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Kaushal Patel
Kaushal Patel

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Jekyll with Netlify CMS — Tutorial

Introduction

This section will help you integrate Netlify CMS with a new or existing Jekyll project.
Jekyll is a blog-aware static site generator built with Ruby. Github Pages are powered by Jekyll, making it a popular choice for developer blogs and project pages.
If you’re starting a new project, the fastest route to publishing on a Jekyll website with Netlify CMS is to deploy a template on Netlify.

This guide aims to be helpful for users in the following situations.

  1. You have an existing Jekyll project and you want to add Netlify CMS
  2. You have a Jekyll project with Netlify CMS integrated and want to make updates beyond adding content
  3. You are starting a new Jekyll + Netlify CMS project and you want to start from scratch so you know how everything fits together.

Setup

Create a Jekyll Site

This guide will use the blog you get if you follow the really excellent official Jekyll step by step tutorial as a starting point. If you’re new to Jekyll — I recommended you start by following the tutorial so you know your way around your new blog.

Hosting and Serving

You have lots of options for hosting and serving your project, but to for the sake of simplicity, this guide will assume you follow this guide to create a remote git repository on Github and give Netlify access to build and serve the project when you push changes.

Why Not Stop Here?

At this point, you have a perfectly good Jekyll site published on the web. Congratulations! It looks great, and to update the content on your site you just open your favorite text editor, create or edit a markdown file, then commit your changes and push them to your remote git repository. But maybe you are tired of looking at a markdown, or you find yourself wanting to update your blog from computers without your favorite text editor and tools installed, or you want to make it easier for less technical individuals to contribute to your blog. This is where Netlify CMS comes in.

Add Netlify CMS

Add admin/index.html

  • Create a directory called admin in the root directory of your Jekyll project. Jekyll will copy this directory to the _site generated when the jekyll build command is run.
mkdir admin
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  • Move into the admin directory and create the file index.html
cd admin && touch index.html
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  • Copy the following HTML into index.html.
  • Run Jekyll server and open http://127.0.0.1:4000/admin in your browser. You should see a page with the following error message.
Error loading the CMS configuration
Config Errors:
Error: Failed to load config.yml (404)
Check your config.yml file.
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Add config.yml

  • As indicated in the error message above, Netlify CMS requires a configuration file. When it runs, netlify-cms.js it will look for config.yml at the root of the admin directory. Let's add it now.
touch config.yml
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  • Go back to your browser and you should see the following errors.
Error loading the CMS configuration
Config Errors:
config should have required property 'backend'
config should have required property 'collections'
config should have required property 'media_folder'
config should have required property 'media_library'
config should match some schema in anyOf
Check your config.yml file.
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Before we really dig into the configuration for our project, we’ll start by setting the minimum configuration to satisfy Netlify CMS.

  1. For the backend property we'll use the test-repo backend. It will let us see the cms interface without connecting to a git repository.
  2. The media_folder property should be set to the path where you want the cms to save images. We'll follow the advice of the jekyll docs and create an assets/ directory. Setting the media_folder property will take care of the media_library property error as well.
  3. The collections property requires an array of collection objects. We'll start with a collection with only the property name defined to see what else is required.

Copy and paste the following into config.yml

Back in the browser, you should see a new set of errors.

Error loading the CMS configuration

Config Errors:
'collections[0]' should have required property 'label'
'collections[0]' should have required property 'files'
'collections[0]' should have required property 'folder'
'collections[0]' should have required property 'fields'
'collections[0]' should match exactly one schema in oneOf
Check your config.yml file.
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Great, now we’re getting somewhere. Netlify CMS is telling us we need to define some properties of collection.

  1. The label property is the string used to identify the collection in the cms UI. We'll set it to "Blog"
  2. folder should be set to the directory containing the files we want the cms to be able to create and edit. We'll start with "_posts/"
  3. The fields property requires an array of field objects. We'll start with a collection with only the property name defined. Setting the fields property will take care of the files property error as well. Update config.yml like so. And in the browser, you should see. Netlify CMS signup.

Log in and you should see. Empty blog collection.

Awesome, the CMS is running without errors! Great, but you might have noticed the CMS isn’t displaying data from the three markdown files in the _posts/ directory. The reason is test-repo uses local browser storage and doesn't have access to your file system. In fact, none of the Netlify CMS backends can interact with local git repositories. This is a common point of confusion and bears repeating: NETLIFY CMS CANNOT INTERACT WITH LOCAL GIT REPOSITORIES.

Next, we’ll be setting up the Backend and Authentication so you can start updating content on your Jekyll site.

Backend and Authentication

You have lots of options for giving Netlify CMS permission to push commits to your Jekyll blog repository. In this guide — we’re using Netlify’s Identity service.

  • Replace the test-repo backend configuration git-gateway
# config.yml
backend:
  name: git-gateway
  branch: master # Branch to update (optional; defaults to master)
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  • In your browser, go to https://app.netlify.com/sites/{YOUR_PROJECT_NAME}/settings/identity
  • Click Enable Identity
  • Scroll down to the Registration section and add external OAuth providers (optional)
  • Scroll down to the Services section and click Enable Git Gateway
  • Make the following changes to your Jekyll project in admin/index.html and _layouts/default.html. You can read more about the purpose of these changes here
  • Add the netlify-identity-widget.js script to the head of admin/index.html and _layouts/default.html
<script src="https://identity.netlify.com/v1/netlify-identity-widget.js"></script>
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Add the following redirect script to the bottom of the body in _layouts/default.html

Now in the browser, you should see a modal asking for the URL of your Netlify site.

Once you’ve set it you should see a Signup/Login modal.

And once you’ve logged in you should see the CMS UI, now populated with the Jekyll blog posts you created in the Jekyll tutorial.

Also note, when using the git-gateway backend you'll be redirected to your live site when you login, meaning if you want to test your changes you'll need to push to your remote repository.

Click on one of the posts and you’ll see the edit view.

Amazing! But the editor is missing some of the frontmatter fields in your markdown file, specifically the layout and author fields.

layout: post
author: jill
title: Bananas
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Also, we still can’t create new blog posts from the CMS. We’ll address these issues and others in the next section.

Jekyll Blog Configuration

Blog Collection

We’ll start by updating the blog collection. Blogging is baked into Jekyll, and the _posts/ directory uses some special conventions we'll need to keep in mind as we configure Netlify CMS. Copy and paste the following into your config.yml.

A few things to note.

  • With create: true set you'll be able to create new posts
  • We set the slug to 'year-month-day-slug' because Jekyll requires this format for blog posts. year, month, and day will be extracted from the date field, and slug will be generated from the title field.
  • We added editor configuration with a field preview: false. This will eliminate the preview pane. Because Jekyll uses Liquid templates, there currently isn't a good way to provide a preview of pages as you update the content.
  • The layout field default is set to post so Jekyll knows to use _layouts/post.html when it renders a post. This field is hidden because we want all posts to use the same layout.
  • The date and title field will be used by the slug - as noted above, Jekyll relies on the filename a post's publish date, but - - Netlify CMS does not pull date information from the filename and requires a frontmatter date field. Note Changing the date or title fields in Netlify CMS will not update the filename. This has two implications...
  • If you change the date or title fields in Netlify CMS, Jekyll won't notice
  • You don’t necessarily need to change the date and title fields for existing posts, but if you don't the date in the filenames and frontmatter will disagree in a way that might be confusing
  • If you want to avoid these issues, use a regular Jekyll collection instead of the special _posts directory

Author Collection

In addition to _posts, the Jekyll tutorial blog includes a collection of authors in the _authors directory. Before we can configure Netlify CMS to work with the author's collection, we'll need to make a couple of tweaks to our Jekyll blog. Here's the front matter for one of the authors.

short_name: jill
name: Jill Smith
position: Chief Editor
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name has special meaning as a unique identifier in Netlify CMS, but as set up now our Jekyll blog is using short_name as the unique identifier for authors. For each author, update the front matter like so.

name: jill
display_name: Jill Smith
position: Chief Editor
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then update _layouts/author.html and staff.html accordingly.

Next, copy and paste the following into the collections array in config.yml below the blog collection.

Now that we have the author's collection configured, we can add an author field to the blog collection. We'll use the relation widget to define the relationship between blog posts and authors.

With that configuration added, you should be able to select the author for a post from a dropdown.

About Page

Our Jekyll blog includes an About page. It would nice to be able to edit that page just like we can edit our blog and author pages. Netlify CMS provides file collections to solve this problem.

Copy and paste the following into the collections array in config.yml

Navigation

The last aspect of our Jekyll blog we might want to bring under the control of Netlify CMS is our Navigation menu. Our Jekyll tutorial blog has a file _data/navigation.yml that defines the links rendered by _includes/navigation.yml. It looks like this.

# _data/navigation.yml
- name: Home
  link: /
- name: About
  link: /about.html
- name: Blog
  link: /blog.html
- name: Staff
  link: /staff.html
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To make this file editable with Netlify CMS, we’ll need to make one minor tweak. The issue is this file contains a YAML array at the top level, but Netlify CMS is designed to work with YAML objects. Update _data/navigation.yml so it looks like so.

# _data/navigation.yml
items:
  - name: Home
    link: /
  - name: About
    link: /about.html
  - name: Blog
    link: /blog.html
  - name: Staff
    link: /staff.html
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You’ll need to update _includes/navigation.html accordingly. for item in site.data.navigation should be changed to for item in site.data.navigation.items. When you're done, the nav html should look like this.

Finally, add the following to the collections array in config.yml

Now you can add, rename, and rearrange the navigation items on your blog.

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