Adding new content to your hugo website hosted on gh-pages

As some of you might already know, I just recently switched from WordPress to the Hugo static website generator. So I'm still fairly new to it. And some of you might already know what a stickler I am for good developer documentation.

So what does being a Hugo newbie have anything to do with developer docs? Plenty! And here I will focus specifically on publishing new content to your Hugo website hosted on the Github gh-pages branch. Because I have been doing a lot of that lately, and I want it etched in stone!

I'm assuming you have already created your new Hugo site locally. Perhaps you have even pushed it to your remote master branch on Github (origin master). But now you want to host the site via the (free) gh-pages branch as opposed to paying oodles for hosting services which you might never need or use.

Navigate to Hosting on Github Pages to read the official Hugo documentation, but refer to this article for explicit clarification.

First off, I chose the Deployment via gh-pages branch route. The setup and functionality is analagous to the gulp-gh-pages npm package setup and functionality. What I love about gulp-gh-pages is that once I have the Gulp task set up, I can publish to gh-pages from my master branch. I don't have to worry about committing changes before checking out to the gh-pages branch so as not to add unwanted content to it from the master branch, or merging/rebasing branches to keep them in sync. It can get very messy. gulp-gh-pages ensures that you keep branch histories separate. Deploying your Hugo site via the Hugo gh-pages branch method ensures that you keep branch histories separate as well.

  • First make sure that you add your public folder, the folder which is created when Hugo generates your site for publication, is added to your .gitignore file. You can do this through Terminal with the command echo "public" >> .gitignore. To double check that the command was successful, open up your .gitignore file to make sure the public directory was added. You are adding the public directory to your .gitignore file so that it's ignored on the master branch.
  • Next you want to initialize your gh-pages branch as an empty orphan branch. Why? You don't want to simply create a gh-pages branch and then checkout out to it, because that would mean 1. an invalid gh-pages directory structure and 2. unneeded files and directories in gh-pages you would have to end up deleting anyway. In addition, creating an orphan branch with the git checkout --orphan gh-pages command means that the first commit made on this new branch will have no parents and will be the root of a NEW history totally DISCONNECTED from all other branches and commits. And that's exactly what we want, right?
  • All the commands/steps necessary for successfully initializing the gh-pages branch as an empty orphan branch are the following:

    git checkout --orphan gh-pages
    git reset --hard
    git commit --allow-empty -m "Initializing gh-pages branch"
    git push origin gh-pages
    git checkout master

    git reset --harddeletes any files that might have crept into the gh-pages branch from master.
    git commit --allow-empty permits you to initialize an empty branch. By default, you cannot.
    git push origin gh-pages pushes the local gh-pages branch to the remote gh-pages branch.
    git checkout master returns you to the master branch.
  • Now you want to checkout your gh-pages branch into your public folder, because it is the contents of the public folder which will populate gh-pages and render the contents of your site there. You will do this using git's worktree feature. Why? Because the worktree feature allows you to checkout more than one branch at a time from your main working tree initialized by the command git init or git clone. Usually that means the master branch. The worktree feature, however, initializes a linked working tree using the git worktree add command. A repository has one main working tree (if it is not a bare repository) and 0 or more linked working trees. A linked working tree permits you to push content from your main working tree to the linked working tree, which is what is needed when deploying your Hugo site to gh-pages from your master branch. The complete set of commands to check out the gh-pages branch into your public folder using git’s worktree feature is:

    rm -rf public
    git worktree add -B gh-pages public origin/gh-pages

    rm -rf public removes the public folder so you can add your linked gh-pages working tree with a clean slate.

    git worktree add -B gh-pages public origin/gh-pages makes the gh-pages branch (-B) a linked working tree (git worktree add). public recreates the public folder, and origin/gh-pages links it to the remote gh-pages branch.

  • Since you now have an empty public folder, you have to regenerate your Hugo site with the hugo command in Terminal. The complete set of commands to regenerate your Hugo site and commit the generated files on the gh-pages branch is the following:

    cd public
    git add --all
    git commit -m "Publishing to gh-pages"
    cd ..

    The hugo command regenerates your site by creating a new public folder with all necessary files and directories within it.

    cd public takes you into the public directory.

    git add --all adds all the files and directories in public to your staging area so that they are ready to be committed.

    git commit -m "Publishing to gh-pages" commits the files you added to the staging area with the git add --all command.

    cd .. takes you back up one level into your root directory.

  • Go into your public folder via your text editor to make sure that your site was generated as expected. If you like what you see, you are ready to push your commit to the remote gh-pages branch:

    git push origin gh-pages

  • Now comes the part you all have been waiting for. You may be asking yourself, "But what do I do when I add new content, i.e., a new page or post, or ANY other changes to the site, and I want to push them to the remote branch without encountering MERGE CONFLICTS?" The complete set of commands for doing just that is the following:

    echo "Deleting old publication"
    rm -rf public
    mkdir public
    git worktree prune
    rm -rf .git/worktrees/public/

    The echo command and "" message string is if you want to output status text in Terminal, letting you know at what stage of the set of comands you are on. I haven't done that yet, but I think I will start implementing the echo command as well.

    rm -rf public should be pretty familiar by now! It removes your public directory.

    mkdir public creates a new, empty one.

    git worktree prune allows you to prune, or remove a linked working tree. This is so that you don't have any merge conflicts between your local gh-pages branch and your remote gh-pages branch.

    rm -rf .git/worktrees/public/ removes the public gh-pages working tree.

  • Next we repeat checking out the gh-pages branch into the public folder using the git worktree feature:

    echo "Checking out gh-pages branch into public"
    git worktree add -B gh-pages public origin/gh-pages
    echo "Removing existing files"
    rm -rf public/*
    echo "Generating site"
    echo "Updating gh-pages branch"
    cd public
    git add --all
    git commit -m "Publishing to gh-pages ("

    git worktree add -B gh-pages public origin/gh-pages repeats the checking out gh-pages branch into the public directory using the git worktree feature set of commands which you executed when you first initialized the gh-pages branch. Recap: this step allows you to have multiple branches of the same local repo to be checked out into different directories.

    rm -rf public/*
    removes absolutely everything from public.

    Again, you have to regenerate your site with the hugo command. This recreates a new public directory with all updated production site files and directories.

    cd public takes you back into the public directory.
    git add --all adds all public content to the staging area preparing for git commit.

    git commit -m "Publishing to gh-pages (" commits your staged content.

    Last, but not least (and not re-mentioned in the Hugo docs), is the git push origin gh-pages command. Committing is not enough! Pushing to the remote gh-pages branch is what completes the site update for the world to see.

And that's it! Happy publishing!

Related Post:

Hosting (Hugo) on Github Pages