When it comes to WordPress media types, most of the attention is on images and videos. This does make sense, but misses out on a valuable and useful file type that you might want to reconsider – the Portable Document Format (PDF). The good news is that uploading PDF files to WordPress and displaying them is simple.
Block editors are now commonplace for many WordPress sites, making it easier for you to upload and display PDFs. In fact, the process is more in line with other media types, which was not the case before. However, plugins can still perform functions for you, usually with a larger feature set and implementation.
Over the course of this tutorial, we’ll show you how to upload PDF files to WordPress. If this is a new concept for you, check out our first part, which discusses the benefits of using PDFs on your website.
Why upload PDF files to WordPress?
In many cases, a PDF file is already a complete document. It uses rich text and media to encapsulate themes, so you generally want to preserve the look and readability of the PDF.
However, if the file is on your computer, the file is not good. It’s easy to recreate that PDF as a local article on your site in order to present it to site visitors. This is understandable, but there are some downsides. First, it takes up your time and capacity, and you may never be able to fully replicate the document.
Instead, WordPress makes it easy for you to upload and display PDF files. There are several benefits to consider:
Of course, those files you already have will provide the same level of value. What’s more, you can render them as-is without any additional copying cost or work.
PDF files are no longer passive documents. You can provide as much interaction as a local post or page.
Uploading a PDF to WordPress increases efficiency because the file can exist on multiple pages. This means you don’t need to replicate the functionality elsewhere (signup forms are a good example).
If you work in a field that produces physical or digital documents – graphic designer, writer, etc – you can provide a sample of your work in PDF format for download. However, you need to optimize the file just like any other form of media.
How to optimize your PDF files for the best experience?
PDF files can be 10 or 20 times the size of an entire web page, which makes sense given how rich these files are. So, before you upload your PDF to WordPress, we can offer some tips to optimize your file:
Typography is important. Stick to the same guidelines as everything else, and use no more than two fonts for your documents. This will also help with the consistency of your documentation.
Image optimization. Remember that images in PDFs should have the same optimizations as web pages. This is an area where you can remove large chunks from the PDF file size.
Do good search engine optimization (SEO). Content written for your PDF can have the same index as a web page, so you need to adhere to good SEO practices in your files.
As a final step, you should run the PDF file itself through the optimization tool. There are a few on the market – for example, ShortPixel is a great one:
Once you have a file ready and stripped down, you can upload it to WordPress — and it won’t take more than a minute.
How to upload PDF files to WordPress?
In the rest of this post, we’ll show you how to upload PDF files to WordPress. There are two approaches to consider, and we’ll cover both:
Upload your PDFs using WordPress’ native functionality.
Install a plugin to help you upload PDFs and take advantage of its deeper functionality.
First, we can show you the native method. Let’s start with the WordPress block editor.
1. Upload PDF files to WordPress without plugins
2. Upload your PDF file using the plugin
How to customize the appearance and functionality of PDF files?
Depending on your preferred solution, there will be options for customizing the appearance of the PDF viewer. For example, WordPress’ native solution offers a handful of block options:
Here you have a toggle to show inline embeds in full. This helps with consistency between screen sizes, as most smaller screens won’t display PDF viewers. You can also change the height of the viewer to match your content and requirements.
However, you can’t do much with the file other than the download button. The WordPress solution is functional, but plugins like PDF Embedder can take this feature and run with it.
The options in the block editor don’t show up much – just some dimensions and toolbar settings. However, the Settings > PDF Embedder screen will give you more options, depending on whether you purchased the premium version of the plugin:
This (admittedly) gives you some features that native WordPress solutions provide for free, such as download buttons. However, you can get some further “quality of life” features for your users. For example, you can have them open PDFs in new tabs, provide continuous page scrolling, and even track the views your files get.
If you have a large number of PDF files and want a powerful way to display and manage them, then a premium plugin might be a viable option.
When you think of WordPress media, images and videos come to mind first. However, PDF files can provide rich interactivity – just like native web pages. If you already have PDF files on hand, they can be a great way to deliver fresh content without much work. Even better, WordPress offers full support for PDF files and lets you display them inline with other content.
In this post, we looked at how to upload PDF files to WordPress. While native solutions are fine, you can also install plugins like EmbedPress or PDF Embedder to give you more options. We like the latter plugin for its security and rich positive user feedback. However, regardless of your choice, uploading PDF files and displaying them is a great way to utilize these documents on your website.