More than 455 million websites are now powered by WordPress. While the platform began as a blog-hosting tool, it quickly outpaced this original intent thanks to its community development approach. This allowed the creation of WordPress plugins — tools capable of modifying current functions, adding new features, and streamlining operations.
WordPress download managers are one of the most popular plugin types. These tools offer increased visibility and control over file downloads and are a must-have for sites with rapidly-growing content libraries.
In this piece, you’ll learn the basics of download manager WordPress plugins. We’ll also dive into eight of the top offerings for 2023.
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What is a WordPress download manager?
WordPress download manager plugins allow you to monitor file downloads and set access restrictions as needed. Not only do these tools reduce the amount of time and effort required by administrators, but they also gather data that can help teams analyze and understand user behaviors.
With download managers, you can learn who’s downloading your files. How often? Which files are seeing the most downloads, and which are less popular? The more you know, the better you’re able to tailor your content to match user preferences.
For a deeper understanding, here’s an example. Let’s say you’ve uploaded an ebook that you’re offering to users. Using the default WordPress toolset, you can create a download link on the URL created for your file and direct users there. You can also manually send them the download link via email or direct message.
Either way, it’s an extra step in the process. There’s also no easy way to track how many times the ebook has been downloaded, or set permissions on what can be downloaded under what circumstances.
If you use a download manager for your ebook, you’ll gather more data on who has downloaded the file. You’ll also be able to set restrictions so that downloading the ebook requires filling out a form or logging into an account.
The Best WordPress Download Managers
To help you find the right download manager, we’re taking a look at eight of the best options available. From free and for-pay plugins to tools with multiple extension options, we’re covering a little bit of everything.
Advanced File Manager lets you easily edit, delete, upload, download, copy, and compress multiple file types for easy access and control. With more than 100,000 active installations and regular updates to the plugin, this is a great choice to get started with download management.
Price: Advanced File Manager is free. It requires WordPress version 4.0 or higher and has been tested up to version 6.0.3. This plugin is also available in 10 languages, including Czech, Dutch, Russian, and Spanish.
What we like: Advanced File Manager makes it possible to access files inside or outside of the WordPress root direction, easily edit root directory destination, and use shortcodes to control download access. Even better? No cPanel or FTP functions are required.
Download Manager helps you manage, track, and control file downloads from your WordPress site. Along with tracking which files are downloaded, the plugin lets administrators set download speeds, specify total download counts per user, and block unwanted users via captcha locks or IP blocks.
Price: This plugin is free to download and use, has more than 100,000 active installations, and requires WordPress version 5.3 or higher.
What we like: Along with tools to manage and monitor downloads, this plugin can also be used as an ecommerce solution to sell digital products. You can set individual prices for each item or use licensed-based prices on your site.
File Manager allows administrators to edit, delete, upload, download, copy, and paste files from the WordPress backend rather than using an FTP server. Admins can also archive files that are no longer needed, and the plugin includes a syntax checker to ensure that saved files won’t cause site conflicts.
Price: This plugin has two versions. The free version includes the functions mentioned above. The premium version, which costs $25, lets administrators edit files directly, access WordPress front-end functions using shortcode, and set up notification alerts for admins if files are downloaded or edited.
What we like: With more than 4 million active installations, File Manager is doing something right. Part of its success stems from a long list of both free and premium features. Its appeal is also tied to a large number of add-ons for tools, including Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox.
This plugin lets you easily add files in the WordPress admin area and then use shortcodes to link the relevant file page. Users with and visitors with permission can also upload their own files. Designed to be simple and streamlined, Shared Files can be used in place of the standard WordPress media library.
What it costs: Shared Files is available in both free and pro versions. The pro version costs $5.99 per month or $47.88 per year. While the free version includes the ability to preview file types in-browser and keep track of download numbers, the pro version offers improved file searching. You can also automatically generate filters and limit file download numbers with the pro version.
What we like: This plugin offers a host of different fields and layouts to help you customize your file download management. It also comes with a 7-day Pro trial if you’re curious about the extra features but don’t want to commit without a demonstration.
Download Monitor lets you manage downloads directly from a familiar WordPress interface, in effect making downloads feel just like standard posts. It also offers a quick-add panel that lets you include download links or files while you’re editing posts.
Note that Download Monitor requires WordPress version 5.4 or higher along with PHP version 5.6 or higher. It also has more than 100,000 active installations and is regularly updated.
Price: This plugin is free.
What we like: Download Monitor lets you easily categorize, tag, or add more metadata to your downloads for improved context. You can also add multiple file versions to each download and create mirror links for each version.
The Lana Downloads Manager is as streamlined as it gets. This open-source tool lets you manage, track, and log both local and remote files on your WordPress site. While it only has 2,000 active installations, all current reviews are 5-star, and it’s regularly updated to ensure continued compatibility.
Price: This plugin is free to download and use.
What we like: Simple is the name of the game here. Install Lana Downloads Manager, and it’s ready to go. While it doesn’t offer much in the way of additional features, this plugin provides a counter system and log capabilities to help track download volumes.
Simple Download Monitor lets you password-protect files and documents, and configure downloadable files directly from the WordPress admin dashboard. The plugin will then monitor which files are downloaded and how many times they’re downloaded. You’ll also have access to a log of the time and date of download along with the user’s IP.
Despite its development as a pet project, Simple Download Monitor already has 30,000 active installations. WordPress 5.5 or higher is required.
What it costs: This plugin is free.
What we like: Along with a simple, user-friendly interface, this plugin also natively supports language translations for English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Russian.
WP File Download describes itself as a “turbocharged” version of a download management plugin. It includes unlimited downloadable files and categories, along with a full-text, frontend document search engine. WP File Download also comes with WooCommerce integration.
What it costs: This for-pay plugin costs $49 per year for the pro version and $69 per year for the “Pro + Addons” version. The pro version includes multi-domain and multi-site support along with automatic updates. The “Pro + Addons” version offers Social Locker, WordCommerce, and Cloud storage sync add-ons.
What we like: Along with simple download control and complete file visibility, this plugin also offers advanced file sorting and filtering, custom icon building, and Google Analytics tracking.
Delivering on Downloads
The right WordPress download manager can help streamline download delivery and make it easier for site owners to track use, and curate downloaded content. Not sure which manager makes the most sense for your site? Start with our top eight.
Soon, you’ll be able to know who’s downloading what and when.