Trials and Tribulations of Maintaining a Hugo Blog

Saturday, Sep 30, 2017
Categories: Developer,
Series: Hugo site development,
Tags: hugo, Web development, Powershell,

As of the writing of this post, I maintain this site using my very own theme created in hugo. Hugo is a static site generator. It takes a bunch of plain text, applies a theme, and renders it as HTML. This is opposed to applications like Wordpress that assemble a page each time its served, to put it simply. This compute once, use many times approach saves on processing time and makes a site more portable. Case in point: this site is hosted on GitHub, but I can easily move it to any hosting service.

When I first started out, the entire site - the source and the rendered HTML were stored in the same directory in the same git branch. My file structure was something like this:

MySite
    |-src\
    |   |-content\
    |   |-static\
    |   |-themes\
    |   |-config.toml
    |-All
    |-of
    |-the
    |-rendered
    |-files
    |-like
    |-index.html

Whenever I made an edit to the site source that I wanted to deploy, I’d first manually delete all the folders in my root excepting src and then run the command:

hugo -d ../

Which told hugo to take everything in my source folder and render it as a static site in my root folder. Mind you, this convuluted arrangement wasn’t simply ignorance. It was that too, but I had to have my rendered site in the root folder of my repository for GitHub to properly serve it.

This also meant that many changes that did not make it all the way to deployment polluted my commit history. This was too messy.

…evolution

The next step was to divide the source and HTML between two branches. I could then tinker with my site to my heart’s content. And only changes that satisfied me would be committed to the master branch.

>>> BRANCH SRC
MySite
    |-content\
    |-static\
    |-themes\
    |-config.toml

>>> BRANCH MASTER
MySite
    |-All
    |-of
    |-the
    |-rendered
    |-files
    |-like
    |-index.html

I would render my site into an intermediate folder, switch branches, copy over the files and commit changes:

hugo -d ../intermediate/ -cleanDestinationDir
# add and commit changes to src branch
# switch to master branch and copy over the results
Move-Items ../Intermediate/* ./ -Recurse -Force
# add and commit changes to master branch

This was much better. I was isolating different aspects of my project. However it was still complicated. I couldn’t view my source and rendered HTML at the same time as git would switch branches in the same folder. I was dissatisfied by the frequent overwrite operations incurred by switching branches. Something had to be done. Man’s pursuit of terminal laziness lends him to amazing feats of industry. And so I set about finding a way to further reduce my work load.

…enter git worktree

worktree is a git feature that lets you have different branches checked out at the same time in different directories. So I could have my source and master branch folders side-by-side and switch between them without one overwriting the other.

From my master branch, I checked out my src branch into another folder:

git worktree add ../blogsource src

Now, my files looked like:

blogsource              <- source and HTML existing in harmony...
    |-content\
    |-static\
    |-themes\
    |-config.toml

MySite                  <- ...like yin and yang
    |-All
    |-of
    |-the
    |-rendered
    |-files
    |-like
    |-index.html

…industrial revolution!

Finally, it was time to automate my workflow. I wanted to render my source into an intermediate folder, copy over the contents to my master branch folder, and clean up the mess. Here my ephemeral flirtations with Powershell paid off.

# Runs hugo in source dir and overwrites previous build in destination folder.
# Overwrites files in destination folder but does not delete other files.
# Run this from the source folder.

$SRC = './'                     # path to source
$INTERMEDIATE = './public'      # intermediate directory
$DEST = '../hazrmard.github.io' # master branch path

# create intermediate or clean it
If(!(test-path $INTERMEDIATE))
{
    New-Item -ItemType Directory -Force -Path $INTERMEDIATE
} else {
    Remove-Item -Path "$INTERMEDIATE/*" -Recurse -Force
}

& hugo.exe -s $SRC -d $INTERMEDIATE | Out-Null  # render site

# Copy over and clean up
Copy-Item -Path "$INTERMEDIATE/*" -Destination $DEST -Force -Recurse
Remove-Item -Path $INTERMEDIATE -Recurse -Force

Conclusion

In my current workflow, I have two separate directories for my master and source branches, thanks to worktree. And I use my deployment script to quickly render and copy files between branches.

The time is not far when I’ll just dream new blog posts into existence.