Setting up a Pelican site with Python 3 and Fabric on Fedora 24

Posted on Sat 08 October 2016 in Site

Update (December 6, 2016): Newer Fedora Pelican packages ( 3.6.3-6.fc24, 3.6.3-6.fc24, 3.6.3-6.fc26 ) changed naming of Python 3 Pelican executables from py3-<command> to <command>-3 so make sure to update to the latest Fedora Pelican packages and use the <command>-3 syntax.

Update (October 19, 2016): The follow-up blog post on publishing your site to GitHub Pages with a sleek Fabric task has been published.

According to StaticGen, Pelican is the most popular static site generator written in Python. As of Oct 10, 2016 it has 6168 stars on GitHub.

In this blog post, I'll show you how to create your own Pelican site, track it in a git repository, use Fabric to administer it, change site's default theme and finally, create a Hello World blog post.

Installing prerequisites

Note

This example uses a vanilla Fedora 24 Cloud system.

Install Pelican (Python 3 version), git and Fabric (unfortunately, only Python 2 version is currently available):

sudo dnf -y install python3-pelican git fabric

Creating a git repository for the site

Create a directory for the site:

mkdir my-site
cd my-site

To setup a Pelican skeleton for the site, run pelican-quickstart-3 and answer the questions. If you are unsure, you can safely accept the default answer.

Before initializing the git repository, clean up the generated skeleton. Remove the Makefile and edit fabfile.py to remove the unnecessary functionality and make it work with Python 3 version of Pelican.

All pelican commands need to be replaced with pelican-3. In addition, the serve() function needs to be rewritten since it tries to directly import the Python 2 version of pelican.server which is not available. You can also safely remove the parts connected with Rackspace Cloud Files, rsync publishing and GitHub Pages (I'll describe how to add support for it in a follow-up blog post).

The cleaned-up version of fabfile.py should look something like:

from fabric.api import *
import fabric.contrib.project as project
import os
import shutil

# Local path configuration (can be absolute or relative to fabfile)
env.deploy_path = 'output'

# Port for `serve`
PORT = 8000

def clean():
    """Remove generated files"""
    if os.path.isdir(env.deploy_path):
        shutil.rmtree(env.deploy_path)
        os.makedirs(env.deploy_path)

def build():
    """Build local version of site"""
    local('pelican-3 -s pelicanconf.py')

def rebuild():
    """`clean`, then `build`"""
    clean()
    build()

def regenerate():
    """Automatically regenerate site upon file modification"""
    local('pelican-3 -r -s pelicanconf.py')

def serve():
    """Serve site at http://localhost:PORT/"""
    with lcd(env.deploy_path):
        local('python3 -m pelican.server {}'.format(PORT))

def reserve():
    """`build`, then `serve`"""
    build()
    serve()

def preview():
    """Build production version of site"""
    local('pelican-3 -s publishconf.py')

Since we are using the Python 3 version of Pelican, we can remove the Python 2 compatibility headers from pelicanconf.py and publishconf.py:

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*- #
from __future__ import unicode_literals

In addition, remove the shebang from publishconf.py.

Initialize the git repository and create the initial commit:

git init
git add *.py
git commit -m "Initial site created with pelican-quickstart"

Note

If you use git for the first time, you must configure your git email and user name with:

git config --global user.email "<your-email-address>"
git config --global user.name "<your-name>"

To instruct git to ignore the generated Python byte-code and the generated site, create .gitignore file with the following contents:

# ignore Python byte-code
*.pyc

# ignore generated site
/output/

and commit it with:

git add .gitignore
git commit -m "Add .gitignore"

Administering the site with Fabric

Fabric is a Python library and a command-line tool for automating deployment and system administration tasks. By default, it looks for a fabfile.py file where one can define Fabric's tasks. See the fabfile.py code listing above to get a glimpse of how Fabric tasks look like.

To run Fabric tasks, just execute fab followed by the task's name, e.g. serve. Here are a couple of tasks that you will typically use when administering a site.

To generate the site, use:

fab build

To serve the site locally on port 8080, use:

fab serve

To regenerate the site and serve it locally, use:

fab reserve

To automatically regenerate the site upon file modification and serve it locally, run the following commands in two separate terminals:

fab regenerate
fab serve

Changing site's default theme

Frankly speaking, the default Pelican theme looks dated nowadays, so you'll want to change it sooner rather than later. Take a look at the Pelican Themes site and find a theme you like.

After you decide which theme you'll use (in the example I'll use Alexandre Vicenzi's Flex theme, which I use for my Pelican site), add it to your git repo as a submodule:

git submodule add https://github.com/alexandrevicenzi/Flex.git Flex

Then configure it in pelicanconf.py.

Note

Each theme has its own configuration. Consult the chosen theme's documentation on what you can configure.

Here is an example configuration for the Flex theme:

import datetime
import hashlib

... other configuration ...

# Theme
THEME = 'Flex'
SITETITLE = SITENAME
SITESUBTITLE = 'My cool descrition'
email = 'my.email@somedomain.com'.encode('utf-8')
SITELOGO = 'https://seccdn.libravatar.org/avatar/{}?s=256'.format(
    hashlib.md5(email.strip().lower()).hexdigest())
copyright_year_start = 2016
copyright_year_end = datetime.date.today().year
if copyright_year_end == copyright_year_start:
    COPYRIGHT_YEAR = copyright_year_start
else:
    COPYRIGHT_YEAR = '{}-{}'.format(copyright_year_start, copyright_year_end)
PYGMENTS_STYLE = 'native'

Note

In the example, I use libravatar, a federated open source avatar hosting service, for my site's logo. To use it for your own site, create an account with them.

Finally, commit the changes to git:

git commit -a -m "Use Flex theme"

Creating a Hello World blog post

To create your first blog post, create a Markdown file in the content directory with the following content:

Title: Hello, World!
Date: 2016-10-06 10:52
Category: Site

This is my first blog post using [Pelican](http://blog.getpelican.com/)
and [Flex](https://github.com/alexandrevicenzi/Flex/)!

Commit the changes to git with:

git add content/
git commit -m "Add Hello World blog post"

Preview the site with:

fab reserve

Next steps

You have successfully completed setting up a Pelican site. But the site doesn't really serve its purpose if its only available on your local computer, does it?

I plan to write a follow-up blog post that will show you how to publish your site to GitHub Pages with a sleek Fabric task to do it automatically. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, you can also browse the source repo of my Pelican site.