Overview

🔗Zola at a Glance

Zola is a static site generator (SSG), similar to Hugo, Pelican, and Jekyll (for a comprehensive list of SSGs, please see the StaticGen site). It is written in Rust and uses the Tera template engine, which is similar to Jinja2, Django templates, Liquid, and Twig. Content is written in CommonMark, a strongly defined, highly compatible specification of Markdown.

SSGs use dynamic templates to transform content into static HTML pages. Static sites are thus very fast and require no databases, making them easy to host. A comparison between static and dynamic sites, such as WordPress, Drupal, and Django, can be found here.

To get a taste of Zola, please see the quick overview below.

🔗First Steps with Zola

Unlike some SSGs, Zola makes no assumptions regarding the structure of your site. In this overview, we'll be making a simple blog site.

🔗Initialize Site

This overview is based on Zola 0.9.

Please see the detailed installation instructions for your platform. With Zola installed, let's initialize our site:

$ zola init myblog

You will be asked a few questions.

> What is the URL of your site? (https://example.com):
> Do you want to enable Sass compilation? [Y/n]:
> Do you want to enable syntax highlighting? [y/N]:
> Do you want to build a search index of the content? [y/N]:

For our blog, let's accept the default values (i.e., press Enter for each question). We now have a myblog directory with the following structure:

├── config.toml
├── content
├── sass
├── static
├── templates
└── themes

Let's start the Zola development server with:

$ zola serve
Building site...
-> Creating 0 pages (0 orphan), 0 sections, and processing 0 images

This command must be run in the base Zola directory, which contains config.toml.

If you point your web browser to http://127.0.0.1:1111, you should see a "Welcome to Zola" message.

🔗Home Page

Let's make a home page. To do this, let's first create a base.html file inside the templates directory. This step will make more sense as we move through this overview. We'll be using the CSS framework Bulma.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">

<head>
  <meta charset="utf-8">
  <title>MyBlog</title>
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/bulma@0.8.0/css/bulma.min.css">
</head>

<body>
  <section class="section">
    <div class="container">
      {% block content %} {% endblock %}
    </div>
  </section>
</body>

</html>

Now, let's create an index.html file inside the templates directory.

{% extends "base.html" %}

{% block content %}
<h1 class="title">
  This is my blog made with Zola.
</h1>
{% endblock content %}

This tells Zola that index.html extends our base.html file and replaces the block called "content" with the text between the {% block content %} and {% endblock content %} tags.

🔗Content Directory

Now let's add some content. We'll start by making a blog subdirectory in the content directory and creating an _index.md file inside it. This file tells Zola that blog is a section, which is how content is categorized in Zola.

├── content
│   └── blog
│       └── _index.md

In the _index.md file, we'll set the following variables in TOML format:

+++
title = "List of blog posts"
sort_by = "date"
template = "blog.html"
page_template = "blog-page.html"
+++

Note that although no variables are mandatory, the opening and closing +++ are required.

  • sort_by = "date" tells Zola to use the date to order our section pages (more on pages below).
  • template = "blog.html" tells Zola to use blog.html in the templates directory as the template for listing the Markdown files in this section.
  • page_template = "blog-page.html" tells Zola to use blog-page.html in the templates directory as the template for individual Markdown files.

For a full list of section variables, please see the section documentation. We will use title = "List of blog posts" in a template (see below).

🔗Templates

Let's now create some more templates. In the templates directory, create a blog.html file with the following contents:

{% extends "base.html" %}

{% block content %}
<h1 class="title">
  {{ section.title }}
</h1>
<ul>
  {% for page in section.pages %}
  <li><a href="{{ page.permalink | safe }}">{{ page.title }}</a></li>
  {% endfor %}
</ul>
{% endblock content %}

As done by index.html, blog.html extends base.html, but this time we want to list the blog posts. The title we set in the _index.md file above is available to us as {{ section.title }}. In the list below the title, we loop through all the pages in our section (blog directory) and output the page title and URL using {{ page.title }} and {{ page.permalink | safe }}, respectively. We use the | safe filter because the permalink doesn't need to be HTML escaped (escaping would cause / to render as &#x2F;).

If you go to http://127.0.0.1:1111/blog/, you will see the section page for blog. The list is empty because we don't have any blog posts. Let's fix that now.

🔗Markdown Content

In the blog directory, create a file called first.md with the following contents:

+++
title = "My first post"
date = 2019-11-27
+++

This is my first blog post.

The title and date will be available to us in the blog-page.html template as {{ page.title }} and {{ page.date }}, respectively. All text below the closing +++ will be available to us as {{ page.content }}.

We now need to make the blog-page.html template. In the templates directory, create this file with the contents:

{% extends "base.html" %}

{% block content %}
<h1 class="title">
  {{ page.title }}
</h1>
<p class="subtitle"><strong>{{ page.date }}</strong></p>
<p>{{ page.content | safe }}</p>
{% endblock content %}

Note the | safe filter for {{ page.content }}.

This should start to look familiar. If you now go back to our blog list page at http://127.0.0.1:1111/blog/, you should see our lonely post. Let's add another. In the content/blog directory, let's create the file second.md with the contents:

+++
title = "My second post"
date = 2019-11-28
+++

This is my second blog post.

Back at http://127.0.0.1:1111/blog/, our second post shows up on top of the list because it's newer than the first post and we had set sort_by = "date" in our _index.md file. As a final step, let's modify our home page to link to our blog posts.

The index.html file inside the templates directory should be:

{% extends "base.html" %}

{% block content %}
<h1 class="title">
  This is my blog made with Zola.
</h1>
<p>Click <a href="/blog/">here</a> to see my posts.</p>
{% endblock content %}

This has been a quick overview of Zola. You can now dive into the rest of the documentation.