1. IntroductionΒΆ

WordPress is primarily a platform for text. Posts are the core of a WordPress site, and although they can be given all sorts of metadata and elaboration, there are times when one wants to work with data in a more structured and controlled way. This is where Tabulate comes in. You might think of it as the spreadsheet complement to the word-processor that WordPress is by default.

Tabulate is designed to be an easy-to-use plugin, aimed at anyone comfortable using spreadsheets. It can be used to manage any type of tabular data, and provides the power of the database for managing things like column data types, field cross-references, and searching the data in a number of ways. In addition, it provides access-control and a change-tracking mechanism.

The fundamental components of Tabulate are the tables. A table in Tabulate is just a standard database table, with columns of defined types and rows that contain your data. When installed, Tabulate only adds tables required for change-tracking; the first task after installation is to start creating the tables that you need for your own data.

Tabulate can be used to manage any sort of data, from the small and personal to the large and institutional. Got a book collection that you want to catalogue? Or a rain gauge that you measure daily? How about a fleet of vehicles whose service history you need to keep track of? A couple of hundred thousand environmental monitoring points all sending you data? All can be kept centrally and securely in Tabulate, and from there published to the world though your WordPress site.

Basically, Tabulate gives you access to your database, and can be used for whatever you would use a database for. It is a step beyond the usual spreadsheet-based data management scenario that is all too common... it is a step prior to a bespoke WordPress plugin, however (although extensive customisation is possible, and Tabulate can be thought of as a prototyping system in some ways).