Plugins: Media Library Management
Researching Media Manager plugins, All-in-one Media Organizer Plugins, etc
First and foremost, let’s explain the reason why WordPress does not tie media organization to disk physical layout. The reason is simple and has to do with the fact that media can be located in various locations that are not on the disk, but rather remote, in cloud. In such cases, the entire concept of a physical location becomes completely irrelevant.
You probably already know that the media segment in WordPress is tragically dumb and is likely one of the most improvable aspects of the CMS. That is why there are so many plugins for this area, as it truly lacks functionality.
I no longer believe that media organization should mirror physical layout.
In fact, after thinking about it for a while, even I have come to the conclusion that this is the right approach to the problem and that the physical location of the images themselves should not be related to this, but to the content of the images themselves.
The physical location is better determined by some other plugins and should be set at the time of upload, as any later movement is very problematic.
related article: Plugins » Image Size Optimization
In this group, I have included all media manager plugins that do not work with “real” physical folders. These are, in fact, all typical “categorize” plugins. They serve to make the WordPress Media Library more efficient, but without creating physical folders on the disk. There are a lot of these types of plugins, and many of them are similar to each other - there is a lot of almost-copycat plugins in this category.
Therefore, I am listing plugins that also serve for organizing images and often use the concept of “folders”, but they do not physically replicate the organization on the disk, but only serve for easier grouping of files.
Organizing Principle: Categories as Classification
Those are media plugins without Tree-View representation. The main option I need is some way of grouping images, let’s call that media categories. Couple of plugins do exactly that, in the most basic form.
| Use “Enhanced Media Library” as plugin for Media Categorisation |
Enhanced Media Library
The Enhanced Media Library plugin (100K users) provides a simple and effective way to organize and manage media files on your WordPress site. Out-of-the-box, it offers multiple taxonomies for categorizing images, and allows you to update MIME types for your site. It also allows for customization of the media library view with additional filtering parameters and further improves the display with features such as bulk selection, drag-and-drop and infinite scroll. It seamlessly supports short-codes, but rather than creating new ones, it enhances the standard [gallery] and [playlist] shortcodes with additional parameters.
In contrast to other plugins like “Media Library Assistant”, which is complex to use, “Enhanced Media Library” is designed to integrate seamlessly with the WordPress functionality and is easy to understand. The developers have put effort into making the plugin look like an integrated part of WordPress.
This plugin is a great choice if you want a plugin that is effective, but not overly complex. It will probably remain free forever and the limitations in the free version are insignificant.
Although it may not be as visually attractive as other options, in my opinion, this is the most mature product with no risk of losing important features in the future.
Media Library Categories
The Media Library Categories plugin by Jeffrey-WP (30K users) is a small and simple plugin that focuses specifically on classifying images by taxonomy. It uses image category by default, but it also allows you to choose any other taxonomy. The setup screen is not immediately obvious as it can be found in the “Settings > Media” section of the dashboard.
Because it is small and straightforward, it will likely be sufficient for classifying images on 90% of websites. It is a good option if you are looking for a plugin that is lightweight and focused on one specific task of categorizing images.
WP Media Categories
WP Media Categories by John James Jacoby is very very small, simple but efficient and doing its task. It is my second choice, but it is still beginning so not enough users and support for now. If you have problems with it, just switch to Enhanced Media Library as you will NOT lose assigned categories.
Note: Bulk category assignment is not working; not saving category.
WP Media Category Management
The WP Media Category Management plugin by DeBAAT (10K users) is another basic plugin and just like other non-UI plugins, it does not have a graphical “tree-view” display of categories. However, it does have its own shortcodes and that’s nice. Other than that, it does not have especial features besides that it also puts its menu in the root of the admin menu, which is frustrating for myself. As there are many alternatives available, this plugin may be skipped in favor of others.
WordPress Media Library Folders
WordPress Media Library Folders by Max Foundry (10K users) really has an outdated appearance and poor user interface. The free version appears to include all of the basic and important functionality that is necessary. It can sync folders with FTP, as explained in the article How to Sync Your Media Library With FTP Folders, which means that you can manually upload files to your disk and then sync the plugin with the actual state on the disk. As much as it does some good things, it looks so bad that you should try to completely avoid it.
Media Library Assistant
Media Library Assistant by David Lingren (70K users) is a feature-rich but also quite complex and difficult to navigate. Just the documentation for the plugin is extensive and spans over 100 pages and it is also overly complex and quite overwhelming.
The plugin does allow for the classification and organization of media files by tags, categories, or any other taxonomy. Additionally, it can extract EXIF metadata from images and store that data in custom fields. It also works well with multilingual plugins like Polylang and includes various short-codes for displaying galleries within posts. It has batch editing capabilities and a few integrations with other plugins in the same category. While the plugin is highly customizable, it is too complex on its own and is best viewed as an “enhancement” to other simpler media management plugins.
“Media Library Assistant” has been around for a while and is a well-established and widely-used plugin.
Organizing Principle: Virtual Folders
Plugins that Utilize a tree-view User Interface
The most popular and widely used concept for classifying content in the Media Library is the concept of virtual folders. It is easy to understand for everyone. Virtual folder generally denotes an organizing principle for files that is not dependent on location in a hierarchical directory tree.
| Use HappyFiles is you need Virtual Folders |
I am impressed with the HappyFiles plugin as the functionality and design are top-notch.
The limitation of only 10 categories in the free version (definitive confirmed) makes it not suitable for my needs. I highly recommend it, but to fully utilize its capabilities, purchasing the full version would be necessary. A good thing is that the HappyFiles PRO Lifetime Licence for Unlimited Websites is really affordable for only 59$ - check out creators site Codeer.
The author is an excellent programmer because he also created the Bricks Builder. Exactly because of the Bricks project, he has neglected HappyFiles a little. The launch of Bricks at the end of March 2021 took on a life of its own and it ended up surpassing authors wildest expectations. After an unsuccessful attempt to hire a developer for HappyFiles, author decided to pick up the slack and started to work on HappyFiles again. Author promised to continue development and it looks like he is fulfilling that promise.
Plugin was delisted from the wp.org directory on 26th of January 2021 for a completely justified reason. This happened to all Media Management plugins, but most of them removed their restrictions and reappeared on wp.org. However, HappyFiles author has decided not to remove that restriction, which is fine in my opinion given the really low price.
The reason for delisting was guideline violation in terms of how the author presents and offers the functionality of the free version. Due to the 10 folder limit of the free version, it seems to fall under “trialware” which violates guideline #5.
For more information, read this post from August 22, 2021 on the official Facebook page or in the support discussion on wp.org: Plugin closed?
Everything planned is on the Roadmap, and there are things I am looking forward to, such as “Dynamic Folders”, similar to what Wicked Folders can do, and some basic options such as “Rename Files” and maybe in the future they will do a “Replace media” button.
Some users have contributed their own add-ons, and the one that is significant to me is this “Documents Library” add-on. Although the same functionality is already on the roadmap, I will use this add-on until then as it provides a list of links to download documents based on attachment category. The plugin supports native attachment categories and it works well with HappyFiles as well. The shortcode allows one to control: the order, the orderby, max files to show, category (happyfiles tax), and filetype (pdf, doc, docx, xls, xlsx). The original code for this add-on can be found in this gist: Documents List
FileBird by Ninja Team (100K users) is mostly paid plugin with really beautiful and snappy UI that doesn’t create “real” physical folders but is a great option for organizing your WordPress Media Folders. It is by far the most popular in this category on wp.org.
The free version allows users to create and manage unlimited main folders and subfolders, although this was not from the start. Actually I’ve confirmed that plugin had a 10 folder limit in free version, but wp.org sanctioned them so they had to either delist or remove that limit - see official confirmation.
The new block FileBird Gallery is included in free version. Quite distinct addition is FileBird Document Library that assists in creating and publishing a document gallery.
There is a FileBird lifetime license that you can use on a single site and get unlimited updates, but as it is sold via Envato Marketplace, there’s no way for unlimited sites and that’s why Happyfiles is better buy.
Nice guide is here: How to Use FileBird to Organize Your WordPress Media Folders
When comparing the free vs paid version of FileBird, I noticed that only Polylang is not supported in the free version, but I am not sure if I need it.
Folders by Premio (50K users) is also an organizer and not a physical file manager. In the paid version, it supports Dynamic Folders, similar to the Wicked Folders plugin that seems to have inspired it. It is only after you pay that you can also copy, paste, and scan for unused media. It’s annoying that you have to pay for being able to create subfolders. All in all, it is really trying hard to sell the paid version.
Some of the nicer things are the keyboard shortcuts, see Ctrl + K, and the ability to adjust the thickness of the sidebar containing the tree view, as well as the ability to collapse the entire sidebar. It even has a “Replace Media” feature, but it has been severely limited.
Premio Folders' pricing is much more expensive than the others mentioned here, and I don’t think it offers unlimited websites anywhere in its pricing.
Media Library Organizer
The Media Library Organizer plugin (10K users) is a powerful tool and unlike some free plugins, it has no limits on the maximum number of categories or subcategories. One of its key features is the Tree View presentation of categories in the sidebar, which is well-designed and integrated seamlessly. The plugin’s settings menu is located in an unusual place, in the root of the admin menu, which may require manual removal.
The professional version of the plugin includes all the advanced features such as EXIF metadata extraction, image conversion to the WebP format, and even an option to automatically categorize images using image recognition technology (that’s nice). Actually, the only unlocked feature in the free version is the Tree View but for many users this alone can be a solid choice. While I am not thrilled with the drag-and-drop implementation related to the Tree View, I still think it is a good plugin overall.
The issue here is that the Lifetime licenca is really expensive, almost 3 times more expensive than the license for the HappyFiles plugin.
CatFolders Lite (0 users) is very simple but the hierarchical view is very well done, and that’s all I need. The most important thing is that they prominently mention in the plugin description that there are no limits on the number of folders in the free version - so I might be able to stick with it. The only thing is that it inserts a menu item in the root of the admin menu, so I’ll have to move it for myself. For now, this is a serious candidate.
After deeper research, I have realized that the plugin limits folders only to main folders and it is impossible to create subfolders. This limitation is a dealbreaker for me, so I would advise others also to avoid using it.
I dismissed Categorify (2K users) as soon as I saw that it uses Freemius as I know that if it became popular, it would immediately start charging for features. Additionally, it already appears to have a significant amount of advertisement-related clutter.
WP Media Manager Lite
The WP Media Manager Lite plugin by AccessPress Themes (1K users) appears to be abandoned. Even the company no longer exists, yet someone occasionally updates it. The last communication from the company based in Nepal was on Facebook in March 2022. It’s best to forget about it. The company’s Youtube channel has a lot of videos, but none of them are related to this plugin. The design is definitely outdated, so it’s not even worth forking it.
Acclectic Media Organizer
I have found Acclectic Media Organizer (0 users) to be quite nice and the only thing is that it doesn’t have are advanced settings, which it probably doesn’t even need. The tree-view works just as it should. It looks like there are no limits in the free version, although I think that will change in the future. Because of this uncertainty, I will not decide to use this plugin.
The main plugin has its own companion but that companion is able to work independently as well - it is a plugin called Acclectic Lightbox, an add-on for the image gallery, that instead of creating short-codes, which is a bit old-school, it properly updates the
core/gallery block so that there is an option for Lightbox display and so that EXIF data can also be displayed in that lightbox.
WPFiles by RipeBits is a plugin with many features, maybe too many. It tries to do a lot, image conversion, compression, watermarking, CDN, lazy loading, etc. and usually that never turns out well. Most of it is in the paid version which is unaffordable for me. Of the more important things missing in the free version is the Gallery block, while the Watermarking and Lazy Loading is surprisingly available for free. Overall, I don’t like how it’s really very aggressive in offering the sale of all these options, like a moving billboard. I mean, you can turn everything off in the end, but still.
Wicked Folders (20K users) can be used to organize images, but you have to buy it and it’s not cheap. However, it has proven to be excellent for organizing content, as I described in a separate review.
Other Plugins using Virtual Folder paradigm
- Mediamatic WordPress Media Library Folders plugin has completely disappeared from the face of the earth, as well as its author. I don’t want to “dig through the code” but based on the screenshot archives, the plugin didn’t look bad at all and maybe I should consider forking it.
I took the time to dig up the plugin from the archive on wp.org because the screenshots seemed interesting to me. However, after a short testing, I am still disappointed because the UI and overall feel of the plugin are not as great as I had expected.
- WP Media folders by Damien Barrère only has a paid version WP Media File Manager which is no longer sold anywhere including Envato Marketplace. I believe the author has withdrawn it and he has also written that it’s discontinued and that all features have been reintegrated into the WP Media Folder plugin from JoomUnited. Otherwise, it looked very outdated. And fundamentally, there was no free version, none at all. Also, it didn’t work on “real” physical folders.