NOTE – just today in Feb. 2013, I got the upgrade notice to switch to Tablepress. Tobias has completely rewritten his application, and I can tell you it’s just as excellent as I would expect from him. I installed Tablepress, followed his conversion procedure, and am now enjoying a converted table.
Tobias is nearly a genius, I’d say, and sure enough, he’s studying for a PhD. in an advanced engineering specialty. Not only that, but though he is German, his English is just outstanding. Be sure to give a brother some and donate if you can!
I’ve tested and used many great open-source scripts, and some less-than-stellar ones as well. WordPress is truly a favorite of mine, and I’ve built a lot of sites with it, some bloggish, some not. With plugins that extend its capabilities, it’s even better. I use and test plugins frequently, and the number of them available is enormous. In a geeky way, it’s like shopping in a store full of great free stuff!
I have about a dozen plugins that I use a whole lot. But once in awhile you find one that really rises to the top.
Every so often, I am asked by a client to set something up for display of tabular data. I tend to cringe when this happens; as I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, having a non-technical person edit their site content, while terrific in theory, can be tricky in practice, especially when rows and columns are needed. Clients are often disappointed and upset when it’s a lot harder than using their word processor, and ends up looking like being a mess that requires a geek to fix.
As a CSS geek, I’m not overly fond of HTML tables. With some of the more militant CSS mavens, table avoidance is almost a religious dictum. But when displaying spreadsheet-like data, even I will admit that it’s often the most expedient tool, as long as it doesn’t involve stupid things like multiple nested tables. So with text editors so problematic, I’m always looking for alternatives. I’ve found a few, and they’ve been disappointing.
But then I just found WP-Table Reloaded. It just worked. And worked. The interface makes it so easy to set up columns and rows. Cool. The interface walks you right through it with almost no thinking needed, and no code to write! It sets up your grid in seconds, and then you just enter your data. I had a test table set up in about 2 minutes, and stuck it in a WordPress post. Great… but then I looked at the page I’d made, and it was even better! The table was already set up to sort on any column, search the table, automatic paging, automatic headings, and even pretty decent non-table-ish default styling!?! Whoa!!!!! Try doing all that with a WYSIWYG editor!
But wait, there’s Even More… I went back into the admin part, and found that there were loads of other things I could do to my table, such as adding more rows or columns, titles, footer, re-sort the data, merge cells…. oh, and let’s not forget (what, you say there’s more??) that you can import CSV data (and export!), so I fired up a spreadsheet, did a “Save As” into CSV format, went back into WordPress, imported it, and voila, the whole thing was in WordPress, looking way sexier than it did in lame old [insert your favorite spreadsheet name here]. And if you’re able to write a pinch of CSS, you can get even fancier with the look of your data, but you may not need to – it looks that nice already.
And one final piece of excellence: the plugin can be set so that you don’t have to be an full admin to use it! Why does this matter? If you’re the admin of a site, you may have other people contributing content, such as authors. Most plugin authors consider their job done when their plugin is working. That’s fine, but if the plugin can only be used by the full admin (this is, I believe, the plugin default), then other contributors to the site cannot use it. Yes, you could change that author into a full admin, but that’s very risky – they could easily mess up your whole site when they have access to everything, even inadvertently. With the settings of WP-Table Reloaded, you can set it up so that the author user can enter tables (if you want that), but cannot play with the full admin features of the site! Plugin user permissions are an afterthought to most plugin authors, for whatever reason – maybe it’s just boring to code that part or something.
Tobias Bäthge is the author of the plugin. He’s a very friendly guy, and I figure his IQ must be off the charts! He’s simply awesome, and even though his plugin is free, I decided to donate a few bucks to him – stuff of this quality more than deserves some support. There is so much good free software for WordPress. I’ve taken advantage of a lot of it, so I’ve been donating when I’ve been able, and also spend quite a bit of time answering questions on the WordPress support forum.
Bravo Tobias, and thanks!