Searching for the best WordPress tables and charts plugin?
In our hands-on wpDataTables review, we’re going to take a look at one of the top plugins in this space.
It lets you create tables from virtually any source, including a simple table builder or importing tables from Google Sheets, Excel, MySQL queries, and more. It works for simple content tables (like a product comparison table) or huge data tables with millions of rows.
What’s more, you can also take any of your tables and turn them into eye-catching charts and graphs.
Overall, it’s just generally a really user-friendly and flexible plugin for working with data and charts. Or, thanks to a recent update, it now works great for product comparison and pricing tables, too.
We originally wrote our wpDataTables review a few years ago. But now, we’re completely rewriting this review in February 2021 to account for new feature changes, such as a new setup wizard, simple table builder, and more.
wpDataTables Review: A Quick Overview of the Features
I’ll show you all of wpDataTables’s features in more depth as I get into the hands-on review section. But to kick things off, I want to quickly run over the key features of the plugin.
This is by no means a complete list, as the plugin has tons of features. But here’s a quick look at the high-level features that you get.
You can create two high-level types of tables:
- Simple tables – you can use a visual editor to create product comparison tables, pricing tables, etc. I think of these as “content tables”.
- Data tables – these are detailed tables that contain anywhere up to even millions of rows of data.
You can create both types of tables manually using intuitive editors. Or, you can import/sync data tables from external sources such as:
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- Google Sheets (either by using the API or publishing Sheets to the web)
- Any database (via a graphic query builder)
For the tables themselves, you’ll get tons of advanced features such as:
- Front-end editing
- Conditional formatting
- Custom sorting/filtering
- Lots more
In addition to tables, you can also create tons of different chart types using your choice of three rendering engines.
Overall, there are a lot of features, so keep reading our wpDataTables review to see everything that it has to offer.
Hands-On With wpDataTables
For this section, I’m using the premium version on my site, though all of the basic features would be the same for the free version.
Checking Out the Basics
When you first activate wpDataTables, it gives you this nice welcome screen with some tips for getting started:
If you go to your Dashboard, you’ll see a summary of everything that’s going on with your charts and tables, as well as options to launch the quick start wizards for tables or charts:
Let’s kick things off by creating a table.
Creating a Table
If you launch the table wizard, your first choice is what kind of table you want to construct. You now have six options:
- Simple table – this is a new option that makes a great choice for more formatted tables such as product comparison tables or pricing tables.
- External data table (linked) – create a data table that’s linked to an external source such as Excel, Google Sheets, a custom SQL query, JSON, etc. The plugin will automatically keep the data synced with your external source.
- Manual data table – create your own data table using an Excel-like editor.
- External data table (import) – import your data from an external source. Unlike the previous external option, though, this one won’t sync after you import the data.
- Database query to WordPress – use a graphic interface to query data from the WordPress database (e.g. a list of posts).
- Database query to MySQL database – use a graphic tool to generate a query to any SQL database, even external ones.
I’m going to choose a Simple table as that’s the newest type of table, but I’ll give you a quick look at the data editor later on.
Next, you would choose the number of columns and rows (you can always adjust this later):
Now, you can use the simple visual editor to create your table content. Again, the simple table builder is more focused on content tables than data tables.
Some of the things that you can do here are:
- Style the table with custom colors.
- Merge table cells with a single click.
- Insert star icons, which is great if you’re creating a product comparison table and you want to add a rating to each product.
- Insert links and set them to automatically display as a button instead of a text link.
- Add shortcodes or custom HTML in your simple table. For example, you could insert the Amazon affiliates shortcode to make sure you’re always displaying accurate prices.
- Insert images.
As you make changes, you’ll instantly see the live preview of your table update.
For example, with just a few clicks and zero code, I was able to create this product comparison-style table:
I give wpDataTables more than four stars – I just chose a lower rating so you could see an empty star 😃
In the Display and Responsive tabs, you can also access a few other useful features to control how your table displays on different devices.
Once you’re happy with your table, you can display it anywhere on your site using a shortcode or a dedicated block.
You can also check out this tutorial video if you want to see the simple table builder in action:
Creating a Data Table
The simple table editor is great for content tables, but wpDataTables is also super strong when it comes to data tables, even up to millions of rows. Hence the name.
As I showed you above, you have five different options for creating data tables, either by manually entering data or importing them from an external source/querying a database.
For this example, I’ll import some data from Google Sheets (it’s some dummy data for a list of rental properties). I’ll just do a one-time import, even though the plugin also gives you the option to keep the data synced. This will let me easily edit the data from inside WordPress to show you the Excel-like editor.
For Google Sheets, all you need to do is publish your spreadsheet to the web and then add the link. Or, you could download it as a CSV and then upload the file:
From there, wpDataTables will try to automatically choose the proper type of data for each column. You can also make manual adjustments if needed:
Once you’ve verified that everything is correct, you can import the table and open it in either the standard editor or the Excel-like editor.
The Excel-like editor is exactly what it sounds like – you’ll be able to edit all of the data in an interface that works a lot like Excel or Google Sheets. For example, you can just click into a cell and edit as needed. You can also set up formula columns:
The standard editor is less for editing data and more for configuring your columns/table as a whole. For example, you can click to open a column’s settings and configure everything about it, including sorting, filtering, and even conditional formatting:
You can easily switch between both editors with a single click.
You’ll also get table-wide settings, such as display options, sorting and filtering, whether to allow front-end editing and more.
One powerful feature for data tables is the ability to allow front-end editing and only let users edit their own data in the front-end table. For example, you could create an order table that contains all of your data, but each individual user would only be able to see and edit their own data:
Once you’re happy with everything, you can embed it using either a shortcode or a block.
While I’ve focused on tables so far, wpDataTables also includes powerful tools to help you turn any table into a visual chart.
If you launch the chart wizard, you’ll be able to choose from three different render engines:
- Google Charts
Then, you can choose the type of chart:
From there, you can choose an existing table on your site as a data source. Then, you’ll be able to choose which columns to use in the chart. You can also filter out certain data:
Once you’ve done that, you’ll see a visual preview, along with options to customize your chart’s style and behavior:
When you’re finished, you can embed it using a shortcode or block.
If you want to test the plugin out, there’s a limited free version of wpDataTables at WordPress.org.
The free version is totally viable if you just want to create some basic tables using the simple builder. However, to create more advanced tables or charts, you’ll definitely want to go with the premium version.
The premium version offers both one-year and lifetime licenses with the following prices:
- 1 site – $59 for a one-year license or $189 for a lifetime license.
- 3 sites – $109 for a one-year license or $389 for a lifetime license.
- Unlimited sites – $249 for a one-year license or $589 for a lifetime license.
Note – make sure you purchase the plugin from the developer’s website to get the best prices. The developer used to exclusively sell through CodeCanyon and still has the plugin available there. However, if you purchase through CodeCanyon, you’ll pay a higher price than if you buy directly from the developer.
Final Thoughts on wpDataTables
I thought wpDataTables was one of the best WordPress table and chart plugins when I first reviewed it a few years ago, and I think that’s still the case as I’m fully rewriting this review in February 2021.
The plugin wins when it comes to both user-friendliness and flexibility, which is rare in WordPress plugins. You can find lots of options with one or the other, but getting both in one package is great.
If you’re a casual user, you can use the simple editor to create basic comparison tables, data tables, etc. Or, you could build something with Excel or Google Sheets and import it that way.
On the other hand, if you’re an advanced user, you’ll get lots of powerful features such as building a table from your own custom database queries, feeding data into tables from front-end forms, and more.
To see if you like the interface, you can install the free version from WordPress.org. Then, consider upgrading to the premium version to access all of the advanced features.