Veerasundaravel's Ruby on Rails Weblog

October 4, 2010

Jekyll – Ruby gem for static site generation

Filed under: Gems — Tags: , , , , — Veerasundaravel @ 12:09 pm

Jekyll is a simple, blog aware, static site generator. It takes a template directory (representing the raw form of a website), runs it through Textile or Markdown and Liquid converters, and spits out a complete, static website suitable for serving with Apache or your favorite web server. This is also the engine behind GitHub Pages, which you can use to host your project’s page or blog right here from GitHub.


Creating a Jekyll site usually involves the following, once jekyll is installed.

  1. Set up the basic structure of the site
  2. Create some posts, or import them from your previous platform
  3. Run your site locally to see how it looks
  4. Deploy your site

Basic Structure

Jekyll at its core is a text transformation engine. The concept behind the system is this: you give it text written in your favorite markup language, be that Markdown, Textile, or just plain HTML, and it churns that through a layout or series of layout files. Throughout that process you can tweak how you want the site URLs to look, what data gets displayed on the layout and more. This is all done through strictly editing files, and the web interface is the final product.

A basic Jekyll site usually looks something like this:

|-- _config.yml
|-- _layouts
|   |-- default.html
|   `-- post.html
|-- _posts
|   |-- 2007-10-29-why-every-programmer-should-play-nethack.textile
|   `-- 2009-04-26-barcamp-boston-4-roundup.textile
|-- _site
`-- index.html

An overview of what each of these does:


Stores configuration data. A majority of these options can be specified from the command line exectuable but it’s easier to throw them in here so you don’t have to remember them.


These are the templates which posts are inserted into. Layouts are defined on a post-by-post basis in the YAML front matter, which is described in the next section. The liquid tag {{ content }} is used to inject data onto the page.


Your dynamic content, so to speak. The format of these files is important, as named as YEAR-MONTH-DATE-title.MARKUP. The Permalinks can be adjusted very flexibly for each post, but the date and markup language are determined solely by the file name.


This is where the generated site will be placed once Jekyll is done transforming it. It’s probably a good idea to add this to your .gitignore file.


Granted that this file has a YAML Front Matter section, it will be transformed by Jekyll. The same will happen for any .html, .markdown, or .textile file in your site’s root directory.

Other Files/Folders

Every other directory and file except for those listed above will be transferred over as expected. For example, you could have a css folder, a favicon.ico, etc, etc. There’s plenty of sites already using Jekyll if you’re curious as to how they’re laid out.

Any files in these directories will be parsed and transformed, according to the same rules mentioned previously for files in the root directory.

Running Jekyll

Usually this is done through the jekyll executable, which is installed with the gem. In order to get a server up and running with your Jekyll site, run:

jekyll --server

and then browse to There’s plenty of configuration options available to you as well.

On Ubuntu, you may need to add /var/lib/gems/1.8/bin/ to your path.


Since Jekyll simply generates a folder filled with HTML files, it can be served using practically any available web server out there.

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