrange documents using drag and drop.

If you’re looking to use the WordPress media library as a resource management tool, then FileBird may be for you.

Build your WordPress document library today!

Managing digital files is difficult without an efficient document management system. In this post, we showed you how to build a WordPress document library using GravityView DataTables.

GravityView allows you to build web applications using Gravity Forms. It’s also a powerful WordPress file management plugin.

If you found this post interesting, see how to build a knowledge base next!

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