wordpress media folders

Whenever you upload an image file or other attachment to WordPress, it goes straight into the WordPress media library. That default media library is great in the moment, as you can easily find any files you uploaded right then. However, if you’ve ever tried to go back and find old files, you probably realized it’s a major pain (similar to the other common pain among WordPress users: the default search feature). To solve this, you can add WordPress media folders to easily organize your files exactly as you do on your computer.

In this post, we’ll guide you through how to organize your media library with folders; there are two main tactics: organizing media library files without a plugin, or with a plugin. With both, you’ll have an easier time managing and finding your WordPress media files in the future.

How to add WordPress media library folders without plugins

Before turning to a WordPress plugin, it’s always wise to consider methods to complete tasks without plugins. This way, you minimize clutter and security vulnerabilities that may come with too many plugins.

There are a few (imperfect) ways to add WordPress media library folders without plugins:

  1. Use the built-in organization system from WordPress
  2. Attach media uploads to categorized pages or posts (with the option to hide those pages/posts)

The first option works by utilizing what’s already provided within the WordPress media library. The media library offers two filters and a search bar, meaning you can:

  1. Actively name media items with specific keyword tags, then find them with the search bar
  2. Filter by media type
  3. Filter by date

The date filter, for example, provides the most straightforward categorization method, since it automatically batches media uploads into months and years.

As time passes, you’ll notice these files being automatically created if you access the /uploads folder (inside /wp-content) via an FTP client like FileZilla.

viewing the automated WordPress date and month folders via FTP

This method works rather well for users where time-oriented folders make the most sense. In WordPress, you can find the media folders by going to Media > Library. Click the All Dates dropdown menu to see the months and dates available.

filters by month and date help make WordPress media library folders without plugin

After picking a month and year, WordPress only shows the media items that were placed into that folder during that time.

one month view

Another way to add WordPress media folders without plugins involves a bit of a workaround. You can attach all media uploads to a single page or post and still use them elsewhere on your website.

This feature isn’t necessarily made for media categorization, but it works rather well considering you can use inactive pages and posts as media “folders,” then filter by those pages and posts inside the WordPress Media Library.

Here’s how to do it.

Create the pages (or posts) that will serve as media folders. Do this by going to Pages > Add New. Create a page title that works as a title for your media folder. Click Publish or Save Draft. Select Public or Private; all of these options allow for attaching images. It doesn’t need to be a public page.

publishing pages to attach images

Navigate to Media > Library. Switch to the List View; the Grid View won’t work for filtering based on media items attached to pages and posts.

changing to list view to see post attachments

Under Media > Add New, upload whatever images you’d like to categorize. They must already be uploaded to the WordPress Media Library for this organization method to work.

In the Media Library List View, you’ll see a column header called Uploaded To; Click the Attach link for an image you’d like to add to a folder (page or post).

attach button

For this example, we created four pages that will serve as media library folders: Cats, Dogs, Portraits, and Landscapes. When attaching an image, every available page and post is presented in the list. Pick the one that makes the most sense as a folder. Click Select.

creating pages that serve as WordPress media library folders without plugin

Once you’ve added multiple images, go back to the List View of the Media Library. Use the Uploaded To column filter to send all attached images to the top of the list. Here, you can clearly see the pages we’re using as media folders (for this example, Cats and Dogs).

viewing media folders from categorized pages

As mentioned, these are all imperfect methods to add WordPress media folders without plugins. Yet, they may work perfectly for some users. If you’d rather a traditional filing system (where you can quickly rename folders, move folders, and view the entire hierarchy) consider installing a plugin with the following method.

How to add WordPress media folders with the Media Library Plus plugin

To create WordPress media folders, you can use a free plugin called Media Library Plus. The plugin is regularly updated and developed by a reputable WordPress development studio called Max Foundry.

To get started, you can install the plugin like any other WordPress plugin. Read this guide if you’re not sure how to install a WordPress plugin.

Once you activate it, you’ll see a new Media Library Folders option in your WordPress dashboard:

Add WordPress media folders

Click on that button to enter your new, enhanced media library.

Before digging into creating folders, it’s important to note that, while this interface is technically separate from your normal WordPress media library, any files you upload here will also show up in your regular media library – they just won’t be organized into folders in that interface.

When you click to enter your new Media Library Folders, all your images or other media files will be organized according to the default WordPress folder structure, which is by year and month. You can see this structure in the example below:

media-library-plus2

You’ll need to navigate to the subfolders (year/month) to see your current media files.

Adding new WordPress media folders

To add some folders and start organizing, it’s as simple as clicking the Add Folder button. A box will appear where you enter the name for your folder. Then, you just need to click Create Folder to create the new folder:

media-library-plus3

Note that folder names cannot contain spaces. You can use underscores or hyphens to separate words.

To move or copy images to a different folder, all you need to do is select the relevant images by clicking the checkbox. Then, simply drag them to the folder you want:

media-library-plus4

There is one tricky thing here: you need to specify whether you want to copy or move the files by clicking on this button:

media-library-plus5

By default, the plugin will copy images when you drag them. This is to prevent breaking the links to any old images you’ve inserted. But if you want to move files, you can do that by toggling the option to move. Just be careful – because if you move an image, any posts that link to the previous image URL won’t work anymore. Copying is a safer move most of the time.

And that’s it! Your media files are now organized and easy to find.

There is one unfortunate limitation of the free version of this plugin. Despite offering an easy way to organize old media files, it doesn’t have an easy way to insert them into your posts unless you upgrade to the pro version.

You can use the free version to quickly find the URLs to old images, but to actually insert them directly from the WordPress Editor interface, you’ll need to upgrade to Media Library Plus Pro for $49 per year (for one site; it’s $99 for 3 sites and $149 for unlimited sites). Then, you’ll get a new button in your WordPress editor that lets you do just that:

media-library-plus6

If you’re a more advanced user, you can also use these WordPress media folders to automatically sync with your web server via FTP. If you’re not sure what those terms mean, you don’t really need to worry about them, though!

How to organize your WordPress media library with taxonomies

If you don’t specifically need folders, another great way to organize your media library is with taxonomies. Think of these like “tags” you apply to your images or other files. For example, if you tag an image as “food”, you can always find it later by browsing to the “food” tag. While there aren’t visual folders, these taxonomies essentially solve the same problem. You can organize images both by general categories and specific tags

To organize your media library this way, you can install a free plugin called Enhanced Media Library.

After you activate it, you’ll see a new Media Categories option in your existing Media section. First, you need to create some new media categories:

enhanced-media-library1

Then, when you click on an existing image or upload a new image, you’ll have the option to add an associated category:

enhanced-media-library2

Once you’ve organized your images into categories, you can filter them by using the new Filter by Media Category dropdown:

enhanced-media-library3

You can also add new taxonomies (again, think of them like tags) through the plugin’s settings:

enhanced-media-library4

Enhanced Media Library isn’t as visual as WordPress media folders, but it does offer a simple, lightweight method to manage your media library.

Premium plugin to add media folders – WP Media Folder

If you’re willing to spend some money on a premium plugin, our absolute favorite tool for organizing the WordPress media library is WP Media Folder (starting at $49 per year).

First off, you can create WordPress media folders inside your native media library. No separation like with Media Library Plus. You can quickly drag and drop images between folders just like on your desktop:

wp-media-folder

But the plugin also gives you some really cool filtering options. Even if you haven’t organized your media by folders yet, you can still filter all your existing media by upload date, name, dimensions, file size, and more:

wp-media-folder2

As far as features go, this plugin has the most. There’s just no free version, which is why I tried to showcase free plugins first. WP Media Folder costs $49 per year and is available here.

Wrapping things up

If you’re just looking for a free way to add WordPress media folders, then Media Library Plus is your best option. Just remember that you will need to upgrade to the pro version for $49 per year if you want an easy way to insert images from the WordPress editor.

For those uninterested in using a plugin to create media library folders, there aren’t many built-in solutions, besides some work-arounds. We recommend trying to attach images to hidden pages or posts and using those as folders. As an alternative, you can use the built-in date folders, which allow you to filter media files based on upload month and year.

If you don’t need visual folders, Enhanced Media Library offers a powerful method of categorizing and finding old files. It might take you a little while to get used to the idea of taxonomies. Once you do, though, you can use the plugin to organize your media in some powerful ways.

And finally, if you’re willing to pay its $49 per year premium price, we think WP Media Folder is the overall best WordPress media library plugin. Its folders all exist inside the native media library, which makes it easy to work with. On top of that, it also includes helpful filtering and sorting options, which makes it even easier to organize and find old files in your media library.

Looking for more info on WordPress media folders?
👉 Create a better, more efficient WordPress Media Library with these 11 plugins.

But what do you think? Are you having difficulties managing your standard WordPress Media Library? Don’t hesitate to speak up in the comments.

6 Comments
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Meg Cusack
July 20, 2018 2:10 am

This post was very helpful to me. The Enhanced Media Library was just right for me. Thanks so much!

Cor Gabriels
February 8, 2018 3:48 pm

Folders work great for organizing pics, but if I want to make a fotoseries with the ‘Galery’ feature of WordPress, it keeps pointing me to the base folder (the one it places its currently uploaded pics in).
How do I easily use the galery function whilst my pics are in other WP Media folders?

Cor Gabriels
February 8, 2018 5:17 pm
Reply to  Cor Gabriels

Already found the “answer”, if I buy the Pro version, it will let me point to the self created subfolders, not sure though if I then still have the ‘Galery feature’ that the Original WP Media folder offers.

Al
January 4, 2018 5:50 pm

Thanks for outlining some options for the WordPress media folder. This is certainly an area where WordPress could be improved upon.

I have some experience with WP Media Folder and wanted to share one additional benefit of that plug-in. Another key difference between WP Media Folder and Media Library Plus is that the URL/path to the media is not changed when you move items to folders that you create in WP Media Folder. You could actually deactivate the plug-in if need be and your links would not break. Definitely worth the money.

I have no affiliation with WP Media Folder; just a happy user.

robertmgibson
March 21, 2018 2:38 pm
Reply to  Al

But does this mean that the folders are simply for organising storage? If I created a folder for a specific type of documents – eg meeting minutes – and then wanted to call up only the documents in that folder, if the URL is unchanged from the normal WP one, would there be a path to be able to call up and loop through only the documents in that folder?

Yogesh Shinde
March 2, 2017 8:35 pm

Thanks for this guide Colin.

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