The process of selling or distributing digital products on a WordPress website has many moving parts.
Uploading downloads sits at its core.
Next comes the delivery part — about how you’ll link to your downloads on your website (where and how you’ll place your download links and buttons) and what your users will need to do to download them (make a payment, subscribe to your list, or share a tweet, etc.).
Finally, you need provisions to track your file downloads to measure their performance and ensure fair use (access control).
Said another way: If you’re looking to offer downloadables on your WordPress site, you need more than a simple file manager. In this article, we’ll look at the five best WordPress download manager plugins that bring an end-to-end digital file management system straight to your WordPress dashboard. But before we see them, let’s zoom in on the essential functionalities a WordPress download manager plugin must offer.
What is a WordPress download manager plugin? What does it do?
A WordPress download manager plugin needs to do different things based on the downloading system you’re looking to set up:
- If you want to sell downloadable items like templates, add-ons, or widgets (or any other digital file, in general), you’ll look for a certain kind of a WordPress download manager.
- In contrast, if you only want to distribute files, a more straightforward option might work for you.
WordPress download manager solutions like Download Monitor support both use cases. In any case, to be effective, a WordPress download manager plugin must offer the following essentials.
First and foremost, setting up a download should be as easy as adding a blog post.
In addition, you should have the option to host your files (in the file sizes you desire) not only on your WordPress website but also on storage solutions such as Google Drive and Amazon S3.
Shortcodes are another excellent feature to quickly insert download links into your posts and pages and other site areas.
Version management is yet another aspect of managing digital files. When you upload a new version of a digital product, your download manager plugin should automatically increment your current version and accurately map its downloads.
Customizable and slick download experiences
Your WordPress download manager plugin should support PayPal, Stripe, and other popular payment gateways if you plan to sell downloadable files.
It should also be possible for you to set up slick download buttons on your website, along with a dedicated downloads page that provides links to all your downloads.
Moreover, you should be able to design a downloading page that users can interact with while their download is taking place. You can use this page to offer a branded download experience and upsell/cross-sell your products.
Access control provisions
You should be able to set up access rules to grant/restrict access to users based on their roles or IP addresses — for example, allowing a patron unrestricted access or blocking an IP address altogether. There should be a way to limit access periods or the number of downloads as well.
When needed, you should be able to act on individual users’ access permissions, in addition to applying global rules.
Other than these, measures like enforcing captcha and usage terms and conditions are also valuable features in a WordPress file download management plugin.
Your download manager plugin must make managing, tracking, and controlling your file downloads in WordPress effortless.
Download tracking is important as download stats tracking helps you to:
- See what your most downloaded freebies or digital products are so that you can create more of them.
- Set access rules to ensure fair usage.
- Fight usage abuse (a common nuisance when working with digital files).
Sales and marketing tools
Each download on your website should translate into a chance for you to get more, which is why a WordPress download manager plugin should provide a full suite of sales and marketing tools.
Offering an excellent downloading experience where you can upsell/cross-sell your products is one thing to look for.
Also, you should be able to charge your users social media shoutouts (like tweets) to access their downloads.
Growing your email list (by making your users pay with their email ids) should also be possible, among other things.
With these selection pointers now discussed, here’s a look at the best WordPress download manager plugins.
Download Monitor is a WordPress digital products store builder plugin that doubles up as a file manager. You can use it to 1) insert downloads into your current posts and pages, 2) add a digital products store to your current WordPress website, or 3) create a full-blown digital products eCommerce store.
- Lets you sell and distribute your digital files in a few easy steps.
- Allows for easy uploading, categorizing, tagging, and managing of all types of digital files (PDFs, software packages, audio tracks, video files, digital art, etc.) along with their versions.
- Comes with always-on and automatic download file tracking; you don’t have to worry about setting up events in Google Analytics to track the number of downloads of your different files and their many versions.
- Supports PayPal among other payment gateways.
- Comes with handy access features to control file downloads (that can be extended with extensions).
- Allows you to host your files on Google Drive or Amazon S3; you can even serve expiring links.
- Offers extensions to ask for tweets and email signups to unlock access.
- Lets you create beautiful, customizable download experiences.
- It’s Gutenberg-ready, so you can add downloads anywhere using the new block editor.
Download Monitor powers digital file delivery for more than 100,000+ WordPress websites. It’s a free plugin that works with all WordPress themes and is enough to get started with selling/distributing digital files on any WordPress site. Also, because it’s a lightweight plugin, it has no impact on your SEO. You can purchase all of its premium extensions as part of our Core Extension bundle for a single heavily discounted price and unlock all the above features and more.
WordPress Download Manager
WordPress Download Manager is another file management plugin for WordPress that doubles up as an eCommerce store builder. It’s an “all-in-one digital resource management solution” for WordPress, so you can use it to start a digital products business.
- WordPress Download Manager can be used to set up a full digital downloads store.
- Supports Google Drive, Dropbox, Box.com, and OneDrive for hosting files.
- Comes with easy access control provisions.
- Comes shipped with features like password protection, media library file protection, CAPTCHA, terms protection, drag and drop functionality for adding new downloads, etc.
- Adds a download log showing detailed downloading activity.
- Offers guest download and checkout experiences.
- Allows for notes and messaging functionalities.
- Supports recurring payments and various payment options like “Pay what you want,” license-level pricing, promotional pricing with add-ons.
WordPress Download Manager supports file management for 100,000+ WordPress websites. The basic plugin is free, and the pro version sells for $99/year. If you need features like enabling a form lock (allowing access only after users fill up a form), you’d need to buy a few separate add-ons in addition to purchasing the premium version. The all-access bundle starts selling at $299.
Easy Digital Downloads
Easy Digital Downloads is yet another online digital products store builder with an in-built file management system. Its makers call it a complete “eCommerce solution for selling digital products on WordPress.”
- Easy Digital Downloads helps you set up a proper digital products store with the add-to-cart functionality and offer slick checkout experiences.
- Offers a complete system to sell or distribute digital files like ebooks, courses, graphics, music, etc.
- Supports Stripe, PayPal, and Amazon Payments.
- Comes with extensions to allow implementing custom software licensing models, accepting recurring payments, collecting reviews, and more.
- Lets you host your files on Amazon S3 and Dropbox.
Easy Digital Downloads delivers digital file management for 50,000+ WordPress websites. Its basic plugin is free. And its premium versions begin selling at $199/year. If you want to unlock access to features like storing your files on Amazon S3, you’ll either have to purchase specific add-ons or go for its higher-tier premium packages.
Unlike the other options on this list, File Manager isn’t about selling downloads on your WordPress website. It’s more about managing files on your WordPress website not as products but as knowledge base assets. This plugin helps you and your website admins perform dozens of file operations that are needed in this use case. For example, admins can set the new file upload size, allow access to only employees, partners, or all of your WordPress users, and get email notifications for file uploads or downloads. Basically, you get to build a Google-drive-like file system right inside your WordPress website. With it, you can manage your file management straight from your dashboard without accessing your FTP portal or writing custom PHP code.
- Allows for easy editing, deleting, uploading, downloading, and copying/pasting of files right from the WordPress dashboard.
- Admins get granular control over granting and revoking access based on user roles.
- Supports Google-like email-based file-sharing functionalities.
- Comes with a host of features like fullscreen views, editing capabilities for text and image files, search functionality, email notifications, etc.
- Offers integrations for Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, AWS S3, etc.
- Comes shipped with a built-in database manager for easier file management.
More than 800,000 WordPress websites use File Manager for their file management needs. File Manager offers a free version and a pro version (that sells for $25). You’ll need to buy extensions separately to add functionalities like hosting your files on Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and other online storage solutions.
Advanced File Manager is yet another WordPress file manager that does all this and more. It’s an equally popular plugin but is currently under review by the WordPress team. It should be back in the repository soon.
Any WordPress website owner who plans to offer downloads for sale or free distribution will likely look into WooCommerce at some point. After all, just as WooCommerce helps you set up regular eCommerce shopping sites, it also makes it easy to create digital product stores where you can sell PDFs, audio files, videos, and other digital content.
- WooCommerce helps you set up a full-blown WordPress digital products store.
- Setting up product pages with downloads is easy; digital files can be either sold or distributed for free.
- Supports multiple file types.
- Comes with multiple payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe.
- Offers options to grant/revoke user access for downloadables.
While WooCommerce does double up as a WordPress file manager, its digital file management capabilities aren’t as mature as those of a dedicated WordPress digital file solution like Download Monitor. In fact, WooCommerce’s functionalities feel very basic against Download Monitor’s WordPress file managing and tracking capabilities. You can read more about how WooCommerce stacks up as a digital products store builder and file manager in this post: Should you open a WooCommerce digital downloads store to sell your digital products?
Wrapping it up…
To set up digital products for sale or distribution with the simplest possible setup, Download Monitor is the best choice. It brings a fully-featured file download system to your WordPress website in just a few simple steps.
In addition to being a great WooCommerce alternative for selling and distributing digital products via a WordPress site, Download Monitor is also a better option over SaaS digital store builder solutions like Shopify.
Over 100,000 WordPress stores and websites use Download Monitor as their digital file delivery system. However, we often see our users immediately installing a few of our premium extensions once their stores are up and running. The result is that they pay yearly fees for all the different premium extensions they buy, not realizing that we offer a highly-discounted bundle offering that unlocks all of our current extensions and any new ones that we add.
Remember to check out our Core Extension bundle when you get our core plugin. We have got everything you’ll need to manage your WordPress file downloads under one roof.