Blogging with Emacs, Jekyll and Nikola

Switched over from Jekyll to Nikola yesterday.

One of the primary reasons was that I got fed up with managing a Ruby development environment across all my machines. In spite of my rantings, I'm sure Ruby and Ruby installs are fine - it's just something that I'd have to deal with on a recurring basis for one specific task - other than for Jekyll blogging, I don't use Ruby.

So while a platform based on Python - generally my go to language, made sense, the other driving force for the switch was the fact that Emacs and org-mode have become such major parts of my workflow and productivity.

What do I use org-mode for?

  • lesson planning
  • document preparation (instead of LaTeX)
  • note taking
  • blogging
  • email (with mu4e)
  • managing my schedule
  • tracking bookmarks

and probably a lot more.

Jekyll is actually a really nice tool. It's simple. You put together a simple directory structure: Templates in _layouts, blog posts in _posts, drafts in _drafts. Other directories that start with an underscore are ignored and everything else is copied up to your site.

I love that it's "close to the metal" You can put in html files with some meta information up top or markdown.

You can take a look at my old site at https://github.com/cestlaz/cestlaz.github.io-jekyll if you want to take a look.

The beauty is that you just push your files up to GitHub and it automatically runs Jekyll and builds your site (more info here).

The problem is that Jekyll doesn't play well with org-mode and org-markup so my workflow became something like this

  1. Create a post something.org in the _org directory.
  2. From within emacs, publish it. I've configured org-mode to publish by exporting the org-mode markup file to html and saving it in the _drafts directory.
  3. If it looks good, copy and rename the file from _drafts to the _posts directory and push it up to GitHub.

A little clunky, but it works. The bigger problem was the amount of time I'd spend putting html blocks into my org formatted posts to get them to look the way I wanted (or at least close enough).

Enter Nikola.

Nikola's a much more powerful tool. It does much more but as a result is much more complex. Normally, that's not my style but in this case since It's Python, things balance out.

I still have to figure out the entire templating system and all the plugins but getting started was pretty quick.

The big win is that Nikola supports a ton of formats for your posts and pages. Native org-mode support for me was what did it for me. On top of that, although I haven't tested it yet, is that there's also an org-mode plugin to export to Nikola restructure text.

My new workflow:

  1. Write the post as an org-mode file.
  2. run nikola github_deploy.

And that's it. You can look at my Nikola site here: https://github.com/cestlaz/cestlaz.github.io. The source code is in the src branch, the actual rendered blog in the master branch.

So far, I'm pretty happy with the setup.

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